Evie Werger

Evie Werger headshotWhat are your interests/activities/ensembles at Lawrence?
I’m continuously involved in a number of new music chamber groups (including the official Lawrence New Music Ensemble), I work a lot with the saxophone studio, and I’m an Accompanying Fellow.  I’m also the Secretary Treasurer for the Lawrence student chapter of MTNA and a piano tutor. Beyond that, I take organ lessons and host open jam sessions in my dorm room on the weekends alongside the members of my band, the Melodikids (a melodica ensemble).

What repertoire are you working on right now?
I’m working on the world premiere of piano trio I commissioned from a doctoral student at the University of Pittsburgh. I’m currently doing research on my favorite composer, Nancy Van De Vate, and am trying to learn as much of her music as I can. I’m learning Kate Soper’s Voices from the Killing Jar to take on tour to Texas over spring break, and I’m also working on some Ligeti Etudes, a C.P.E. Bach Fantasy, and selections from a Renaissance keyboard collection, the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book.

What’s the best concert you’ve attended at Lawrence?
It’s a toss-up between three. The concert that Eighth Blackbird gave my freshman year was my first experience hearing contemporary music and it completely altered the direction of my life and music career. The student and faculty performance of Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians was also one of the most cathartic and visceral musical experiences I’ve ever had. Finally, the 2018 New Music Series concert Coming Together was both one of the most deeply personal concerts I’ve performed in, playing on Frederic Rzewski’s Coming Together, and also one of the most inspiring concerts I’ve attended while watching George Antheil’s Ballet Mécanique.

What’s been your favorite memory at Lawrence?
Giving my junior recital last year was eye-opening for me in ways I would never have imagined. It was a unique experience because I was able to plan and curate the entire program alongside my good friend with whom I shared the recital, and we were able to perform in the Esch-Hurvis Studio in the Warch Campus Center (where the walls are floor-to-ceiling glass panels overlooking the Fox River).  Together we performed a program of pieces written by women composers in the last 50 years. A ton of people come up to me afterward and told me that they had cried or experienced deep personal connections to the music. At the same time, I felt overwhelmingly proud, humbled, intimidated, and inspired to have created something that meant so much to a large number of people.

What drew you to Lawrence?
During my senior year of high school, I had the opportunity to have a lesson with Professor Michael Mizrahi, and after that lesson, Lawrence rose to the top of my list because I knew I wanted to study with him. I also really valued the small class sizes and that I would be able to take classes in many different areas of study.

What are your plans for life after Lawrence?
I plan on going to graduate school, hopefully either in New York or California. After that, I want to start a nation-wide outreach organization that brings contemporary music to under-funded schools or cities as a way to help kids (especially those who are marginalized or at-risk) understand and process their societies and cultures in ways that builds community, communication, support, and empathy.

Craig Jordan

Craig Jordan headshotWhere are you from and what is your major?
Ames, Iowa
Piano Performance Major

What are your interests/activities/ensembles at Lawrence?
During my time at Lawrence, I’ve been a part of many (if not too many) groups! I was the freshman representative for the Lawrence University Community Council, the keyboard representative for the Dean’s Advisory Council, and for the last two years have been president of Lawrence’s Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia chapter, a music fraternity on campus. As far as ensembles go, I started out playing the french horn in the Symphonic Band and piano in Wind Ensemble. Since then, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed playing as much chamber music that I can get away with. I’ve always been working with other musicians and scheming something up for future terms. 

What repertoire are you working on right now?
J.S. Bach - Prelude & Fugue in D Major BWV 850
Beethoven - Sonata in E-flat Major Op. 31 No. 3
Robert Schumann - Novelette Op. 21 No. 8
Rachmaninov - Étude-Tableau in D Minor Op. 33 No. 5
David Del Tredici - Virtuoso Alice

What's the best concert you've attended at Lawrence?
It’s impossible to pick just one, we have so many incredible guest artists come in. Recently, Ann Schein performed in the Chapel and it was amazing! Two concerts that I always remember as being pivotal in my Lawrence career were the Concerto Competition Winner’s Concert and the Commencement Concert during my freshman year. Sofie Yang played the Sibelius Violin Concerto and I was completely blown away. I was fortunate enough to be collaborating with someone on the Commencement Concert and just being surrounded by all the incredible upperclassmen showcasing their talents honed at Lawrence was totally awe-inspiring.

