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Concert Series Spreads through Word of Mouth

Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014

student musicians performing at USU in a 'Speakeasy Concert'

Five string music students performed for about 20 people in FAV 209 Tuesday evening. The event is one of many performances, called "Speakeasy Concerts." (photo by Meghann Nixon from the USU Statesman Online)

The Student Life section of Utah State Today highlights work written by the talented student journalists at Utah State University. Each week, the editor selects a story that has been published in The Utah Statesman or the Hard News Café or both for inclusion in Utah State Today.

Concert Series Spreads through Word of Mouth

By Christopher Campbell, staff writer, The Utah Statesman, Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Students gathered in a dimly lit painting studio in the Chase Fine Arts Center Tuesday night [Feb. 11, 2014] to watch musicians perform contemporary pieces in their second Speakeasy Concert.

The event is part of an underground concert series put on by string music students. People who are interested are part of a Facebook page entitled “Speakeasy Concert Series.” On the day of a performance, a mass text is sent out and a notice is posted on the page detailing the location and time.

Sophie Spreier, a senior string performance major and curator of the series, said the underground nature of the event is meant to add intrigue, but it is not meant to be exclusive.

“We want people to come to these concerts,” Spreier said.

Spreier said the main reason it was a secret in the first place is because she thinks people should be proactive in looking for things of value.

“I guess I just wanted to challenge my audience a little bit and make them feel like they achieved something by finding a secret place,” Spreier said.

Students in attendance Tuesday night said they felt that sense of achievement.

“At the same time, it makes you feel like you’re part of something that’s different from everything else,” said Zachary Gordon, a philosophy major who attended the concert. “So it’s really attractive to people. It’s attractive to me because of that.”

Spreier said the reason she started the concert was to give people an opportunity to perform in a situation where they do not feel stressed.

“I’m trying to provide a more low-key environment for people who may or may not be intimidated by the environment of a concert hall,” Spreier said. “It provides an exciting vibe for both the performers and the audience members.”

Spreier hopes to bring the series to a point where each concert features a single artist rather than having five performers like it did Tuesday.

“There are a lot of classical musicians here that are studying and just don’t have enough opportunities to perform, and so my goal is to provide an opportunity for one person to be featured as an artist and, as a musician, to get their mark with different circles of people that may not typically go to classical concerts,” Spreier said.

The concert featured three different pieces. The first one was by Stephen Mitton, a junior majoring in cello performance. He performed a piece he wrote entitled “Odyssey,” which was inspired by a group of contemporary string performers called Turtle Island Quartet. The entire piece was done with a technique called “pizzicato,” where he plucked the strings on his cello finger-board.

Mitton said Spreier approached him that night about performing and told him there was going to be some Turtle Island music.

“So I was like, ‘Well, I’ve got this piece that I can throw on there,’” Mitton said.

The other two pieces were written by the Turtle Island Quartet. Spreier performed one that used a combination of pizzicato and bow entitled “Julie-o.” The final song was “Skylife,” which was performed by Spreier on the cello, Sarah Knight on the viola and Michael Heaton and Amanda Marshall on the violin.

James Rasmussen, an audience member who graduated with a degree in computer science in 2012, said the show was better than he expected.

“You don’t hear contemporary string music very often, especially in an academic setting, and so it was very cool to hear that,” Rasmussen said.

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