Just Keep Playing: Percussion Students Perform Despite A Major Downsize In Audience

Four of Southern Utah University’s percussion students performed for a recital audience of 19 on Oct. 30,  leaving nearly 200 empty seats in the Thorley Music Recital Hall. Despite the small numbers, the students performed tight, impressive solos with the same intense stature and concentration they would have for a full audience. 

The percussionists wrapped up their 30-minute recital and quickly made their way out of the recital hall with their own music sheets and sticks in hand. 

While a typical student recital would take 40 minutes to an hour and employ more music department staff to dress and undress the stage for each performer, the soloists’ personal preparations made this recital look and feel unique from recitals in previous semesters. 

Trinity Riley, a sophomore nursing major who performed at the recital, said the stripped down audiences have been discouraging for music students.

“I get worse stage fright in front of all the people,” Riley said. “The small audience is more comfortable, but it does make me sad that there’s nobody at the performances. Everyone is sad that we don’t have anyone to play for.”

The nature of rehearsals and recitals has changed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it has not halted them. Student ensembles in past terms would have rehearsed more as complete groups, and students rehearsing alone would have been allowed more peers to observe and critique them. 

“We can’t really rehearse together the same way,” Riley said. “So it’s harder to get a feel for how your playing is, and there just aren’t as many people to tell you how it sounds.” 

Private lessons are an integral part of the music students’ academics. Music students are required to take private lessons for their degrees. Especially with more limited rehearsal opportunities, these lessons have become even more valuable to music performers. Riley said they’ve remained relatively unchanged during the pandemic. and have been going well 

“I’m really glad I still get to practice with a teacher,” Riley said.

SUU’s music department holds student recitals each Friday at noon. They will also continue to host other performances throughout the rest of November. 

Story by Janzen Jorgensen