Chamber Music class gives final concert of spring season
By Sydney O’Gwynn
Spring was in the air as the UWF Chamber Music Class held its final concert of the semester on Wednesday, April 6, at Old Christ Church in downtown Pensacola.
The ensemble class, which is in its 13th season and is taught by Hedi Salanki-Rubardt, features a wide variety of instruments, including piano, voice, guitar, harpsichord and even double bass.
The concert, titled “Spring Is In the Air,” featured two graduating seniors, music performance major Daniel Kern and music performance major James Matthews, who both played the piano for the concert. Kern, who has taken the chamber music class multiple times, said he enjoys the class because it has given him the exposure to a wide variety of instruments and music styles.
“It gives us a glimpse into what the professional world is like, working with instruments and voices that you’ve never worked with before,” he said. Kern said his favorite piece was “Shenandoah,” with baritone Donovan Robinson and Kern accompanying him on the piano.
“It’s very easy to get emotionally attached to that piece,” he said. “It sits very well in Donovan’s voice. I get very distracted listening to him; I have to make sure to stay focused.”
In addition to playing accompaniment on the piano, Matthews also played an instrument he has never tried before: harpsichord.
“I’ve fought [Salanki] for years about playing harpsichord because I didn’t want to do it,” he said. “But then I thought, ‘Why not?’ I’m not always going to get a chance to play harpsichord. I like it now.” Matthews said that was an interesting aspect about the class: being able to try out new instruments and music styles with your peers.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “We’re all learning it together.”
Salanki-Rubardt said she enjoys seeing the concert come together.
“No matter what I throw at them, they do it,” she said. The performers in the class get about a month to prepare the music for each concert.
“This is also, in some ways, copying the professional environment that is waiting for them,” Salanki-Rubardt said. “You don’t always have time; you will get ready when they ask you to perform.”
Students meet in class once a week to practice their music and have their peers critique their performances.
“This is the best audience you will ever have,” Salanki-Rubardt said. “These are your peers who love you, who really support you, who want you to succeed; you don’t have to be embarrassed if you miss things [because] that’s the natural way of learning.”
“You get a lot of opportunities to be critiqued and to critique yourself,” music education major Tiffany Castillo said. “You’re getting honest feedback not only from your instructor but from students.”
Castillo, a mezzo-soprano, performed two pieces in the concert: “Music for a While” by Henry Purcell and “Guarda qui che lo verdai” by Joseph Haydn. While she said she has been working on the Purcell piece for nearly three years, she said she had just received the Haydn piece. Castillo said it had a lengthy tempo and three different sets of lyrics, all in different languages.
“I’ll be honest, it was quite difficult learning it,” Castillo said. “It’s a very interesting piece.”
She said her favorite piece was “Lily’s Eyes” from “The Secret Garden.”
“It’s very sweet and very empowering and has a strong message that I really enjoy,” she said. “The voices of the two performers singing it sound phenomenal, I almost cry every time I hear it.”
All the students had nothing but praise for their instructor.
“She is just a sweetheart all the way around,” Castillo said. “She is just an amazing performer, she’s an amazing instructor, she’s honest; she doesn’t sugarcoat anything. She just brings a lot of joy.”
“She is a wonderful instructor and a lovely lady in general,” Kern said.
“It’s really fun, and Dr. Salanki is a great teacher,” music education major Marcus Baker said. “It helps us learn how to critique each other and how to give positive feedback.” Baker plays the double bass in the ensemble, and this is his third time taking Chamber music. He played Antonio Vivaldi’s “Sonata No. 5 in E minor,” which was written for the cello but was transcribed for the double bass.
“It’s something you won’t hear very often,” he said.
Salanki-Rubardt said she enjoys seeing the students grow and is enthusiastic to see how much the program continues to thrive.
“People are coming back and taking it six, seven times,” she said. “That is something they are doing because they want to be there, not because they are required.”
The Chamber Music concerts will start back up again in October for its fall season. For more information about the Chamber Music class or the Department of Music, visit the website.