A devotion to music -- and the Mean Green -- is so innate in the Davidson family, it's almost as if it's imprinted in their DNA. Take, for instance, their legacy of studying music at UNT: Neil ('52, '57 M.M.Ed.) and Sandra Davidson ('54, '57 M.M.Ed.) met in the school of music, where Sandra played piano for Neil's voice lessons. Their son Blake studied music from 1981 to 1984, and granddaughter Kathryn is a senior double-majoring in flute performance and vocal music education.
But even those family members who were not music majors -- including their sons Scott ('81) and Bruce ('84), and granddaughter Shannon ('17 M.S.) -- made room for the pastime, particularly at Christmas. Beginning in the 1950s, Sandra and Neil gathered at the home of Neil's parents, where the Davidsons would sing while Sandra played Handel's Messiah, an incredibly difficult, and undeniably beautiful, composition.
"We're a musical family, and we love this particular piece," says Sandra, who for many years taught private piano lessons and also was the organist at Plymouth Park Baptist Church in Irving where Neil served as the minister of music. "I love taking part in it -- it's just what we do."
In the 1980s, Neil's brother Horace began hosting the get-togethers, first at his house in Beaumont, then at his home's community center in Georgetown. More than 300 people participated in the Davidson family's enrapturing rendition of the Messiah, in which Neil conducted, Sandra played the piano and their children sang solos.
Following Horace's death, Scott -- a Dallas-based dentist -- took up the hosting mantle at his home. Though there was no longer room for swelling crowds, there was still plenty of space for the love and care that had long accompanied their Christmas tradition.
"It just brings everybody together," says Scott, who received a bachelor's degree in biology at UNT, took vocal classes from Professor Emerita Virginia Botkin and was a member of UNT's Jazz Singers. "The quality of that piece of music is just transcendental."
Scott and his brothers Bruce and Blake have released three CDs as The Davidson Brothers. Blake, a chiropractor, has soloed with opera companies and symphonies all over the world and is now a performer and producer of The 3 Redneck Tenors, who were top 10 finalists on America's Got Talent in 2007.
Scott and Bruce, who is a retired lawyer, also have performed solo in venues throughout the Dallas area.
"When you grow up around music, it's not something you make a decision about -- you just perform," says Scott, who last Christmas welcomed UNT's Allen Hightower, director of choral studies, and John Richmond, dean of the College of Music, to his family's gathering. "We just all love to sing so much."
And that love has carried to a new generation, including Scott's daughter Kathryn, whom Scott describes as the "most talented member of the family." She knew from the moment she auditioned at UNT that it was the right place for her.
"The musical atmosphere was just so amazing and rich," says Kathryn, who sings the arias at the family's Messiah performances. "Being from a family of accomplished musicians, it was inevitable this kind of performance tradition would be passed down through the generations. We've always placed an emphasis on music and family -- performing and singing together is such a special thing."