Spring Recitals

Gabriel Valle

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Gabriel Valle’s ’16 violin serenaded the audience during his senior recital, held on Sunday, May 22, at the Seymour St. John Chapel.

Valle, who has played violin for 14 years, is in orchestra and the Arts Concentration program. Regarding his decision to perform, Valle stated, “Apart from the recital being an Arts Con requirement, I just wanted to showcase all of my pieces at the end of the year, especially because this is the last performance I’m going to give at Choate.”

Valle played three pieces: “Movement I Allegro from Sonata No. 5 for Violin,” “Piano in F Major ‘Spring’,” and “Movement I Allegro Ma Non Troppo” from “Concerto No. 1 in D Major,” by Ludwig Beethoven, and “Movement IV Rondo Alla Zingarese,” from “Brahms Piano Quartet in G minor,” by Johannes Brahms. The first two pieces were accompanied by Ms. Susan Cheng, while the third piece was performed by Valle’s Chamber group, with members Jiaqi Su ’19 on the piano, Anne Eyckeler ’18 playing the viola, and Emma Lien ’18 playing the cello.

“I got to know Gabe a lot better working with him in this chamber group,” Lien said. “He was always dedicated to the group and he was great at bringing them all together! I’ll miss playing with him next year!”

Ms. Artemis Simerson, Valle’s music instructor, said of the second piece, “He’s been aching to play since his first year at Choate. At one point, I tried to discourage him because of the difficulty of the piece, but he really has done a remarkable job — maybe just to prove me wrong!”

Valle has doubtlessly worked hard in preparing for this recital, in addition to impressing his violin teacher. “Unknowingly, I’ve been preparing since freshman year, just learning different pieces,” Valle commented, “At the beginning of senior year, I just chose the pieces that I liked best and that I played best.”

The audience’s response was overwhelmingly positive, and many people congratulated Valle after his performance. “It was so good,” Shin Young Kwon ’17 exclaimed. “Holy!” Annett Ho ’18 agreed, saying, “I really liked his program. He did a nice job with the concerto — it’s a really long piece and hard to put together.” Ms. Simerson added, “Undoubtedly, one extraordinary thing about Gabe’s violin playing is his incredibly beautiful vibrato, which gives him an almost pre-WWII sound.”

As for future plans in the arts, Valle says he would love to still play in college. “I plan to keep playing… definitely join some chamber groups and an orchestra,” he added.

In a final statement of gratitude, Valle concluded, “I’d just like to give a big thank you to my violin teacher for teaching me all these wonderful things. This recital wouldn’t be possible without her. I’d also like to thank Mr. Ventre. He’s been a great guy, both academically and musically. I’d like to thank all my friends also for supporting me through all four years of the arts.”

-Nicole Yao ’18

Elli Sandberg

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Elli Sandberg ’16 concluded her arts concentrarion career at Choate on Sunday, May 15th in the Seymour St. John Chapel with her Senior Bassoon Recital. Sandberg, accompanied by Ms. Susan Cheng on the piano, performed three pieces: “The Bassoon Sonata,” and “The Bassoon Sonata Op. 1868,” by Paul Hindemith, and “The Bassoon Concert in B flat major,” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Sandberg, who has been playing the bassoon for seven years, began her musical career after deciding that she wished to take recorder lessons. After her teacher broke the news that one cannot play the recorder forever, she chose to play the bassoon. “I like to play for myself more than for performance reasons,” she explained, “Whenever I feel emotional, I like to play… It makes me feel calm.”

Sandberg has been at Choate for four years and in Arts Con for three. The Arts Con community has been particularly supportive to her: “They understand every emotion that I go through and they are always there for me, even though I may not be as close with them otherwise.”

Ms. Jennifer Bruening, Choate’s bassoon teacher, also greatly impacted Sandberg’s time at Choate. “She has been a key motivator,” said Sandberg, “I know that she really understands my pieces, in addition to what I do well and what I don’t do well.” Sandberg continued, “She has made me realize that a piece doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to make people feel something.”

Sandberg has endured many injuries in the last few years. Currently, she suffers from carpel tunnel as well as muscular and nerve damage in her shoulder. Despite this hindrance, she pushed for a recital. Ms. Kalya Yannatos, Director of the Arts, recalled, “We told her she did not need to perform given her injury, but she insisted and was able to calmly and confidently perform some very difficult music. “

Sandberg’s favorite piece in her recital was the sonata by Saint-Saens. Despite its apparent difficulty, Sandberg breezed through the piece with a smile. “It is very lyrical… but not lyrical like Mozart’s music is. I really feel something when Saint-Saens switches keys — there is a high point and then it goes back down — the piece is all around beautiful.”

After the performance, Sandberg noted  that it felt quite bittersweet. “It is relieving to have finished, but the concert was kind of anticlimactic because I practiced for four years and then I played for forty-five minutes… Now it’s done.”

