Technicolor bouquets lined the stage in the Memorial Chapel on March 4 as University of Redlands President Ralph Kuncl approached the podium to introduce this year’s President’s Honor Recital.
“[The President’s Honor Recital] was established in 1983 by Professor Louanne Long in order to provide a public showcase for outstanding performers of the University of Redlands School of Music,” President Kuncl said.
This year, nine students running the gamut of undergraduate and graduate musicians lent their instrumental talents to bring the university community renditions of everything from classical icons like Bach to wholly original works by the students themselves. The instruments represented included flute, piano, guitar, violin, marimba and vocals. Afterwards, each performer took the stage to field questions from President Kuncl about their refined skill and receive an award placard for their work.
However, Kuncl set a different tone than the formalized recital in these mini-interviews, beginning with guitarist Jhon Alvarado. He asked Alvarado why classical guitar always makes people think of “having a glass of wine by the fireplace,” to the laughter of the audience. Alvarado’s response was dutiful.
“Most of the repertoire for classical guitar is from the Romantic era,” Alvarado said. “I think because of what everyone’s accustomed to hearing, no matter what the guitar does, you kind of want to [associate it with] a romantic night indoors watching Netflix with a glass of wine.”
Alvarado was followed by vocalist Kelsi Farnsworth, whom Kuncl lauded for her beautiful voice, and cheekily asked her whom she would rather fill in for: celebrated actress and singer Julie Andrews or iconic American opera singer Renée Fleming. Farnsworth responded almost instantaneously.
“Oh, you know I’m actually reading Renée Fleming’s book right now, ‘The Inner Voice,’ so it would have to be [her],” Farnsworth said.
Up next was trombonist Jonathan Heruty, whom Kuncl awarded the “most inviting PR photo” for his appearance in the Redlands Daily Facts. He asked Heruty the classic parental figure question: “What do you see yourself doing in five or ten years?” Dubbed “the local avant gardist” by one of his professors, Heruty’s response was fittingly far from ordinary.
“Hopefully I’ll be playing music that resembles the speaking patterns of the English language,” Heruty said. “Isn’t that a good idea?”
Here is a sample of Heruty’s work on the musicality of speech patterns.
After Heruty was pianist Jonathan Kretchmer, a composer who performed his own tonal essay entitled “Sunrise.” Kuncl was enamored with his performance, and asked a rather challenging question: how does a composer go about getting “a million” people to buy a piece of work? Kretchmer seemed taken aback.
“At that point it kind of stops being up to me and starts being up to them,” Kretchmer said. “I need to write music that people like listening to, but that’s not my purpose when I write. My purpose is to write music that I like more than anything, and then whatever comes next is just added.”
Then, percussionist Tim Laguna took the microphone. Acknowledging the vast array of percussion instruments, as well as the fact that Laguna has served as a marching arts educator in Southern California for the last six years, Kuncl asked what the oddest instrument was that Laguna has taught or played.
“I haven’t gotten the chance to teach anything too far out there,” Laguna said. “However I think the most interesting thing I’ve had to teach myself was in this past symphonic band concert. We had to use a ‘water gong’ … we played a gong above a bucket of water, lower[ed] it into the bucket of water so the pitch changes, and [brought] it back up so it [made] a cool effect.”
Next was flutist Gerardo “Gerry” Lopez, principal flute of the University of Redlands Orchestra and Wind Ensemble. As Lopez conducts a flute choir of ten members, President Kuncl asked what it was like conducting such a large number of flutists.
“Well that’s not the biggest group,” Lopez said. “Every year at the National Flute Association there’s like a thousand people playing flute altogether. But even with just ten its very angelic.”
This year’s recital being the third time Lopez has lent his talents to the President’s Honor Recital, President Kuncl then facetiously asked whether he would like frequent flier miles or a tuition discount. (Obviously, he chose the discount).
Pianist Takakuni Migimatsu, whom Kuncl called “Kuni,” is simultaneously an economics, accounting and piano performance major. Kuncl asked how he had time to fit everything in his schedule, considering he also had to practice piano six hours a day.
“Trying to time manage I think is very important,” Migimatsu said. “But more important [is] understanding how to practice productively. In my experience I’ve made mistakes trying to practice for six hours and I get almost nothing done, and other days I practice three hours and I’m able to get so much done. It’s really about putting forward what you’re trying to achieve.”
Also known for helping others, Migimatsu has played at several retirement homes in the Bay Area. Kuncl asked if Migimatsu would do the same for him when he retired, to which he emphatically agreed.
President Kuncl then called vocalist Raul Valdez-Perea to the microphone, praising him for his vocal range and ability to move between different genres as a result. However, when asked what audition piece Valdez-Perea chose for his part in Kurt Weill’s “Mahogonny Songspiel,” he confessed that he had forgotten.
“Ok, make it up now,” Kuncl said.
“It was uh… Schubert’s ‘Serenade,’” Valdez-Perea said. “It shows off the high and low range.”
When questioned whether he was a baritone or a “tenor in disguise,” Valdez-Perea slyly fired back: “Yes.”
Finally, violinist Yuli Zheng took the stage as the final interviewee, whom President Kuncl called “Annie.” Honored all over the world including Beijing, Vienna, Sydney, and Stockholm for her performances in over 50 concerts worldwide, Zheng came to the University of Redlands on multiple scholarships to study performance and global business. When asked what her goals where after graduation, Zheng gave an acutely practical reply:
“Right now I’m thinking to get an enough paying job after graduation,” Zheng said, “Because my family just immigrated here, so technically I am a first generation [college student]. I’m trying to combine my majors … and find a stable job to support my family.”
Zheng will be studying abroad in Berlin this summer on the Schroder Summer Language Scholarship.
Once every performer had received a placard, they exited the stage single file to meet with their parents and professors for photos and a warm reception.
Photo contributed by Jono Ruhlman.