College music educators lighten up

Amelia Perron

There may be no better way to understand the world of the Conservatory than to watch the annual April Fools’ Day “concert” ? provided you bring an insider to explain the music references.
The lighthearted event, sponsored by the College Music Educators National Conference, is a humorous parade of inside jokes, self-deprecating skits, and a hearty dose of musical camaraderie.
The majority of skits fall into two categories: poking fun at prominent campus figures or dramatizing common Conservatory gripes.
Inevitable impersonations of authority figures such as President Jill Beck and orchestra director Professor David Becker were particularly popular, but several high-profile students also fell victim to the gentle ribbing.
Skits touching on common conservatory complaints were also popular. Chronic issues such as practice room shortages, the stress of constant course overloads, and the college-Con divide rang true with the audience.
According to concert organizer and senior trumpet player Sarah Tochiki, the planning started with some general brainstorming before being finalized with improvisation on the part of the performers.
“We just sit in a big room and think of things to make fun of in the Con,” she explained. “Institutions that don’t make any sense or things that are just so radical that they have to be made fun of.”
Generating ideas was no problem for violinist Dani Simandl. “Picking what we were going to make fun of this year almost seemed too easy,” she noted. “This year was rich in ridiculous Conservatory events.”
“I am always flummoxed by the strange and subterranean atmosphere of the Con practice rooms,” reflected the sophomore. “People are so serious and intense down there. But does it not totally sound and look like a jungle?”
While the brainstorming process could have easily sounded like a typical Con venting session, the performance became surprisingly like an exercise in teaching skills. According to freshman music education major Jordan King, “The planning for the concert was mostly spur of the moment,” referring to the level of improvisation involved in the actual performance of the skits.
“I think the fact that everyone in CMENC is training to go into a profession that will daily make us exercise skills of a public speaker and stand-up comedian, as well as educator, played a huge role in our ability to improvise.”
Ultimately, the April Fools’ Day concert is a time for Conservatory students to bond and relax. Many of the laughs the performers got through the evening were, arguably, delighted chimes of recognition as audience members related to the humorous versions of their own lives in the Con.
“I think something I will always remember is Sarah Botsford’s banana chair presentation and the women’s choir’s ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ in the Kaleidoscope Concert,” Tochiki muses, mentioning skits that dealt with uncomfortable chairs and an all-Conservatory concert from fall term. “The April Fools’ Day concerts have become some of the highlights of my Lawrence career.”
“It was just so corking to hear so many Connies laugh at something for an hour straight,” Simandl concludes. “When does that ever happen?