Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015, will go down in the history of Odessa College as the day when its status as a major institution of musical training was verified.
On this date the officials of the Steinway & Sons piano company awarded the plaque that proclaimedOdessa College as an All-Steinway School. This now makes it included in the 179 campuses nationwide that have achieved this award. (Click Here to view a video of the celebration)
In 2005 it was becoming apparent that the college should replace itsinventory of pianos, of which the average age was 40 years, with new instruments that would enable the students to practice and perform on instruments of the highest quality. This was when the concept of becoming an All Steinway School was first imagined.
With the approval of Odessa College President Gregory D. Williams, the wheels were set in motion that allowed many interested organizations, donors, faculty and students to help bring thisabout. With these pianos in place it has all but assured that there will be opportunities for students to hone their skills for the next twogenerations! At 8 p.m. a concert was presented to an overflow crowd at the Jack Rodgers Recital Hall on the Odessa College campus. The first half of the program showcased the faculty and students currently involved in the Odessa College music department.
The concert opened with the Odessa College Choir singing “The New Moon” by Childs under the direction of David Corman followed by the group Amore singing “Sleep” by Eric Whitaker under the direction of Kimberly Corman.
Accompanying the choirs was Gayle Bizzell who also accompanied David Corman as he sang “Niun mi tema” from “Otello” by Giuseppe Verdi. He once again showed why he has been successful in building the vocal program at the school. His powerful performancewas just such aninspiration. With this serving as an opening act? The piano program began as printedon the programs. The first number was the impassioned and challenging “Scherzo in b flat minor, Op. 31” by Frederick Chopin played by Bizzell, the director of pianos studies. She demonstrated not only her ability to play the technical demands of the piece with flamboyant mastery, but it allowed us to hear the hair trigger responsiveness of the pianoits self. I found it most interesting that the next piece was the “Improvisation, Op. 46, No4” by Edward Mac-Dowell. It was played byAzalea Rivas, who is a student of Bizzell. It was a graphic study in how a teacher can mold a young pianist into your musical approaches.
I found it to be beautiful, insightful and technically clean. Returning to the music of Chopin Artist King played the “Prelude in e minor, Op.28, No.4” with a steady, controlled pulse that had flashes of intensity on the secondpage. The next performer was tenor Jacob Garcia, winner of the Larry Gatlin Scholar award, who sang “Chanson Triste” by the French composer Henri Duparc, again accompanied by Bizzell . His voice shows much potential.
Jino Jordan graduated from Odessa College last spring. He applied and was accepted into five different music schools. He is now studying at West Texas A&M. He was the recipient of the Tuesday Morning Music and Arts Club Young Artist Award that was given at that time.
He played the “Passpied” from “Suite Bergamasque” by Claude Debussy and “Etude, Op.10, No.12 (The Revolutionary)” by Frederick Chopin.-- He played with security, setting the basis for a solid performance of the works.-- The first half was brought to an energetic close with the two piano arrangement of George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” played by Bizzell and LuAnn Lane, director of theory and composition studies.
This first half allowed the audience to become aware of the quality of musical standards that is being taught on the campus. Eric Baker, the chairman of the department, introduced the OC President Williams, Bryan Elmore, the Steinway representative, and Ron Losby, the president of Steinway. Appreciation awards were given to those major donors to the program: The Isabel Rea Charitable trust, the J. C. Ferguson Foundation, Odessa College, Paul and Katherine Morrow and the Odessa Symphony Guild.
The second half was devoted to the Steinway artist Arlington Jones who brought his fluent, imaginative, well planned pianistic talent for six of his own jazz compositions that delighted the audience. He was a professional performer and with his smile, talent and ingratiating charm mesmerized the listeners.
Jones provided a master class the next day for a large number of Odessa College music students.
Yes, this was a memorable moment for Odessa College.
Hat’s off, gentlemen! A new day has dawned!
A CLOSER LOOK
Bennett is an Odessa music teacher and composer who writes reviews for the OA.
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