Centralia College Music Shines at Spring Festival

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Before coming to Centralia College, Beth May taught at an institution where music instructors did not have much of an opportunity to perform.

When she became Music Department lead at Centralia College, May founded quarterly faculty performances because she believes they are an important part of the learning experience, not just for students but for the faculty themselves.

“Being here and performing, I feel like I’ve gotten out of a kind of rut,” May said. “Performing keeps you alive and aware more than just teaching and grading papers. If you’re only doing that stuff, I think the students fall into a rut, too.”

May will perform as part of the June 5 Centralia College Faculty Recital, which is one of five concerts taking place June 4-10 in the Centralia College Spring Music Festival. The planned concerts of the Lewis County Community Band (June 4), Centralia College Faculty Recital (June 5), Centralia College Choir (June 6), Centralia College Jazz Ensemble (June 7) and Pacific Northwest Chamber Orchestra (June 10) all take place in Corbet Theatre on the Centralia College Campus and are free and open to the public.

The college also holds fall, winter and spring quarter concert series. May explained that it is partly for practical reasons since some of the ensembles are college courses, offering credit for enrolled students, that culminate in a final performance at the end of each quarter. Three years ago, a decision was made to package the spring performances into a music festival as a way to highlight the culmination of the academic year and hopefully draw more music lovers to campus.

“We already kind of had all these concerts happening all at once so it seemed logical to put them together into a series,” May said.

May said there is no coordination between the different performances as far as themes or music. But about three years ago when the decision was made to label the spring performances as the Spring Music Festival, she began creating one program that is used at all of the performances. 

“So, if you go to one, you get to see the program for all of them and get a feel for what else you could go to see,” May said.

About six faculty members typically participate in Centralia College Faculty Recitals, but the June 5 faculty recital will feature just May on piano and music department faculty member Lesley O’Donel on flute. They will present pieces featuring composers Francis Poulenc, Gordon Jacob and David Griffiths.

“Very French. Very romantic sounding,” O’Donel said of the pieces they will perform. 

O’Donel explained that in her mind, it is important for music teachers to challenge themselves to perform. She explained that teaching is a form of sharing music and playing is a different form so performing creates a balance between those two forms. 

“As a performer, you’re creating a different experience,” she said.

May said she enjoys working with O’Donel, who always seems to bring her challenging and interesting music to try. She noted that Poulenc was a very quirky personality and his piece “Melancholy” is reportedly about his feelings at the end of World War I, though she said she would not necessarily have written that emotion the way he did. Stretching herself to perform something new is a great thing for a teacher to do, May said.

“It’s a good way to model professionalism for our students,” May said. “We’re showing them you don’t stop practicing when you quit being a student.”

And the music series in general is a way for the Centralia College music department to show community members what it has to offer, May said. She noted that department faculty have worked hard to be able to offer a music degree, which is a transfer degree. But beyond working with registered students and running start participants, May said she is consistently impressed with music faculty who put the time in to perform as well as some who conduct ensembles that comprise students and community members.

“We have an amazing faculty here who are just truly gifted,” May said.  

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