Performing Professors

Professors extended their appreciation for music beyond their classroom walls at the Faculty Showcase. The performance, sponsored by the music department, was held in McKenna Theatre on Tuesday, Sept. 11.

“We want the students to hear us play,” Carole Cowan, chair of the music department said. “I want students to be inspired to practice and love music as much as we do.”

The evening’s program included a variety of musical influences and genres. Cowan began the show playing a three-movement piece by Russian composer Reinhold Gliere on the violin, accompanied by Professor Susan Seligman on the cello.

Adjunct Professor Ruthanne Schempf continued the program by playing another three-movement piece called “African Sketches” composed by Assistant Professor Nkeiru Okoye on the piano.

“The pieces are difficult to play,” Schempf said. “I’m nervous, but as soon as I start playing, I’ll be fine. There are two distinct rhythms playing against each other. One is actually based on a children’s clapping game.”

Adjunct Professor Rachel Grasso performed a piece called “Un Seul,” written by Kalmen Opperman, her recently deceased, former clarinet professor. She said the piece was challenging not only because it’s a solo, but also because of the music technique it demands.

Having performed the piece years ago when she was a clarinetist in the U.S. Military Band, Grasso is familiar with its complicated range but finds herself nervous performing it in memory of her teacher.

“The piece shows the tone of the clarinet and has a beautiful lyrical sound to it,” she said. “I thought it would be a great way to show what the clarinet can sound like when you get to a certain level and I want my students to be able to see what it’s like to see their teacher perform.”

As the concert continued, the professors varied their sound with a mix of classical and contemporary pieces.

Adjunct Professor Gregory Dinger performed two pieces contrasting in genre. The first was “Delicate Arch,” a contemporary work electronically composed by Adjunct Professor Bob Lukomski, and the second, “True Love,” a classical guitar piece composed by Dinger himself.

The night ended with jazz standards performed by Professor Vinnie Martucci on the piano and Assistant Professor Mark Dziuba on the guitar.

The show’s variety captured the audience, largely made up of students, and demonstrated the importance of being passionate about the subject you teach.

“It’s a great idea for the faculty to demonstrate what they sound like,” Grasso said. “They’re not just teachers, they’re also performers. A picture’s worth a thousand words. If a teacher knows how to play, it’s a great way to demonstrate to the students that they’re on top of things and that way [the students] can think, ‘I could probably do that.’”