A Full-Circle Concert: Emily Hancock, Senior Recital

A blossoming passion for opera, new music, and a diverse roster of composers: these have marked clarinetist Emily Hancock’s musical growth at Oberlin, and in turn have informed her final concert at the conservatory. On Saturday April 24 at 4:30pm, Hancock will perform her senior recital in which each of five pieces captures a different kernel of her vibrant personality — on and off stage.

Four of the works are by female composers, a natural byproduct of her co-founding Oberlin’s Students for Gender Inclusivity in Music (OSGIM), an organization that celebrates classical musicians and composers of traditionally underrepresented gender identities. “I never thought that I would do anything like what I do in OSGIM,” she noted, “but it’s become a big part of my time at Oberlin and so it’s fitting to make it a big part of my recital.” Instead of simply presenting a specific subset of composers, Hancock has programmed her concert instinctively. She hopes that programs like hers will become the norm, rather than the exception.

Her interest in living composers, and contemporary works like Kaija Saariaho’s Duft (Scent), has also surprised Hancock. “I never expected to want to play a piece with extended techniques!” she said with a laugh, “and now I’m clearly embracing new music so much.”

Hancock also discussed the challenges she came across while choosing recital repertoire. “Without a good recording available, many potential performers can be discouraged from playing a piece” she said. For example, there are few recordings available of Valerie Coleman’s Sonatine, which Hancock first heard performed by a friend. By choosing to program this work, the clarinetist hopes to disseminate the piece further. Perhaps by posting her own recording online, other performers will be able to access the piece more easily.

Hancock’s newly discovered love for opera rings through the program finale. “I had never listened to opera before, but my friends Julia Klein and Katia Waxman started playing their favorite arias sophomore year, and then everything changed!” It’s fitting that the last piece on her recital, Donata Lovreglio’s Fantasy on Themes from Verdi’s “La Traviata,” uses tunes from one of her favorite operas. (She specifically loves the recording by Lisette Oropesa, Hancock’s favorite soprano.)

Clarinetists Klein and Waxman not only led Hancock to her newfound passion for opera, but are featured on her recital as well. No explanation could do justice to how significant Hancock’s friendships have been during her college years. The three clarinetists and best friends have founded OSGIM together, collaborated together, lived together, and during Hancock’s recital, will perform together. Rika Ishige’s Ventus, for the rare combination of three clarinets, might be familiar to fellow Oberlin students who may have seen Hancock single-handedly perform all three parts in an entertaining video posted on the conservatory’s Facebook page in spring 2020.

The pandemic has made it challenging for students to find closure to their college experiences, particularly as performances remain virtual. However, Hancock proves that one’s senior recital can still be fulfilling and meaningful despite the circumstances. Every piece on the program is not only marvelous music, but offers a small window through which listeners can discover Emily Hancock: clarinetist, collaborator, advocate, and friend.

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