On Fridays at 12:20 p.m. if you find yourself looking for a refreshing reprieve from the daily grind, stop in the Recital Hall on the Essex campus located on the first floor of the Arts and Humanities Building. Monica Otal, CCBC’s Music Coordinator has been arranging the Music Forums that occur at Dundalk and Essex. Rebecca Ocampo is the Music Coordinator at Catonsville. Monica’s responsibilities include hiring, leading workshops and master classes, preparing the programs, and setting up the recital hall. In her spare time she’s teaching and advising students while editing the schedules for the semester and assisting with the Music Departments activities.
Monica explains that each performer who is selected has been reviewed by either listening to them live or online, reviewing their reputation – they come highly recommended. Each performer has to be willing to work with students, there is typically an answer and question period after the performance. To keep the Music Forum a fresh experience, performers can be rehired every 3 or 4 years. She considers a wide variety genres, covering the gamut from classical to rock and everything in between. Peabody and University of Maryland students are a resource of talent, giving them an opportunity to expand their performance resume.
The Music Forums were initially created to provide CCBC music students an avenue to experience live performances, to listen and learn. As a requirement for some classes, students will complete a variety of assignments, attendance is taken for Music Majors, and extra credit can be earned. The Music Forums are unique to CCBC because they occur every Friday during the Fall and Spring semesters and they include performers from the talented musical community outside of the college.
In addition to the Music Forums at Essex, Casual Concerts are held at Dundalk on Thursdays at 11:15 a.m. in Room 130 and at Catonsville on Wednesdays at 11:15 a.m. in the Lounge. These concerts were started as a way for people to enjoy a concert while having lunch. They have evolved into a formal atmosphere, eliminating distraction and providing a beneficial experience to students and the community. These performers also appear at the Essex Music Forums..
Mark Valenti performed a selection of classical and blues this past Friday at the Essex Music Forum. He ended with an improvised rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Following his enjoyable recital, he lead a Master Class. The discussion began with asking the audience the meaning of the word piano. Mr. Valenti described how the piano evolved from a harpsichord, replacing levers that pluck strings with hammers. This produces a more tonal sound.
CCBC Music Majors Joel Lingg played Beethoven’s Sonata #5 in C Minor and Sarah Bruns played Liebermann’s Gargoyles 2nd Movement. While seated at the piano, Mr. Valenti asked each student to play a specific selection, questioned them on the difference aspects, and instructed them to include imperceptible pauses, and use the pedals on the piano. He advised everyone when practicing to try a variety of ways to play, slower, faster, quieter, louder. This makes the piece dynamic – adds color and creativity.
When asked how long it takes to memorize his music, Mr. Valenti explained there are different ways to accomplish this. He prefers to memorize by ear and analytical memory while also using his photographic memory. Muscle memory, playing over and over and over again does not work. This way of practicing usually results in everything going out the window at the time of performance, nerves get the best of you. His first practice session is right brained, he feels the music and his second practice session is left brained thinking about the music. His day usually consists of practicing from 9a.m. to 5p.m. and then teaching from 5p.m. to 9p.m.
When performing Mr. Valenti prefers to improvise, he wants to be creative, keeping it fun and exciting. “Essence of communication is intention”, a favorite aphorism of Mr. Valenti’s by Werner Erhard. Music is a universal language.