What's been your favorite memory at Lawrence?
My favorite memories at Lawrence have been working in chamber groups and getting to know my friends and colleagues better in that context. There’s a special bond that seems to come through making music with friends.

What drew you to Lawrence?
Originally I didn’t want to apply to Lawrence, but my mom insisted that I apply because it looked like a great music school. As soon as I got to campus, the atmosphere was great, the campus was pretty, and most importantly I loved the keyboard faculty. After taking a couple sample lessons, I knew that this was the place for me. Mom is always right!

What are your plans for life after Lawrence?
Currently, I’m working on graduate school applications for solo piano performance.

More thoughts:
Every day I’m thankful that I’m a student at Lawrence and surrounded by the amazing faculty and students here. I’m lucky to be at a place where the professors have invested so much in me and helped me grow to be the musician I am and will be.

Ben Portzen

Ben Portzen headshotWhere are you from and what is your major?

Rosemount, Minnesota
B.M. in Composition (Piano as major instrument)

What are your interests/activities/ensembles at Lawrence?

At Lawrence I’m a part of several new music chamber groups that I love! One focuses on playing works by and commissioning new works from composers belonging to marginalized groups. This is a particularly fulfilling experience because it allows us to not only contribute to but diversify the future of classical music while getting to play some incredible pieces. Another group I’m in focuses on playing pieces written for NOW Ensemble, a new music group that Professor Mizrahi co-founded and plays piano in. I also
do free improvisation in solo and collaborative settings!

What repertoire are you working on right now?

Right now I’m spending a lot of time working on chamber music by living composers. Adrian Knight’s The
Ringing World
and Molly Herron’s Ebb Tide are for a trio I’m in, while Nico Muhly’s How About Now,
Missy Mazzoli’s Magic With Everyday Objects, and Judd Greenstein’s Folk Music are for the NOW Ensemble group. In terms of solo repertoire I’m working on Hoyt-Schermerhorn by Christopher Cerrone, Shostakovich’s e minor prelude and fugue, and continuing work on the Franck Prelude Chorale et Fugue. I’m also composing a solo piano piece with interactive electronics that use biometrics to alter the sound.

What’s the best concert you’ve attended at Lawrence?

So far my favorite concert has been 2018’s ImprovisationaLU festival of freely improvised music that I co-organized with one of my peers. Dan Tepfer fused jazz and classical improvisation, Mazz Swift performed an incredibly powerful semi-improvised piece dedicated to Trayvon Martin, and the bass-dance duo of Jason Roebke (‘96) and Ayako Kato blew me away with their connection to one another. However, this spring NOW Ensemble and Alarm Will Sound are coming and I have a feeling they may rise to the top of my list.

What’s been your favorite memory at Lawrence?

My favorite memory thus far has been organizing ImprovisationaLU 2018 and booking other artists to play at Lawrence. We brought in artists who push the boundaries of music and are also people that we admire. I got to hang out with Dan Tepfer, host freely improvised jam sessions at The Draw (a local performance space open to the public), and spend time with inspirational musicians from around the world. Plus I got to share all of these experience with my peers for free! I also booked a free improvisation trio that Cory Smythe, pianist in the International Contemporary Ensemble, plays in which brought students of classical and jazz music together. I feel very lucky that Lawrence has given me the ability to make these performances happen and share them with the student musicians around me.

What drew you to Lawrence?

My piano teacher attended a masterclass by Professor Kautsky that sparked her interest in Lawrence. Because of this, when I decided I wanted to pursue music as a profession (not until my senior year of high school) she recommended I go have a sample lesson and look around campus. Being on campus felt great and everyone was more friendly than I ever imagined, plus my sample lessons showed me both the quality of the faculty and the energy they put into each student’s success.

More thoughts:

Lawrence’s piano faculty are some of the most supportive teachers and musicians I’ve met! It’s been both fun and enriching working with them in different capacities. I’m also thankful every day that I’ve been able to explore so many different sides of my creativity with professors across all disciplines.

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