Audience members all loved her performance. Venus Law ’16 said, “Elli played absolutely beautifully. She was perfectly on pitch and had a lovely sound.” Annette Ho ’18, a fellow Arts Con musician exclaimed, “She had really good breath control! She was able to play her whole recital without breaks!” Ms. Yannatos, who watched Sandberg grow throughout her years as an Arts Con musician, thought that “she played with musicality and confidence… It was an impressive recital as she tackled such an array of music.” Overall, Sandberg’s senior recital was a success: she and her bassoon will be greatly missed next year.

-Sophie Hare ’18

Matt Oster

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During the lazy mid-afternoon hours of Sunday, May 23, the recital hall was full to the brim with cool. Matt Oster’s Senior Recital captivated the audience with powerful jazz and dynamic frontmanship.

The three-year senior played upright bass, opening the program with a solo rendition of Thelonious Monk’s composition “Blue Monk.” He then proceeded to perform several standards and originals, with a band consisting of accompanying musicians.

The pieces performed displayed Oster’s wide variety of jazz sensibilities. His arrangement of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On,” mixed with Richard Rodgers’ show tune “My Favorite Things,” along with Oster’s own composition, titled “Clap,” was technically impressive. The group of five performed the Art Blakey classic, “Prince Albert,” a new melody written over the chord changes to “All the Things You Are” to avoid royalties. Perhaps the most eccentric part of the program was a free jazz piece by Ornate Coleman, titled “Ramblin’,” in which Oster read a section from the Student Handbook. The program closed with a duet in which he performed a sentimental rendition of Frank Sinatra’s classic hit, “My Way.” However, the standing ovation from the audience following the performance resulted in the other three members of the band returning to the stage for a rendition of “Moanin’,” the Art Blakey hard-bop classic.

Mr. Phillip Ventre, Orchestral and Jazz Ensemble Director, excitedly claimed, “I loved his solo, composition, and bass duet in every piece he played. It was totally cool,” he noted, “It was one of the best recitals I’ve been to.”

Linds Cadwell ’16, a close friend of Oster’s, noted Oster’s maturity as a musician and generosity in making other performers shine. “Matt didn’t try to make the bass a solo instrument. He used it in its natural environment. He also kept his ground and knew exactly what to do, making it a phenomenal performance,” he noted. “I wanted it to just be an inclusive recital,” Oster said, “I didn’t want it to just be about me, but about the people who helped me get to the level I have reached at Choate.”

The recital left audience members feeling sad at the prospect of Oster’s graduation. Mr. Ventre commented, “Matt has been an inspiration. He’s an exemplary role model because of his musicianship, his personality, his kindness, his caring. He’s a wonderful young man. We’re going to miss him very, very much.” Caldwell added, “Everyone should have gone to this recital; it was amazing.”

“I wanted to make it a jam,” he explained. When asked whether or not he got what he wanted out of the recital, Oster responded, “Absolutely. 100%.”

-Dani Zanuttini-Frank ’18

Jasmine Kim

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Crowds of people eagerly lined up at the Seymour St. John Chapel this past Sunday, May 15, to see Jasmine Kim’s ’16 long-awaited senior recital. Prefectees, parents, family, friends, classmates, and those who heard of Kim’s musical legacy all gathered to support her.

Mr. Phil Ventre noted Kim as “one of the very best cellists we have ever had the pleasure to work with, and her recital was no less than the perfection that she continues to bring to Choate.” He added, “Jasmine is an exemplary musician. She is always prepared for every single rehearsal and performance. She is a role model for everyone is the orchestra and the arts concentration chamber group. She truly cares about the orchestra — not just herself. She always makes sure that they perform with artistic excellence.”

The chapel was silent as Jasmine began to play the low notes of “Piano Trio No.2 in C minor, op.66: I Allegro energico e fuoco,” composed by Felix Mendelssohn. Accompanied by Annette Ho ’18 and Kaki Su ’19, the trio performed a dark, restless, and mysterious tune.

Ho, who attends Julliard Pre-College and is a part of the Choate orchestra, said, “It was an honor to perform with Jasmine. She is one of the best musicians at the school. It is really fun to play with her in our chamber groups.”

One of the most notable pieces in the whole show was the jazzy and youthful “Café Music,” composed by Paul Schoenfeld. David Park ’17 accompanied with the piano, and Ho with the violin. The audience loved the tune’s blue tones of jazz.

Park remarked, “We all had fun with playing jazz. It was something different. Her recital, although not perfect musically, was full of passion, energy, and maturity. The depth of the music really moved me. She is the best possible musician, leader, and friend. I am so thankful to be a small part of her time here at Choate.” 

-Inc Thongthai ’19

Max Kops

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On the quiet afternoon of Friday, May 20, students, parents, and faculty alike gathered for Max Kops’s ’16 intimate jazz senior recital. Although he is a four-year senior, Kops started to play in the Jazz Ensemble his sophomore year, and only as recently as his senior year, joined the Arts Concentration program.

