When your entire educational career boils down to a single concert, it’s undoubtedly stressful. Yet Frost students graduating with performance- or composition-based degrees pull it off every year. In their last few months of school, seniors on these tracks, and occasionally others, organize a roughly 90-minute showcase of their talents: the Senior Recital.
“I see two general options for senior recitals,” said Sam Feinstein, a music engineering major. “Students can showcase what they’ve done the past four years and use it as a celebration of what they’ve been doing, or they can try to look forward to what they might possibly be doing in future years … I wanted my senior recital to primarily consist of my own original work.”
There is no single way to pull off the task of a stellar senior recital. For jazz vocalists, it may mean arranging and singing jazz standards. For media writing and production majors, it may mean showing a series of original film scores. In Feinstein’s case, it meant putting together a rock opera. Regardless of format, senior recitals involve of collaboration with other musicians and sound engineers.
“It was definitely not easy to prepare for,” said Zachary Di Lello, a music theory and composition major. “There were 18 musicians I had to find and schedule rehearsals with. The most stressful part was the logistics of it.”
Emily Ennis, a vocal performance major in the classical department, balanced out-of-town graduate school auditions, opera and musical theater rehearsals and a sinus infection in the weeks leading up to her recital.
“I was out of town pretty much every weekend in February, which gave me only about a month to really prepare for my senior recital,” Ennis said. “I used my spring break, which I spent here, to go practice every day and work on memorization.”
As taxing as all the preparation can be, few find their recitals anything less than a rewarding experience. For many, it’s a once-in-a-college-career opportunity to take complete creative control over a performance.
Tia Cisterna, a media writing and production major, said she wanted her performance to reflect her stage name: Leolani.
“My artist name, Leolani, means ‘heavenly voice’ in Hawaiian, so I really wanted my recital to embody this ethereal nature.”
Daniel Correa, a media writing and production major, certainly did not let that creative freedom go to waste. His recital featured his original pop songs, classical compositions and film scores, a 30-minute set with his ska band, the Zognoids, and an improvised piece using a multi-track looper and two electric razors.
“The most important lesson I learned is to not be afraid of getting experimental because that is often where your most memorable material lies,” Correa said. “Get weird. Stay weird. Love being weird.”
In many cases, the senior recital is an opportunity for musicians who don’t often front the band, or even take the stage, to have a place in the spotlight. For some, the experience is nerve-wracking, but for others, it’s the catalyst for a post-college performing career.
“After performing live, I realized that I want to keep pushing live performances of my music,” said Logan Elstermann, a media writing and production major. “A lot of what I do with film music and production is only ever realized in a recorded setting. There is something very special about playing music live, though.”
There’s a consensus among Frost students: The real reward of putting on a senior recital is being able to share your hard work with friends, family and professors. Most recitals are well-attended by Frost students and faculty, out-of-town relatives and other UM friends. Supporters who can’t make the live recitals are often able to watch them on YouTube via livestream, which remains available even after the show is over.
“I had a tremendous amount of support in the audience and over the livestream, and playing for such a friendly crowd made me relax and have fun with it,” said Rebecca Tutunick, a classical flute performance major. “I felt some nerves in my first couple of pieces, but as the program went on, I was able to really demonstrate all that I have learned during my undergraduate years.”
Support – not just in terms of audience attendance – is what makes senior recitals possible. Amanda Abate, a Music Engineering major, Computer Engineering and Creative American Music minor, has been one of the contemporary department’s greatest supporters in more ways than one. This year alone, she’s been the sound engineer for dozens of recitals, as well as the official sound engineer for the American Music Ensemble. Since she’s used to being behind the scenes, her senior recital was an opportunity to switch gears and showcase her lesser-known talents.
“Because I’m both a music engineer and a CAM songwriter, I’m constantly torn between the two,” Abate said. “Over the last four years, I’ve been either really into MuE things – coding, designing hardware, recording – or committing to performances and live sound … My senior showcase … was a way to really exemplify the other half of my time at Frost.”
For Abate, the process of preparing for a recital was an exercise in learning to ask for help. Despite her hesitance, she found that those she had been supporting for years were more than willing to lend a hand.
“I’m very eager to do things for others but not very comfortable asking others for help in return,” Abate said. “This recital would not have happened if I didn’t have my parents, teachers, best friends and colleagues helping me right up until I laid down in bed after the show.”
Recital season isn’t over yet. Check out the Frost Events Calendar to see which shows you can catch on campus before the semester ends.