As the semester is coming to a close, students are writing final papers, studying for exams, and getting ready for the summer to come. For MU160: Studies in Music Performance students, they are preparing for their end of the semester recitals, where they will showcase months of hard work in their final performance. As a senior music performance student for violin, the one thing that upsets me more than graduating, is the fact that this week will bring my final violin lesson and perhaps the last time I will perform my music in front of others.
The individual music performance classes include lessons in voice, piano, flute, organ, and violin. The music Department faculty members teaching these classes are—Heather Braun (violin), Eric Bermani (organ), Sharon Baker and Sean Parr (voice), Nick Pothier, Francis Kayali, and Molly Lozeau (piano), and Rebecca Jeffreys (flute). The lessons count as 2-credit courses and are taken with the permission of the professor. Classes occur an hour per week, and are scheduled at the convenience of the student and professor.
Each professor’s teaching style is different; some require a paper to be written over the course of the semester on a favorite composer while others require students, like myself, to keep a practice journal. Each professor has two-three studio classes per semester, where students show their progress to their peers and practice performing in front of an audience.
Since students will perform alongside a pianist during their final recital, they are also required to meet with one of the piano professors throughout the semester for private rehearsals. Students have the opportunity to learn how to perform with another instrument, and work on their technique. During my rehearsals, I reviewed start times, dynamics, and tempo changes. It’s an experience that I never had before my lessons this year, and I will admit, it took a lot to get used to. However, I think it’s a great way for students to improve within their lessons.
According to Professor Sean Parr, the lessons were very successful. There were 50 students in the music performance program taking individual lessons, with a waitlist for piano and voice lessons. Overall, the department has produced 10 common hour concerts featuring performance students and faculty. He hopes to expand the program next year to include oboe and percussion as well.
“They were very successful this year. Before we added music lessons for credit, there were very few performance opportunities for students. The idea to first expand performance made the most sense because it would immediately offer a new and expanded curriculum and on-campus performances that would invigorate musical life at the College,” he expressed.
I had not taken a lesson in four years before I started with my teacher Liesl Schoenberger-Doty last semester. My passion for playing came back, and I actually wanted to practice every week. I finally learned a piece that I was never able to master when I was in high school, the “Bach Double (Concerto for two violins)”, and I performed it in front of my peers with my teacher in December.
When Liesl left for another job, I was worried about the transition to my new instructor, Heather Braun. However, Heather exceeded all of my expectations. She taught me so much about my violin such as bow technique, musicality and practice strategies. I looked forward to Fridays at 9:45 every week. I played Camille Saint-Saens’ “The Swan” for our studio class, my most difficult piece to date. Now I’m preparing for my final recital in a week where I will play Eduard Mollenhauer’s “The Boy Paganini,” and it is bittersweet.
I never imagined that I would take lessons again, and I decided that playing the violin was not for me anymore. But after this year, I have rediscovered my love for playing. I don’t want to stop taking lessons; it is a skill that one can have for the rest of their lives. Deciding to take lessons again was one of the best decisions I made while at Saint Anselm. I found the joy in playing again, and I encourage anyone who hasn’t taken lessons since high school or even played an instrument before, to take a music performance class. You will not regret it, I certainly do not.