Doctoral candidate Cindy St. Clair has spent the last several years developing her skills as a pianist, and Tuesday, Sept. 17, she will be performing the most demanding piano program she has ever played.
The recital will include Bach’s Partita No. 2 in C Minor, Schubert’s Sonata in A Minor, Liszt’s Années de pèlerinage: Suisse and Samuel Zyman’s Two Motions in One Movement. This program will be a test of physical and emotional endurance, but it’s a challenge St. Clair welcomes.
“It’s very exciting,” she said. “For the last month I’ve been trying to play this program every single day from beginning to end, not only just practicing, but building endurance, physically and mentally.”
St. Clair said she carefully selected her program, keeping in mind where she had holes in her repertoire. Having played Bach’s fugues and preludes, she opted for one of his larger works with one of the partitas. She’s never played any Schubert, so she said she made sure he was quickly added to the list.
The second half of the program features Liszt and Zyman.
“The latter half of my program is my favorite, even though I do love the Bach, and I love the Schubert – it’s just so songful, true Schubert. The Liszt is very dramatic, and I hope that translates to the audience. The last piece is just a ton of fun,” St. Clair said.
St. Clair’s piano teacher at The University of Alabama is Kevin Chance, assistant coordinator of keyboard studies. This is their third year working together, and said he is familiar with the challenges this repertoire poses.
“Cindy’s program has been challenging to prepare, as it requires her to explore extreme realms of the human condition, such as profound isolation and despair along with an almost ecstatic sense of hope,” Chance said. “We always say that music expresses the inexpressible, but it is not always an easy or pleasant process to tap into those emotions both as the student and as the teacher.”
Piano has been a part of St. Clair’s life ever since she was a little girl, but she said she didn’t always plan on it being a major part of her life. Her mother played the piano and organ when she was growing up. St. Clair, however, had a very different life during and after her undergraduate years.
She received her first bachelors in paralegal studies and business from Samford University. After 16 1/2 years working in the legal field, she retired so she could enjoy time with her daughter, who was in middle school at the time.
“I think that lasted about three months,” St. Clair said. “All my friends worked. It was a different life for me, and I was very unhappy and very bored, so I went back to Samford and said, ‘You know, I think I’d like to take a few piano lessons.’”
She received her second bachelors degree in 2009 from Samford in piano performance. Since then, St. Clair has been playing her way through academia. She graduated with her masters in piano from the University in 2011. Immediately after that, she enrolled in the doctoral program. She currently holds a graduate teaching assistantship in accompanying at the School of Music.
Jen Stephenson, a second-year doctoral candidate in voice, has been one of St. Clair’s singers for the past year and a half. Their collaborative partnership has them working closely together on a weekly basis.
“She’s very talented and expressive,” Stephenson said. “She’s capable of a really wide variety of things. It’s been a great musical experience, and also, she’s my friend, which is nice.”
Chance said he has noticed her growth throughout their time working together.
“She’s a more confident artist, and she has grown more comfortable allowing herself to be vulnerable on stage, which is as hard for a musician as it is for an actor or a poet,” he said.