Published on April 19, 2024  
Boutwell and Powers

On Sunday, April 7, two Samford University music students, Shannon Boutwell and James Powers, under the guidance of piano professor Cindy St. Clair, competed in the Alabama Music Teachers Association (AMTA) Piano Competition. Powers received honorable mention in the upper division and Boutwell secured first place in the lower division. The competition, which included competitors aged 19-29, took place at The University of Alabama.

Powers, who is currently in his junior year, also achieved first place in the annual Fletcher and Neil Morris Piano Competition in February 2024. He said he was incredibly honored to have received honorable mention AMTA Competition and expressed his ambition to compete again in the future.

Shannon Boutwell playing pianoThis was Boutwell's first time competing at the collegiate level at the AMTA Competition, having previously competed in during her middle and high school years. The day of her performance presented several challenges. She was suffering from the flu and had a coughing fit during her 20-minute performance. Additionally, she had volunteered to fill in for a classmate’s recital that evening in Brock Recital Hall.

Boutwell shared her strategy for managing multiple events.

"Being homeschooled helped me grow accustomed to juggling multiple things at once. We would alternate between academics, dance, and music instead of focusing on one thing for an extended period," she said.

On busy days, Boutwell finds encouragement in Philippians 4:13. As a double major in violin and piano and a member of various ensembles on campus, she emphasizes the importance of compartmentalizing to focus on one activity at a time.

Shannon Boutwell with medals"I feel the most alive and energized when I get to do all the things I love," Boutwell said.

Boutwell has been invited to perform at the State Conference in June at Jacksonville State University, where she will also a master class with guest artist Artina MCaine.

This year, Boutwell received several accolades for both piano and violin performances, including the Becker Family Foundation Fellowship, second place in the Morris Piano Competition, first place at the Gulf Coast Steinway Society Regional Collegiate Piano Solo Competition, an invitation to play at Carnegie Hall this summer, first place at the Birmingham Music Club Strings Competition, Samford’s Outstanding Sophomore Music Major of the Year, and winner of Battle of the Bands with Chase Mobbs and several students from the Center for Worship and the Arts.

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.