Faculty Artist Series: Kacy Clopton, Cello.


Assistant Professor of Music Kacy Clopton performed in the Noble Recital Hall as a part of the Faculty Artist Series on October 28. Photo courtesy of www2.luther.edu.

On Friday October 28, the Noble Recital Hall filled with students and community members as Assistant Professor of Music Kacy Clopton took the stage as a part of the Faculty Artist Series. Clopton performed an array of classical and contemporary pieces, ranging from the romantic sounds of Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms, to a more classical sound of Ludwig van Beethoven and a modern experimental piece involving cello and flower pots by Caroline Shaw. Clopton noted the similarities in her pieces and how some people may look to the composers as a commonality.


“It’s a collection of [music by] — I’m very open about it — a bunch of old white German dudes,” Clopton said. “I am very knowingly bringing that to the table.” 


For Clopton, the reasons she chose the pieces goes beyond the identity of the composers and more to the deeper meaning each piece has for her and her accompanist, Associate Professor of Music Xiao Hu. Clopton had performed all but the fifth Beethoven cello sonata, and Hu wanted to play the “Fantasiestücke” by Robert Schumann, so both were added to the recital program. To that end, Clopton didn’t see her recital as hers alone—but rather a collaboration between her and Hu. 


“This is music that Xiao [Hu] and I wanted to learn as sort of our bucket list stuff, and so my pianist was [a] huge collaborator on this,” Clopton said. “It’s really just a duo concert.”


This focus on partnership isn’t a unique facet of Clopton’s recitals. She hopes that while students enjoy the music, they also recognize the importance of collaboration. For her, it’s not about showcasing the effort it takes to collaborate but the musical expression allowed by the collaboration that takes the spotlight. 


The Fantasiestücke began the performance with a romantic conversation between the cello and piano, with the lower sounds of the cello melody resonating with the piano harmonies. Next, the duo performed Beethoven’s fifth cello sonata, featuring brilliant runs up and down the music staff. Throughout the first movement, Clopton and Hu swayed along with the musical phrases, bringing the 207 year-old piece to life. For the second movement, Clopton took extra time to calm her breath, slowing her heart rate for the slow and pensive movement to come. The last movement ended with an energetic finish, as both performers played quick passages, sharing the upbeat melody together. 


Contrasting with the classically structured sounds of Beethoven, “Boris Kerner,” the next piece by Caroline Shaw, featured Adjunct Faculty in Music Ryan Frost on flower pots. As the piece progressed, members of the audience could be seen fixating on Frost’s flower pot technique, as he made crescendos and decrescendos along with the cello part. Afterwards, Clopton performed the Brahms third piano trio with Hu and Assistant Professor of Violin Joseph Kromholz. The trio performed this piece in Hu’s recent piano recital but decided to play it again. The piece was filled with dialogue between the three performers, returning the recital back to the romantic and melodic sounds of 19th century-style classical music. 


Several of Clopton’s students noted that her attitude and personality both on and off the stage continually connects her to her audience. Willa Eacret (‘23) is a student of Clopton. She points to the impact Clopton has had on her music since they began working together. 


“My music has been much more expressive since studying with her,” Eacret said. “I have become a better performer for myself and the audience.”


Clopton’s advice and guidance reaches far beyond the music. She feels it’s important to make personal connections with her students and to connect their music to their lives and responsibilities.


“[At] times, the most loving thing I can do as a teacher is to hold them accountable, in a loving way, just like a parent,” Clopton said. “I never want to be a bad cop, but I also think that’s been helping make me better, the way I hold myself accountable. I’m doing a student a disservice if I don’t hold them to the same standard.”


Cassie Magee (‘24) is in her third year studying under Clopton. In this time, Clopton has become more than just a teacher for Magee. 


“Besides helping me grow into a better cellist, Clopton has taught me more about navigating college than any other mentor in my life,” Magee said. “A big lesson she’s taught me is the importance of treating yourself with compassion and care, regardless of what you have going on or how many assignments are due. I don’t think I’ve ever left a lesson feeling worse than when I came in, and lots of times it is a highlight of my week.”


The next Faculty Series performance will be February 11, 2023, highlighting the talents of Xiao Hu and Du Huang. The piano recital will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the Noble Recital Hall.