This past Saturday, October 30, members of the Luther community were invited to gather in the Noble Recital Hall for Nate Sikkink’s (‘22) senior recital on saxophone and clarinet.
Sikkink is a music education major who plans to graduate this spring and intends to teach band at the high school level. With a difficult but exciting repertoire of pieces in the program, including a surprise arrangement of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the performance promised to be a memorable one for all in attendance.
“Nate has picked out a very challenging program,” Sikkink’s saxophone instructor, Adjunct Faculty in Music Lynne Hart, said. “That’s one of the things that stands out about him as a student. He always wants to challenge himself, so the recital is going to reflect that, and that’s one of the things that will make it fun.”
Saturday’s performance began with some pieces on Sikkink’s secondary instrument, the clarinet, with staff collaborative pianist Corey Silberstein providing accompaniment. Mastering a second instrument is just one of the ways Sikkink has challenged himself during his music education journey.
““I didn’t actually start playing the clarinet until my sophomore year of college,” Sikkink said. “My saxophone professor Lynne said that I should start playing clarinet, so she taught me that as well.”
With instruction from Hart and Associate Professor of Music Michael Chesher, Sikkink performed movements I and IV from “Concertino” by Giuseppe Tartini, arranged by Gordon Jacob, and movements I, II, and III of “Four Characteristic Pieces for Clarinet and Piano,” by William Hurlstone. This second clarinet piece was particularly impressive to several audience members.
“Each of the movements was different, and I really enjoyed the transition between each one of them,” attendee Judith Roslund (‘25) said. “With a three movement piece, often you would be really tired, but it seemed like it was no problem for him. I just really enjoyed that one, there were a lot of different aspects to it.”
Sikkink also went on to perform several complex pieces on the saxophone with accompaniment by Silberstein. The first of these pieces was “Prelude et Saltarelle” by Robert Planel. In this particular piece, the piano underscored the saxophone while it took off on a series of runs and flourishes. Sikkink impressed attendee Riley Frank (‘23) with a cadenza that explored different tonal centers, various instrumental ranges, and dynamic contrasts.
“His phrasing is impeccable, and that’s something that I think is really consistent throughout his playing,” Frank said. “In the fast sections, the fluidity of it sounds like he could almost give you whiplash listening to it.”
Continuing in the style and technique mentioned by Frank, audience members heard “Introduction et Danse” by Henry Tomasi and “Ballade” by Frank Martin. Most of the pieces in Saturday’s performance were by French composers, a style Sikkink says he is accustomed to.
“Specifically for the saxophone, a lot of my pieces are in the French style,” Sikkink said. “I’m pretty comfortable with that style since I’ve been learning that kind of music the most on saxophone.”
The last solo piece, “Prelude et Divertissement” by Eugéne Bozza contained two opposing sections, meant to show off the various styles a saxophonist can create. The first was slow and melancholy, and the second moved very quickly, with many difficult runs that made use of “accidentals,” sharp and flat notes that do not follow the written key.
“He had such incredible passion when he was going for those higher notes, but also a massive level of control,” audience member Ethan Grunewald (‘25) said. “In [“Prelude”] specifically, there’s all of these ridiculously high phrases, and then it goes back to normal, and then does it again. It’s such an incredible build for the piece, and he has such an incredible level of control throughout the entire range of the instrument.”
The final piece heard by those in attendance Saturday was an arrangement of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” arranged by Lucas Hopkins. This piece was performed by a saxophone quartet that Sikkink has been a part of since his sophomore year, including Emily Fisher (‘22) on soprano saxophone, Frank on alto saxophone, and Carson Weichers (‘24) on baritone saxophone. This last piece was a surprise to many, but it was nonetheless an audience favorite that brought the crowd to their feet in applause as Sikkink gave a final bow, bringing his final Luther recital to a close.