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Liz Shropshire Reflects on 20 Years of Serving Through Music

November 2023 Alumni Highlight Article

Liz teaches students from all around the world.
Photo courtesy Liz Shropshire and Peace Through Music International

Liz Shropshire was living her music career dreams. After graduating from BYU with her bachelor’s and from USC with her master’s, Liz landed a job composing film music in Los Angeles. Her life was going exactly as she had planned: Liz spent most of her time composing film scores, going on vacations, and teaching music lessons. But she didn’t feel fulfilled. “It just felt like I should be doing something more with my life,” Liz recalls.

So, Liz began to pray—a simple act she learned to involve in her music when she was earning her undergrad in music composition at BYU. Liz recalls a time when she was struggling to compose, and a peer admonished her to pray before composing. Impacted by this experience, Liz began to incorporate prayer into her musical process.

In 1999, while Liz was looking and praying for opportunities to change her life, she found a wildly cheap airline ticket to Brussels. She bought it, and shortly after heard news of war erupting in Kosovo, a small nation in southeastern Europe. The conflict left 10,000 dead and displaced one million refugees. Liz resolved to find her way to Kosovo from Brussels and volunteer in the relief effort. Before she left for Brussels, a friend suggested that Liz “do what she does best” in Kosovo—teach music. The idea uplifted and motivated Liz. She receive charitable donations from friends and family, packed her suitcases full of instruments, and went on her way. “Within days [of arriving in Kosovo],” Liz says, “I knew it was what I wanted to do with my life.”

The night before her first set of classes started, Liz was inspired to try a completely new style of teaching. She decided to teach the students basic components of music theory, like note names and rhythms, before giving them instruments to play on. After the kids practiced clapping and speaking rhythms, they earned their pennywhistles and harmonicas, easy-to-learn instruments that the kids could take with them wherever they went.

She also began training some of the older kids to teach classes themselves. The results were remarkable and unexpected. The program reduced the effects of trauma, built self-esteem, decreased vulnerability to extremism and intolerance, and brought hope into a refugee culture of apathy and hopelessness.

Liz stayed in Kosovo for six weeks—twice as long as she’d originally planned—but she was determined to return. Back in LA, Liz met several friends from her ward who enlisted their talents in creating the Shropshire Foundation, now known as Peace Through Music International. In the early years of the non-profit, Liz and her friends were living and traveling purely off of donations. Liz says, “I had no idea that it would be like this when I started, and it’s just so much bigger and better than I could’ve imagined.”

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I had no idea that it would be like this when I started, and it’s just so much bigger and better than I could’ve imagined.
—Liz Shropshire
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Even though Liz’s foundation has had great success, she has also faced challenges. She shares that the most important thing in hard times—whether in music or other aspects of life—is prayer. “I am a big believer in prayer. And faith that this is Heavenly Father’s plan—that it’s His program.” Even when Liz didn’t know how things would work out with the program, she always prayed, and things turned out okay.

Liz has felt supported by Heavenly Father through the entire Peace Through Music International journey. She expresses love for not only God but for all others who help keep the program going: “There [are] so many people that make this happen, it’s not me anymore. It’s really beautiful to see how many people believe in this and want to make it happen for these children.”

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My time at BYU was so amazing because it opened the world for me.
—Liz Shropshire
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Liz has been all across the globe, but her career really began at the BYU School of Music. “My time at BYU was so amazing because it opened the world for me,” Liz says. She had many unique experiences, such as private conducting lessons, that equipped Liz with special skills and connections, giving her an advantage later in her career.

To all students involved in the School of Music, Liz says, “Don’t limit yourself and don’t assume anything. Keep your mind open, keep your prayers going, and keep asking Heavenly Father what you can do.” Liz took a different course than she thought she would when she graduated, but she is grateful that she did. She encourages students to look for the thing that they can do to share their talents, and says, “We can all do something to make a really big difference in the world.”

To get involved in Peace Through Music International, visit the organization’s website.

Liz Shropshire teaches music to students all around the world.
Liz Shropshire teaches music to students all around the world.
Photo by Photo courtesy Liz Shropshire and Peace Through Music International

This article was originally published in the November issue of the BYU School of Music Journal. Click here to read the full issue!

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