Oberlin Blogs

An Ode to Student Recitals

April 1, 2024

Yuhki Ueda ’24

Recitals, recitals, recitals.

In my experience, recitals can be an incredibly nerve-wracking experience when you’re the main act, but awe-inspiring and a treat when you’re an audience member. In my time here, I have had the privilege of attending countless student recitals, mostly by friends and sometimes by friends of friends. I have also gotten the opportunity to collaborate with other musicians and perform in various student recitals, and of course, perform in my own junior and senior recitals. Once or twice, I have also taken on the role of page turner. In my varying degrees of involvement in student recitals at Oberlin, I have grown to appreciate and embrace the chaos and magic that goes into the process of putting on these performances. They are a unique opportunity for friends, classmates, family, professors, and even complete strangers to come together for an hour or two solely for the purpose of celebrating you and witnessing your growth and accomplishments as an artist. They can also be a great chance to engage in musical collaboration with your friends and classmates. 

Although some students perform their degree recital in the fall semester, many opt to schedule it for the spring semester. March is ending and with only several weeks of classes left in the semester, recital season is at its peak. Earlier this month, I accompanied a hornist in her joint junior recital with a friend. The audience’s reaction to their recital, which I will describe below, is what inspired this blog post. 

After the recital was over, I heard an enthusiastic chorus of screaming and cheering as the performers walked out to greet their adoring fans and supporters (a.k.a. the friends, classmates, families, professors, and, perhaps, complete strangers I mentioned earlier). As I headed out through the back doors of Warner to head home, I smiled, half in silent congratulation to the performers, and half in nostalgia of my own junior and senior recitals. This brief moment made me reflect on those experiences. 

My junior and senior recitals made me a bit of a nervous wreck. During my junior recital, my hands would turn cold and numb (this is a response my body has tended to have when I’m nervous — quite inconvenient for a piano performance, I would say) and I felt dizzy throughout. I’ll admit, I also broke down crying during the intermission of my senior recital last year, emotionally overwhelmed by the pressure I put on myself to put on the best performance I could, knowing that my teacher, family, and friends were in the audience watching and listening intently as I was tasked with playing an hour-long solo recital. I felt so shaky in that moment, sobbing and not being able to catch my breath, but it was also a cathartic experience and ended up helping me go into the second half of my recital more grounded and clear-headed. 

I am planning to give a final, fifth-year recital near the end of the spring semester. Because this will not be a formal degree recital (i.e., a junior or senior recital to fulfill Conservatory requirements), I have more freedom in the repertoire that I choose to feature in it. I am planning for it to be a much more collaborative recital, one in which I get to make music with my friends and classmates, and for the program to be more varied in style and genre. As nervous as I am, I am also excited and grateful to have the opportunity to perform a recital in Oberlin one last time, and to end the semester and my college career with something that represents the culmination of my development and transformation as an artist and my love for music. I think it will also mark the bittersweet beginning of my departure from my identity as a piano student, since I don’t plan to continue pursuing classical piano performance after I graduate. I won’t go into too much more detail right now, but I hope to revisit this in a future blog post once that recital is over! 

(I have now used the word “recital” so many times that it is starting to sound like a weird, made-up word in my head… I will take that as my cue to wrap up this blog post.)

Until next time!

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