On Friday, October 28, the Noble Recital Hall filled with students and community members as Assistant Professor of Music Kacy Clopton took the stage as part of the Faculty’s Artist Series. Clopton performed an array of classical and contemporary pieces, ranging from the romantic sounds of Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms, to a more classical sound of Ludwig van Beethoven and a modern experimental piece involving a cello and flowerpots by Caroline Shaw. Clopton noted the similarities in his pieces and how some people may see the composers as a commonality.
“It’s a collection of [music by] – I’m very open about it – a bunch of old white German dudes,” Clopton said. “I bring this very knowingly to the table.”
For Clopton, the reasons she chose the pieces go beyond the identity of the composers and more to the deeper meaning each piece has for her and her accompanist, associate professor of music Xiao Hu. Clopton had performed all but the fifth of Beethoven’s cello sonatas, and Hu wanted to play Robert Schumann’s “Fantasiestücke”, so both were added to the recital program. To that end, Clopton did not view her recital as hers alone, but rather as a collaboration between her and Hu.
“It is the music that Xiao [Hu] and I wanted to learn like kind of our to-do list, and so my pianist was [a] huge collaborator on this,” Clopton said. “It’s really just a duo concert.”
This emphasis on partnership is not a unique facet of Clopton’s recitals. She hopes that while students enjoy music, they also recognize the importance of collaboration. For her, it is not a question of highlighting the collaborative effort but the musical expression allowed by the collaboration which takes center stage.
The Fantasiestücke began the performance with a romantic conversation between cello and piano, the low tones of the cello melody resonating with the harmonies of the piano. Next, the duo performed Beethoven’s Fifth Cello Sonata, with brilliant runs up and down from the musical team. Throughout the first movement, Clopton and Hu swayed along with the musical phrases, bringing the 207-year-old piece to life. For the second movement, Clopton took longer to calm his breathing, slowing his heart rate for the slow, thoughtful movement to come. The final movement ended with an energetic finale, as both performers played fast passages, sharing the upbeat melody together.
Contrasting with the classically structured sounds of Beethoven, “Boris Kerner”, Caroline Shaw’s next piece, featured assistant professor of music Ryan Frost on flower pots. As the piece progressed, audience members could be seen focusing on Frost’s flowerpot technique, as he made crescendos and decrescendos with the cello part. Next, Clopton performed Brahms’ Third Piano Trio with Hu and assistant violin teacher Joseph Kromholz. The trio performed this piece at Hu’s recent piano recital but decided to perform it again. The piece was filled with dialogue between the three performers, bringing the recital back to the romantic, melodic sounds of 19th century-style classical music.
Several Clopton students have noted that her attitude and personality on and off stage continually connects her to her audience. Willa Eacret (’23) is a student of Clopton. She highlights the impact Clopton has had on his music since they started working together.
“My music is much more expressive since I studied with her,” Eacret said. “I became a better performer for myself and for the public.”
Clopton’s advice and guidance goes far beyond the music. She believes it is important to make personal connections with her students and connect their music to their lives and responsibilities.
“[At] time, the most loving thing I can do as a teacher is to hold them accountable, lovingly, just like a parent,” Clopton said. “I never want to be a bad cop, but I also think it’s helped me improve, the way I hold myself accountable. I’m doing a student a disservice if I don’t hold them to the same standard.
Cassie Magee (’24) is in her third year studying under Clopton. Around this time, Clopton became more than just a teacher for Magee.
“Apart from helping me become a better cellist, Clopton taught me more about navigating college than any other mentor in my life,” Magee said. “A big lesson she taught me is the importance of treating yourself with compassion and care, no matter what you have to do or how much homework you have to do. I don’t think I’ve ever left a lesson feeling worse than when I arrived, and it’s often a highlight of my week.
The next performance of the Faculty series will be on February 11, 2023, showcasing the talents of Xiao Hu and Du Huang. The piano recital will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the Noble Recital Hall.