Not only do YTI faculty and staff members appreciate the arts and recognize their critical place in the Christian life, but many are also actively engaged in artistic endeavors. Following are some ways members of the YTI family are currently involved in the arts.
Dr. Jay Smith
President, Professor of Theology and Ethics
It has always been important to me that my personal skills and talents be in the service of the Kingdom of God. As a “non-vocalist,” instrumental composer, it seemed to me that if I could share my gifts and witness through composing music for bands and orchestras, it would be a means by which people could see clearly that to be a follower of Christ did not mean that you had to give up the joy for created beauty. In other words, you can be both a Christian and an artist. Maybe, in some ways, to be a Christian and an artist gives you a keener insight on the challenges and joys of life. In all cases, it gives you a hearing with others in regard to your faith. I composed “Prairie Songs” for the Sterling College Wind Ensemble in November-December 2018. The motivating force was my appreciation for this small Kansas Christian college and its reception of Yellowstone Theological Institute. I also see it as a seed planted for future conversations with their students. Here is what I wrote for the program notes:
Prairie Songs, a composition for Wind Ensemble, is based upon the composer’s experiences and memories of Kansas as a boy. The first song, “Morning Meadow Lark,” represents the waking of the birds on the prairie. The initial flute melody is derived from a recording of the Western Meadow Lark’s song. The second song, “Morning Breeze in the Blue Stem,” is designed to invoke the memory of walking down to the creek through the Blue Stem grass on a summer morning. The third song is a “Dance” based upon the state song of Kansas, “Home on the Range.” The fourth song is a rowdy “Quick Step” with some variations, based upon the Kansas folk song, “Girls Quit Your Rowdy Ways.” The first variation is reminiscent of a circus band, the second, a jazz band, the third is designed to evoke a tired circus band at the county fair, and the fourth is reminiscent of the wild west show bands of the early 20th century. The fifth song is based upon the ballad “Molly Bann.” This movement not only sets the melody and harmony from the folk song, but attempts to paint a picture of the story of Molly Bann and her love. The final song, titled “High Plains Holiday,” is reminiscent of the joy the composer experienced coming to visit his uncle and aunt’s farm outside of El Dorado, Kansas. Prairie Songs is dedicated to the Sterling College Wind Ensemble, Larry Brownlee, Director, with special thanks to Alyssa Hershey.
Dr. David Wilmington
Professor of Theology and Philosophy
I first chose to listen to jazz, sometime around 16 years old, because I play saxophone, and that was the main option for hearing the best players. However, I realize now that my love for jazz was primed by hearing Vince Guaraldi’s music in the Charlie Brown specials and the great singing and playing on “School House Rock” by jazz musicians such as Bob Dorough. When I was 17, guided either by divine inspiration or just plain luck, I bought—without knowing anything—four of the greatest jazz albums of all time. Paired with my continued development as a performer in and beyond college, I studied recordings and books like the Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz, Wynton Marsalis’ albums, and the works of Ralph Ellison and Albert Murray like they were textbooks and best friends. 10 years of doing jazz radio helped expand and refine my knowledge and taste while also giving me a solid education in music and cultural history.
I continue to play saxophone, with some piano and singing more recently added to the mix, and now integrate both my own playing and many recordings and texts into my work as a teacher and writer of theology and ethics.
Finance, Personnel, & Events Manager
Melissa has played French horn since sixth grade and has continued to be an active teacher and performer since moving to Bozeman in 2011, playing with the Bozeman Symphony for 4 years, with small ensembles, and as the Honor Guard bugler for the American Legion Post 14.
Beth Van Dyke
I began dancing at age five. My sister was my inspiration to start taking dance lessons. The first studio at which I trained was One Step Ahead in Bozeman ( This studio no longer exists). I only danced there for a year, and then I moved to a dance studio in Belgrade – Tanya’s Dance Company. Tanya’s was my home for about nine years. I was competing in dance competitions by the time I was eight or nine years old. I won many awards for groups, duos, and solo dances. I enjoyed everything about being on a competition team. Through those nine years of dancing with Tanya’s, I was able to perform at many events and areas. We performed at halftime shows for the Montana State Bobcats. We performed at the Gallatin Valley Mall. We even performed at Disney World one year. By the time I was thirteen I had focused my dance career on ballet. I soon changed studios and ended up going to Montana Ballet Company, which is where I dance to this day. My experience with Montana Ballet Company has been an exciting journey. I have been in many productions and shows with MBC over the past five years. Dancing has had a tremendous influence on my life, and I know it will shape my future.
I started taking dance classes at seven years old, I began with ballet, as my mother insisted that it was the cornerstone of all dance. Last year I danced the role of Fairy Godmother in Montana Ballet Company’s production of Sergei Prokofiev’s Cinderella, alongside my best friends. The eleven years in between beginning ballet and my final performance were filled with learning experiences and life lessons. As a child I appreciated the structure of ballet classes and the dedication required to be successful, but as I grew up I began to appreciate the importance of the artistry and storytelling through movement. Many people don’t realize it, but ballet is a team sport, from dancing in the corps de ballet in perfect unison, to supporting and correcting your peers. My mentors in ballet impressed upon me the importance of helping the younger and less experienced dancers so that they may grow to love ballet as we do. Ballet taught me the importance of grace, both on and off the stage, to be kind to my fellow dancers because we rely on each other when hard times come. Now, after a decade of dance, I have made friends that will last a lifetime and discovered new interests.