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The music department invited mezzo-soprano Megan Ihnen and viola player Michael Hall to teach a master class on Tuesday, March 5.

About nine students performed pieces in which Hall and Ihnen gave their input and offered ways to improve their performances.

Michael Hall is recognized as a soloist and teacher with over 50 compositions written for him. 

Hall also teaches at VanderCook College of Music in Chicago and has performed live on National Public Radio and Thailand Public Broadcasting Service TV.

“Michael here is just a phenomenal player,” said Nadia Shpachenko, professor of music and organizer of the event. “He actually founded one of the only professional orchestras in Indonesia.”

Joshua Tessler (piano), Yamille Jaievsky (violin) and Michael Hall (viola, right). (Ashley Rowles / The Poly Post)

Ihnen has performed with individuals around the globe including International Contemporary Ensemble, Fifth House Ensemble, Great Noise Ensemble and multiple others.

After Hall and Ihnen were introduced to the audience, two students got up to play the first piece, “Sonata E minor,” by Johannes Brahms.

After the performance, Hall started off with some basic questions by asking how long these students had been working on the pieces they performed.

“We all practice so often in isolation, most of my time is by myself because music is such a solitary act with not much engagement, so it is very easy for all of us to fall into a pattern of an expectation of our self to engage by singularly looking at the stand,” Hall said.

Students who performed onstage asked many questions on how they can improve their emotional connection to the piece they performed.

“When I am practicing, I am focusing more on the notes rather than the connection to the music,” said music industry studies student Adrianna Curcio-Rizzato.

The last piece that was performed was “O Mio Babbino Caro,” which included a student mezzo-soprano and a student pianist.

Ihnen advised the singer to connect the idea of the piece and how they perform it.

“Yes, we have the notes and the rhythm, but we really want to lean on the sound to get across what the song is trying to portray,” Ihnen said.

Ihnen really wanted the singer to tell the story using her facial expressions and body movements and also using her movements to notify the pianist when it is time to change the note. 

She advised the singer to use her forearm when singing to lead the pianist in the right direction in changing notes.

“Anytime you have an aria you are really explaining your emotions and your emotional intent, and so doing that together there is as much push and pull as you all can work out together to really describe what is happening in the scene,” Ihnen said.

After the performances, students were invited to ask questions about Hall’s and Ihnen’s careers or about the pieces that were performed.

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