Encountering New Worlds

Cedarville’s musical faculty to showcase their talents for students throughout the year

By Katie Milligan

The Cedarville University Musical Department’s performing faculty members are continuing the annual Faculty Recital Series into the 2019-2020 school year with a focus on glorifying God through their talent, educating students about music, and communicating a deep love for their craft. 

The Faculty Recital series kicked off on September 6th with the Elias piano-violin duo. It will continue on September 23rd with pianist Dr. John Mortensen, and final concert in the series will be on November 19th with saxophonist Dr. Chet Jenkins. Additionally, more faculty recitals will follow in the spring. 

Professor Beth Cram Porter, chair of the music department and professor of vocal music, explained that the series has two goals: to provide a service to the Cedarville family, and to be a teaching tool, inspiring students in their musical education. 

“Students are able to hear further than what they can actually produce, so it’s good to model for them what they’re working toward,” Porter said.

These recitals also serve as a creative outlet for the faculty members to utilize their God-given talents.

“Some of us need to perform–not for our glory, but for His,” Porter said. 

According to Porter, hosting a faculty recital series is a worldwide expectation for schools that have a music degree program. The music department is dedicated to providing quality concerts for Cedarville to enjoy, hosting over 100 recitals per school year between faculty, students, and guests. These concerts are held in the Dixon Ministry Center Recital Hall, usually last about one hour, and are free of charge. 

Each faculty member is free to plan what their performance will look like. In many cases, the concerts are engaging and informative, as the professors will give the audience a brief talkback about the music. However, each recital is individualized, unique to each professor’s style.

Porter comments on the professional yet comfortable atmosphere of the performances.

“It’s formal because it’s in a concert hall, but it’s a little less formal because we talk to you,” she said. “We’re very interested in educating and informing. We want you to understand what you’re listening to. It’s not stodgy; we want you to know why we love what we’re doing.”

Looking forward, Dr. John Mortensen, professor of piano and director of keyboard studies, will continue the series with his upcoming performance on Monday. He specializes in the art of improvisation and plans to improvise most of his concert, drawing on both traditional and contemporary styles.

Though practicing for a performance meant to be spontaneous seems counterintuitive, Mortensen compares learning to improvise with learning another language.

“A lot of the practice time is spent internalizing all kinds of patterns,” Mortensen explained. ““We call it historic improvisation, because we go back and learn the languages of different eras— for example, the era of Bach or Mozart.”

Improvisation was common up until about 200 years ago; Mortensen seeks to reclaim what he views as a lost art. 

“My work has been figuring out what they did, and how we lost it, and how we can get it back again,” he said. “Returning some modes of improvisation to overall music study is a crucial step that we need to take to get that kind of freedom, fluency, and artistic quality back.”

He also values the excitement and unpredictableness of improvising.

“It’s kind of the sense of adventure that I love, like you get on a roller coaster and you don’t know how it goes,” he said.

Porter encourages students to attend Mortensen’s concert.

“His concerts are super educational, interesting, intellectual, and fun,” She said.

Mortensen believes that students can broaden their horizons through their education, and through the Faculty Recital Series, the music department seeks to provide just one more way to explore.

“In college, you’re supposed to encounter worlds you would not otherwise encounter. Your world will be bigger, which is the whole idea of a liberal arts education,” he said. “Encountering cultures that aren’t from your own place or time is the next best thing to just roaming all over the world.”

Katie Milligan is a sophomore English major. She enjoys taking Polaroid photos, eating pasta and watching Disney movies.

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