The idea of sitting through a symphony performance may conjure memories of mandatory high school assemblies, when the band or orchestra would play obscure pieces of music that put everyone to sleep. But things are different in college. Unlike high school assemblies, those who are performing are genuinely passionate about music.
Sunday afternoon, the Cal Poly Symphony hosted its Winter Concert, showcasing three instrumental soloists and two vocalists in classical pieces from composers York Bowen, Carl Maria von Weber and Jean Sibelius. The entire symphony, conducted by David Arrivee, backed the soloists to create the harmonious music that filled the Christopher Cohan Performing Arts Center (PAC) .
The first soloist, biomedical engineer senior Stephen Jue, played York Bowen’s Viola Concerto in C minor, Op. 25. If an audience member had closed their eyes, the music of the concerto would have conjured up an image of the most dramatic, romantic scene from a movie with each build of the music.
Jue said he is still getting used to soloing.
“Viola really isn’t a solo instrument,” Jue said. “So just getting used to projecting more has been hard.”
Jue can’t remember a time when he wasn’t playing in some kind of symphony since he picked up the viola.
“It’s a good creative outlet,” Jue said. “Especially with (being in) engineering.”
The rare Viola Concerto was followed by an even more elusive Bassoon Concerto. Music junior Emelia Banninger walked onstage in a soft pink gown carrying a large instrument almost as tall as she was. The song she featured in was Carl Maria von Weber’s Bassoon Concerto in F major, Op. 75 — a playful piece that featured Banninger’s skill.
“I’m definitely nervous,” Banninger said before the show. “I’ve never played in front of an audience as a soloist before. I kind of just took the leap.”
A bassoon is a somewhat unconventional instrument, which Banninger said was difficult to play.
“It’s like playing a tree,” she said.
Banninger said she would love to get into show business and pursue music after college.
“I hope to make it into the television or the movie business as a performer or arranging things on the composition side,” she said. “My parents are in show business and I just grew up around the stage.”
Communication studies freshman Emily Bernstein was delighted by Banninger’s performance, stating it as her favorite of the afternoon.
“I have no musical talent to draw from, so that level is incredible,” Bernstein said.
Following the instrumental soloists were two vocalists: music juniors Kelly O’Shea and Christopher Wall. O’Shea’s soprano stylings in Menotti’s The Old Maid and the Thief displayed a mastery of her voice. O’Shea’s control and range were seen in the highest notes she sang, and filled the auditorium without a microphone, as is customary in operatic music.
Crowd favorite Christopher Wall sang what is known as a “song to God,” Pieta, Signore. Many in attendance remarked at how talented Wall was in this piece.
“He was well articulated, and sang in a different language which made him stand out,” civil engineering junior Andrea Flores said.
“You can expect volume,” Wall said prior to his performance. “I have a big voice.”
Wall has been singing since middle school and music has always been a big part of his life and passions.
“I actually got accepted as an aerospace (engineering) major,” Wall said. “And then I decided to switch to music because I was better at it and I enjoyed it more.”
The final soloist of the concert was concertmaster and music senior Mario Ojeda. Ojeda played Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto Op. 64, which was as amazing to watch as it was to hear. With a pink rose at the top of his violin, Ojeda swayed and danced as he played. His fingers flew across the neck of his instrument as the music dipped and swelled and as he played higher notes his feet would lift with the music.
For Ojeda, music has been a way of life and outlet to express his emotions.
“I consider myself a very emotionally mature person,” Ojeda said. “I don’t have a problem conveying the emotion of the music.”
Like Banninger, Ojeda also likes the idea of getting into show business after college and wants to move to Los Angeles after graduation to become a studio musician.
“Hopefully I will be in the business once the next Star Wars movie comes out,” Ojeda said.
Orchestral music is unlike most of the concerts hosted at Cal Poly. The classical music may not be the most popular or well known, but when an audience member sits and listens to it, as conductor Arrivee said: “Each member of the audience likely felt a story of some kind unfold as they listened to it.”