Bienen finds new ways to celebrate student performers’ winter recitals


Daily file photo by Daniel Tian

The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Center for the Musical Arts, home to the Bienen School of Music. Students reflect on their winter quarter and on showcasing their achievements through recitals.

Hannah Cole, Reporter

Though the pandemic has prevented Bienen students from performing in-person recitals, the show must go on.

In addition to being a degree requirement for Bienen students in performance majors, recitals allow performers to share their music with an audience.

While the format of recitals changed this year, Bienen’s Director of Concert Management Jerry Tietz said the school has committed to providing opportunities to highlight students’ hard work.

“We do limit the number of people who can be in the space… to a student, that student’s accompanist, their teacher,” Tietz said. “We are allowing for students to bring one other person into the space who would assist with that live streaming.”

Bienen and SESP senior Lauren Reynolds, whose vocal recital will be live-streamed Thursday, said she felt disappointed to have worked for years toward this degree requirement and not be able to enjoy the grand reception she had previously looked forward to.

Normally, students perform a 45-minute concert for a crowd filled with classmates, friends and family. Reynolds said she wishes her family could celebrate her accomplishment with her like the graduating classes before her.

“You’d be able to have a reception afterward in the lobby,” Reynolds said. “You bring food, and you can hang out with your friends and talk to people after your recital. It’s a very fun way for you to be able to see all the hard work your friends have done over the past four years, and that’s just not a thing this year.”

Tietz said that before the pandemic, underclassmen could also perform informal recitals, which gave freshmen, sophomores and juniors the opportunity to reserve performance spaces in Bienen for their own shows. While juniors and seniors are given priority this year and can still complete a recital for their degree requirements, optional informal concerts have all been canceled this year.

Bienen freshman Priya Krishnaswamy said she had hoped to perform at an informal concert as a vocal major, but now has to wait indefinitely for her first live Northwestern recital.

“Every performance is a good experience,” Krishnaswamy said. “Getting up in front of people and honing your craft and your performance skill. I think performing in person would have been a good thing to have this year.”

Tietz said Bienen is already adjusting their recital policy for Spring Quarter. The school currently has 100 recitals scheduled — fewer than usual but still more than the past two quarters — with more guests allowed. Tietz said if COVID-19 cases remain low, he hopes Bienen can continue to adapt its policies and allow for more performances.

“We’ve identified two of our venues that are sufficiently large enough to have as many as five people on stage,” Tietz said. “We now have a stronger sense of what’s safe. So Spring Quarter will begin to feature some of these recitals that have small groups and players performing in them where previously we hadn’t seen that in the Fall or Winter Quarter.”

Bienen has implemented additional safety measures to keep students safe during rehearsals and other events. Tietz said Bienen identified safe spaces with adequate air circulation to sing — as typical practice rooms are too small under COVID-19 restrictions — and kept performers at a safe distance throughout the quarter.

Reynolds said despite the drawbacks, she appreciates and understands the safety restrictions.

“All the policies Bienen has right now that might make it more difficult for students and that we’re very frustrated with — I think all of us understand that they’re there for safety,” Reynolds said. “We appreciate that we’re at a school that is emphasizing safety.”

With the music departments’ health policies under constant revision, students like Reynolds look forward to returning to normal.

Despite the challenging adjustments, Reynolds said she hopes underclassmen persevere. Though the COVID-19 restrictions limit concerts, she said the reward of working in Bienen outweighs the hardships.

“Bienen is worth the wait to have those experiences,” Reynolds said. “It’s worth it to stay in and see that progress and see your love of music shine bigger than this pandemic that is happening right now.”

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