As a music open studies major, there are a lot of requirements I have to fulfill to graduate, but out of all of them, this one has to be my favorite, yet the most stressful: The Capstone. For those who don’t know what a capstone is or haven’t even heard of it, a capstone is basically a senior project showcasing something you are passionate about and have worked on, kinda like a senior thesis. I have been fortunate enough to have worked in and on a capstone, but that’s high school and now we’re on the college level so everything is different. Not really. What I have been finding so far while working through this process is that it’s much more fun and liberating than my time in high school.
The Senior Recital is the ultimate culmination of the Bachelor of Music degree. This is an hour-long program, and the solo performer takes the stage for its entirety. I gave a Junior Recital last year, and this was a 30-minute performance in the Smith Memorial Room. I was very excited to present an hour-long program, as I knew this would give me space to tell many stories and present different musical styles.
Audition season for graduate music programs is a crucial time for music school seniors. Applications open around September, pre-screening videos are due by December 1st, live audition invitations are sent later that month or in January, and auditions typically occur throughout February or March. My virtual live auditions were mostly in February, but this past weekend, I completed the last audition of my season, for the Curtis Institute of Music opera program.
One of the great milestones of any undergraduate music student’s career is their senior recital, which truly serves as a culmination of the previous four years. I am just over a month from giving my senior recital and finishing off my musical requirements here at the University of Illinois.
My time in the University of Illinois’ Chamber Singers has been truly amazing. Dr. Andrew Megill is a world-class choral conductor and our university is incredibly lucky to have him. My relationship with Dr. Megill began in the summer of 2016, when I participated in the Illinois Summer Youth Music program.
Since I am a senior undergraduate, the question of my plans after graduation looms large. I started thinking about these plans quite early, meeting professors from appealing graduate programs during junior year. Now, in late February of my senior year, I am nearing the end of this long but imperative process. This is a very unique audition season; some schools eliminated the pre-screen round entirely, some simply advanced our videos to a second viewing, and a few required live virtual auditions over Zoom! In January, I had such an audition for Boston Conservatory at Berklee, and this helped me get comfortable with this unique audition format. Earlier today, February 20th, I had another virtual live audition, this time for the Voice and Opera Program at Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music in Evanston, IL.
Incredibly, the last time I was in the Krannert Center’s cavernous Foellinger Great Hall, one of the great treasures of our university, was March 2020, almost a year ago. The last day before the pandemic fully took hold, I was on that familiar stage performing Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13, “Babi Yar,” with the Men’s Glee Club, non-treble voices of Oratorio Society and Chamber Singers, soloist Ricardo Herrera, and the University of Illinois Symphony Orchestra led by Donald Schleicher. This was also the last time I performed with a large ensemble for a large audience, and even the last time I have been in a room with that many people for any purpose. This performance took on particular weight when we found that we would not perform the piece at Carnegie Hall and that this would be our last chance to communicate Shoshtakovich’s fiercely relevant political message. The performance was life-affirming in every sense, and its memory still thrills when I think about its eternal temporal place on the edge of a pre-pandemic era.