UWF Chamber Music choir performs first of three concerts at Old Christ Ch
By Sydney O’Gwynn
You could still hear the ring of the final note as it hung in the air, but the crowd was already on its feet. The performers wore proud smiles as they gazed into the crowd. But no smile was wider than the one on the face of their instructor, Hedi Salanki-Rubardt.
“I am so proud of the kids,” said Salanki-Rubardt, director of the University of West Florida’s Chamber Music Series at Old Christ Church in Pensacola. “I cannot tell you how happy they make me every time I see them blossoming and performing so beautifully.”
The chamber music class performed its first concert of the year on Wednesday, Feb. 3, which consisted of eight pieces. The song selection was mostly fun, love-based songs, but there were some serious pieces. One was the concert’s opening piece, Bach’s “Sonata in E minor” performed by Ramel Price on the violin, Marcus Baker on the double bass and Nyasha Brice on the harpsichord.
Salanki-Rubardt created the class 13 seasons ago and said that even she can’t believe how much the class has grown. She said she sees students develop into professional musicians throughout the course of the semester.
“It’s a unique class,” she said. “I don’t think anywhere else you can find chamber music in a class setting.”
The class offers a wide variety of musical genres, including Baroque, contemporary and jazz. The class meets once a week, Wednesdays from 11 a.m. until 12:50 p.m., in the Music Hall in the Center for Fine and Performing Arts.
“It’s a beautiful performing facility, and it’s nice for the students to listen to each other,” Salanki-Rubardt said.
The class is designed for students to have experience performing outside of their school as well as turn them into what Salanki-Rubardt calls “all-around” musicians.
She also said those class periods are dedicated mostly to students performing their pieces and fellow students giving critiques.
“They learn how to coach, they learn how to be kind when they are coaching and critiquing each other, because that is so important,” Salanki-Rubardt said. “I think we learn the most by listening to each other and critiquing each other in class. If you are a performer, you are a teacher.”
Students put on three concerts every semester at Old Christ Church downtown in Seville Square. They only have three or four class periods per concert to practice their music.
“It is absolutely amazing how quickly they learn the pieces,” Salanki-Rubardt said. “This is fast, fast training.”
Salanki-Rubardt said the level at which the students are performing is very high, to prepare them for life after they graduate.
“In professional life, you don’t always have the luxury of preparing for weeks or a month,” she said.
Piano performance major Nyasha Brice is a seasoned veteran of the chamber music class. Despite the class only being required for two semesters, Brice has been enrolled in the class for her entire UWF tenure, minus one semester.
“Being in chamber not only forces you to prepare, but it forces you to constantly be in performance mode,” Brice said. “I don’t think I would have been able to do stuff like the Steinway showcase or my recital had I not had the experience of being on stage so often.”
Brice also said the class helps combat a performer’s nerves and that the students in the class work together to put on the concerts.
“It’s our group collaboration,” she said. “It’s our work.”
Sheila Dunn, chair of the Department of Music at UWF, said that Salanki-Rubardt holds her students at a high level and is also dedicated to them.
“She is, without question, one of the most passionate teachers of music I’ve ever known,” Dunn said. “She does it all with joy.”
Dunn also said she sees the class as an engagement opportunity for the university and the community.
“We have regulars that always attend and then we have new people,” she said. “Then they’re hooked.”
The community support is evident as the concert saw a full house, despite the rainy weather.
“There is something very special about giving this to the community, and we have wonderful followers who are there every concert,” Salanki-Rubardt said.
The Chamber Music Series has a profound effect on anyone who attends the concerts, as well as on the students performing in them.
“We get to find our own voice on our instruments through this class in different ways that we don’t get to do in our lessons,” Brice said.
For a list of future performances by the chamber music class, visit the Department of Music website.