May 19, 2024

‘Tis the season… for recitals!

The university’s Conservatory of Music is nationally recognized for the musicianship and quality of instruction for good reason. The practice and effort that students put into their musical opportunities is admirable on its own; however, what often goes unrecognized by others on campus is the planning that goes into certain performances, namely recitals.

Recitals are student-planned statement performances designed to showcase the techniques and skills that students have been practicing and perfecting since the beginning of their time at the university. 

Music performance majors are required to do a recital in their junior and senior years, while music education majors only need to do a full senior recital. Full recitals consist of about 40-45 minutes of music, while other recitals may be around 30 minutes.

The repertoire selection process differs between instrumental, vocal and composition recitals. Instrumentalists and vocalists highlight their instrumentation, while composition’s focal point is writing. Similarly, composition recitals require students to find other musicians to learn, rehearse and play what they have composed.

Associate Professor of Music and Assistant Dean for Student Success Dr. Chad Payton said in their research of pieces to perform, “students demonstrate an appreciation for the fact that music isn’t created in a vacuum. Music is written in response to historical events, attitudes, and culture from the composer’s time.”

(From left) Katey Hardesty, Will Conley, Daniel Johnson-Brewer and Dezz Dunn performing Murray Robertson’s piece “Images of May.”

Some recitals stick to one genre or theme, while others showcase a wide range of styles and influences. The university has an inclusive programming policy, which requires students to have at least one composer from an underrepresented community in their set, which has helped guide students and audiences to a variety of pieces they may not have encountered otherwise.

Senior music education and flute performance double major Akira Walls values the opportunity to share unique music in a recital program, having played a piece even her instructor was unfamiliar with.

“Let me show them the kind of music I perform and the sound… and emotion I have, and I’m just going to put it all in this piece. And so, it just becomes one with you,” she said.

In terms of preparation, the process starts anywhere from the prior semester to the prior year. Students have to choose their panel to judge and grade their work and find times that work for all of their schedules. Because of this, fall semester sees weeks with recital after recital, especially since many music education students will be busy with student teaching the following spring.

Senior dual music education major Stephen Warner compares the process of planning and preparing for a recital to presenting at the Research Symposium.

“We’ve put in that four years of hard research. And so that research is personal growth and vocal growth or instrumental growth,” he said.

In planning for his performance on Nov. 17 at 7:00 p.m. to be held in Huntington Recital Hall, Warner has learned more about his own voice and is looking forward to showing off the four years of work he has put into his art.

Program notes consist of the history of the composer, the story of the piece, translations if applicable and the list of pieces grouped into sets. 

Senior Christopher Jacky performs “Trouble” from The Music Man at his recital, a role he was supposed to play his senior year of high school before the production was shut down due to COVID-19. He dedicated the performance to his parents, thanking them for their support.

Music composition major Murray Robertson had his junior recital on Thursday, Nov. 2 in Huntington Recital Hall. Robertson did a joint recital with another third year composition student.

Robertson’s philosophy on recitals is laid-back and low-stress. He said,“This is my opportunity to make art. I can be an artist without sharing it but… what’s the point of writing music if no one gets to hear it?” 

Writing music is great, Robertson said, “but when it happens at a concert and you have live musicians playing this stuff, it’s an extension of this artistic thing that humans have been doing for thousands of years.”

“Learning how to perform music at a high caliber can be a useful experience to overcome,” Payton. This will help prepare them for their professional careers.

According to Payton, recital planning promotes “time management, knowledge of one’s instrument, an understanding of various style periods and performance practices” and demonstrates that as performers, students can excel under pressure.

“Recitals are super, super stressful and scary on paper, but they are so much fun in the end,” said Olivia Roberts, senior vocal music education major. “After my recital, I still get comments and just remember the beautiful work that me, my friends, my family, everybody put into making this recital so special for me.”

Use the Corq app and Engage to find out more about upcoming recitals.


  • Charlotte Keller

    Charlotte is a third-year English Literature major with a Spanish minor. She is secretary of the Capital Book Club, an AIM Change Advocate, and Capital’s Student Government Parliamentarian. In her free time, she likes to make Spotify playlists and watch rom-coms.

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