Senior music majors prepare, perform senior recitals

Many seniors in the Baylor School of Music perform in senior recitals toward the end of the year, which some see as the culmination of all their hardwork. Photo courtesy of John Salvino (

Thomas Moran | Arts and Life Editor

Just you, your instrument of choice, an empty stage and an audience waiting to be impressed. Sounds intimidating, right? Every year around this time, seniors in the School of Music face this daunting moment toward which all of their collegiate education has been building — senior recitals.

Corpus Christi senior Hank Carrillo studied organ performance during his time at Baylor and had his senior recital Wednesday evening. As the date for his recital approached, Carrillo increased his daily practice hours to around three hours a day during the week and more than 3 hours a day during weekends.

Unlike smaller instruments, organs are somewhat permanent fixtures, making them difficult to move. Therefore, organ students are required to schedule their practice times.

“We have five practice different practice organs that we have available for use,” Carrillo said. “We can schedule times in Jones Concert Hall if we’re upperclassmen to practice on that organ, which is kind of essential if we have lessons in there or recitals going on.”

Seniors specializing in other instruments utilize the many soundproof practice rooms throughout the Glennis McCrary Music Building. One such student, Grand Prairie senior Jacob Cliborn, performed his clarinet senior recital earlier this month.

Before their recitals, students first must pass their hearing, during which each student performs their set for higher-ups in the School of Music who decide whether or not the student is recital-ready. After being approved to perform, seniors select a variety of songs from diverse backgrounds and styles to showcase what they’ve learned throughout their time at Baylor.

“As an organist, you’re kind of obligated to play something by Bach,” Carrillo said. “He is sort of the most important composer ever for the organ. I had a lot of French music on my program. I played a piece by this guy named Max Reger, who was a German composer around the turn of the 20th century.”

Cliborn opted for an alternative music set by commissioning two Baylor students, Cinco Ranch senior Jeffry Langford and Leander sophomore Mitchell Gilly, to write music for him, which he played alongside a few well-known songs.

“One of them I commissioned about a year ago,” Cliborn said. “So he got to write me a piece that was a clarinet solo with no accompaniment. It was very 21st century style, very abstract … The other piece was written by my friend Mitch, which was a ragtime kind of piece. It was very jazzy. Both of them were very fun to play.”

Studying for her Bachelor of Arts rather than a Bachelor of Music, New Orleans senior Isabel Randall was not required to hold a recital, but chose to perform in preparation for her graduate school auditions.

“I wanted to have things on my recital that were both challenging and fun,” Randall said. “I had an Italian set, a German set, an English-American song set and a musical theater set. But I did have an oratory at the very beginning. In total, I had about 13 songs.”

Largely unappreciated by most outsiders, Cliborn said, seniors are required to schedule, coordinate and prepare most details of the recital, while also keeping on top of their school work.

“You put in a lot of extra hours on your instrument to improve and perform these pieces, along with all of your academic work,” Carrillo said. “The performer is in charge of everything that goes on in the recital, and that includes picking and making the program, picking the pieces to play and in what order, stylistic features of it, pretty much everything that goes into it is all decided by the performer.”

Regardless of the challenges in preparing for a recital, performing the music for friends and family after four years of hard work and dedication is one of the most rewarding experiences imaginable, Cliborn said.

“It’s probably one of the best feelings that a musician can have,” Cliborn said. “That’s what it’s all about — the performance. Building everything up and finally doing it and completing what you set out to do was one of the most accomplished feelings I’ve ever had in my entire life.”

For Carrillo, the experience was as sentimental as it was rewarding.

“You leave everything out there on the stage,” Carrillo said. “All those memories of practicing and having good times with my friends and stuff kept coming back to me while I was out there, and it was a pretty emotional experience.”

Despite the nerves leading up to the event with over 50 people in attendance, her recital was one of the calmest of her performing life thus far, Randall said.

“I initially was terrified,” Randall said. “My recital was in the [McLean] Foyer of Meditation in Armstrong Browning Library. But it was so strange. I’ve never felt so calm or comfortable performing in my life. I was in a whole different space and positive frame of mind.”