By his calculations, Joey Chimes ’19 spent over 750 hours practicing for his piano recital. He began working on his pieces, which he performed last Saturday, April 6, in August. The nine-month process of preparing for his senior exercise (comps) was an immensely difficult task. “Sometimes it felt like a battle,” Chimes said.
Chimes is far from the only music major who put in long hours to prepare for the music comps performances. John Louis Baillely ’19 had a similarly intense practicing schedule. Every day, Baillely would sing every song in his recital, which included songs in French, Italian and German. Whenever he made a mistake, he would go back to the beginning of the song and start it over. When he began practicing, it took him two hours to get through all of the pieces. Over time, he shaved it down to just 70 minutes.
Music and drama double major Rebecca Simantov ’19 faced her own set of challenges when she set out to compose two pieces, each based on a Shakespeare play. The first piece was based on the “Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow” soliloquy from Macbeth while her second piece was based on the “Build Me a Willow Cabin” speech from Twelfth Night. Composing for the Macbeth soliloquy, Simantov said that she wanted “to have the Macbeth idea about how time moves with the strings and then let the character be its own thing, so I have a clarinet as the idiot and the strings as Macbeth’s philosophy.” She chose the second piece because she knew it would lighten up the mood.
Jeremy Stern ’19 also completed a composition project. For him, the most rewarding aspect was hearing other people play his music. “It’s only when you start rehearsing that you get to hear what it sounds like in real life, and that’s a really beautiful and exciting thing,” Stern said.
While the composition and performance projects require immense amounts of effort, they are just one part of the music comps process. Music majors must also complete a 20-page paper and three separate oral examinations. The first exam tests knowledge of music history, the second is on music theory and the third focuses on ethnomusicology and pedagogical technique. “From what I’ve heard, it’s the most involved and labor-intensive comps at Kenyon,” says Stern.
One thing that unites the music majors is the meaning they find in their work. “I realized that I really enjoyed studying theory because I could apply it to the vocal pieces I was learning,” Baillely said. “It really just steamrolled from there. One day I asked [Professor of Music Benjamin “Doc” Locke] to sign the forms for me to be a music major and he had the most surprised look on his face.”
For Stern, the choice to be a music major was more about composition. “I just really enjoy putting together music and having musical ideas and seeing them through, Stern said. “All that stuff perfectly combines the creative aspect and the logistical, almost mathematical, aspects of music.”
For Chimes, finding an emotional connection to what he was playing made all the difference. “There was this one movement of the Schumann that’s this very slow, meditative, almost ethereal thing,” Chimes said. “When I first started learning it, it was my least favorite part of the piece — I thought it was kind of cheesy. But then, only the night before, when I had my dress rehearsal, was the moment when it really sort of clicked. Then it sort of became my favorite movement and there were a few people who came to me afterwards and said that was their favorite part of the whole piece.”
For those interested in attending a senior exercise presentation, the final opportunity will be Weston Carpenter’s ’19 composition recital, taking place in Rosse Hall at 1 p.m. on Saturday, April 13.