There’s a famous Leonard Bernstein quote that filters through social media every time a crisis happens:

“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.”

Bernstein was speaking in 1963, just after the assassination of President Kennedy (in fact, you can read the story and even see his handwritten draft of this statement on the New York Philharmonic’s website).

Since that day, his words have had a far-reaching resonance for musicians, and I’ve found them coming to mind in our current circumstances.

As we’ve stayed home to help keep each other safe, I’ve been so grateful for the way our video chat lessons have brought cheer to an uncertain spring.

So it’s fitting that every track in this semester’s recital is positively brimming with personality — a true testament to making music “intensely, beautifully, and devotedly.” Enjoy!

Harlow, piano, age 7: Please Teach Us

“I like playing music! Playing piano makes me feel good. With online lessons, I miss seeing Owen the cat. I haven’t petted him in awhile, but at home I snuggle with Maddie a lot. If I had a friend who wanted to learn music, I would show them how to do things like play staccato. It’s a bouncy way of playing.”

(Alfred’s Music for Little Mozarts, Book 3: p. 10)

Isadora, piano, age 7: Ode to Joy

“Starting piano lessons has been fun because I like learning. To be good at learning piano, you need to be able to focus. One thing I have learned about piano is that the letters only go to G and then you start again with A. To tell if you need a high G or a low G, you look at middle C, and the high G is on the high side and the low G is on the low side. I chose Ode to Joy for my recital song because I like its beat.”

(Melody by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), arranged in Faber My First Piano Adventure, Book B: pp. 12-13)

Sophie, piano, age 7: King of the Land

“The trickiest part of this song is playing with multiple fingers at the same time at the end. To figure it out, I tried it a bunch of times and eventually I got it. Now it’s easy. Piano lessons online have been fun because I can stay home. My cat Spooky comes up on the bench sometimes just like Owen does at Lisa’s house. Spooky does this the most when the blinds are open and he can lay in the sunlight.”

(Faber My First Piano Adventure, Book B: pp. 40-41)

Axel, piano, age 8: Going Undercover

“If this music were in a movie, it would be one about spies and the audience would feel surprised! In this song, the first two lines are the easy part, although the two lines end differently despite looking almost the same. Then, the last three lines are trickier because you have to put the two hands together, and the left hand has to play more notes. This semester I learned that sometimes the songs are hard, but then they get easier when you start practicing them!”

(Daniel McFarlane, SuperSonics Piano Method: Level Two, p. 43)

Clio, piano, age 8: Music Box Dance

“I picked bells for the sound of my song because I really like how you hit them with a stick and then the sound continues. To record my song, I really had to play with the beat. That means, you have to be able to start at one speed and continue the same speed for the whole song. Also, if there is a repeat sign, you have to play it again. Something I’ve learned in this semester is to focus on my hand position and play the right notes.”

(Alfred’s Music for Little Mozarts, Book 3: p. 25)

Lucas, piano, age 8: Hot Chocolate, Whipped Cream Day

“This song has tied notes, which means you add the number of beats together. When I recorded it, I wanted it to be a silly song because I like whipped cream and I like being silly. So I picked the banjo and tried to make it sound like country music. I also wanted to make sure there was enough cowbell.”

(Faber My First Piano Adventure, Book B: pp. 74-75)

Henry, piano, age 9: All Together Now

“I started piano in January and it’s been cool. The fact you get to learn songs makes it fun. To play the songs, you have to play the right notes with the correct hand and fingers. It’s hard because you have to keep practicing and your fingers get tangled up and the songs can be kind of long. Each lesson you want to finish a song and be really good at it. It’s cool how the computer actually records the way you play, and you can see which notes you got right and which notes to change. When we recorded this song, I picked a drummer and a rock guitar. It was fun!”

(Daniel McFarlane, SuperSonics Piano Method: Level One, p. 28)

Josephine, piano, age 9: Ludwig’s Accents

“You can transform a song with the sounds you choose. This song is calming, but the way we recorded it we made it sound exciting because we made it sound like rock music with drums and a guitar. I like how you can take a song and change it any way you want to in order to make it sound the way you like. If I could go back in time and give myself advice for when I was just starting piano, I would say not to try everything at first because the hard parts will confuse you. Instead, break a song into smaller parts so you can learn them. Then, when you put it back together, it will all work out.”