Despite only having a single year’s experience playing jazz guitar, Kops and his accompanying  musicians David Park ’17, Matt Oster ’16, and staff member Paul Bozzi received a standing ovation after their performance. Mr. Phillip Ventre, who conducts the Jazz Ensemble and mentors most of Choate’s jazz musicians, said, “It was just an absolutely beautiful recital — one of the very best for jazz. We’ve never had kids with this level of ability.”

To Mr. Ventre, Kops and his fellow musicians captured the essence of jazz, collaborating and improvising. Mr. Ventre commented, “You could sense the fact that they were listening together. That’s the essence of jazz. It was all simultaneous. Max rehearsed some of these songs, but his solos were not rehearsed. They had to listen to each other in order to complement each other. While one person played a solo, the others complemented that person, emphasizing the music or leading that person in a different direction. It’s an improvised interplay in strata.”

Kops’s performance consisted of four famous songs from The Real Book of Jazz, and an additional song, “Chameleon,” that Max played at the request of his audience. The Real Book of Jazz contains compilations of lead sheets for famous jazz tunes, and Kops selected four of these tunes: “Maiden Voyage” and “Cantaloupe Island” by Herbie Hancock, “So What,” by Miles Davis, and “Thum,” by West Montgomery.

Kops explains that, Linds Cadwell ’16, Matt Oster ’16, and himself have played together on other occasions, including at New York City for a Choate reception that celebrated the school’s 125 years, and in a local Wallingford performance. His senior recital, though, marks the first time that Kops played as the main performer. “I was kind of hoping that not a lot of people would show up, just because I’m a nervous wreck most of the time,” he explained with a laugh, “after that performance though, I regret not publicizing my recital more. But now I know.” 

Evan Robison ’16, a good friend of Kops’s who attended the recital, said, “I’ve been friends with Max since freshman year. When he came to Choate, he was trained as a rock musician and you can see that in his jazz performance. His appreciation of jazz and his ability in it has really developed, but you can still feel the underpinnings of his rock training throughout the whole recital. All of his background musicians did a really good job, too. David is amazing, Matt is amazing, and Paul is amazing. I thought it was a phenomenal senior recital and I’m really proud of him.” 

Regarding his future in music, Kops said, “At Skidmore, I hope to pursue my own musical career, start a band that reflects my music style more. But I still want to play jazz because it’s an essential key that adds so much to what one can do musically. It just makes everything clearer.”

-Namsai Sethpornpong ’17

Hannah Lemmons

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The number of students, faculty, and friends tightly packed to watch Hannah Lemmons’s ’16 senior recital this past Sunday, May 22, acted as a reflection of how many people she has influenced during her time at Choate. A four-year senior, Lemmons performed one final recital for an audience of everyone she has inspired and those who have inspired her. “I decided I was going to have a senior recital when I was a freshman because the first concert I ever played in at Choate was actually my sister’s senior recital… it was amazing to see her culminate her musical career in such a beautiful way, so I knew I wanted to experience it myself,” she shared. Throughout her years at Choate, Lemmons has graced the stage as a violinist in orchestra, an assortment of characters in theater productions, and a skilled a capella singer — talents that were all represented in Sunday’s program.

The recital began with “Meditation,” by Jules Massenet, on the violin, followed by a performance by Lilith, the a capella group of which Lemmons has been a four-year member and president this year. Lilith co-president Anna Diffley ’16 said, “Hannah is one of the best people I’ve ever worked with. She’s super helpful and just always willing to compromise.” Lilith joined their soloist on stage for a rendition of Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly,” which Lemmons arranged.

Two more violin songs followed — “Symphonie Espagnole” by Edouard Lalo and “Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor” by Max Bruch — during which Lemmons further demonstrated her instrumental finesse. Orchestral director Mr. Phillip Ventre voiced his pride in Lemmons: “It was a very difficult recital… a very difficult repertoire. She played very well today and I’m impressed with her.”

Additionally, Lemmons expressed her theatrical side with a pair of vocal solos, first channeling the soulful tone of Nina Simone in “Feelin’ Good” and then concluding the concert with “Thank You For the Music” from Mamma Mia! Ms. Kalya Yannatos, Director of the Arts, explained, “What I love so much about Hannah is her completeness. She is so capable in everything she does, so courageous and confident. She steps onto the stage at the PMAC with incredible spirit, and she steps onto the stage here in the chapel with her violin and her voice with so much life and so much beauty. She’s touched us all in the depths of our hearts.”

As a well-rounded member of the Choate community, Lemmons has moved countless people with her different art mediums. She was beyond grateful to share everything she has learned and accomplished through her Senior Recital, and from her parents to her prefectees, every member of the audience was just as grateful to be part of the experience.

“If I had any advice for people who want to give a Senior Recital, I’d say don’t be afraid to do it,” Lemmons suggested.  “Don’t be discouraged if you have a nontraditional repertoire, or you aren’t in Arts Con. Just relax — this is your journey, your process, your music, so just keep that in mind.”

-Nina Hastings ’18

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