October 2023 Retiree Highlight Article
This article originally appeared in the October 2023 edition of the BYU School of Music Journal.
Like many young musicians, Kirt Saville joined the band program at his local high school. But what some see as simply a requirement, Kirt saw as an opportunity to get involved in one of the best high school jazz programs in the state. While playing lively jazz with his peers and observing the enthusiasm of his conductor, Kirt found his passion for music, and he knew very early on that music education would be his career.
When Kirt was in high school, he sat down in a private lesson to chat with his teacher about his career plans. At that point, Kirt thought that his aspiration might be studio playing until his teacher said this: “If you really want to be on the cutting edge of music, you need to be in education.” His teacher described that in music education, Kirt would always be learning new repertoire, skills, and techniques, and he would be helping a new generation of musicians. So, Kirt came to BYU to pursue his undergraduate degree in music education and eventually went on to get a doctorate degree in education from Utah State University. Everything came full circle when Kirt returned to the BYU music education division as a full-time faculty.
[Music] expresses things that are profound and individualized for every single one of us. That I could have a career in music is a spectacular blessing.
For Kirt, having a music career was a blessing, and said, “I think of all the people who have lived on the earth, and all the jobs that have been, and how many people could do music, we’re a pretty small number.” Studying music—whether in education or performance—is valuable because “music is part of why we live,” says Dr. Saville. “It expresses things that are profound and individualized for every single one of us. That I could have a career in music is a spectacular blessing.”
Music has not only greatly influenced Dr. Saville’s professional life, but also his faith. Being a band conductor, for example, taught Dr. Saville about how to listen to and recognize the voice of the Spirit. “[As a conductor, I] have to train [myself] to hear the ensemble. And not just the whole ensemble, but I have to be able to hear the first oboe part, the second oboe part. I have to hear the third clarinet part. It’s disciplined listening … I do believe that’s very similar to how we hear the Spirit. There is a lot of noise in the world, but if we can stop and focus our listening to hear the voice of the Lord, what He’s trying to tell us and communicate to us, I think that’s an important way that music helps [us] understand what Heavenly Father would like [us] to do.”
Since his retirement, Dr. Saville has continued to use his musical talents conducting the Utah Premier Brass, a group made of musicians from all across the Wasatch Front. He and his wife have also been called to serve as missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at Temple Square. There, they manage the Orchestra at Temple Square. “That has been keeping me busy,” says Dr. Saville. “That’s been a very wonderful and rewarding way to keep my music going.”