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SOU student performs senior recital

ASHLAND — After 16 years of playing piano, four years of school and nine months of pandemic, by Oct. 30, Anthony Bock was ready to take the stage again.

Donned in face masks, Bock and cellist James McWhorter began an auditory journey through Ludwig van Beethoven’s cello sonata No. 3, etching the serene image of mountains, trees and fields expanding behind each note.

Bock, a Southern Oregon University student, recently performed his senior recital, the final graded step before receiving a Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance.

George Gershwin’s concerto in F, the second half of the concert, brought a chaotic, excited and bustling New York City street into the performance hall, as Bock explained the music. The Beethoven piece was a tribute to the composer’s birthday, while the Gershwin piece was something he just couldn’t leave off the program.

This wasn’t classical music to fall asleep by — Bock aimed to transform each bit of memorized music into an engaging and enthralling experience for the audience, combining an effort to do the piece justice technically with his own personal touch.

After four years, the senior recital represents a significant amount of preparation and “testament to what you’ve done at SOU and where you’re going,” Bock said.

“At SOU I have grown as a performer, I have grown as a collaborator and definitely have grown as a person,” he continued.

Yet his academic goals are not complete. This degree is a stepping stone to a master’s degree in collaborative piano. With this in mind, Bock selected a senior recital program founded in collaboration, with a cellist alongside him on stage. While somewhat rare as an approach to a pianist’s final work, an appreciation for performing with others resulted from a lifetime of learning from and playing with skilled Rogue Valley musicians, he said.

Planning began a full year before the performance, working with professors to identify what suited Bock well as a musician, while keeping his collaborative focus in mind.

After thousands of hours of practice, memorization and coordination with other musicians, he took to the stage — a moment he wasn’t confident would come to fruition given the nature of 2020. Several music department peers were unable to perform on a stage in the spring due to pandemic lockdowns.

With the help of Oregon Center for the Arts leadership, tickets sold out and Bock performed for a physically distanced audience of 75 people Oct. 30 at the SOU Music Recital Hall.

“It was changing week to week, and up until the week of the performance we weren’t sure if it was actually going to happen,” he said.

For Bock, after months of living through the pandemic’s restrictive effect on the arts, the audience turnout was stunning. After all, performance is a joie de vivre. As a coping mechanism, music is his escape — a way to still mark an accomplishment at the end of each stressful day.

“I was absolutely floored by the support of the audience and the adrenaline rush was fantastic, being on stage again,” Bock said.

He continues to perform in the area with other musicians, but this performance represented a gratifying farewell to SOU.

Bock thanked OCA Director David Humphrey, Productions Manager Tom Knapp, piano instructors Alexander Tutunov and Matthew Goodrich, scholarship donor Margaret Evans, and his parents Lisa and Charles Bock for propelling him toward this cumulative performance through support, accountability and a bit of “tough love.”

Contact Ashland Tidings reporter Allayana Darrow at adarrow@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497 and follow her on Twitter @AllayanaD.

Oregon Center for the Arts at Southern Oregon University photoBock