By Becky St. Clair
Alice Walker once said, “Whenever you are creating beauty around you, you are restoring your own soul.”
Over the past several months we have watched the world come alive with art. Musicians on balconies, serenading their neighbors; artists creating on their walls at home and sharing it via timelapse on YouTube; influencers using their writing skills to encourage, uplift, and inspire. It’s the arts that got the world through quarantine. The arts restored people’s souls. And PUC’s department of music could do no less for its students.
It didn’t take long after everyone went home to wait out COVID-19 for reality to hit: We missed music. Spring quarter is generally the busiest for the department, and 2020 was no different. However, the “busy” looked very different. Like every other campus department, the music department scrambled to make sure all of its courses were available and viable online, that students could access everything they needed to, and that effective learning was still taking place.
Once those logistical details were ironed out, the question remained: How will we make and share music this quarter?
Music is more than just a discipline. It’s more than a major or a college department or background to a movie or a road trip. Music is a community. It’s a lifeline. It’s an expression of heart and soul. And we needed all of that more than ever during spring 2020.
Like many others across the disciplines, our gazes turned toward Zoom. Deciding we had nothing to lose, we figured, Why not?! And on the evening of Wednesday, June 3, the music faculty and staff gathered on Zoom with a few community attendees and several music majors for our first-ever virtual General Student Recital.
Between the six pieces performed that night viewers enjoyed the (sometimes somewhat garbled) sounds of piano, voice, violin, and viola.
“I didn’t think it was possible to do a recital over Zoom,” admits Asher Raboy, acting chair and resident artist in the department of music. “And yet, it was a lovely evening. I felt so much joy seeing our students perform, and I sense they had a similar experience. I am so glad we did it.”
Natalie Fode, 2020 nursing graduate, and senior piano major performed Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” from her empty church in Yountville, California, where her husband is a pastor.
“I really enjoyed getting to do our GSR this quarter, despite the odd circumstances,” she says. “It gave me something to practice for and kept me motivated. Seeing and hearing my friends play was so special; they are truly wonderful musicians.”
Fode’s performance was gorgeous, and just the right speed for a contemplative and peaceful piece like “Clair de Lune.”
Her favorite part of the recital?
“Definitely when Lewis’ little niece sang along with him!”
Lewis Govea, a junior voice major in the pre-pharmacy program, sang from his home in Southern California. What no one saw coming was the adorableness of his nearly two-years-old niece stealing the show by standing right in front of the camera during Lewis’ performance, and trying to sing like her uncle. Lewis held it together, though, and finished strong with his Italian and French pieces.
Michael Siahaan, voice major, presented two pieces, one live and one pre-recorded, the former a classic vocal performance piece in Italian and the latter a fun and familiar tune from the 1950s musical, My Fair Lady.
James Woodward, senior violin and viola major, also presented two compositions, one Schubert, one Vivaldi. His live solo performance was beautiful and well-executed, despite his camera slipping while he played. Quickly setting it back up during a pause in the music, Woodward carried on like any great musician would.
The point was not that it was perfect. Because it couldn’t be. “Perfect” would have been in person, live, applause echoing throughout Paulin Recital Hall, and we all would have enjoyed Ghirardelli brownies and sparkling punch after the show. “Perfect” would have been together.
The point was that we made and shared music, we saw each other’s faces, and we reminded ourselves of what it is we truly love about our music, our community, and our department.
So, in reality, maybe it was “perfect” after all.
Govea shared his own feelings about the recital, and, honestly, he says it best, so I’ll let him close this post.
GSR was, in short, everything I needed, but nothing I wanted. I wanted to sing in a big wide open space. I wanted to bow to the masses. I wanted to have a real accompanist. I wanted the nightmare of separation to be over. What I got was family. I got a reminder that I still had my community. I got a wake-up call.
GSR this quarter was an outpouring of virtual yet tangible love and support. I got to see my music family play and sing like nothing was wrong. We got the opportunity to do things we never thought we would have to do. I got to sing for people who literally were only there to listen and support and encourage.
The reality of GSR is nothing compared to what it meant for me as a musician. GSR was a success, and not just because my one-year-old niece had her debut performance, but because it stripped the music down to what it was intended to do: be a beacon for those who listen and love.
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