• Alaina Chester

Elizabeth Park Rose Garden Recital (CT)

5/2021


I re-started my Master's in oboe performance at University of Harford's Hartt School of Music in the Fall of 2020. An awkward time, but I was excited I finally found a teacher I meshed with in a small city at a school I could afford. Luckily, the Hartt School had planned furiously in order to continue live music making during the pandemic, plus it's a smaller school which made it more possible.


Coming back to school after some time off and some time supporting myself as a musician made me focus on why I was going back. I had some specific things I wanted to accomplish with a little more supervision and reinforcement from a regular lesson teacher who I knew would support my goals.


For my first recital, I mainly wanted to push my limits but not go too far outside of my comfort zone. It was my first year back at school, in a new place, during the pandemic still pre-vaccine. I also had my old insecurities about performing in an academic setting to work through.


Finally I got to knock the Strauss off of my list. It's always asked on auditions and it's rewarding to practice and perform. One of my favorites in the canon. I also found a wonderful sonata by Brian Rapheal Nabors. So full of life, character changes, luscious melodies, interesting rhythmic changes. To round out the program, and because it was still a pandemic, it seemed like a great idea to learn an unaccompanied piece. Another huge piece that I didn't have in my fingers yet was the Bach Partita in g minor, originally for flute. Also rewarding to practice and full of shaping and phrasing opportunities. Something you could take out and perform at a moments notice at any venue.


Recital Order: Bach, Nabors, Strauss


Pandemic rules only allowed student audiences. Since there wasn't much socializing and smaller ensembles, that would mean only the three people in my studio plus my one chamber partner would probably attend my recital. After coming from Pittsburgh and playing out in the community, that just seemed completely unfulfilling and not worth working towards to me. So I figured I might as well do an outdoor recital so the aerosols could float free.


Here begins a crazy saga where the dean was being super difficult in allowing this to happen. This didn't make sense to me as I wasn't asking for permission, just a keyboard... At one point in time I had three different recitals planned in two different locations because I asked multiple people in case something fell through or in case it was raining. I scheduled one in the art garden and two in the business quad. Their deans were completely excited to host me, one even arranged to make/put up posters and get me electricity. I was on the phone with a campus electrician for this, it was so crazy. And yet my own dean was completely unwilling to step outside of his comfort zone....which again, I just needed to borrow a piano, he did not need to come or do any work. I didn't even ask the dean for the keyboard, but somehow asking the person in charge of the keyboard stirred up the whole department. A lesson: some people (old white men in high positions) just like to say no to exercise their power but if you ask them "why?" enough times then they will get embarrassed they don't have a good enough reason and stop answering your emails so you can just do what you want anyway.


I was excited to perform multiple times in these hidden gems on campus, but it rained on all three of those days! One of those days I still attempted to perform before it rained, but it was extremely windy, no one was there, and my friend got chased by a goose trying to find me an audience! We packed up after one piece.


Months of preparation gone...So I decided to just do a pop up at Hartford's famous Elizabeth Park Rose Garden. Full of flowers for Strauss and benches for passersby. Campus was empty by this time. My pianist was a trooper, willing to go along with every bump in the road and new idea.


I LOVED this performance! It not only marked a huge mile stone in my playing, but I was able to share live music with the community. Something we have all been craving. I didn't get that many action shots since it was so last minute but I will never forget the experience. People of all ages were there, on a picnic date, on an afternoon stroll with their dogs, with their families. Some people stayed for a few minutes excited to find where the music was coming from, some people found the perfect spot for their lunch, these cute girls were dancing during the whole Strauss concerto. My heart was exploding, they made me play so well.


Clip from the Nabors' Sonata:



Some practice videos from my original campus spots: