Robert ’82 and Beth Grant Mitchell ’91 attended Wofford College a decade apart, but the college’s music department brought them together.

In 1996, Robert performed “Handel’s Messiah” with a choir organized by the late Dr. Vic Bilanchone, Wofford College professor of music emeritus. Beth attended both performances in Main Building, and they talked after the second performance.  

“We tell our kids that they owe their lives to Vic,” says Robert, a tenor, who occasionally performs the national anthem at Wofford athletics events.

Robert, Beth and their son, Jonathan Mitchell ’26, will be among 52 students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the college who will fill Leonard Auditorium’s stage while performing a masterworks concert at 7 p.m. on May 9. The public is invited to attend the free performance. 

A 20-piece orchestra, including members of the Spartanburg Philharmonic, will accompany the choir, which will perform Mozart’s “Coronation Mass” and Beethoven’s “Choral Fantasy.”

It’s been at least eight years since the college has hosted such a performance. 

Like many Wofford alumni, the Mitchells have special memories involving Old Main. That’s where Robert first heard the Men’s Glee Club perform during opening convocation as a first-year student. After the ceremony, he asked Bilanchone how he could join. He also proposed to Beth outside of Main’s front doors while the Holzkamp Organ from Duke University was being installed in Leonard Auditorium.

Their daughter, Laura Mitchell ’22, is a medical student at the Medical University of South Carolina, and she was among the college’s first students to minor in music. She’ll be on a mission trip in Romania on the day of the concert.

Thirty-four Wofford students will perform with the choir, including Jonathan, who is singing in a choir with his parents for the first time. 

“I’m excited for it all to come together,” says Jonathan, an undeclared major from Inman, South Carolina. “I don’t think people realize how many great musicians will be under one roof and what it will sound like.” 

The Mitchells are credited with recruiting a few alumni and people from choirs around Spartanburg to participate.

“It’s so much fun,” says Dr. Benjamin Griffeth ’91, who was recruited by Beth. “Music always brings energy and enthusiasm, and to be with 19- and 20-year-olds excited about 250-year-old pieces of music is so much fun.” 

Dr. Aaron Harp, assistant professor of music, is the choir’s conductor. He wanted to give students an opportunity to perform choral masterworks alongside musically talented people from the larger community. That was an experience that he appreciated as an undergrad at Ouachita Baptist University. 

“It was life-changing and an incredible experience to be part of a larger choir and perform with an orchestra,” Harp says. “It’s enriching for the students to get experience with community members who’ve been singing most of their lives and it allows alumni, faculty and staff to be on campus and interact with students. For the students to see them with so much joy and excitement about singing is contagious.”

Harp says Mozart’s “Coronation Mass” will be “exciting and energetic.” Beethoven’s piece is a piano concerto that will showcase Dr. Cindy Swicegood, who has performed across the Southeast, Midwest, Austria and Holland.   

The choir has rehearsed since February, and Beth has enjoyed meeting students.

“They’ve been friendly, fun and chatty,” says Beth, a soprano, who sang with the Wofford Singers.

Robert, who will have a short solo, has never been far from Wofford since graduation, but he finds every opportunity to return to campus special. Dr. Trina Janiec Jones is one of three Wofford faculty members who is singing with the choir. Robert learned the first opera that he performed from her late father, Henry Janiec, longtime dean of music at Converse University. 

“It’s like coming back home,” Robert says. “It’s great to sing with Dr. Harp, Dr. Swicegood and Dr. Gary McCraw. The feeling is very special and brings back memories of Vic and many other friends too.”