(Melody by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), arranged in Faber My First Piano Adventure, Book C: pp. 28-29)

Macie, piano, age 9: Hungarian Dance

“Listening to this song brings back good memories of being with my family. It sounds like the excitement of holidays together, like on Christmas Day and for Easter. One challenge with learning this song was that there were two parts for me to play. I learned them separately, and then we fit them together when we recorded them. Practicing it with my mom helped make me successful. My advice for anyone who wants to learn piano is to practice with family members, because then you can help each other and learn from your mistakes. During quarantine, I’ve had more time to play piano, so I think I’ve gotten better. Now my songs use both hands at the same time!”

(Melody by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), arranged in Faber My First Piano Adventure, Book C: pp. 10-11)

Will, piano, age 9: Swan Lake

“A tricky part to this song is where there is a rest on the first beat of a measure. I overcame this problem by counting to one and then continuing with the song. When we recorded, I picked sounds that felt like they fit with the peaceful melody. Piano is a fun instrument and your fingers get more flexible and coordinated when you learn it. My advice for anyone who wants to play piano is to just try your best.”

(Melody by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), arranged in Faber My First Piano Adventure, Book C: pp. 38-39)

Colin, piano, age 10: March Slav

“This intense song was a little confusing at first because it had F#s and Ebs next to each other, which is uncomfortable for your fingers. So, I practiced it a lot and got used to that funky feeling. Learning piano online has been weird because I’m not used to learning this way, but now there are more chances to practice because I’ve been home so much. My goal is to be a better player so I can learn even harder songs in the future.”

(Melody by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), arranged by Daniel McFarlane in SuperSonics Piano Method: Level One, p. 137)

Eleanor, piano, age 10: Ignite

“This song is fun to play. It was different from other songs I’ve played because each phrase started with a rest, so the counting was tricky. We recorded it twice so I could do both the piano and the vocals. I wish I had real meows for this song, but I am part cat inside, so when I sang the meows it still worked pretty well. I like piano because you can express yourself in different ways with it.”

(Wunderkeys Rock Repertoire, pp. 90-91)

Lydia, piano, age 10: Jimmy Jams

“This song sounds kind of stressful but also kind of not. The synthesizer sounds I chose made it sound cool. It was a challenge to get my fingers to be in time so that my right hand was synced up with my left hand. This semester I started to learn how to read a lead sheet and create my own left hand part using chord symbols. If I could go back in time and give advice to myself about how to learn piano, I would say to practice more. It always makes your song sound better!”

(Daniel McFarlane, SuperSonics Piano Method: Level Two, p. 25)

Mac, piano, age 10: Winter’s Journey

“This song is kind of relaxing. You can listen to it and feel calm and lazy all at the same time! When I recorded it, I played it with a synthesizer voice and put wind in the background. I like being a musician because I can make cool noises that sound good. I’m proud that I can play almost all the songs in my current level. It will be the first time I graduate from a book! But, my advice for people who want to play is, take it slow and don’t rush yourself through everything.”

(Daniel McFarlane, SuperSonics Piano Method: Level One, p. 54)

Moses, piano, age 10: Jack and the Beanstalk

“What I like about this song is that it’s not really hard, but it’s also not really easy, either. If my recording were used as the background for a movie, there would be something funny happening on screen. Earlier this semester, I played in a talent show. It was kind of scary and I was really nervous, but I just went up on stage and said my name and tried to do it fast and not think about people watching me. In the end, it went pretty well! When I went back to my seat, everybody gave me a high five.”

(Daniel McFarlane, SuperSonics Piano Method: Level Two, pp. 28-29)

Jenna, flute, age 11: The Deer’s March

“This song reminds me of deer jumping. The notes in the song jump between high and low, and as a flutist you have to be ready to change your air. It’s like the downfalls in life but the happy parts, too: sometimes the deer runs because it’s happy, and sometimes it runs because someone is chasing them. In life, something bad happens and then something happy happens, like when the deer gets away and is safe and happy again. So when you play, you need to have bounciness to you. If you feel down, it won’t sound like you’re enjoying it.”

