May 2, 2023

Graduating MSM students share memories of their favorite performances

With MSM Commencement taking place in just a few weeks, on May 18, we asked a few of our graduating students to tell us about their favorite concerts seen and performed during their time at MSM!

MSM hosts nearly 800 performances per year on campus, many of which are live-streamed and free admission to the public.

Lulwa Al Shamlan (BM ‘23, Classical Piano), Wendy Shieh (BM ‘23, Classical Cello), and Jaycee Cardoso (BM ‘23, Classical Violin) after their trio performance

Jaycee Cardoso (BM ’23, Classical Violin)

Reflecting on all of the concerts I’ve performed in during my four years here at MSM, there are two that come to mind. The first was when the MSM Symphony performed Prokofiev 5 with Leonard Slatkin back in October 2021. The concert was the day before my birthday, and it was definitely a great little birthday present to get to work with Maestro Slatkin on such an incredible piece. I was very excited to play under him again more recently, when the MSM Symphony played Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.

My other favorite concert was this past December when I played with my piano trio at our Chamber Music concert. Chamber music is one of my biggest passions, and some of my fondest memories at MSM are when I’m making music or spending time with them.

A new favorite concert that I’ve attended here at MSM was the recent Orchestral Performance Faculty-Student concert, conducted by David Chan. Rimsky-Korsakov’s is one of my favorite pieces ever, and to get to hear my colleagues perform it alongside our amazing OP faculty here at MSM was such a treat.

“I love my school for giving me the opportunity not only to participate in but also to enjoy such art.”

Ha Young Synn (MM ’23, Classical Voice)

My favorite concert I performed in was MSM Graduate Opera Theatre’s production of “Cendrillon” by Jules Massenet in spring 2022! I was part of the community opera ensemble, and I really loved performing for the kids!

My favorite concert I attended was the opera, “Le Nozze di Figaro” by Mozart! I enjoyed it so much because my fellow colleagues made me laugh through their acting.

Photos below: Ha Young Synn (MM ’23) with colleagues in a production of Jules Massenet’s “Cendrillon”

Bobby Barksdale (BM ’23, Musical Theatre)

While I have always been amazed by the never-ending talent of my peers, many of my favorite performance experiences here have been Opera/Musical Theatre productions. There are far too many things to say about the wonders of both programs here, and both are given nearly the same treatment as Broadway & Met Opera productions, but it’s always the students’ abilities to interpret and relay such beautiful stories and music that are most memorable to me.

Personally, my favorite production I participated in has to be either Paperboy (Spring ‘23) or For Madmen Only (Fall ‘22) with Alpha Psi Omega National Theatre Honor Society. Both were new stories with completely new music, and we were the lucky institution to be able to breathe life into it all. The sets, lighting, costumes — all of it is always so impeccably perfect, fully immersing you in the world being created. I left each production with something more than when I came into it, and I would love to relive those experiences and share those stories again.

Photos of Bobby Barksdale (BM '23, Musical Theatre) in Paperboy

My favorite productions I’ve seen are EASILY Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George, and Die Zauberflote. Those are three of my favorite shows, and I cannot give each the due recognition they deserve while keeping this concise. I had never seen a show at the college level that rivaled Broadway, yet the production value of these shows was so high that I felt and still feel awestruck by it all. I love my school for giving me the opportunity not only to participate in but also to enjoy such art.

Savannah Gentry (MM ’23, Contemporary Flute)

Performing at MSM is so inspiring because you have opportunities to share the stage with phenomenal faculty and present contemporary music in an academic setting. In our first concert of the 2022-23 season, I was given the opportunity to perform with Tara Helen O’Connor on the flute trio Ruby Street Nola by Valerie Coleman and on the most recent concert we performed with Lucy Shelton on Matthew Taylor’s Fragments of Glass. It was such an incredible experience to be able to work with such legendary musicians and learn how to grow our artistry through the collaborative preparation process.

I love being a part of a program where we present works such as the Eight Songs for a Mad King by Maxwell Davies or Valerie Coleman’s Portraits of Langston that are being added to the classical music canon as we speak. At the height of the Iranian protests, composition students organized a concert and collaborated with composers who were in hiding in Iran so that their music could be heard and they could raise awareness around the intensity of the conflict. This concert reminded me about how we can use our platform as performers and musicians to help bring awareness to conflicts around the world. I am incredibly grateful to be a part of the MSM Contemporary Performance Program.

Adeline DeBella (MM ‘24, Contemporary Flute), Tara Helen O'Connor (MSM faculty), and Savannah Gentry (MM ‘23, Contemporary Flute) at their trio performance

Larissa Jones (MM ’23, Jazz Voice)

My favorite performances I did at MSM have to be my ComboFest performances with R&B Ensemble and Abbey Lincoln Ensemble. They were fun and full of energy! Working with the musicians and singers was a beautiful and uplifting experience. Everyone put in a lot of effort and contributed their creativity to make each performance cohesive. It was beautiful to see how so many unique individuals can come together and make something so unified within the music.

Working with Marc Cary this school year has helped me express myself more and connect more with music. He created an environment that allowed us to express our musicality freely and prepared us for becoming professional musicians. Hearing the stories of his experiences throughout his music career and learning about Abbey Lincoln as an artist and individual has been very inspiring for me as I pursue my career as a Jazz Vocalist.


Larissa Jones (MM ‘23, Jazz Voice), with MSM Jazz Arts faculty member Marc Cary


My favorite performance that I watched at MSM was the faculty performance with Ingrid Jensen and a few other faculty members, including Dayna Stevens, Jay Anderson, Kendrick Scott, Mike Moreno, and Aaron Parks. It was two hours of beautiful arrangements and compositions that our faculty put together. It is very inspiring to see the people that guide you throughout your time at MSM and who are working in the music scene show you how they create and connect to this beautiful music. I love when Ingrid uses the overtone series in the piano by blowing her trumpet into the strings. It is a musical technique I had never seen before coming here, and it is one of the most beautiful sounds I have ever heard.

MSM Jazz Arts students in R&B Ensemble after their ComboFest performance

Marcos Ruiz (BM ’23, Classical Flute)

The most memorable concert I went to see at MSM was during my freshman year when I saw the MSM Symphony Orchestra perform and got to see my flute idols, James and Jeanne Galway. The performance was incredible and full of life and joy. Everyone was at the edge of their chairs enjoying every second. The excitement and appreciation for the performers were so palpable, even the applause from the audience was music in itself. A truly moving concert.

Without a doubt, my most memorable concert I played in was the MSM Philharmonia cycle where I played the CPE Bach Flute Concerto in D Minor. It was such an honor to have been under the baton of Earl Lee (MM ‘13). I will be forever grateful for this wonderful opportunity. This was the first solo performance I’d ever done, and it was a strangely familiar sensation. It truly marked a milestone of a beautiful new chapter in my career.

Marcos Ruiz (BM '23) performing the CPE Bach Flute Concerto in D Minor with the MSM Philharmonia, conducted by Earl Lee (MM '13)

We are so proud of our graduates and how far they’ve come in and beyond their studies – congrats to Manhattan School of Music’s Class of 2023!

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