Willimantic, Conn. – On April 13, the Music Program at Eastern Connecticut State University presented an alumni concert in Eastern’s new Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC). The concert featured Eastern music alumni, showcasing piano, guitar, brass, voice and percussion compositions. Former members of the Eastern Chamber Singers and the Eastern Percussion Ensemble also performed.
“Alex Smith, Mindy DeDominicis and Renae St. John were all students of mine and I am so grateful to have invited them back to perform in the space that they deserved when they students at Eastern,” said Emily Riggs, professor of music.
The concert opened with Smith performing “Virginia Tate” by Paul Smadback and “This One Day” by Josh Gottry on the marimba with Jeff Calissi, professor of music, on the vibraphone. Smith received a B.A. in Music with a concentration in Performance at Eastern, going on to receive a Master of Music at the Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music. “Watching Alex perform solo and with her on a duet was quite a thrill, especially seeing the musical growth that has occurred since her graduation in 2012,” said Calissi.
“Getting to come back to perform at the new Fine Arts Instructional Center is a huge honor,” said Smith. “Eastern, and the percussion studio is where it all began, showing me that I have a future in music. Now I get to come back and show my professors and the community how much I’ve grown with the help of my most important mentors.”
Smith also performed “Triplets” by George Hamilton Green alongside current Eastern Percussion Ensemble members. “Alex rehearsing and later performing with current Eastern percussion students was notably gratifying to observe as a professor,” said Calissi. “Seeing the student become a teacher was a particular highlight for me.”
Alumni Morgan Brown performed “Centerpeace” by Andrew York on classical guitar, exposing the fundamental structure of the original piece while providing a refreshing perspective. Brown also performed “Yamour” by York. Brown performs regularly throughout the tri-state area and is currently a teacher in the Music Bureau in Salem, CT. He is completing his graduate studies in guitar performance at The Hartt School.
“Performing at this concert means a lot to me because the music program at Eastern ignited my love for music, and allowed me to accomplish the goals I had set for myself in my career,” said Brown. “I hope that through this concert I can give back to Eastern in some way, and show how beneficial the University’s music program can be to students and the music community in eastern Connecticut.”
Pianist Sean Hanrahan ’15 performed Mozart’s “Sonata No. 10 in C Major, Movement 1.” Hanrahan started learning the piece they day after he performed his senior recital in April 2015. The uplifting piece, with fast and powerful repertoire, contains a total of three movements, the first of which was performed by Hanrahan in the concert.
Alumni Ron Davis also performed in the concert, playing “Sonata for Trumpet and Piano, Movement 1” by Jean Hubeau with Eric Ouellette on piano. The elegant movement uses characteristic elements from the Baroque and harmonies and sweeping phrases in the trumpet line, all of which add to the lyrical feel of the piece. Davis graduated from Eastern with a B.A. in Music and a concentration in Trumpet Performance. He currently performs with the Eastern Concert Band and other ensembles throughout Eastern Connecticut.
“Being asked to return to Eastern to perform for the alumni concert is an honor. Returning to a university that has made tremendous strides in the advancement of their Fine Arts program is an amazing experience,” said Davis. “I am truly humbled to be given the opportunity to represent the music department at Eastern, and am excited to perform in the University’s brand-new recital hall.”
Vocalist Melinda DeDominicis ’15, mezzo-soprano, performed “Les Chemina de l’amour” by Francis Poulenc and “When I Kiss You” and “I Never Saw a Moor” by Richard Pearson Thomas with David Bellena on piano. DeDominicis graduated magna cum laude with a B.A. in Music. Next fall, she will begin her master’s degree in Arts Administration at Florida State University’s College of Music.
“Having the opportunity to share my progress as a musician in the new Fine Arts Instructional Center is nothing short of humbling! Even after graduation, Eastern continues to provide me with opportunities for personal and professional growth,” said DeDominicis. “I am honored to have the opportunity to share wonderful memories with old friends, faculty and current students involved in music at Eastern.”
Vocalist Renae St. John ’15, mezz-soprano, performed “Mon Coeur s’ouvre ta voix” by Camille Saint-Saens, “Early in the Morning” by Ned Rorem and “Habanera” by Georges Bizet. St. John graduated from Eastern with a double major in Music-Voice Performance and English. She currently works as a church cantor at St. Alband’s Episcopal Church in Danielson.
“Eastern and its music faculty nurtures not only the musician, but also stokes the confidence and the drive to improve and succeed. So it is an absolute honor to perform with my peers and mentors, both old and new, in the new Fine Arts Instructional Center,” said St. John. “It is thanks to Music at Eastern that I’ve had such wonderful professional and personal opportunities to grow, and it is my hope that current and graduating students will have not only more access to professional connections, but also the invitation to return and improve as an artist that has been provided for me and many other alumni.”
Twenty-three alumni and former members returned to perform in collaboration with the current members of the Eastern Chamber Singers. The ensemble performed “Deep River” by Donald Moore, a traditional spiritual set for four voices. Eastern Chamber Singers also performed “Let Me Fly” by Robert DeCormier. The traditional spiritual has a “call and response” structure in which a strong soloist tells the story while the rest of the ensemble responds.
“From the perspective of Eastern Chamber Singers it is powerful to see the lasting friendships and connections between our current members and those who graduated years ago,” said Riggs. “Their dedication to the ensemble allowed them all to come together as a cohesive unit, forging connections even with those they have never met.”
Now housed in the new FAIC, Eastern’s Music Program will continue to provide theoretical and experiential opportunities which emphasize the history, theory and performance of music. All ensemble concerts are free and open to the public!