Meditations on Music: April 13-16 student recitals

This week, my inability to pick just one of my friends’ performances to attend out of all of those occurring during this recital-heavy period of spring term has me covering four, via short meditations that attempt to get to the essence of the recital or identify aspects that stood out.

I. Sam Pratt, tenor saxophone, senior—April 13, 8 p.m., Harper Hall: Simple in concept, Pratt’s recital had him and his frequent collaborators stripped down to the core of what he does—improvisation and composition. The spirited performance was made up of a lengthy combo original, two improvised duets and a solo improvisation, in all of which Pratt zealously explored his instrument and its abilities. One of my favorite attributes of the concert was how intensely he was listening and how well that listening was informed by his own sound, as well as by the other performers and the space they were in. Never before had I heard Harper—a generally quiet, not-as-reverberant space—sing and sway with the music played in it.

Whether it was capturing a mood, image, feeling or more, Pratt did so with a sometimes raucous, sometimes tender, but always deliberate passion. Check out a recording of his recital as well as three other releases at <>.

II. Adam Friedman, percussion, senior—April 15, 5 p.m., Harper Hall: Friedman has a very specific aura when playing, no matter the context or setting. Sharply focused, stern and calculated, his recital gave off this aura in a concentrated form. Despite diligence and discipline, creativity was always a main factor, coming through mainly in sensible soundings on a wide variety of objects—some atypical, some more common—and the programming of the four pieces. Incorporating electronics on two, baritone saxophone on one and theatrics on another, he modestly showed off his technique as a percussionist who could work not only with nontraditional instruments—such as a bucket of water or spinning coins on a snare drum—but also as a versatile artist who effortlessly sang, acted and blended the acoustic with electric and acousmatic elements.

Knowing Friedman as a person and musician greatly enhanced seeing him play, and to know that he put on a recital that was so entwined with his personality, aspirations, skills and more was heartwarming.

III. Jocelyn Polczynski, composition, senior—April 16, 1 p.m., Harper Hall: Right from the beginning, it was clear that this recital would be an extension of the composer’s self and that it would deal with dense, intricate problems and compositions in accessible ways. As the composer walked on stage and introduced themself, a warmness hung in the air, and I felt not only proud of them, but touched by their kindness and overall presentation of their work. Their creative and narrative voice shined through the diverse set of compositions, no matter the instrumentation or approach. From a trio of glasses and spoons, to a pennywhistle/flute and piccolo duo, to a group of four horns in F and soprano and baritone saxophones, the first three pieces all had a childlike wonderment to them put through the lens of a refined maturity, inspired directly by the composer’s experiences with mental illness.

The final piece—a recitation of an original poem accompanied by dark electronics—was a culmination of this unique voice as well as of Polczynski’s time at Lawrence. It and the composer never backed down, especially during “Warrior Stands,” but stood up even higher with hope and compassion. My words cannot even begin to do it justice, so please listen at <>.

IV. Jack Kilkelly-Schmidt, guitar; Mikaela Marget, cello; juniors—April 16, 3 p.m., Harper Hall: Before this recital, I cannot recall a time I have connected this strongly to a concert of completely composed music in a traditional setting. Both musicians breathed a new life as well as their own being into the entire program, making for an utterly human performance. No matter the age, style or other distinctions, each piece was presented to the audience with an accessibility that not only came from the musicians engaging so thoughtfully with the music, but a strong devotion to pass along its wonders to the audience as well.

Seeing the performers interact and feeling connected to them are two aspects that greatly shape how I value a performance. With Kilkelly-Schmidt’s and Marget’s performances—solos as well as two duets—the music came alive and reached out to me in a way I am sure it would not have had the two not poured their passion into it from start to finish.

V. Final Thoughts: With each of these recitals, I saw honest and pure reflections of the musicians that put them on. To be able to do this takes courage and conscientious musicality, and I cannot wait to see what these five artists do post-graduation or in their last year at Lawrence.