Music Department Tunes Up

The New Paltz Music Department is tuning up for an emotional semester as they ring in the new year with their concert series. Themed “Love, Jealousy and Despair in Music,” the performances will feature musical stylings from both faculty and students, varying in style from classical to jazz.

Kicking off the semester on the keys will be Alex Peh, assistant professor of piano, whose time at New Paltz only began last semester. Peh’s piano recital, “Embraceable You” will feature music that pertains to the themes of love and loss in different ways and time periods, according to Peh and will be performed on Tuesday, Feb. 11.

A classical pianist at heart, Peh’s recital will feature music by Chopin, Mozart, Liszt, Schubert, Stravinsky, Verdi and Gershwin, all pieces transcribed to be played on the piano. Peh considers this recital a way of introducing himself to the students and faculty, being that this is the first time he’s performed solo at New Paltz.

“I chose to have this recital in February because it’s close to Valentine’s Day,” Peh said. “The music explores what it means to be human. The point is to just inspire people to make music.”

The concert series, which also features performances from the Pone Ensemble for New Music, students in the Senior Chamber Jazz Ensemble and the College Youth Symphony and a guest performance by Madera Vox, runs mainly on Tuesday nights in collaboration with Lecturer Susan Seligman’s Introduction to Music class. Seligman’s class discusses the elements of music and how to properly listen to it.

The class requires students to attend the Tuesday night concerts and then write about them. The concerts are also open to other students, faculty and general community members.

“I don’t think many students have been to this variety of live music concerts, and I think it’s important to emphasize that these are live concerts,” Seligman said. “One of the strengths of the music department is that the faculty really does love to perform, so it’s nice to bring that to the campus so we can show what we do and the students can also have a chance to show what they do.”

Professor Carole Cowan helps organize and schedule the concert series. She said she believes music can be transformative and that attending a live concert provides a somewhat different experience for everyone than listening to recorded music.

“I don’t think you have to know a lot about music to go to a concert and enjoy what is being performed,” Cowan said. “The students are always very enthusiastic and even when they didn’t expect to like the music, they always end up liking it a lot, it’s [their] exposure to something different or something familiar in a different context.”

Cowan said the theme of love, jealousy and despair in music was chosen because it gives the concert focus and ties all the performances together.

“Not every single piece is going to be related to it, but it gives a little bit of focus and it reminds people that music can express these wonderful and strong emotions.”