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The Dartmouth
April 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Senior recitals provide challenging, fulfilling culmination to Dartmouth careers

To conclude their musical experiences at Dartmouth, seniors from diverse musical backgrounds perform recitals in collaboration with the music department’s Individual Instruction Program.

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Throughout the spring term, many Dartmouth seniors involved with music on campus will perform recitals to audiences of their instructors, family and peers. The recitals — some of which were performed near the end of the winter term — allow students to perform pieces they have practiced in private lessons through the music department’s Individual Instruction Program.

Grant Cook, an administrative assistant for the music department who helps students arrange senior recitals, said the 45 to 60 minute performances offer students a unique opportunity to formally share their musical progress with the broader Dartmouth community. 

Students also perform recitals to satisfy personal goals. Some students choose to do a recital as a part of their honors theses in music, Cook said. Others, such as Kamil Salame ’24 —  who performed a vocal recital in the winter — choose to do so purely out of interest.

“I am neither a [music] major nor a minor,” Salame said. “I … pursued this strictly out of interest [after hearing] about the Individual Instruction Program through a friend.”

Equally varied are the musical journeys behind each student’s performance. For many performers, recitals represent years of commitment to their instrument. Julia Patterson ’24, a flautist who completed her recital in the winter, said the flute has been a consistent part of her life for years.

“I’ve been playing the flute … for 13 years now,” Patterson said. “I’ve always loved it as a counterbalance [to] the other things that I do.” 

At Dartmouth, Patterson has continued her flute career by playing in the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra, the Dartmouth Wind Ensemble and the pit orchestra for the Hopkins Center for the Arts’s main stage musical.

Jason Pak ’24, who will perform his recital this May, said he has played the viola since fourth grade. He said he began taking individual lessons his freshman fall to get more practice with the viola and because he enjoyed playing as part of the Dartmouth Symphony Orchestra. 

For other students, recitals reflect a more recent interest in music. Sam Xiong ’24, who will be performing his vocal recital this May, said he only began singing seriously during his senior year of high school.

“I didn’t have much background [in singing], but music surprisingly became a huge part of my life,” Xiong said.

In addition to the Individual Instruction Program, Xiong said he now sings as a part of the Glee Club and the Dartmouth Brovertones a cappella group.

Despite the performers’ diverse musical  backgrounds, one common denominator underlies senior recitals: the time commitment required to succeed. In addition to their individual lessons, students who wish to perform recitals adopt rigorous practice schedules to prepare.

“I practiced around two hours each day … and probably took one day off a week,” Patterson said. “I just wanted to play the best that I could … because it was probably the last time I’d be able to do this kind of thing.”

Salame, who called the preparation process “intense,” described a similar commitment. 

“I doubled up on lessons during my winter term, and [voice instructor Louis Burkot] … often took time out of his day to meet with me outside of our lesson times,” Salame said. “It’s a lot of memorization because there is no sheet music in front of you during the recital.”

In addition to rigorous practice routines, some recitals also involve taking on unique musical challenges. Pak composed his own piece for his recital. Salame’s recital, meanwhile, involved singing pieces in three different languages. Xiong said his recital in May will also include pieces in multiple languages.

“[Performing pieces in foreign languages] was difficult,” Salame said. “I’m not fluent in either German or French, so it was very challenging.”

Beyond the music itself, performers are also accountable for nearly every creative decision involved in their recital. While the music department assists students with logistical components, such as advertising, booking, funding and scheduling, Cook said students handle other details.

“The entire creative process of designing, programming and preparing for a recital is entirely left up to students and their instructors,” Cook said.

This means that students who do recitals are responsible for tasks such as designing their recital’s program, complete with descriptions and explanations of each song they perform — a considerable time commitment, Salame said.

Although Pak’s recital is not until late May, he said he has “already spent a lot of time thinking about the program and the pieces” he will perform. 

Another major demand placed on students is the selection of a venue for their recital, a task complicated by renovations at the Hopkins Center. Previously, almost every recital was held in the Faulkner Recital Hall, located in the basement of the Hop. With this space not currently available, students must work with the music department to arrange for a different venue. 

Salame said he performed his recital in Sudikoff Hall, while Xiong’s recital will take place in Baker-Berry Library’s East Reading Room. Both Patterson and Pak chose Hanover’s Church of Christ as their recital location.

“We’ve been holding our concerts pretty much wherever we can,” Cook said.

Because of the time commitment, performers consistently shared one piece of advice for students considering a recital in the future: to make sure they are willing to invest the time and effort required to make their recital succeed.

“If you’re going to do a recital, make sure you have the bandwidth to do it all the way,” Patterson said.

Despite these challenges, performers’ reflections on their recitals were positive across the board. Patterson, who called  her recital “one of [her] best days at Dartmouth,” said she particularly admired the way recitals can bring a student’s community together through music.

“Just seeing everyone who I knew in so many different ways come together to support me … was really awesome,” Patterson said. 

Pak similarly said that he was most excited to bring his community together through his recital.

“A lot of my friends … haven’t actually heard me play, so just the opportunity to play for them … and culminate my hard work into a final performance [is the most exciting part],” Pak said.