Artist Spotlight: Will Obst ’12

Cameron Carrus

(Angela Wang)

Will Obst, a senior instrumental and general music education major will be hosting a unique senior recital that goes beyond just making music on his instrument.

Like many Lawrence students, Obst has developed an interest in his time here that he never even knew he had: conducting. While most students perform on their instruments for the full hour of their senior recitals, Obst will be splitting his time between playing and conducting.

For the first half of his recital, Obst will be performing a variety of pieces on saxophone. The recital will start with the soaring sound of the “Fuzzy Bird Sonata” for alto sax and piano, by composer Takashi Yoshimatsu. It is fast and exciting, showing much jazz and pop influence along the way. This will be followed by a humorous, light-hearted piece by Bonneau titled “Caprice en forme de valse.” It is for unaccompanied alto in the form of a waltz.

Obst will then present a minimalist work, Burhan’s “Escape Wisconsin.” As one motive is only slightly altered throughout the piece, there is a tension created in the inability escape the motive. Obst reflects that this is a very relatable selection, as sometimes students find that they cannot escape their surroundings. Lastly, Obst will be performing Australian composer Cockcroft’s “Rock Me,” which involves much extended technique in an attempt to capture the sounds of the didgeridoo and various instruments in a band.

In choosing his repertoire, Obst reflected, “I just listened to a lot of stuff, and picked the pieces most enjoyable and engaging to me. I have heard them performed before, and they have stood the test of time.”

Obst’s interest in conducting started when he took lessons with maestro David Becker in his conducting class. He continued taking lessons with Dr. Andrew Mast the following two terms, meeting two to three times per week.

Since then, Obst has been able to apply all of his knowledge in a practical setting, conducting “Peter and the Wolf” for SAI, and Williams’ “Symphonic Dance No. 3” for the Lawrence Symphonic Band. Obst was especially affected by the experience he got from the latter. He said, “It was my interpretation, and I really had a sense of pride in leading the group.” On conducting at Lawrence, Obst noted that “opportunities keep popping up… the more I do it, the more I enjoy it.”

For his recital, Obst will be conducting two pieces. First, he will be conducting an alto sax concertino, by Robert. It consists of a string quintet, a woodwind quintet, piano and timpani. Obst described the piece as “demonic, with some really intense moments.” The second piece was written by Christian Lauba for saxophone ensemble, ranging from bass saxophone to soprano. In this piece, Lauba explores the range of timbre and the tonal and atonal possibilities of the instrument. Obst will be conducting between 13 and 14 people for each piece.

The two pieces present contrasting challenges for Obst. The Lauba is slower, and it is fairly arbitrary where certain notes lie in a measure at times, while the Robert is ferocious and very precise.

“Putting music together without a professor helping” has been the most rewarding part of the process for Obst. “I am developing my own voice with the help of my performers.” To his audience, Obst said that they should accept the unexpected sounds that they will hear. Most importantly, Obst said simply, “Enjoy the music.”

Other projects that Obst has his hand in right now include a conducting opportunity for a composition student’s upcoming recital, the Lux Quartet, and a new duo with fellow saxophonist Sumner Truax called “Loose Ligatures.” Obst will be student teaching next fall. Whatever the future holds for him, he hopes to have “music as an everyday occurrence” in his life. Come see and hear the many sides of Will Obst May 12, at 7 p.m. in the Chapel.