COVID-19 cancellations test graduate musician’s creativity

“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” Leonard Bernstein

On March 16, 2020, every in-person Truman State University class or activity was suspended for the rest of the semester because of the COVID-19 virus. Despite missing their final days at Truman, some graduate students and seniors are making the best of the situation.

Graduate student Kyle Rieger, who graduated from Truman with his undergraduate degree in 2018, is set to complete his Master of Arts in Conducting this May. For Rieger, these past two years of studying have led to a culminating moment: a graduate conducting recital featuring one of his original works. Unfortunately, Rieger’s recital was canceled because of the pandemic. 

“When it started to set in, I cried,” Rieger said, “It’s devastating … but I can either sit around and be sad about it, or I can be proactive.”

Rieger discussed how Bernstein’s quote inspired him to perform his recital another way— over Facebook Live — using pre-recordings of the pieces he was going to conduct.

At 8:30 p.m. that same day, three hours after the news broke, he went live on Facebook, conducting the pieces he had worked so hard to prepare. Since his original composition, “Of Oblivion,” was supposed to be a world premiere, he used a Musical Instrument Digital Interface file recording of the piece to supplement his conducting.

“I was trying to make the best of it, not only for myself but for others who had to face this disappointment,” Rieger said. “It’s not at all how I envisioned my graduate conducting recital would be, but given that it was a makeshift Facebook event … it went as well as it could go.”

Rieger’s endeavor did not go unnoticed. Over 200 people tuned in to watch his video, either live or after the fact. 

Fellow graduate student Emily Zuber was one of the people who tuned in. 

“I’m so heartbroken for you and everyone who had recitals and performances, but what a beautiful way to still display your talent and hard work while also bringing people together and increasing morale in this difficult time,” Zuber commented. 

Other comments left included how well he was conducting the pieces and how proud everyone was of him.

Rieger said he was impressed with how many tuned in to watch his livestream and all the supportive comments.

“The response has been really heartwarming,” Rieger said. “I cannot thank the people who tuned in at home enough.”