(Traditional Irish tune also known as Marsáil an Fhiadh, found in the Goodman Manuscripts compiled in the 1860s)

Linnea, piano, age 11: Seventeen

“My song is upbeat and cheerful. It sounds like spring! I enjoyed writing it. The rhythm for the right hand was already written and I chose the notes that would go with the rhythm. I played around with them until I found something that sounded good. I think the end result sounds kind of like elevator music, or maybe background music in an app or video game. My advice for someone who wants to write their own song is: just write it!”

(Wunderkeys Intermediate Pop Studies for Piano, Book 1: p. 13)

Bridget, flute, age 12: Hey Ho, Nobody Home

“When we made the recording, I played the melody many times and then we layered them together. It was just me, but the track sounds like it is multiple people playing together. Recording has been interesting because you can practice and practice and practice, but when you record you can still make a mistake. But, it’s different from a concert. In band the concert is usually the big final product, and you only have one shot at it. But with recordings, you can go over it again if you make a mistake. This semester I think I’ve gotten better at controlling my air, even though I wear braces. I’ve been learning how to get a fuller sound. It’s really cool how the flute works, when you think about the difference between taking up one finger on a key and how much just that little thing can change the sound!”

(Folksong found in Thomas Ravenscroft’s 1609 songbook Pammelia)

Sam, piano, age 12: Sparky

“I like how you can express yourself through different forms of music, and you can tweak it according it to your personality. This song was classical and that was good, but then I Sammed it up! I was playing Mario and apparently they use the sitar for the song in one level, and that gave me an inspiration to use that sound in one of my pieces. So, we found a sitar voice on the synthesizer and I used it in this song! Then the song needed a beat, and I can’t just put a metronome in there, so I had to style it somehow. I found this drummer and the result was amazing. I enjoyed creating it, so I hope you have fun listening to it!”

(Daniel McFarlane, SuperSonics Piano Method: Level Two, pp. 68-69)

Sarah, flute, age 12: Newcastle

“When we recorded this song, I was joking around and made bubbly sounds with my keys. At first we were just curious about how it would sound, but then I thought it would be fun to put them at the beginning and end of the song. It worked well because Newcastle is so sweet and cheerful and upbeat.”

(Traditional country dance tune found in John Playford’s 1651 collection The English Dancing Master)

Drew, flute, age 13: Bransle de Montirande

“I like how smooth this song is, and how it somehow sounds happy and eerie at the same time. Recording this song was a little tricky at first because of the ups and downs of the melody, but we kept doing it until we got it right. All in all, I really like the Renaissance melodies we’ve done. The way you slur in certain places, and the way the melody works together with the rhythm, are neat aspects of this kind of music.”

(Original arrangement of a melody from Michael Praetorius’s Terpsichore, published in 1612)

Madeline, piano, age 13: Elevate Three

“This song feels like floating on clouds. It’s so wispy and beautiful! I hope people will forget about their worries when they listen to my song. It was tricky to learn and I really had to work on my timing and getting my right hand and left hand to play at the same time but also at different times. This semester I’ve learned that bass clef isn’t really as hard as I thought it was, because there are lots of tricks you can use to remember what note goes where (like calling it the “burrito clef”: Good Burritos Don’t Fall Apart and Always Carry Extra Guac).”

(Daniel McFarlane, SuperSonics Piano Method: Level Three, pp. 12-13)

Mia, flute, age 13: Hidden Village

“Zelda is one of my favorite video games, and I remembered this melody from the background of one of the levels. Playing it on the flute had some challenges, like the rhythm and making sure to not hold each note too long or too short. Plus, this song has a high E, which is a tricky note on the flute, but I practiced it and in the end it came out just right!”

(Composed by Toru Minegishi for the 2006 game The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess)

Audrey, flute, age 14: Nightingale

“This song sounds like a happy morning! At first it was tricky to get the rhythm right with both parts so that the parts would fit together, but I listened to the recording of myself playing the first part while I recorded the second part. That way, I could make sure they meshed together. This past semester I feel I have grown in terms of getting my sound to be clear and to play in the middle octave. I like the sound of the flute!”

