Senior Matthew Wronski kicked off recital season last weekend with an ambitious senior recital entitled “Epigenesis: Unraveling the Musical Journey to Oneself.” Wronski, a candidate for the Bachelor of Arts degree in music, collaborated with over a dozen fellow student musicians on the performance. Standing in the strings section and playing viola, Wronski also was able to conduct and direct the rest of the performers throughout the 40-minute piece of his own design.
Minutes before the performance was set to begin, friends and audience members crowded near the doors to the Nathan Marsh Pusey Room as Wronski put the finishing touches on his setup. When they entered, the audience found the back wall lined with rows of chairs, as well as the usual armchairs circled around short tables. Despite all this seating, the room was packed, and many opted to sit on the floor in order to have enough room. Each table showcased a different display: one had objects from Wronski’s childhood, like dragon figurines and his Game Boy Advance. The other table supported several screens, a television and some iPads, each looping a collection of home video from the first few years of Wronski’s life. The video spanned from his infancy, being held in a parent’s arms at the hospital, to as old as his sixth birthday. The videos ran at different lengths and speeds, and at any time the viewer could see Wronski’s development in at least two stages of his life.
Soon, the audience settled in and the performance began. As more home video footage was projected behind them, Wronski began by layering lines and melodies with his viola and a variety of pedals. Each performer joined in slowly, contributing a line of just a few notes at a time as the piece began to layer and build. As Wronski conducted, the performers left the front of the room to walk around and play their instruments, still working in sync with one another and sharing warm glances with their friends in the audience. The music felt still but vibrant, complex and discerning. After a while, the projected home videos stopped and the projector screen retracted as the musicians made their way back to their music stands at the front. From here, the piece took on a new shape as the group worked to layer their sounds and follow Wronski’s direction. The piece changed again as Wronski introduced samples played from his pedalboard, samples of his parents and sister saying his name, calling “Matthew, where are you?” and “It’s raining, Matthew!” The piece took on a more emotional color, rising and falling and all the while remaining hopeful.
Unique in so many ways, the performance was most successful in demonstrating the power of community. Wronski not only showcased his inclination to bring performers together by assembling a supergroup of over a dozen of Lawrence’s finest musicians, but also the community at large as the audience overflowed with students, professors and friends from home alike. Unlike many conservatory recitals, Wronski did not take 15 minutes to thank everyone in his life for their support throughout his time preparing for his recital. He did not have to. His performance said it all.