By Lauren Katz
This past weekend, students and parents filled Brandi Recital Hall four separate times to support four seniors as they shared the capstone to their Kenyon music experience. Conor Dugan ’15, Hannah Foerschler ’15, Julia Morris ’15 and Megan Shaw ’15 presented their senior voice recitals, and each performance ended with a rousing standing ovation from the impressed audience.
The Kenyon music department encourages students to study music from a variety of genres and time periods. This guideline led to four diverse and distinct recitals covering classical and musical theater pieces from artists ranging from George Frideric Handel and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to Stephen Sondheim and Darren Criss.
Choosing the songs for the recital is a lengthy process, which generally begins in April of the student’s junior year. The students must submit a possible program of pieces, to which the department can then suggest changes. Morris reflected on the experience, and was thankful that the department acted as a useful second opinion; she initially chose to pursue a rigorous song collection by composer August Müller, but was dissuaded by the music department, and ended up choosing a cycle by composer Benjamin Britten, which was a better fit.
Students like Dugan, however, started planning their programs the minute they declared the music major. While he chose a selection of Mozart songs fairly early in his process, he added other selections based on rewarding experiences he had along the way.
“When I decided I was going to become a music major and knew I was going to be having a recital, which was probably the end of freshman year, I began to explore songs with the idea of creating a repertoire to pull from,” Dugan said. He described how he studied in a 19th-century music history course at Kenyon and a Franz Schubert piece inspired him. His emotional attachment to it and to what he learned made him want to explore it though performance.
Foerschler enjoyed watching her work coalesce to create a rewarding final product. “Singing the [Samuel Barber] with full piano accompaniment was really exciting for me, because you hear Mozart and Bach all the time, and [a lot of people are just more accustomed to musical theater],” Foerschler said. “But to hear the Barber come together like that … was challenging, but so much fun.”
Some students, like Shaw, find a serendipitous connection with their performances. Her rendition of “A Change in Me” from Beauty and the Beast was not only her favorite song to sing, but also connected her favorite message to convey. “As a senior it was meaningful because the song is about your dreams changing,” Shaw said. “That really resonated with me — the idea of letting the changes that happen over time happen, and take you in different directions.”
After all of the work that they put into the recital, the seniors find it hard to believe that their journey with the Kenyon music department is coming to a close, especially because the department has been so supportive in fostering passions that oftentimes began in childhood.
“I have always had a passion for singing, ever since I was young,” Dugan said. “I remember in a car ride my mom brought all of these cassette tapes, and one of them was a Kidz-Bop version of Broadway songs. That was my first introduction to musical theater and singing. … When I came to Kenyon, I had always been singing, and wanted to continue.”
Foerschler simply grew up surrounded by music.
“I grew up in a very musical family,” Foerschler said. “I was raised to sing. So, I knew that’s what I wanted to pursue in college. … The [music] department is just delightful. It’s more than I ever could have hoped for in my college experience.”
While Morris is unsure of what the future will bring, she is certain music will always influence her life. “I would really love to pursue music after college,” Morris said. “I don’t know in what capacity yet. … At one point I was thinking music therapy because I was interested in combining my two majors, but at this point I think I would just like to go into music more intensely.”
Shaw feels similarly. She knows that music will be a constant, because, for her, there is simply no other option.
“I can’t really separate music from everything else in my life,” Shaw said. “Music has always just been … interwoven in everything I have done. My dad’s a musician, so I grew up with music in my house all the time. … My life didn’t exist pre-music; it’s always been a part of my life. I can’t imagine that it won’t be in the future.”