By Matthew Litchfield, Contributing Writer
There are many events that mark the end of a student’s time at college: capstones, graduation, birthdays, and parting parties.
However, some students get a night all to their own.
“Right now I’m actually quite fine!” John Dalton said just an hour before his senior recital. “I had my nerves yesterday luckily.”
On Saturday night, Dalton hosted his senior drum recital, a requirement of performance music majors. Dalton was accompanied by four of his colleagues and collaborators as he led his audience through a series of nine jazz pieces, four of which were originals.
The show opened with “Lagrimas de Alegira” by Ra Kalam Bob Moses, which translates roughly to “tears of joy.” Dalton chose the song for its influence on his musical career, as well as to honor his professor, Chris Poudrier.
He followed the piece with his first original, “Green Mountain Boys,” which he wrote in freshman year.
“I used my ear to write,” he told the audience. “I didn’t know anything about harmony.”
The piece was an important lesson for him as a composer, which was evident in his following pieces.
The audience clearly appreciated this introduction. There were heads nodding, feet tapping, and applause ringing through the crowd each time the group’s focus shifted from solo to solo.
The members of the audience were not the only ones to express enthusiasm for the performance. Dalton was the epitome of emotiveness. He squinted and grinned, beaming like no one was watching—not an easy feat when you have an audience of more than 60 people.
Though he’s been playing percussion for seven years, it wasn’t until he arrived at UMass Dartmouth that Dalton started getting comments on the faces he makes while playing. “It’s funny, because it’s an unconscious thing,” he said.
The emotion of the night was constant. From “Lagrimas de Alegira” to Dalton’s “Uprising” and “Sharira” by Miles Flisher, Dalton and his ensemble fed off of their audience’s encouragement.
Indeed, Dalton attributed his success in large part to his ensemble. “Everyone brought their all, and had a chance to shine. When you play with people that talented though, it’s easy.”
In the middle of the recital, Dalton took the time to thank his ensemble. With him was his instructor Jim Robitaille, alums Sean Farias and Miles Flisher, and fellow student Caitlin Walsh. He offered heartfelt thanks to all of them, repeating that there was no one he would rather perform with.
Dalton had a political bent throughout the recital that reflected a broad presence of mind. One of his ensemble’s best performances of the night was “Uprising,” which he finishing writing over the summer while news of the military coup in Turkey was taking the world by storm.
The composition started with a crash and echoing cords; the song does not resolve, because at the time he wrote it, no resolution was in sight. “The current political climate in the world today is unsettling, to say the least,” he said. “This piece has come to represent that to me.”
There’s something special about the recital tradition. Not only does it allow a student to demonstrate their mastery of an instrument, it also showcases the rest of their skills as performers: poise, composition, and civic engagement.
Dalton believes art has the power to change the world. “It also allows us to engage with our humanity, our flaws as well as our virtue,” he said. “It is that process that allows us to better ourselves.”
So what’s next for Dalton? While many seniors (this writer included), struggle to answer that question, Dalton seems confident. “Short term, go back to Boston with the family, get my foot in the scene,” he said. He wants to start collaborating with people and building a reputation.
“[I] need some time to just be an artist,” Dalton said, “but still be comfortable.”