By Lydia Velazquez
Utah State University piano students will be participating in the university’s first themed, multimedia recital, its focus being females composers. The recital will take place Monday from 7:30-8:30 p.m. in the Russell/Wanlass performance hall.
After a discussion in a class of Professor Olson’s, who is the current interim piano program coordinator, about the lack of pieces by women in traditional piano repertoire and the existence of bias there was then the idea for students to find pieces by females composers and research the history of both the piece and the composer.
The project has been self-driven, as the students chose and researched the piano literature entirely on their own and worked on their selected pieces over the summer. The recital and its focus is timely as late last winter there were allegations made by former USU piano students regarding sexual harassment and assault by faculty in the piano department. The investigation ended in April but there were newly released documents this fall that further discussed the context of the situation and faculty involved.
“Back in spring there was a lot of controversy in the piano area and it really hit our students pretty hard,” Olson said. “They were just thinking of ways they could make things better around here and this was an idea that came in one of the classes we had, to show the value of women composers and the way much of that music has been neglected over the years.”
Dr. Bakker, one of USU’s music professors, remembers seeing the listing for the concert and getting excited because in her own classes she has always worked to incorporate music by women as well as people of color. Bakker contacted Olson to contribute by having her music theory students write programs notes about the pieces and their composers for the recital.
“The curriculum I went through as an undergraduate music major included only music by white men. It didn’t even attempt to justify why that was,” Bakker said. “It was apparently a self-evident truth, completely unexamined. That attitude has never sat well with me, and I vowed to learn about and share music by underrepresented composers with my students.”
There is a hope to continue these “themed” recitals, potentially making them tradition, and to further provide music students with opportunities to perform literature that they select themselves and form a connection with.
“The musical canon is currently being reaffirmed in concert-programming decisions,” Bakker said. “Students need to know that if it is going to change, it will be because people like them took an open mind to music that is new to them, regardless of when it was composed and by whom.”