Starting the semester in song

LaDae'meona McDowell, Arts & Rec Editor

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Starting his twenty-first year  at UW-Whitewater, Music Professor and professional cellist, Benjamin Whitcomb plays the opening concert in the Light Recital Hall alongside his esteemed colleague Dr. Myung Hee Chung.

Whitcomb sighs as he explains the way he feels playing music.

“There is something empathic about a performance and the audience.” Says Whitcomb. Reminiscing about the times he was in his students’ position, Whitcomb knows what it’s like feeling raw energy from the audience while performing.  He understands that the excitement is very real for both the performer and the audience, alike.

Whitcomb started cello in fifth grade, at the age of ten, which is considered late for string instruments. When asked about his influences, he mentions his brother, speaking to the love of music they shared. On that same note, his favorite is Emanuel Feuermann, a cellist from the 20th century, in which Whitcomb says has an eclectic approach to playing cello.

“I like to be eclectic too.” Whitcomb muses.

In the light of the opening concert, Whitcomb says the purpose of the concert was to “share our love of the art and our interpretation” which is built into the reputation of the College of Arts and Communication. By the same token, the concert was free as a gift to students beginning their first day at college or returning on their first day. “It was one way of giving students a gift and to end the day with music.” Says Whitcomb.

The three pieces, Sonata in D Minor, Op. 56, Élégie, and Sonata No. 2, chosen for the concert, was on was meant to cater to the anxiousness students may have felt on their first day. The concert was a complete duo of the piano, played by Dr. Chung and the cello, played by Professor Whitcomb.

Whitcomb realized that he’s play music for the rest of his life when he was in high school. He got the chance to perform Brahms’s Symphony #2 and fell in love with the cello.

Blooming sophomore, Mitch Richards, came into the opening performance looking to being blown away by the grace, emotion and beauty of the two instruments blending together. Richards, who is an IT major with a music minor, has been playing the piano for 10 years.

“I try to be emotional with my music.” Says Richards.

With music as one of his favorite outlets, Richards is learning how to better appreciate it and his connection to it.

“When I walk away, I’m really going to know and appreciate the beauty of life, and the beauty of music and my connection to it.”

Starting her twenty-fifth year at UW-Whitewater, Dr. Chung had the pleasure in collaborating with Whitcomb. Chung, having played the piano since age four, shares the same vision as Whitcomb which is teach music through performance and feeling.

When Chung is playing, she has to have full concentration on the music and if she doesn’t she’ll make a mistake.

Dr. Chung realized that she wanted to play music for the rest of her life when she was eight years old. Earning a DMA, she has been well on her way.

Studying under her Juilliard teacher, Mrs. O for ten years, Chung was the first student taught by the Juilliard graduate. Since piano lessons were only available to her and her playmates, at the age of four, she first learned to read music then played it.

The biggest challenge Chung has always faced with the piano is her small hands. However, with the determination to play piano, Chung has always been fast in grasping it music.

“I just think about the music.” She says.

For Chung, the best thing about being a music teacher is the students,

“When I am around the students they make me feel young, I get good vibes from them.” Something that Chung strives for is being a good teacher, the best that she can be and encourages her students to do the same.

“The advice I give to my students is to work hard, do your best and pursue your dreams.”

Upcoming projects for Whitcomb and Chung: Whitcomb has a CD that will be released next month with pieces from some of the composers and musicians he has studied. Chung will be performing solo pieces, from memory, in the Light Recital Hall on Sunday September 15 located in the Center of the Arts.