Oswego student pianist to perform with career musicians for 'Pocket Concertos'


March 5, 2018

SUNY Oswego second-year music major Christopher Spinelli, who has been playing piano since age 3, will demonstrate his skills among professional musicians for "Pocket Concertos," a concert at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 21, in Sheldon Hall ballroom.

The concert, which features orchestral reductions, is part of the college's Ke-Nekt Chamber Music Series. The Symphoria String Quartet -- violinists Peter Rovit and Sonya Stith Williams, violist Arvilla Rovit and cellist George Macero -- will perform, as well as Spinelli and SUNY Oswego music chair and concert pianist Robert Auler.

Spinelli is set to perform Schumann’s "Piano Concerto in A Minor," while Auler will perform Beethoven's "The Emperor Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major."

This is not Spinelli's first performance outside a classroom. Last year, he played during the opening celebration of the renovated and modernized Tyler Hall in front of college President Deborah F. Stanley and many others, and performed with the oboist from Symphoria String Quartet at the beginning of this semester.

Spinelli credits Auler as the biggest reason for these opportunities, including "Pocket Concertos."

Performing with Auler, "a fantastic pianist on top of a great teacher, and these five members from Symphoria, is going to be unreal," Spinelli said. "This is probably the biggest thing I’ve done, at least since I’ve come to college, maybe ever."

Auler, an award-winning pianist who has played around the globe, said this performance will be unique.

"'Pocket Concertos' refers to the fact that, typically, these works would be heard in a large concert hall, with the pianist performing alongside an 80-person orchestra," Auler said. "We've found terrific arrangements that allow the pianist to perform the same score, but with a streamlined group of five musicians. We think it will be majestic and innovative at the same time!"

'Uniquely talented'

The Symphoria String Quartet, part of the Symphoria orchestra, formed in 2012 in Syracuse. The orchestra and its ensembles annually present more than 50 concerts and reach 100,000 people, often beyond Syracuse.

Auler, who has had the opportunity to play alongside many of the musicians in Symphoria performances, said, "It is like a conversation among friends to perform with them."

Spinelli said it's nerve-racking to have the responsibility of being the solo instrument among stringed musicians. "You have to be prepared, which is what I’m doing here," Spinelli said.

On a "good day," Spinelli practices three to three and a half hours; each weekend, he also teaches nine piano lessons back home in Manlius to 5- to 14-year-olds.

Auler described Spinelli as "a uniquely talented and driven pianist who aspires to the highest level of the music profession."

It was not always like that for Spinelli, though. It took a competition he was a part of during junior high school to realize that his competitors played at a much higher level than he did. "They were practicing for perfect and I was only practicing for good enough," Spinelli said. "At that moment, I realized I wanted to be perfect."

Spinelli, named a WSYR-TV "Extraordinary Talent" as a 17-year-old at Fayetteville-Manlius High School, has an impressive technique at the piano, Auler said, along with "his probing intellect, his emotional connection to the music, and his deep understanding of harmony, phrasing, balance, pitch contour and other important aspects of high-level musicianship."

Spinelli said he thinks "Pocket Concertos" is a cool opportunity for him to represent SUNY Oswego. "The longer I’m at this school, the more I know that I couldn’t get this at any (other) school," Spinelli said.

A pre-concert talk will take place at 7 p.m. Tickets for "Pocket Concertos" are $15 ($5 for students with a valid SUNY Oswego ID) and are available at all SUNY Oswego box offices, online at tickets.oswego.edu or by calling 315-312-2141. Parking is included in the price of the ticket, and is available in the employee and commuter lots adjacent to and across Washington Boulevard from Sheldon Hall.

For more information on these or other performing events at SUNY Oswego, visit oswego.edu/arts.

'High-level musicianship' -- SUNY Oswego second-year music major Christopher Spinelli will perform with the Symphoria String Quartet and concert pianist Robert Auler, chair of Oswego's music faculty, in "Pocket Concertos" at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 21, in Sheldon Hall ballroom.