Nov 10, 2009

Talent + hard work = honors recital

by Tiffany Edwards

People packed into the Oldham Auditorium in the Performing Arts hall to watch 10 students showcase their skills in classical guitar, opera, piano and flute Nov. 7 for the Department of Music and Humanities Honors Recital.

Performers for the honors recital are chosen through a rigorous audition process, according to Department Chair of the School of Music and Humanities, Dr. John Hugo.

“This year we had (over) 30 students audition. We have a panel of judges — the instrumental coordinator, the keyboard coordinator and the vocal coordinator,” Hugo said. “(All three) have a long history of judging for the honors recital, and they know how to select students based on the quality of their performance.”

The honors recital auditions are open to all students in Liberty’s music and humanities program. The selection process is not affected in any way by the students’ academic standing or level within the program, but by a single performance in front of the judges panel, according to Hugo.

“They choose the best performances on that particular occasion. The students come in one at a time, they perform their piece, and that’s it,” Hugo said. “Normally it is upperclassmen, but on some occasions a particularly talented student who has been working hard before they came here … can come in here and wow the judges. We had one freshman last night, Sarah Vitullo … She came in, and the judges went, ‘Wow.’”

Hugo said the performers chosen for the honors recital tend to be persistent, hard-working and goal-oriented individuals. Hugo believes that his job, along with the entire music and humanities faculty, is not just to teach what they know to students, but to guide students in their exploration of where they want to go in music and how to get there.

“I think what people miss in general about music is that talent is important. It’s essential really, but it is only the beginning. Talent is never enough,” Hugo said. “What our students (at the recital) made look so easy is extremely difficult, and it takes a lot of time and effort to reach that level of performance. You have to practice and work at (singing opera). And the (musicians) … (may perform for only) 10 or 15 minutes, but hours, weeks, months and years go into getting that ability.”

Senior vocalist Sung-Hwan Park has learned the importance of taking time to practice.

“Music policies one, two and three are all the same: practice, practice and practice,” Park said. “The … toughest challenge I face all the time is overcoming the temptations outside of the practice room. I have to fight against … avoiding practice.”

The honors recital is a way of giving Liberty’s music and humanities students an incentive for practicing harder and performing better. An anticipated event during the school year, the recital attracts faculty, family and alumni who want to see what the latest batch of Liberty’s musical prodigies has to offer.

“We try not to make (the recital) too much like a competition. It’s like golf, where you are competing against the course, (the student) is competing against the piece,” Hugo said. “The piece has challenges that the student has to surmount. There are technical challenges and performance challenges. People think, ‘Oh, they have a gift.’ No, they have a gift, and they work like crazy.”

Contact Tiffany Edwards at

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