Required recitals put on the pressure

Katie Wilber

Tasha Clearman’s family, friends and classmates applauded as the lights dimmed. Clearman and her accompanist stepped onto the stage of Lloyd Ultan Recital Hall the night of Jan. 19.

She stood in the center of the stage and played her violin. She performed Mozart and Prokofiev, songs she had practiced for months, even years, in the basement of Ferguson Hall.

It was the Bachelor of Music candidate’s senior recital, the culmination of her undergraduate career.

These required degree recitals for School of Music performance majors are similar to a senior thesis or senior project, said Anne Barnes, assistant director of the School of Music.

“Students have to offer proof of both technical and artistic competency, but they’re also graded on their presentation and musicianship,” she said.

A music student’s repertoire list ” the songs they have practiced for performance ” becomes like an assigned reading list for a literature class.

“We have songs in different styles and different languages,” said Natalia Kojanova, a master’s degree candidate in voice who previously earned a bachelor’s degree in choral conducting.

Singers like Kojanova must learn to sing in French, German, Italian and Spanish, as well as English. Thus, they must learn a translation in order to interpret the piece correctly.

But music performance students can’t take their homework to a coffee shop or the library. Instead, they fill the dozens of practice rooms in Ferguson Hall, rooms students soon see as temporary housing.

“I usually practice between three to four hours every day,” Clearman said.

Besides practicing alone, students like Clearman and Kojanova ” whose instruments usually require accompaniment ” work with pianists during and in between their lessons.

“I worked with my accompanist for half my lesson time in preparation for the recital,” Kojanova said. “But the in-between rehearsals increase as the recital approaches.”

A performance recital ultimately differs from a thesis or final paper. In the instance of a written work, there’s always time to rewrite paragraphs and double-check grammar. Someone can edit the paper before it’s finally turned in for credit.

“There’s always a chance that a student will, maybe due to a bad case of nerves, forget where they are in their music,” Barnes said.

And, in a case like that, there’s no one there with a red pen or White-Out to salvage the error. If a student doesn’t perform up to standards during a recital, he or she must redo it.

“We’re very mindful of the fact that these are amateurs training to become professionals,” Barnes said. “But if a student forgets their music, it’s all or nothing.”

Kojanova’s recital is Saturday, and it’s her first solo recital.

“There’s a lot of pressure, as you would expect, but it should also be lots of fun,” she said. “I’m just trying not to think about it too much.”

After her recital, Clearman quickly flew past the relief and satisfaction in her accomplishment, she said.

“That was just a warmup for graduate school auditions,” she said. “So it’s back to the practice room for me.”