Music school student Julianna Grabowski gives graduate recital

Courtesy of Yuyuan Xu Grabowski performs in the PNC Recital Hall.
Courtesy of Yuyuan Xu
Grabowski performs in the PNC Recital Hall.

Capri Scarcelli | Staff Writer


In her second year of graduate school, Julianna Grabowski, a vocal performance major, has accomplished a much-anticipated project: her graduate recital. On Friday, Nov. 8, Grabowski performed four solo pieces in Mary Pappert School of Music’s PNC Recital Hall. The show, according to Grabowski, was open to the public, where her friends, family and fellow peers all gathered to watch the finished product.

Grabowski said that she chose her repertoire according to what would fit her voice best. According to Grabowski, her professor, Meghan DeWald Althouse, performed this setlist before, and had recommended it to her. DeWald is an adjunct professor of voice at Duquesne.

Grabowski’s musical pieces included “full sets” of songs, where there would be multiple songs in one piece of music before moving on to the next segment of the set.

Her first vocal piece was entitled “Nulla in mundo pax sincera,” which was written in Latin and composed by Antonio Vivaldi.

“I wanted to do [“Nulla”] because I could do it with a small chamber ensemble of instrumentalists,” she said. “That’s one of my favorite things to do as a vocalist because often times we don’t get to work with others on our solo repertoire, but in this case I could, and I could do it with people I don’t see very often and could gain a different perspective.”

Her second piece was called “Ariettes oubliees” written by Claude Debussy. Grabowski said she chose this song as a way to appeal to her audience, being that he is “a composer that everyone likes.”

“Madchenblumen” was her third piece, which is written by composer Richard Strauss.

“In my head, I picked a person I knew in my own life to match each of the songs [in ‘Madchenblumen’] so that when I was performing it, I could personally relate to it,” Grabowski said.

For example, Grabowski said the “flirty” song reminded her of her little sister, and she chose to copy her mannerisms from there.

Grabowski’s final piece was called “Try Me Good King” by composer Libby Larson, which is an ode to the wives of King Henry VIII.

According to Grabowski, this piece was “a challenge both musically and technically,” but allowed her to explore the realm of contemporary female composers, as there are not as many as male composers, even today.

DeWald said she selected the music for Grabowski last fall, when she first entered Duquesne’s graduate program for music.

“We added selections during each semester… she began learning the music and then we worked on technical aspects of each piece in lessons,” DeWald said. “As we got closer to the recital date, we began having rehearsals in the performance space with the instrumentalists and collaborative pianist [while] also adding more emphasis on the artistic interpretation of the material.”

Prior to this graduate recital, Grabowski has had three undergraduate recitals between her junior and senior year, one of which was a piano recital. Grabowski said that these taught her “a lot of discipline.”

Compared to these performances, Grabowski said that the idea of a graduate recital has much more purpose behind it.

“Ultimately for me, giving this recital meant that I wasn’t just going to sing a song — the goal was to perform a song, and convey the song to the audience,” she said. “What was cool was that after the recital, people in the audience came up to me actually talking about the music… they weren’t just saying ‘nice job,’ which meant a lot because that means I did my job as the singer.”

According to Grabowski, this performance becomes more than a part of your required grade, but rather an example of what you plan to pursue in the future. For that reason, Grabowski said that the expectations were higher.

From studying in Mary Pappert, Grabowski said she learned how to make herself marketable in her field.

“You have to be able to market yourself on your own. You’re a business; you’re providing a product,” she said.

According to DeWald, Grabowski has prepared herself for opera roles, competitions and other gigs in her weekly lessons. Grabowski has also been given the position of Graduate Assistant, which gives her opportunities to co-conduct in the choir ensembles alongside choral director Caron Daley.

DeWald said that Grabowski stands out in more ways than one, aside from being talented.

“Julianna [Grabowski] is incredibly self-motivated and disciplined,” she said. “It is her work ethic, passion and intellect that distinguishes her amongst her peers.”

In the future, Grabowski said she hopes to pursue her degree in performance, though she said she would keep music education as a possibility, since she has her degree in that field as well.

“It will depend on what makes the most sense when I’m all done.” she said.

As for students who are also hoping to get their degree in performance, DeWald said to pick repertoire that you love.

“Take the time to really learn the pieces well so that you can enjoy performing them and you really know them; it takes more work up front, but it makes for a much better and more enjoyable recital.” DeWald said.