Photo: Connor McCourtney
For Drake students, the arrival of spring means many things: Street Painting, Relays, weather that -— usually — doesn’t involve several inches of snow. But for performance majors, with spring comes one additional aspect: recital season.
Drake’s various performance spaces have hosted many different types of student recitals throughout the spring semester, ranging from clarinet players to soprano singers. These performances allow for vocal and instrumental performance majors to show off the skills they have honed all year.
The student recital program is, first and foremost, a learning experience.
“Recitals are an important component of a music student’s growth, as every aspect of the process contributes to their scholarly and artistic approach to music,” said Leanne Freeman-Miller, associate professor of voice.
However, the desire to take the stage doesn’t have to be entirely academic.
“I want all the performance experience I can get while in school,” said Ian Copland, a senior trombone performance major. “Recitals are a great way to force myself to learn the important repertoire of my instrument.”
All performance majors are encouraged to give a recital during some point in their time at Drake. Sophomore voice majors are able to hold a joint recital with another singer, while junior and senior performers hold full recitals with more complex pieces. Vocal and instrumental studio professors must determine if a student is ready to perform a half or a full recital.
From there, students must choose their repertoire — the pieces they intend to perform at the recital. Pieces span across various genres, languages and difficulty levels. Students generally choose pieces they think fit their level of performance.
“It’s always interesting to learn what repertoire students are attracted to and inspired by,” Freeman-Miller said.
Once a repertoire is chosen, it’s time for practice. Performers work closely with their studio professors and accompanists to learn the material and make it performance-ready. This process can last anywhere from a couple months to the entire semester.
For Freeman-Miller, this part of the process is very hands-on.
“I coach (students) on virtually every aspect of the recital process, from vocal technique, to language, artistry, style and performance technique.”
Students must also perform a recital hearing for their departmental faculty at least one month before the recital to determine if they are ready to present the full repertoire in front of an audience.
The process is a bit different for seniors. Instead of writing a thesis or completing a project, senior performance majors are required to give a recital during their senior year as their capstone experience. These performances have more specific requirements than the underclassmen recitals. For vocal performance majors, this involves at least four sets of music in two European languages (in addition to English).
While the mere thought of performing onstage may cause some students to experience rapid heart palpitations and break out in a nervous sweat, performance majors view it as an opportunity to grow accustomed to being on stage.
“A recital allows the student to become at ease with performing,” Freeman-Miller said. “One can actually observe this throughout a performance. It’s exciting.”
Copland, whose recital was April 12, agrees. “Performing in front of an audience is stressful, but the most gratifying part of recitals is being able to interpret a piece and make it your own. Overall, it was a great experience.”
For the people who are interested in attending a student recital to hear for themselves, upcoming performances include junior Kevin Ohrlund’s violin recital May 4 in Sheslow Auditorium at 8 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.