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The experience of a senior music recital

In colleges across the country, spring is the season for finals, internship applications and job interviews. At St. Olaf, as a prominent music college, spring is also the time for senior music recitals.

Senior recitals are a staple for music students in colleges all over the United States and are not specific to the St. Olaf music experience. At St. Olaf, senior recitals are required for students pursuing a Bachelor of Music (BM) degree, but optional for Bachelor of Arts (BA) music students.

The recitals vary depending on the emphasis of an individual student’s major. Because of this, Urness Recital Hall or Studio A, the two most popular locations for senior recitals at St. Olaf, may host a clarinet performance recital, composition recital, voice recital and string recital on the same night.

Garrett Bond ’19 will be graduating with a Bachelor of Music in Music Theory and Composition. He has been preparing for his senior recital for over four years, creating works such as a 35-minute requiem, a piano piece paired with a spoken word work written and performed by Paulo Gladney ’19 and a piece for solo clarinet. As a composition major, his recital was different in that once it began, the fate of the recital was completely out of his control. “In my case, being a composition recital, a lot of my nervousness is put onto the other performers in my recital. They are responsible for presenting my work, once they begin  it is out of my hands,” Bond said. “Of course, this also stresses me out a great deal because I do not have control over what happens. If something goes wrong in performance, there is nothing I can do to stop it.”

Despite this, Bond loved his recital. He found it to be a challenge with coordinating schedules with over 30 musicians, finding rehearsals spaces and doing prep work all while being a full-time student, but enjoyed showing the people in his life his original work in a formal setting.

From an audience perspective, composition recitals are incredibly interesting to attend, as it is an amazing experience to hear the work of fellow students. In Bond’s case, I left feeling as though I had attended a professional composition recital, his works left me speechless in several situations.

Greta Ramsey ’19, a BA music and English major with a women’s and gender studies concentration, also enjoyed and learned from her senior recital experience, although it was slightly different as she is a vocalist.

“Whether performer or composer, senior recitals are a useful experience for music students at St. Olaf.” – Katie Anderson ’20

For Ramsey, a senior recital isn’t required as a BA music major, but it seemed like a natural culmination for her St. Olaf experience, giving her the opportunity to show the performance skills she has enhanced over the last four years.

“I ultimately did my recital for myself. I find a lot of joy in performing and being able to perform my recital with my parents and friends in the audience was a priceless experience,” Ramsey said.

It also taught Ramsey more about a future in performance. “I think my recital helped prepare me for a future in music because I learned how to program and prepare for a recital, collaborate more effectively with other musicians and perform as a soloist for nearly 45 minutes straight,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey performed a variety of songs, from a set of songs in Norwegian to a Disney princess set, both of which were wonderfully performed and made for an entertaining and successful senior recital.

Her voice floated through her songs and she transitioned from song to song flawlessly, despite changes in elements such as emotion and speed.

Whether performer or composer, senior recitals are a useful experience for music students at St. Olaf. It gives students the opportunity to perform for their family and friends and show off their impressive musical accomplishments from St. Olaf.