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Passionate Performances

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UMD Music Students Stepping into the Limelight


Garett Passer and Melanie Spring
Vocalists, Garrett Passer and Melanie Spring

When we think of highly skilled musicians, people in Hollywood or those playing on the stage of Carnegie Hall are the images that usually come to mind. We don't realize that there is often musical talent right under our noses. Music students at the University of Minnesota Duluth have the opportunity to show the public that they are the new up-and-coming talent ready to take the world by storm.

As a part of the music program at UMD, students are required to plan, create, and perform their solo music for at least one recital. As you can imagine, a lot of time, work, and practicing goes into creating a recital. However, it is rewarding and gives them a chance to exemplify the hard work and effort they have put in over the years.

A Nod to Students from the Head
Dr. Jefferson Campbell, department head and associate professor of bassoon, describes recitals as a culmination of the student's work at UMD. "Doing a recital now under guidance of faculty, helps prepare students to go out and do it on their own." He explains that most students start planning their recitals nearly twelve months in advance, but not every student gets to perform when they choose to. "We are proud of our students, but we don't let them perform if they are not ready." This is why students have what is called a hearing one month before their recital. They perform their recital repertoire in front of a small committee of music faculty, and the expectation is that the music is close to performance ready.

When students finally do perform for their recital it is a special moment for not only the students, but also for their applied lesson instructor. Campbell says, "Their recital is much more than a performance to us. A lot of the faculty cry." Most students spend their time at UMD with the same lesson instructor. After spending so much time one-on-one, students and instructors form a strong bond, and often think of each other as family. "The faculty believes in the students. We don't really have faculty turnover, and some don't even want to retire. That shows their pride in the students."

"I believe in the department. I believe in where we're going, and I enjoy the students," says Campbell. He knows there is true talent and can see the potential in his department. "We want to get our students in front of a larger audience because they're good, and they deserve it."

Steven Zubich  
Pianist, Steven Zubich  

View from a Vocalist
Garrett Passer, originally from Blue Earth, will perform his recital with Melanie Spring on Tues., April 29 at 7:30 pm. Working with Dr. Stanley Wold, Passer has put together his part of the recital in a very short amount of time. "I started planning my recital last semester, but many of the pieces I will be performing I just started working on this semester," explains Passer.

"I have been working on being able to memorize faster over the years, so I can focus on the musicality of the piece," says Passer, talking about what he has done to prepare. Spending around two hours practicing each day, he works to understand every aspect of the music. "Dr. Wold has instilled in me the importance of understanding the language and the notes to create music."

The repertoire for his part of the recital ranges from German and French pieces to the musical theater duet "Take Me or Leave Me" from the Broadway musical Rent, which he will perform with Spring. He is also debuting an English art song composed for him by Spring. "Melanie and I are great friends, and because we are so close, it allows us to work together well and feed off one another."

Passer already knows this experience will be very beneficial. "My dream is to end up in a small jazz ensemble much like vocal jazz at UMD, but I am not limiting myself to that." He goes on to say, "This experience shows that I am versatile and can learn music quickly. I also now have all of this music in my repertoire if I need it for an audition."

A Pianist's Perspective

Hibbing native, Steven Zubich will perform his solo piano recital on Sat., May 3 at 3:00 pm. For this recital, Zubich will be performing sixteen pieces that he has memorized. He talks about the importance of choosing the right repertoire, or list of songs. "It's important to hit at least three of the main musical eras. I like to pick music that helps me explore all of them." Once the repertoire is chosen, the next step is writing program notes. "Program notes explain the pieces you're playing to the audience. It is helpful because they don't have to worry about knowing your repertoire before they hear it."

After participating in U-Singers and the percussion ensemble, Zubich looks forward to his hour-long solo performance. "I don't dislike ensemble work. They [the ensembles] have helped me be a better musician and taught me to listen and work with others. I just prefer solo work. I feel more in control and have more freedom to express myself."

Under the guidance of his applied lesson instructor, Dr. Tracy Lipke-Perry, Zubich has spent a large a mount of his time preparing for this performance. He has been working on most of the music for over a year. On a given day he spends two to three hours practicing and spends almost eight hours practicing on the weekends, but he knows the importance of all this hard work. "I plan on being a professional, and this is helping me to learn how to plan ahead. Soon, it becomes second nature."

Weber Doors  
Take a step inside the Weber doors to see UMD music students doing what they do best.  

Striking a Chord with the Audience
Campbell stresses the importance for non-music students to attend recitals and concerts in Weber. "The exposure to other fields helps your brain step away for a moment and get a new perspective when you return to your field of work. Being exposed to different fields of study is part of the university experience."

Zubich wants people to know that they don't have to feel intimidated and that they don't have to be a musician to understand the music. "Not everyone who goes to art museums is an artist. It is my job to understand the music. It is the job of the audience to listen and appreciate it, and to develop an appreciation and learn something is a huge opportunity."

"Give it a chance. We put in a lot of hard work, and this is your chance to see the hard work we do," explains Passer. It is important to him and everyone in the department that these performances have an audience. Campbell agrees, "I want people to hear how good the students are. I also want our students to experience performing in front of a full house."

All of the student recitals are free and open to the public. For a list of the concerts and recitals at Weber Music Hall this spring, click here.






Written by Katherine Revier Mar. 2014


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UMD News Features editor, Cheryl Reitan,

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