Penn State College of Arts and Architecture
Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State

Mosaic an annual reminder of School of Music’s creative spirit

Mosaic an annual reminder of School of Music’s creative spirit

Having been a Penn State School of Music student through an undergraduate degree and most of a master’s degree, the annual Mosaic concert has become embedded as an annual tradition for me. During the one year in which I was teaching and taking some time off from school, I felt a void around the first week of December.

Mosaic is perhaps the most interesting concert of the year for the School of Music. It is the only performance in which representatives from every ensemble and performance area are involved. Large ensembles sit on the stage. Dispersed around the auditorium are small groups, choir members, and solo performers. Each group performs a short piece of varying character and style, done without pause between each work. It is so fast-paced that the audience doesn’t have a chance to applaud until the end of an entire act.

The preparation is one of the most impressive components. The conducting faculty work together, through several nights of auditions, to select performances based on how well they fit as a whole. They then have to organize them so that the transitions between pieces are smooth and, most importantly, effective.

On the day before the performance, several hours are devoted to practicing transitions between pieces. When everything seems in order, each half of the performance is played straight through as a true dress rehearsal. It is a long but exciting rehearsal. Most students and faculty find themselves at Eisenhower Auditorium for the entire day.

Throughout my time at Penn State, I have been involved in Mosaic in a variety of ways. Each year I have been a member of the Symphonic Wind Ensemble or the Philharmonic Orchestra. Both ensembles sit on the stage during their respective halves of the event. I believe the stage is the best seat in the house to watch the performance. I have countless memories of friends or colleagues performing throughout the hall while I watched from the stage.

In addition to being involved in one of the large ensembles during Mosaic, I also performed as a woodwind quintet member for two years and as part of a clarinet duet. All three small group experiences were incredible performing opportunities, made even more special by playing in the groups with dear friends. We brought a variety of music to Mosaic—a hilarious mishmash of well-known classical pieces highlighting each quintet member’s most famous orchestral excerpts; a relentless piece called CHUMS! (played with great friends, of course); and a Sonata for Two Clarinets by Francis Poulenc, in which the composer seemed to have created one instrument in the perfect way he wrote for two players. I can still remember where I stood or sat for each performance, waiting in the wings—sometimes literally—for our turn to play.

On December 7, my final Mosaic was no exception for being special. I was chosen along with my piano player, a talented doctor of musical arts student, to perform another piece by Francis Poulenc—the Romanza from his Sonata for Clarinet and Piano. It is an incredibly sublime, expressive French solo work that utilizes the range of the clarinet, showing listeners how soft and how loud the instrument can play while maintaining the emotional, lyrical quality of the music.

I was the second performer of the first act, so I didn’t have much time to get nervous. A memory that stands out was waiting on stage while the choir before me sang. The piece it performed required careful listening because it sounded as though the work was about to end at any second. I had to be on my toes for a smooth transition. The choir piece was beautiful and exciting, and the thought of it makes my heart pound. As I listened closely, I couldn’t help but notice that every seat in the auditorium was occupied. I don’t think I had ever before performed for that many people. The positive energy from so many people made for a performance of which I am proud.

The positive feeling that rushed through me continued throughout the remainder of Mosaic. Though each year has been special, 2014, in particular, was remarkable. Each year I try to take a mental snapshot of the finale. I try to note how it ended, the energy of the audience, and the looks of my teachers and colleagues as they accepted a well-deserved applause. As I get older and move on from the Penn State, it will be those moments that linger in my memory. Everything about the experience reminds me that coming to the School of Music was the best decision I could have made to culture my musicianship and creative spirit.

The Center for the Performing Arts is part of the College of Arts and Architecture at Penn State.
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