The music department hosted the first student recital and its first in-person event of the academic year on Wednesday, Sept. 29. While the department attempted to adapt the recital for a virtual platform in the past, it’s not the same experience as being in a shared space with other performers and audience members. The event took place in the Recital Hall of the Baker Center for the Arts, and guests who visited were greeted with a program that listed the two performers and their accompanists for the evening. The performance only included the two pieces, as the mask mandate affected those willing to perform.
Abigail Schechter ‘24 performed “Amarilli, mia bella,” composed by Giulio Caccini (1550-1618). The beautiful rendition of the piece was accompanied by Jeremy DerMovsesian ‘25 on the piano. For Schechter, the performance was an opportunity to perform in person after a year of virtual events and activities. The artist helped children over the summer find their own spotlight, but it was time for her to be the center of attention. Schechter stated, “Since COVID, I haven’t been able to have that experience for myself, so I really wanted to jump on the opportunity to get up there and sing in front of people. We had a virtual recital last semester, but it didn’t exactly go according to plan. There were a lot of technical issues and things that went wrong, and [this recital] seemed like a pretty seamless way to get back into in-person programming.”
The performance also included a hypnotic presentation of “Cantabile” played by Jakob Kidd ‘22, a violinist. Niccolo Paganini’s (1782-1840) piece also featured collaborative pianist Vincent Trovato, instructor and staff accompanist.
“I was operating under the assumption that I would be able to perform without a mask like the performance groups, especially since it was just me.”– Anna Bobok ’23
The performance ended after only eight minutes and the two featurettes. The audience members of students, family and friends conversed with the student performers in the Baker Center for the Arts after the performance. Isabelle Peters ‘24 attended the performance and said, “It was really nice to be able to see musicians perform in person again, and they did a phenomenal job.”
The night’s lineup of performers was dramatically affected by the mask mandate required during the recital. Schechter had to wear her mask during the entire piece and while it was difficult, her experience with the women’s choir on campus prepared her for singing with a facial covering. Schechter mentioned, “I know in talking to other people, that was kind of a factor in them performing or not. For me, I’ve been in the women’s choir since fall of last year, so I’ve been learning for a year and a half how to sing with a mask on. So even though it’s not ideal, I’ve learned so much about how to do it.”
The Muhlenberg College COVID-19 Student Policy for the 2021/2022 academic year mentioned, “During dress rehearsals and/or performances sponsored by the music, theatre or dance department, individuals will not be required to wear masks, if they are vaccinated, at the discretion of the supervising faculty member teaching the course or directing the performance. This policy applies to singing, instrument playing, acting and dancing. Any individual participating in the dress rehearsal and/or performance may continue to wear their mask if they wish.” Despite this allowance, the music faculty requested performers remain masked at this show. Past performances this year have already allowed for countless artists to perform without facial coverings. For example, the performance for Charlie Richter and Curtis Dretsch on Sept. 18 saw performers with no masks.
The mask mandate did influence Anna Bobok ‘23, a vocalist, who planned to sing during the recital. Bobok mentioned, “The piece I planned to sing at the student recital required a lot of rapid breathing to be able to belt lots of notes in my upper range and keep up with the tempo. I had to work on it masked in my voice lessons, but to get in all those breaths in time for each entrance, I had to slow down the tempo significantly.”
Bobok also needed to showcase a variety of emotions and aspects with her performance as it was from a musical. Bobok, needing to block over half of her face, felt the facial restriction would detract from the piece and overall experience. “I was operating under the assumption that I would be able to perform without a mask like the performance groups, especially since it was just me. So when the email was sent, I knew I would have to wait for a change in policy to perform this specific song,” Bobok declared.
Two other sources, who were supposed to perform, declined to comment on the situation.
“It was really nice to be able to see musicians perform in person again, and they did a phenomenal job.”– Isabelle Peters ’24
Ted Conner, Ph.D., professor of music, responded to the First Student Recital by stating, “Since the beginning of the pandemic, the music department has prioritized the health and safety of Muhlenberg students, faculty and staff. We continue to believe in the importance of this principle.” Conner did not dive into the logistics of the mask mandate for the performances or if future recitals will require facial coverings.
Performance art is back in business for students who choose to partake. Schechter did have a positive experience despite the difficulties of breathing and singing while wearing a mask. “Just being able to look out and see that there’s people listening to me sing… It felt very different than looking at a Zoom screen or tiny little squares, half of them with their cameras turned off. Being able to see live people kind of helped improve my performance as well,” stated Schechter.