Senior recitals mark culmination of year long musical effort

The opportunity is available to all willing to put in the work, regardless of major or minor of study.

by Gray Christie | 5/23/17 1:10am

Every year, graduating seniors studying with a professor in the music department have the option to perform a senior recital. These students are not necessarily music majors or minors, but they have all undertaken advanced study on their instrument or voice.

Erma Mellinger, a 21-year veteran vocal coach and senior lecturer, has two graduating students this year, Alanna Kane ’17 and Alyssa Gonzalez ’17, who have been studying with her the length of their undergraduate careers.

Mellinger describes her role in the senior recital process as helping to provide resources that the students can use to explore their musical identities.

Kane and Gonzalez chose to sing music that not only pushed their current skill sets but delved them into different aspects of their academic interests. Both graduating with minors in international studies, Kane and Gonzalez enjoyed incorporating a multicultural experience into their senior recital process, Mellinger said.

“We work on technical issues with their voices, and we try to give them a variety of repertoire, each of them gravitates to what really speaks to them,” Mellinger said.

Mellinger was happy to see her two graduating students explore new aspects of their musical knowledge as well. Kane, a classically trained singer, added a few jazz songs to her recital’s program. Collaborating with Emma Howeiler ’18 on piano, Kane branched out into jazz singing and worked with lullabies, which involved a completely different method of performance.

“That was really fun for me because I’ve never really done that,” Kane said. “I’ve been trained as a classical singer my whole life, and it was really fun to let go and just sing. So I think that actually was my favorite part of the program, although I do love singing classically and singing in choirs. I would definitely be interested in exploring different styles of music, especially jazz.”

Mellinger noted that the challenge was successfully carried out.

“[Kane] took her good technique and her strong singing and [allowed] her soul to do the rest of it and did such a beautiful job,” Mellinger said.

Kane started taking voice lessons at 7 years old and participated in a variety of singing groups during childhood.

“One of the biggest influences on my singing career was being in the Metropolitan Youth Chorale,” Kane said. “We performed at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. When I got to Dartmouth, I joined the [Dartmouth College Glee Club].”

Last spring, Kane decided to do a senior voice recital, which entailed an advanced course of study. Mellinger helped her decide on a theme for the recital that was based in work Kane was already doing with British composer Benjamin Britten’s songs.

“[Mellinger] suggested the idea that it would be interesting if I did a lullaby-themed recital,” Kane said. “Generally, the recital program reflected different interpretations of a lullaby.”

Apart from that suggestion, the programming was left up to Kane. She sang a number of Spanish and Italian pieces for which she had to translate and sing in foreign languages. She also included a set of lullabies by Britten and a selection of jazz standards that fit within the lullaby theme, Kane said.

“It was a pretty curated, themed program, but it had a lot of different interpretations,” Kane said. “No single piece sounds like the other.”

Kane performed her program on April 29.

“Overall it was just really fun for me to take that on,” Kane said. “I had been preparing these songs for about [one year], and this was the culmination of that.”

Emmanuel Hui ’17, a violinist in the Barbary Coast Jazz Ensemble, also performed a senior recital. Like Kane, Hui characterized his deep connection with music as stretches back to his childhood.

“My parents met when they were in choir in high school,” Hui said. “At 2 years old, I started piano. At three, I started violin — I was a music prodigy type.”

As a teenager, Hui grew weary of the immense work required of a classical violinist.

“I was playing classical violin for the longest time, and it doesn’t matter how talented you are, because someone else is gonna practice 10 times harder than you,” Hui said. “So it was very competitive, and it got very tiring very quickly.”

Hui decided to switch styles from classical to jazz violin. When he got to Dartmouth, he searched for outlets to bolster his skills in jazz playing.

“I auditioned for all the groups on campus and tried to convince [Don Glasgo] to let me play jazz in [Barbary Coast],” Hui said. “He let me play one song freshman year. [When I started playing with music professor Fred Haas], I really got used to playing in a group setting. It took [Haas] a while to mold me into the right mindset.”

At his senior recital in Falkner Hall, Hui played violin and drums to a number of jazz standards, aided by Haas and rhythm section players from Barbary Coast.

“This concert is a culmination of what I’ve been doing for four years,” Hui said.

Senior recitals allow students to explore different aspects of their musical abilities and showcase their work to the world. Mellinger praised the students giving recitals for their extra commitment to expressing themselves.

“I just want to commend all the students that put in the extra time for the recitals,” Millinger said. “It is a lot of work.”