Senior Alex Kellogg’s performance of, “Empty” by Lianne La Havas, was different from what most audience members would expect from a violin concert. She strummed the violin softly, like a guitar, and began to sing along.
“[The song] may have even been hard to recognize by someone who was familiar with the original song,” Kellogg said. “I added a beginning and an ending on violin that was not in the original song at all. That was the first time I’ve ever tried singing and playing the violin simultaneously.”
This was just one of four songs that Kellogg arranged for her senior recital on Saturday, May 4. Her program featured a wide variety of musical genres and guest performances from fellow seniors Saville Bloxham, Sam Burgess and Francesca Downs. The program had some traditional violin solo pieces, as well as arrangements of popular music.
“One big goal was to challenge the notion that classical music is automatically superior to other genres of music,” Kellogg said. “I hoped by placing music composers like Bach and Fritz Kreisler side by side with Amy Winehouse and Frank Ocean, I could engage in this conversation.”
Kellogg expressed frustration with the limited types of music available for violinists, such as herself, to play. The same holds true in academic study, where there is a greater focus on classical Western music despite the fact that there are many other genres for musicians to choose from. Her theme of variety was one that she emphasized both on stage and in her program, going into greater detail on the songs she’d selected.
“Is it acceptable to promote white western music as superior, more artistic and more intellectual to other forms of music? I am definitely on the side that it is not acceptable,” Kellogg said.
Kellogg wrote her compositions and arrangements in the style of violin concertos, to pay homage to classical solo violin pieces that would more commonly be played at a recital. After heavy criticisms from professors, she found there was much more work to do. At the end of this past summer, she finished arranging her pieces and brought them to her professors for their thoughts.
“Of course my first few tries are going to be rough. [The] faculty had lots of suggestions for me,” Kellogg said. “The arrangement process was just fun. So many hours of work, but I would definitely do it again.”
This wasn’t only a violin recital; Kellogg also decided to include vocal pieces as well. After being unable to play the violin for the majority of her sophomore year due to tendinitis, she found solace through voice. During those years she focused on singing to try to fill the role that violin had filled for so long and as a way to express the pain of losing it so suddenly.
“I was very overwhelmed by the loss of violin because that was what I used to calm myself down when I was anxious and what I used to express myself. It was what I used to make friends,” Kellogg said.
After being diagnosed with tendinitis, Kellogg was able to address the problem through therapy, ice and painkillers. Eventually, she was able to play again. The recovery was slow, so as to not injure herself again, but now, two years later, she’s able to play again. In the process, she found a new love and appreciation for another art form. It was important to her that she include vocals in her final solo performance at Knox.
“I’m really grateful that I have a meaningful relationship with singing once again … I think if I hadn’t lost the ability to play violin, I probably wouldn’t have gone back to singing,” Kellogg said.
Kellogg plans on staying in Galesburg for a year, working for the music department as well as playing gigs. She also plans on continuing with composition. After that, she’s unsure. But, she’s hoping to continue playing and teaching violin.
“I think, I really needed that time, that uncomfortable separation period,” Kellogg said. “I needed that time away from my violin to appreciate it.”