Senior pianist pursues graduate degree


Senior pianist Richard Jeric plays his musical thesis Tuesday. It took Jeric over 9 months to perfect the piece. Photo by Thomas Song.

Brooke Bower

As a young boy, Richard Jeric was drawn to his grandmother’s piano and liked to listen to her play jazz and ragtime. Now Jeric is spending his weekends out of town at piano competitions and graduate school auditions and is preparing to graduate from Kent State with a bachelor’s degree in music, specifically piano performance.

“I always know that I am having a really good performance when I feel more like a listener than performer,” Jeric said.

Da Capo: The Beginnings of a Pianist

“Etude in F Major, Op. 10, No. 8”

by Frederic Chopin. Performed by Richard Jeric.

The summer after Jeric completed second grade, his parents suggested he start playing piano because he always wanted to “sit down and bang something out” on his grandmother’s piano. He said once he started, he didn’t want to stop.

“My first big performance was Rachmaninoff’s ‘Prelude in C sharp Minor’ at the end of eighth grade,” Jeric said. “It was one of the first times where I said, ‘This is something I want to do.’”

Throughout middle school and high school, Jeric has participated in competitions and even made it to state level a few times.

“When it came down to what I wanted to do (after high school) it was between math and music,” Jeric said. “I decided I really wanted to focus on the music and to make that happen.“

Jeric’s high school teacher told Jerry Wong, Kent State associate piano professor, that she had a “talented, promising” student she wanted him to hear. Wong gave Jeric a lesson.

“We really clicked,” Jeric said. “If you don’t have that connection with a teacher, it can really deteriorate your growth and prevent you from succeeding.”

Wong said Jeric came to Kent State that summer to attend the Piano Institute program. Although Jeric applied to six colleges, he picked Kent State because of the bond he had developed with Wong.

“I felt working with him would give me the most growth and that he would push me the most in my four years,” Jeric said.

The Bridge: Transition From a Hobby to Making Piano a Career

Wong has worked closely with Jeric since he came to Kent State. He said he has given Jeric weekly one-hour lessons, worked with him in studio classes and taught him piano literature.

During his college career, Jeric has learned how to play other keyboard instruments and was able to take lessons on the pipe organ. He has continued to play recitals and entered competitions throughout his college career. This year he won Kent’s Concerto Competition, which was a big honor for him.

“It’s to the point right now where, as a performer, you need to start competing and seeing how you rank among other pianists,” Jeric said.

He said he has three upcoming competitions in Ohio before the semester ends. He also has a lecture recital, senior recital and three recital accompaniments to perform before the semester and his senior year come to a close.

“Richard is able to learn music very rapidly while maintaining good quality,” Wong said. “He has a very good work ethic and is dedicated to what he is doing.”

Fermata: The End as an Undergraduate, but the Start of a Graduate

Jeric said he has been preparing five pieces since the end of April for his graduate auditions. In the last month Jeric has traveled to five different states for five graduate auditions. He said he performed his final audition at Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, Md. on Feb. 25.

Jeric said he was on the go from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. while auditioning at Peabody.

“We were asked to prepare five songs totaling 50 minutes of music, but you only get to present parts of three songs totaling 10 minutes,” Jeric said. “You have to listen for the tap of the pen to know when it’s time to stop and move on. It’s difficult when you know it’s coming, but can’t focus on it.”

He said that he is still waiting to hear back from the auditions.

“Ultimately the audience’s positive reaction gives me the most pleasure and a sense of accomplishment,” Jeric said. “I live for the next performance, and I don’t know what I would do if I ever stopped performing.”

Contact Brooke Bower at [email protected].