Music Majors’ Performances Conclude Studies

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Author: Lauren Siverly

Senior comprehensive projects, or comps, are different for the music major than for any other majors.. Both Alyson Melzer (senior) and Alexandra Forman (senior) are Musical Performance majors, therefore they have to present a senior recital and write a paper on the historical importance of the music they perform. Music and culture, theory, and musical history majors require a comprehensive project that includes an extended research paper.

Music majors put together a portfolio of their work and presents select pieces in a recital during their senior year. The recital process also includes a paper describing the student’s influences in their work. Douglas Rosenberg (senior) is not only a composition major but also specializes in electronic music composition—one of only a few at Occidental.

A specialist in the violin and piano, Forman presented Tchaikovsky, Bach and Brahms on the violin for her senior recital on April 2. Her program included Tchaikovsky’s Sérénade mélancolique Op. 26, J.S. Bach’s Sonata sopr’il Soggetto Reale (Trio Sonata) from The Musical Offering, BWV 1079 and Brahms’s Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108.

Forman, like many music majors started her training early. “I came into Oxy knowing I was going to be a music major. I began playing piano at the age of five and then violin at age 11,” she said.

This extensive experience helped her throughout her career at Occidental, but her success was not without ample amounts of time in the studio. “I worked harder on this project than I have on any program before, and it paid off. The amount of satisfaction I got from the end result was phenomenal,” Forman said.

Melzer, also a violinist, performed her comps on April 9. The pieces included were theViolin Sonata in A Major by Cesar Franck and the Violin Concerto in E minor by Felix Mendelssohn. The former composition is the subject of her written portion of comps. She relates the piece by Franck to its influence on French Opera in the 19th Century.

Early in her time at Occidental, Melzer gravitated towards music. “In my first year, I fell in love with the department and the professors, and I knew I could really grow as a musician and person there. I figured that the best way for me to be able to devote as much time to music as I wanted would be to make it my major,” Melzer said.

Melzer is an English and Comparative Literary Studies and Music double major. “I’ve been extremely busy the last three years, but I’ve never regretted my decision,” Melzer said.

While many can come to dread comps, Melzer has a more positive outlook. “[Comps] were worth it just for the opportunity to work so closely with such talented people- especially my advisor Allen Gross, my violin teacher Larry Sonderling and my accompanist Galina Barskaya,” Melzer said.

Rosenberg spends a considerable amount of time with his computer in order to make his music. The electronic music department is very small at Occidental with only one professor who specializes in the study.

“It’s definitely a trailblazing effort … During my comps presentation, almost no one, except my advisor, knew exactly what electronic music entailed,” he said.

Since his music major has a compositional element, Rosenberg’s paper focused on his influences and expanded on the intricacies of electronic music.

Many question the computer’s role in the music world, a fact that sometimes frustrates Rosenberg. “I’m happy I was able to do these compositions in electronic music, but I’m bemused that the computer seemed so foreign as an instrument … it’s unconventional to not write for traditional instruments,” he said.

Nonetheless, even he had to step outside of his comfort zone for his comprehensive project. “I had never really worked on my music for a long period of time like I had to do for my comps. Now that they’re finished, making music is just pure pleasure.”

As for after graduation, Rosenberg is taking his journey one step at a time. “My goals are to begin doing more with my music, booking shows, distributing my stuff. I’ve been doing it for so long, and now I just want to externalize it.”

Both Melzer and Forman explained that, while they love music, they will not pursue it professionally after graduation.

“While I don’t plan on necessarily going into a music career (I’m a geology major as well), I always want music to be a large part of my life and wanted to expand my musical knowledge by becoming a music major,” Forman said.

Melzer echoed that sentiment and said, “I’ll definitely keep playing wherever I can-maybe in a chamber group or community orchestra.”

As their time at Occidental comes to a close, these music majors got their final chance to leave their mark. For them, the journey was long and often arduous, but the final result was worth it.

“What was exciting about the performance was the fact that I wasn’t nervous. To get to perform some of my favorite music in front of a lot of my family, friends and faculty was a great end to my Occidental Music career. It was a fantastic and fun accomplishment for me and will be a night I will never forget,” Forman said. 

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