Thursday, January 17th, 2019

Graduate Showcase Concert presented outstanding work

Posted on March 22, 2016 in Arts & Culture
By USM Free Press

By  Jimmy Dority

While performances by USM School of Music students are always held to a high standard, this semester’s Graduate Showcase Concert was outstanding, presenting the budding expertise of some of the university’s most gifted and ambitious artists. Before the concert Ellen Chickering, Associate Professor of Voice at USM, anticipated that it would “be on the highest level of performing. These students are all tops in their field and have made great accomplishments in their years here. As an educator it is a wonderful feeling to see [my] and others’ students performing at such a high level, knowing how much hard work and practice went into that performance.”

The concert’s impressive lineup included students pursuing graduate degrees as well as alumni. All of the performances were marked by the sharpened focus that characterizes graduate studies at the School of Music. Boasting a variety of musical styles, the program featured works by Debussy, Ravel, Mozart, and other favorites as well as Two Short Pieces, an original and evocative composition from pianist and alum Derek Herzer. Those fortunate enough to have seen Tina Davis perform Ravel’s Miroirs, at her Senior Recital had another opportunity to experience her dazzling execution of the third movement, Une barque sur l’océan. The sweeping lyricism of the French Impressionists was also heard in Debussy’s relentlessly fervorous L’isle joyeuse as performed by

Angela Olszta, an accomplished soloist and accompanist for the USM Youth Ensemble choral groups. Marian Hotopp took on Eugene Bozza’s En Foret, among the more difficult and thoroughly exciting pieces in the Horn repertoire.

“The best part of my USM experience,” said Hotopp, “has been having time to spend working with John Boden, [Principal Horn for the Portland Symphony Orchestra]. He has inspired me to spend more time working in the practice room and focusing on improving aspects of my playing, intonation and endurance being two big areas this semester.”

A performance of Britten’s Abraham and Isaac from graduate student George Eisenhauer and alum Jazmin DeRice left the audience haunted and spellbound. Of her work with the vocalists on the program, Ms. Chickering adds that “we work a great deal on refining their technique so that they feel comfortable singing the pieces they really want to sing.”

Nora Cronin, a graduate student who studies with Ms. Chickering, performed Mozart’s Vorrei, spiegarvi, O Dio. Cronin recently performed the virtuosic “Queen of the Night” aria at OTTO East End’s “Opera at OTTO” series with an exacting precision and power that brought the Magic Flute’s dark queen to life. In anticipation of her first performance of Mozart’s more melancholic (albeit no less impressive) concert aria, Cronin celebrated her progress as a soprano working with Ellen Chickering and Richard Conrad over the years. In the course of her scrupulous work on the more subtle details of the soprano voice, she observed that “my voice has grown incredibly. it’s become more smooth and filled out.” Cronin expressed her excitement for this coming Summer when she will be attending the International Opera Academy in Schwerte, Germany.

Pianist Tina Davis shared a similar experience, delving into the subtleties of her instrument. On her work with Une barque, Davis noted that it “has stretched me musically and technically. The challenge is to get these colors and textures without just sounding like I’m playing a lot of notes very quickly”.

The concert’s solo pianists, Herzer, Olszta, and Davis, have all studied under USM’s internationally praised concert pianist Laura Kargul. The sensitivity and technical prowess of Dr. Kargul’s style is impressed upon and cultivated by the progress of every one of her students.

In Davis’ experience as a graduate student, Dr. Kargul  “avoids dictating ‘how it goes’, which leaves me to study the score for myself, make informed interpretive decisions, and try to open my own ears to the sounds and shapes I am bringing out of the instrument,” she said, “as a graduate student I have found that I have more freedom, and therefore more responsibility, for my work as an artist.” The concert was a testament to the legacy carried on by these and other bright performers who have been guided through rigorous study by some of Maine’s foremost musical educators and artists.


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