On Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2017, Riverview Gardens hosted the annual Music for All concert. The concert featured interactive chamber performances by Lawrence students and faculty members including the RCT piano trio, Mason String Quartet and Brass Quintet along with the New York-based chamber ensemble, Decoda. The concert was free and open to all.
Sophomore Abi Keefe, violinist of the Mason String Quartet, shared her enthusiasm for the Music for All concerts. “I was not aware of the program before [Fall Term 2016], but I have since tried to become as involved as possible, playing in three concerts last term and attending the Decoda weekend at Bjorklunden at the beginning of this term,” shared Keefe. Regarding the reasons for her continued participation, she commented, “I enjoy the process of preparing for the concert; discovering a new way to talk about our piece to make it more accessible to those who may not be as familiar with that kind of music. I also especially enjoy the conversations that I’ve had with audience members after performing, and hearing then about how the way we presented our piece shaped their experience of it.”
According to sophomore violinist Rachel Teller, it was the interactive nature of the Music for All concert that originally peaked her interest. “Music is meant to be shared,” said Teller. “It is a wordless language that communicates emotions so strongly and powerfully where words fail. In order for that conversation to happen , you need a performer and an audience.”
The Mason String Quartet’s members typically rehearse together 3-4 times a week for 1-1.5 hours each time, then individually for 3-6 hours. Their repertoire includes Dvorak, Beethoven, Haydn, Britten and even pop song arrangements for weddings.
“I play mainly Romantic era music but I have played modern, pop, jazz and essentially whatever is handed to me,” said Teller who has participated in Music for All for two years. “I love having an opportunity to perform and the framing devices we are encouraged to use.”
Senior Isaac Mayhew from the Conservatory’s Composition Studio and Trumpet Studio played with The Brass Quartet at the event. “As performers it is our job to make sure […] [the concert is] interesting for people who don’t have the opportunity to hear music,” said Mayhew. Although it is his first year in Music for All, he attended the concert in the past and enjoyed the experience. Mayhew plays contemporary classical music on trumpet. He was most excited for the piece his group was playing, Michael Tilson Thomas’ “Street Song”, which was also performed at their recital this past weekend. The Brass Quartet has been practicing since last term, a peculiarity, Mayhew pointed out. “Usually groups don’t practice this long.”
Music for All is a safe, open place where people from the Appleton community and Lawrence students and faculty members can come together. The musicians take on the responsibility to perform not only for themselves but also for the audience.
“Every performance is important to me for being an opportunity to share what my love of music, though I was especially honored to be performing on this MLK Day Concert, especially in a chamber music ensemble,” said Keefe. “To me, chamber music is way for musicians to come together and support and inspire each other, while also communicating such a message to our audience in performance, and that is a very special and fitting message to be sharing on MLK Day.”