Southeastern Concert Choir’s powerful performance of “Considering Matthew Shepard”


Chloe Williams

Members of the Concert Choir singing upfront near the microphone along with the choir behind them. Students would often get up throughout the performance for solos or to give the audience a piece of information about the Matthew Shepard case.

On May 7, Southeastern’s Concert Choir gathered in the Pottle Auditorium to perform “Considering Matthew Shepard,” composed by Craig Hella Johnson. 

The concert was open to the public and conducted by Dr. Alissa Rowe, director of choral activities, and Christine Weber, a junior undergraduate studying vocal music education. This work is Johnson’s response to the tragedy of Matthew Shepard in 1998. 

In October of 1998, Shepard was a young gay student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie who was kidnapped, severely beaten, tied to a fence and left to die. Five days later was when Shepard passed and his story went nationwide. 

I have seen this piece performed and since I have a number of students in the queer community I thought it was important that they know about the life and death of Matthew Shepard and the Matthew Shepard Act that followed,” Rowe said when addressing her choice of this piece. 

Weber noted that this concert’s goal is to spread a meaning of hope for a day where we can all be accepted, loved and not seen as anything less than the people we are. 

Johnson’s work is meant to show the early life of Shepard as a normal college student, along with the incident and the way that the nation and its people reacted afterwards. The piece was split into three segments; the prologue, the passion and the epilogue.  

As SLU’s Concert Choir performed this, students sang out Johnson’s lyrics that personified the fence that held Shepard throughout the night. One of the choir students made a realistic fence that sat on stage alongside the choir. 

Other parts of the performance included words from Shepard’s parents that told of their love for their son and how special he was to them. 

Weber was not only glad to have been a part of this production, but also found the research that she and her peers did beforehand enlightening. Rowe had her students conduct research and presentations on the Shepard case, and many other instances that were similar. 

Weber explained, “Not only did we thoroughly discuss the tragedy of Matthew Shepard, but we also researched other hate crimes that happened during this time to see that there are so many names that go unaddressed. We, as a society, need to be speaking these names and remembering those who have fallen victim to awful, heartless events such as this. This gave everyone in the choir various feelings- sadness, hatred, anger, disgust, but most of all, questioning. How could someone be so cruel to another person?” 

At the end of the “Considering Matthew Shepard” program there was a list of Louisiana organizations that are committed to helping young LGBTQ+ citizens that will be listed below. If you or someone you care about is part of this community and is struggling then these websites are here to help, whether it be creating a safe environment for them or finding a healthcare provider. 

ALGBTIC Louisiana 


Capital City Alliance Organization

LGBT Community Center of New Orleans 

Louisiana Trans Advocates


-PFLAG New Orleans 

Southeastern Louisiana University Safe Space Program 

Wonderfully Made