Degree recital. The term is immediately recognized by musicians everywhere, regardless of instrument or degree ? bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral students alike. A graduation requirement, all students must perform one in their final year of study at Eastman. It’s like LSATs for musicians. And just as scary.

This weekend, along with approximately 20 other people, I attended the doctoral degree recital of bassoonist Lynn Hileman, whose studio requires that its members attend each other’s recitals, barring exceptional circumstances. Even still, at the end of the evening, 42 hands applauding barely made a dent in the hall.

Many studios don’t have a recital requirement, which often results in few attendees at degree recitals. For example, I attended a bachelor’s degree recital last year that had only seven people in the audience, including myself.

Sadly, the performers are not the only ones who suffer because of the low attendance. So do Eastman students and the rest of the Rochester community.

Because Eastman students possess such a high level of musicianship, degree recitals are a guaranteed hour of good music, regardless of whether the performer is going for her bachelorate or doctorate.

Additionally, they represent an opportunity to hear music selected by your peers.

Each week, there are countless ensemble performances in Eastman Theatre and Kilbourn Hall, but the music performed in these concerts is not chosen by the performers, but rather by the conductors.

In a degree recital, the performer chooses the works, with guidance from her studio teacher. In many cases, only a few of these works are well-known. By attending degree recitals, you get to hear pieces that are normally not performed.

You might even discover a new favorite composer or chamber music grouping.

Degree recitals also have certain requirements regarding the music. For most degrees, the program must consist of at least one piece with piano accompaniment and one work for a small chamber ensemble, such as a quartet or quintet. Thus, you get a wide variety of music, helping to build your knowledge of less traditional repertoire.

It’s an opportunity that no one should skip. The Eastman Concert Office even posts recital programs outside of the office door, giving you the opportunity to check an upcoming program to see what new music you’ll get to hear.

But even still, say you actually have played all of the music that will be performed. By attending anyhow, in that mere hour you’re providing the most critical element of a recital ? the support of their peers.

The music life is a hard one. After graduating from college, you either go back for more college, you start teaching or you audition for jobs. The competition is fierce regardless of what path you follow.

One of the great things about Eastman, though, is that the competition is friendly. Yes, your peers in college will inevitably be your competitors at some point, but right now everybody’s friends.

Nobody’s ripping the pages out of the only available copy of the score that you need to analyze for that upcoming music history paper, and there’s nobody destroying your reeds everytime you turn around.

Needless to say, part of this friendly competition is support. You support your friends and they support you. And, since there’s nothing worse than playing a recital for an empty hall, why not go show your support? In return, you get to listen to free music and know that, when your turn comes to walk out onto the stage of Kilbourn, there will be people in the audience applauding.

Who knows. If you’d been there Sunday night, you would have heard the sounds of the city ? also known as four cellos, three basses and a bassoon.

Jansen can be reached at

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