The Gustavian Weekly

Spring music recitals hit the right notes

By Sarah Knutson - Variety Editor | April 27, 2018 | variety

The department of Music is presenting student recitals almost every weekend this spring with performers ranging from sophomores to seniors, instruments varying from vocal to instrumental, and diverse student backgrounds with majors from economics to biology.

Mara Klein, Director of Communication Services and Fine Arts Programs in Marketing and Communications, believes “the high quality of performances alone is reason to come to these recitals.”

However, Klein thinks the fact that many performers are not music majors shows “the depth of talent we have here when a physics or sociology major who is extremely talented and simply loves music is able to give an hour-long performance. It is inspiring,” Klein said.

Sophomore Austyn Menk has been working on his organ recital since last spring and has stayed on track with rehearsals by thinking of this recital as the ultimate goal.

Menk, a gifted musician, drew pieces from a number of musical eras to have a variety of style, emotion, and musical characteristics.

His program includes works from “Bach, Franck, Liszt, Barber, and Escaich; these composers are from the Baroque, Romantic (Liszt and Franck), 20th Century, and Contemporary eras, respectively.

“It’s a wonderful accomplishment and a ton of work to be able to prepare a full hour-long concert on your won, and it’s amazing to see it all come together.” — Mara Klein

As a result, you’ll hear ‘church’ music, reflective music, sorrowful music, and one piece that’s just a lot of noise” Menk said.

The piece Menk is most looking forward to playing is one he did not think was achievable: Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in G Major, BWV 541.

“Bach has always been wildly difficult for me to grasp, because I have consistently had poor practice habits, and lacked the focus and attention to nuance that is required to play a piece with as many things going on as a Fugue,” Menk said.

Even after practicing three hours every day, Menk attributes his level of precision and excellence to Chad Winterfeldt, Cantor of Christ Chapel.

“He has given me a number of tools that can aid in my practice of Fugues, and I’m feeling more comfortable with and having more fun with them than I ever have before,” Menk said.

“It is largely thanks to him that I’m able to put on this recital. I will be forever grateful for all the knowledge he has to offer,” Menk said.

Senior Elizabeth Neuenfeldt already performed her senior recital with fellow soprano Kali Malaski. However, she still urges students, faculty and community members to come listen to student recitals.

“I believe it is important for people to watch student recitals because it is a great way to support students and provide them with the opportunity for them to share music, “ Neuenfeldt said.

Although most of work that goes into preparing for a concert is the music there is more for the musicians to do.

“For our recital, Kali Malaski and I have needed to create posters, write out the program, type up the translations for pieces (so audiences could understand the German and French words), and make sure we got refreshments for the reception after the recital” Neuenfeldt said.

Senior Jessica Backes performed her recital on flute and is excited to share the music and the personal stories attached to each individual pieces.

“I hold all of the pieces I’m playing close to my heart, and music is my favorite form of communication, so I can’t wait to play my heart, soul, and mind for my family and friends,” Backes said.

“Playing my flute in front of people is one of the only places in which I feel completely comfortable being vulnerable and authentic” Backes said.

“I’m feeling more comfortable with and having more fun with [the pieces] than I ever have before.” — Austyn Menk

Backes explains her method of choosing pieces by listening to what speaks to her. After listening to random pieces on YouTube, she finds the piece chooses her, rather than choosing the piece herself.

“The piece I look forward to sharing with all my heart is “Be Still My Soul” by Rhonda Larson.

“It carries with it an incredible message – be still, and let go of all that troubles you. The piece follows the journey of somebody who overcomes a great struggle.

“It is profoundly meaningful for me to play because the message is relatable to everyone in the room. Everyone struggles. Everyone can be healed.

My hope is that this piece will allow at least one person to walk away, leaving some of the worries and anxieties behind,” Backes said.

There is a great deal of work and stress incorporated in each recital resulting in an hour long performance of passion and excitement for music.

“The best part about these recitals is sitting back during the performances and realizing that these truly are a culmination of years of musical growth at Gustavus for each of these students. It’s a wonderful accomplishment and a ton of work to be able to prepare a full hour-long concert on your own, and it’s amazing to see it all come together, “Klein said.

All of the performances are free, open to the public, and will are in the Bjorling Recital Hall.

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