William Dowell ‘22
All Stories

As I looked up into the A. F. Siebert Chapel, I barely saw anyone in the pews in front of me. The ground floor was nearly deserted and while I saw audience members in the balconies, it reminded me of all those hours preparing for the recital in an empty chapel. Just my pianist, Ryan Boren ’22 and me workshopping note after note as we slowly turned disjointed sections into a cohesive piece of music. We spent our evenings and nights preparing and rehearsing until the chapel closed, fully immersing ourselves in the nuances and challenges of playing as an ensemble. It was both infuriating and satisfying to gradually build and refine each piece, especially as I was learning new techniques to properly showcase the music. Those hours of hard work reinforced our musicianship and our friendship as we continued to work together.

Of course, there was still that electricity that comes from performing in front of an audience. My heart still raced as I walked in front of the audience and played that first note. I still had to remind myself to ignore the audience and to throw myself into the music. While it may have resembled those rehearsals and practice sessions, it was a proper recital that allowed me to share my music with the community.

These opportunities to connect with others through a musical performance should be treasured by those lucky enough to partake in them. For a young musician such as myself, it is not often that I can spend an hour to share my love for music with so many people. This is especially true during this pandemic which has prevented many people from coming together at all, much less for a performance. While many colleges have cancelled in-person concerts all together, Carthage College has been able to provide plenty of performing opportunities for musicians such as myself. Carthage students can partake in recitals such as mine and fully reap the musical and educational benefits that come from Carthage’s music program.

Since these extenuating circumstances have made these gatherings potentially dangerous, it took the hard work of numerous Carthage faculty, staff, and students to ensure the safety of the participants while creating these musical opportunities. Consistent ticketing and assigned seating ensured that all audience members maintained the social distancing guidelines stated in our #StaySafeCarthage practices. Cleaning staff ensured that both performance and rehearsal spaces were regularly sanitized and safe to gather in. Even Carthage community members who followed the #StaySafeCarthage practices helped create this opportunity by keeping Carthage a safe learning environment. The Carthage community as a whole came together to continue our strong educational traditions including our musical performances.

There were also the challenges connected directly with preparing a recital during the pandemic. Many of my applied cello lessons with Adjunct Cello Faculty Peter Thomas were done over ZOOM due to social distancing and room scheduling restrictions. While these lessons were still extremely helpful, it was hard to get feedback on specific musical techniques due to issues with sound quality. Luckily, I did have a few opportunities to perform in front of Peter, which helped me dramatically improve my playing. The challenges that come from virtual lessons also pushed me to become a more self-evaluative and self-driven musician. I had to be able to recognize my mistakes and fix them myself rather than rely solely on Peter’s advice. Those challenges pushed me to take greater control of my musical education and prepared me to succeed when I do not have the regular feedback that comes from a teacher.

This recital, while challenging musically and logistically, was a phenomenal experience. I am thankful for this opportunity to show my musical progress to my friends, family, and fellow musicians. This opportunity, just like the rest of my experiences as a student at Carthage College, has allowed me to grow and develop as a musician and as a person. I am excited for the challenges that await because no matter what happens, Carthage and I will find a way to adapt and succeed.