Excellence in Performance

by Briauhnna A. Phelps

Friends and family of piano performance major Caleb Russell ’11 were in for a special treat when he took the stage in Munson Chapel on July 7, 2010. The evening concert—part of a fundraising effort to send Russell to a prestigious workshop in France for 24 days—featured major piano and violin pieces by such composers as Mozart, J.S. Bach, and Chopin, among others.

The workshop Russell is attending, Musical Summer at the Mill, is located just outside of Paris, and offers young musicians the opportunity to grow as artists while working with world-renowned instructors.

“I think it will be especially inspiring to be around nature and all the different artistic people and personalities,” he said. “The cities and culture in France will be exciting. There are a lot of deep roots there, and very good soil to grow in.” Russell said he is especially looking forward to working with Dina Joffe, an internationally celebrated concert pianist and pedagogue.

Perhaps as impressive as the music Russell performed in Munson Chapel is the ingenuity and dedication he exemplified in organizing the concert. From the concept of the fundraiser to the music itself, the idea was completely his. Admission to the concert was free, with patrons encouraged to donate to Russell’s cause. Many were happy to show up and support such a talented young musician.

“I’ve known Caleb for a while, but I had no idea just how talented he is,” said David Bright ’10. “I was so impressed with the variety and level of difficulty of the pieces he performed.” Bethany Pillow ’10, who attended the concert with Bright, added, “We’re just happy we have the opportunity to support him, both as audience members and monetarily. He really deserves this experience.”

Russell, who is especially grateful to piano instructor Roza Kostrzewska Yoder, M.A. and her husband Douglas for “their love and uncompromising support,” plans to continue his musical education by pursuing a master’s degree in piano performance following graduation. His goals for life are “…to understand humanity through its art, to understand the Bible, and then to help other people in those areas. Change the world.”

With Russell’s deep-rooted faith in God, dedication to excellence in performance, and absolute love of music, he is on the right track to accomplish everything he dreams of and more.