Music recitals during COVID-19: Performing art for art’s sake

by Samantha Holm

Since the beginning of October, Whitworth’s music majors have held successful and fulfilling recitals in accordance with COVID-19 regulations. To ensure student safety, recitalists and accompanists are masked, recital spaces are thoroughly sanitized and live audiences are prohibited. In lieu of such audiences, recitals have been livestreamed over YouTube. 

Recital Monitor Rachel Strauch, a junior, said that her job is “signing into the webcast to answer questions and make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible.” 

Because this year marks Whitworth’s first attempt at livestreaming musical performances, recitalists were uncertain of how their performances sounded to their virtual audience. However, recitalists reported satisfaction with the quality of their recordings. 

Aside from audio issues and the awkwardness of performing without an audience, senior music majors and saxophonists Dylan Loew and Dean Ouellette said that they found their Oct. 2 jazz recital to be a success. 

After 30 minutes of performing, Loew, Ouellette and their band took a 30-minute intermission to refresh the air flow in the recital room, a required procedure for all recital programs exceeding 30 minutes. During this break, they joined the livestream for their own recital. 

“Once we tuned into the livestream and saw that we did have an audience of 50 people, it was a little bit easier,” said Loew. 

Students were encouraged to see family members and friends viewing their performances. Ouellette shared similar thoughts: “Our second set really came together,” he said. “It felt like all of us weren’t just performing to put on a successful recital, but actually having a great time.”

Percussionist and music education major Benjamin Hills, a senior, held his own recital on Oct. 4 and accompanied Oulette and Loew during theirs. Because his junior recital was cancelled last year, he held it this fall. 

“I learned all the music for my junior recital last semester,” said Hills. “However, I lost some of them over the summer and trying to bring them back up while learning jazz tunes was a lot, but in the end, both performances were very fun.” 

While some recitalists were able to enjoy themselves onstage despite having no live audience, many were disappointed about the circumstances.

While reflecting on her Oct. 24 violin recital, junior piano and violin performance double major Elizabeth Hamilton said: “It was saddening to lose the energy of performing for and communicating to a live audience through art. … In some ways, [however], it has prompted me to contemplate the intrinsic meaning of art and of performing art for art’s sake.” 

Hamilton offers an insightful perspective. While interaction with a live audience may feel like a fundamental part of the musical experience for recitalists, the value of music does not in fact come from audience appreciation but rather from its innate and complex beauty as an art form. 

Recitals will be held from now until early December. Coming up next is the Jazz Combo Concert on Thursday, Nov. 5 at 8:00 p.m. To tune in, use this link:  

To view past performances, visit the Whitworth University Music Department YouTube Channel