This Friday, March 11 marks the start of the Spring 2022 Friday @4 Music Series. The Quest spoke with Monica Ohuchi, Director of Private Music Instruction and the primary organizer for the Friday @4 series, as well as Rachel Modlin ‘23, a music major and pianist, about the goals and process behind these student performances.
The series itself began long before Ohuchi was even a faculty member, so it has had a storied past within the Reed music department and is certainly distinguished as among the few continuously-operating and regularly-held events for the college community. The series showcases various musical disciplines and ensembles throughout the semester. According to Ohuchi, there are typically a couple of recitals for mixed-solo instrumentalists, one event reserved for the Reed jazz ensemble, and another for chamber music performances.
For many students in the music department, Friday @4 is the premier setting in which to showcase what they’ve learned and how they’ve grown as musicians; it is the most direct access they have to express their musical passions and talents to members of the Reed community beyond simply their music professors and classmates. This is especially true for Rachel Modlin, who has become a mainstay for the series. Modlin performed her first Friday @4 during the Fall 2020 semester and has appeared in nearly every other program since, as either a solo performer or an accompanying pianist for students who perform more complex pieces. On March 18, Modlin will be featured exclusively. She told the Quest that at many other schools, music majors typically perform a “junior recital.” While Reed does not mandate this for music majors like Modlin, she felt that putting in the work to carry her very own complete Friday @4 performance could be, in a sense, her way of completing a “junior recital.”
Additionally, Friday @4 often features the final performances put on by recipients of summer grants. Recipients of both the Jim Kahan Music Performance Summer Fellowship and the Rothchild Summer Stipend for Music Study are required to present their finalized work at the end of their programs, and Friday @4 is a great way to showcase the talents of these students. On February 11, the 2021 Kahan award recipient Diana Wang presented work she had completed on learning to play the Arab string instrument the Oud and a Japanese flute known as the Shakuhachi during the first Friday @4 of the semester, reserved exclusively for her wonderful presentation.
For most Friday @4 performers however, the music they choose to showcase is entirely in their hands. “It’s their baby,” remarked Ohuchi. Most performers are students in the private instruction department, meaning they typically work with their private teachers on pieces they would like to perform live over the course of several months, or however long it takes them to feel confident in their ability to perform on stage. “That’s the best part!” Ohuchi said. “If a student is passionate about a certain work and they are working on it with their teacher, then by all means they should perform it!” Sometimes though, Ohuchi will put out the call for specific pieces, or recommend ideas to her students as a way to expand their repertoire. But the event is primarily centered around student interests. “We really aim to create a program where the student will feel like they can really show their best work,” said Ohuchi.
In gathering the students needed for any given event, Ohuchi can begin crafting the program, which is usually finalized around one month in advance. According to Modlin, preparation is fairly straightforward: the performing students work with their teachers to finalize their piece, then students will perform two required rehearsals in the weeks leading up to the event, and then a final dress rehearsal two days before.
Ohuchi feels strongly that Friday @4 is an extremely accessible event for music students to gain confidence and experience in the live performance setting. “It’s a beautiful experience on what’s the best piano on campus, and I think of it as a really high-end performance opportunity for the students. My hope, my goal, is that any student has a really successful performance experience,” said Ohuchi.
But make no mistake, Friday @4 is not a stuffy affair. Both Ohuchi and Modlin stressed that not only is everyone welcome to attend, but any student musician can pitch any ideas they have for a live performance. Ohuchi expressed her pride in the program’s increasing diversity: “The thing that I’m really excited about is that we had such an eclectic program last semester. We had music by Black Americans, female composers, and we had your traditional European canon like Rachmaninoff. And, you know, those are the kinds of composers that you would normally think of as being on the concert stage. But, we’ve had Margaret Bonds and Jesse Montgomery, and William Grant Still. Our programming was really diverse last semester, and I’m really excited to continue that.”
So if you’ve got a free Friday afternoon, go attend! All events are free and open to the public, and the talented musicians of Reed College would love to see you there, waving from the chapel pews or the PAB staircase.
Rachel Modlin and friends
Recital Mixed Solos