They are a time-honored tradition at St. Olaf, rivaled only by Christmas Festival, the Cereal Bowl and the 100 Day March. First years will come to know them, and seniors, well, some seniors are the participants in them. Senior recital season has arrived.
What is a senior recital? To be honest, I didn’t know much about them myself. I took to the Internet and learned that, according to the St. Olaf Music Department’s website, senior recitals are really two things rolled up into one: a requirement for the Bachelor of Music degree in performance, church music, education and theory/composition and a public demonstration of musical mastery of an instrument. Apparently, audiences have been so entranced by the sheer skill of the artists in senior recitals that it has become necessary to introduce the guideline, “Flowers on the stage and presentation bouquets are not allowed. There are to be no encores.”
Clearly, this isn’t your run-of-the-mill rock concert. Senior recitals are art in the highest form. If you watch the streamed recitals archived on the St. Olaf website, classical giants such as Beethoven, Bach and Berlioz are often covered, along with more contemporary music ranging from jazz to hip-hop. Twins Maggie and Katie Burk ’13 performed an hour-long operatic exhibition that was particularly notable. The twins’ samplings ranged from Mozart to Britten, with one sister soloing occasionally. The recital was, however, more of a masterclass in the art of the duet, with the sisters working together to create music. The talent and hours spent in the practice room are clear – masters of music walk among us here at St. Olaf.
I had not attended a senior recital until the second semester of my sophomore year. I honestly only went because a good friend of mine was the accompanist for the senior performer. I was pleasantly surprised at what I encountered, and the striking music, the sheer command of tone and timbre and the unrivaled “wow factor” all draw me back to senior recitals.
They are, perhaps, the purest representations of the talent we Oles have. They are done by students, for students. You won’t see many classical connoisseurs in the audience at a senior recital – recitals are simply an incredible way to infuse some culture into life. You are missing out if you don’t go, and if you do, you will not regret it.
If you take the time to search “senior recitals” on the St. Olaf website, you will find that the schedule is packed from now through second semester. Another thing you’ll find, if you watch the archived recitals, is a lot of empty seats. St. Olaf is renowned for its community, and having sparse crowds at capstone events like senior recitals does not reflect well on that renown.
Even if you can’t make them all, don’t fret – there is certainly a recital that will suit your taste. If trumpet doesn’t fall soft on your ears, check out a vocal performance recital, a string recital or even a dueling string-trumpet duet. And, okay, maybe the last one doesn’t happen, but you never know, right? You never know what you are going to get at senior recitals. The only thing you can expect is that it will be fantastic.