(Folksong of uncertain origin arranged in Trevor Wye’s Beginner’s Book for the Flute: Part One, p. 22)

Avery, flute, age 14: Cold Frosty Morning

“This song really grew on me! At first I thought the song was okay but then I started to realize it was harder than I thought. First, I needed to figure out the rhythm and how to fit the breaths into it. This semester, I’ve focused on how to breathe within the beat and without losing time. (If I could go back in time to when I began playing flute, I would use a metronome more!) Then, it was challenging to match both parts so that the A part and the B part blended together, because they feel different. The A part is slightly more of a march feel, and the second part is lighter and has higher notes. As I worked through the tricky parts I realized I liked this song more than I originally thought, and it became one of my favorites for the semester.”

(Original arrangement of an American Old-Time fiddle tune, not to be confused with the Scottish air of the same name despite frequent connections between these musical traditions)

Jonathan, flute, age 14: Return from Fingal

“This recording experience was different because of the pandemic. At home, I had to deal with people’s noisy lawnmowers and other kinds of background noise. But, I persevered, and after many takes I got a sound I was satisfied with. Then, Lisa added backing and mixed the song together. There has been a bright side to quarantine: I have been freed from the chains of institutional learning and am finally free to explore the music of the world. In fact, according to my Skype profile, I never stop practicing now that I am at home all day!”

(Original arrangement of a traditional Irish march said to be played by Brian Boru’s troops when they returned from their 1014 battle at Clontarf, also known as Fine Gall (‘foreigner’s territory’))

Lindsay, flute, age 14: Carolan’s Cottage

“This song is so lyrical! It sounds like tufts on the top of a cloud. As a flutist, I’ve been growing especially in terms of my finger technique, whether it’s knowing when to use alternate fingerings or practicing moving smoothly between notes. With this song, I extended this focus to concentrate on ornamentation by adding cuts and bounces to highlight certain notes. Traditional music has a different feel to it. It can be something really simple and you can make it sound really beautiful.”

(Original arrangement of a traditional Irish tune attributed to Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738))

A’jah, flute, age 16: Allegro

“When we recorded this song, I found that getting the first part down was easy, but the second part was more challenging. I had to keep practicing to get the rhythm of the held note in my head, so I broke it down into pieces and eventually got it. The lower part was hard too because I would play the right notes but my sound would be weak, so I wanted to do it many times. Quarantine has actually given me more free time to practice flute. Usually I am running between groups and events, but now I’m home and can play more music. This semester in particular, I’ve learned that scales help you with playing different songs because scales are placed in songs, even though you might play a different rhythm with those same notes. When I started lessons, my tone was enclosed, but now I fill the room with my flute sound.”

(From “Seventeen Duos Arranged from the Works of Anonymous Eighteenth Century Composers,” Rubank Selected Duets for Flute: Volume 1, p. 22)

Megan, flute, age 16: Tomorrow is Saint Valentine’s Day

“We literally recorded this on the day before Valentine’s Day, so it was perfectly appropriate! To create my arrangement, I learned how to write a harmony for a piece of music. We looked at the chords as a starting point for selecting our harmonizing notes. This song represented a newer style of music for me, because I don’t listen to a lot of English music. The quarantine has allowed me more time to play, and it’s been a fun adventure to learn how to record using GarageBand on my own.”

(Original arrangement of the folk tune Lady Spellor/A Soldier’s Life, used as the basis for one of Ophelia’s songs in Hamlet)

Lilly, flute, age 17: Queen of the Earth, Child of the Skies

“This song is very unique and different from the music I usually play at school. It was really fun to play, too. I enjoyed having recording at home as an option during quarantine, and it was pretty easy to learn how to do. Over the past semester, I’ve extended my flute technique by learning about double tonguing and vibrato. In the future I hope to play more interesting songs like this on the flute.”

(Traditional American tune by Edden Hammons (1875-1955), based on the traditional Irish tune “The Blackbird”)

Listen to our previous virtual recitals: