Senior Recital with Cellist Chelsea Breyer ’17
By Madison Kobe ‘18
There are many opportunities available to students involved in music at Carthage, such as a variety of ensembles, concerts, and student recitals. The best part about these opportunities is that they are open to non-music majors and minors, such as Chelsea Breyer ’17. Chelsea had been involved in music since nearly the beginning of her career as a student, and even though professional performance wasn’t what she wanted to pursue, she was able to continue doing what she loves and playing her cello. I was able to talk to Chelsea about her experience among music students as a non-major.
What year are you?
I’m a senior at Carthage; I’ll be graduating this May, 2017.
What are you studying at Carthage?
I am a psychology major and classical studies minor here at Carthage. After graduation I will be attending UW-Oshkosh for my master’s in Professional Counseling, emphasis in Student Affairs and College Counseling.
How long have you been playing cello?
I started playing cello in 2nd grade, so for about 15 years. I’ve taken private lessons for all 15 years, and have been involved in either a school orchestra or a youth orchestra for about 12 years. I’ve also played in multiple pit orchestras, small ensembles and was part of the 2009 WSMA Middle School Honors Orchestra.
Did anyone in particular encourage you in your decision to continue your musical career?
When I was younger, the biggest reason that I continued to play was because my parents encouraged it. My dad, brother and sister all play string instruments, and my dad plays in a professional orchestra outside of his day job, so music has always had a large presence in my life. When coming to Carthage, I couldn’t see giving up something that I had worked so long and hard at. I knew I wanted to play in the orchestra, and I also decided to continue taking private lessons. Since coming to Carthage, there have been a few people who have made me want to continue to be involved in music. Dr. Kawakami, my orchestra director, has given new life to the orchestra and helped us grow and achieve a level of professionalism that we never would have dreamed of. He has been there for me as an educator, an employer, and most importantly, as a friend. Dr. Kawakami has never treated me as any less of a player or a person due to the fact that I am not Music major; instead he has fortified the feeling that I belong in the music department. I’ve also had a lot of support from my private cello instructor, Allegra Montanari. She has helped address my weaknesses not only as a performer, but also as a person. Her instruction has helped in the technical aspect of playing, and has also helped boost my confidence and presence in my playing and in other areas of life. Of course I still have support from my family to continue playing, and the wonderful personalities and outlooks of other students I have met through the music department always make me want to come back to orchestra!
Are you involved in any ensembles at Carthage?
I am principal cellist in the Carthage Philharmonic Orchestra; I also play and am president of Carthage Handbell Choir. I have also played in the pit orchestra for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and The Mystery of Edwin Drood.
What are some highlights of your time at Carthage?
My favorite musical memory has to be my sophomore year at Christmas Fest. We played the 4th movement, Farandole, from Bizet’s “L’Arlesienne.” This was after one semester under Dr. Kawakami’s instruction, and a lot of hard work had been put into this performance. You’re not allowed to applaud during Christmas Fest, but when the orchestra finished their piece it felt as if the entire chapel was holding their breath and restraining themselves from cheering. Between the music and the lights and the atmosphere, it was an incredible feeling. Instances like this make all of the hard work and time put in worth it. In general, I have sincerely loved getting to know the staff at Carthage and waking up to the lake view every morning. Every instant eventually becomes a memory, and my 4 years at Carthage will always be an important one to me.
What challenges have you faced as a musician?
My biggest challenge as a musician has been being confident in my abilities. More often than not, you are your own worst critic. It’s very easy to look at something you’ve done and not be satisfied because it’s not up to your own standards. It’s much harder to accept the small victories and continue to work towards your bigger goals. Over the past four years, my confidence has grown immensely- as a freshman, I don’t believe I could have performed a full recital. Now, I am not only proud of my accomplishment, but am also grateful for the opportunity it has given me to become a better person in general. I have also become a lot more involved in music, and sometimes I need to remind myself why I decided to play in the first place. I’ve always played simply because I wanted to, and sometimes checking back to those original feelings helps keep me grounded, even when things are hectic.
Why do you think performances like this are important for students?
Performances in general are a great experience because it puts what you’ve learned to the test and also shares your talents with those around. Specifically, recitals teach you about so many different aspects of performance. There is a lot of work to be put into not only the technical side of playing, but also the practical side of programming, logistics of venue, and the themes and ideas you want to specifically convey. Moving further, recitals are a wonderful way to showcase what you’ve achieved. And they really do leave you with an incredible sense of accomplishment.
How did the experience of your student recital meet or differ from your expectations?
My experience with my student recital went pretty much as expected. Apart from a few scheduling fiascos, I was able to work out whatever kinks were thrown in my plans. However, I’m also a bit of a worrier, so I don’t tend to let things get out of hand! If anything, I think I was surprised with how it became easier and easier to perform. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I had my pieces 100% correct, but the more I performed in studio or departmental the easier it was for me to get into a performing mind set, and to take into stride any mistakes I made. Ultimately, when it came to my recital I was able to take a deep breath and just play without letting anxiety cripple me. I was also amazed by the turnout to my recital, and it was an awesome feeling to see how many people supported me and my cello!
What advice would you offer incoming students who are considering pursuing the arts?
Just do it. Be a part of it, regardless of your intention. Whether you’re a major, a minor, or simply there for enjoyment, don’t let the fact that you have other interests stop you from becoming involved in music. Whether you start as a music major and switch to politics, or if you join simply for fun and become a Music major, it’s all worth it in the end. As a freshman, I would have never expected to find myself this involved in the music department. And though I may not be majoring in music, these experiences don’t mean any less to me because of that. I’ve made friends and grown in so many unexpected ways, and ultimately I’m the better for it. And through it all I’ve enjoyed what I’ve done and been able to hone a skill that will stay with me for life, regardless of what career I pursue.