So as it turns out, I was the only one in the audience who was not a close friend or family of Eric. Luckily I only caught a few confused glances from his family, and his speech at the end thanking everyone for coming reduced the awkwardness. He offered the whole crowd a fabulous post-performance spread of cheeses and cookies, and he had done such a good job making me, the sole stranger, feel welcome that I felt comfortable taking a frosted eighth note on my way out.
This boy is certainly great at composing an atmosphere. Maybe he wasn’t the one who decided his performance location, but by the way he worked with the space it seemed he had. The whole room was gilded as if painted with liquid gold: the shine of the brass winking at me from the stage, the microphones ablaze in the light, the glowing reflection of the spotlights onto the walls was like being put inside a gleaming set of Saturn’s rings. The instrument’s mouth looked like a bowl full of tiny suns; the whole time I felt sleepily otherworldly.
Besides the environment though, his playing was enchanting. A novice to this type of brass, I was struck by how much the euphonium is like a human voice singing along the higher pitches. Many of the ending notes to sections of music are low, guttural, the periods between dainty and soulful. Schroeder worked this contrast well, keeping the tone rich and avoiding abrasion all too easy to involve when such sharp contrasts are at play. That being said, I would recommend he practice some breathing exercises to mitigate the audible jaggedness that sometimes crept into his performance.
Though Schroeder is still very young, he has the beginnings of worldliness about him already. He exhibits a confidence far beyond his few decades on the planet, a key quality necessary for any performer. His finger work is amazingly precise, and he shows great promise in his control of softness; the notes held out are clear and true (for a little proof, click this link: IMG_0029).
Eric is close to graduating, but like us all he will continue to learn for years to come. Whether his direction is to perform or teach (or both), he will have success, even if (as he says) the euphonium is a lot less employable than piano. He’ll learn more about stage presence, which is the only thing he really lacked. It isn’t necessary to remain stationary, even when playing a tremendous instrument; he could have kept the beat with a little dance, or done some interpretive work when there was a piano solo. It is understandable when one is so focused in performance–especially in your senior recital–that showmanship falls by the wayside. However, as a musician, Schroeder surely knows that performance is a dynamic conglomeration that demands precision in both each musical note and fostering an artist-audience relationship. Schroeder must find his style to establish himself as an individual in an overflowing industry.