Piano student will perform with orchestra

Bo Gemmell

While most students cram for final exams toward the end of the semester, one student spends endless hours preparing for something else.

Mark Greer, a graduate student in piano performance, will perform his first-year graduate recital for the public at the end of April. Unlike most recitals, Greer’s will include something different — he decided to form a chamber orchestra to perform with him.

“In the time I’ve been here, I’ve never seen a student put something together like this,” piano professor Jerry Wong said.

Greer said he couldn’t find all the needed musicians at Kent State, so he had to look elsewhere.

“It’s not common because it’s an organizational nightmare,” percussion professor Ted Rounds said. “You have to get that many people together, and they have to have a few rehearsals.”

The orchestra will accompany Greer during his main piece, a Mozart concerto.

Greer compiled music from contrasting time periods. He specifically picked music from Johann Sebastian Bach, an innovative German composer from the Baroque period, to supplement the Mozart selection.

“Bach is my favorite composer overall,” he said. “The more I learn about music, the more I appreciate Bach.”

Greer performed for a recital committee about two weeks before his public recital. The committee consisted of three faculty members in the Hugh A. Glauser School of Music. The two piano faculty members, Donna Lee and Wong, and Rounds observed the performance.

“We just listen to him play his entire program and determine whether he’s ready,” Rounds said. “We don’t want somebody going out on a graduate recital and blowing it.”

Rounds said students usually only have minor issues to correct.

“(Greer) is a fine player and a mature adult, so I’m sure he’ll do fine,” he said.

Greer said pianists must have all the their material memorized, and the recital committee wants the students to have good experiences in their performances.

“When it comes down to it, (the recital committee) doesn’t want anyone to go out there and fall apart,” he said.

From curious to “hooked”

While in elementary school, Greer said he observed a pianist playing during a field trip and grew interested. He said he learned piano “relatively late,” toward the end of seventh grade.

“It was harder in certain ways,” he said. “I had to spend more time working on things because my experience was more limited.”

Thanks to his experience in violin and upright bass, Greer already knew how to read notes.

“I’d read as much as I could on certain composers,” he said.

Greer’s interest escalated through middle and high school. With the aid of his music teacher, his passion continued to soar.

“Curiosity ran wild with me. I always wanted to hear as many great pianists as I could.”

A match at first sight

As his passion continued to grow, Greer chose to study music at the university level. He attended Bowling Green State University and earned a bachelor’s degree of music in piano performance.

Greer searched for an institution to further his education. Syracuse University accepted Greer, but the Akron native decided to look closer to home. A professor at Syracuse recommended Wong.

Greer had a lesson with Wong last spring.

“From that first lesson, I knew it would be a match that worked,” he said.

Greer said the most important aspect to receiving quality music education is having the best teacher possible.

“We understand each other’s humor,” Greer said. “It’s a nice, cordial thing. The close, personal bond is even more important. When that’s there, there’s a better chance to absorb all of what (the educator) wants to pass on.”

Wong said piano students work in isolated circumstances with professors.

“I can’t think of too many other fields where a student gets an hour alone with a professor,” he said.

An informal practice

Mozart’s music burst throughout Wong’s second-floor office in the Music and Speech Building April 11.

Greer met with Wong and musicology professor Theodore Albrecht, who conducted the recital, to practice the pieces.

“My main tie with (the orchestra) is through the conductor,” Greer said.

Greer picked Albrecht for his “zeal and spirit.” He said he took a course by Albrecht and asked him to conduct in December.

“You’re in good shape,” Albrecht said after the first piece. “This is going to be no problem at all.”

Wong and Albrecht offered sporadic advice, but Greer’s fingers created most of the sound that afternoon.

“This is going to be wonderful,” Albrecht said.

During the rehearsal, Greer ran through the program without the orchestra.

Albrecht said the addition of the orchestra will create “an extremely different tonal picture.” He said some of Greer’s orchestra musicians performed together in the past, and some will work together for the first time.

Countdown to the recital

Greer said he needs to devote five or six hours to the performance each day. He’ll work with Wong twice a week to tweak the performance.

“(Wong) has a really keen sense of being able to conclude not just what’s wrong, but why something isn’t working,” Greer said.

Greer said he wants to “put on a group of great pieces for the audience.”

“When you add the audience, it’s really communicating to the audience how you feel about the piece,” Greer said.

Students who can break away from the books may view Greer’s performance at 8 p.m. tomorrow in the Music and Speech Center’s Ludwig Recital Hall.

Contact performing arts reporter Bo Gemmell at [email protected].