Student pianist inspires audiences across campus

(03-12-2009)

Adams State College senior Charles Dickinson received a standing ovation and calls for an encore at his recent piano recital in the Leon Memorial Building. The evening's performance included Mozart's 'Fantasie' and 'Sonata in C Minor', the massive 'Symphony for Solo Piano' by Charles Alkan and William Bolcom's 'The Garden of Eden Suite', on the new Steinway concert grand piano.

In the program notes, he explained the story behind Alkan's symphony. Dickinson truly has a vision for music: "When I was much younger, before I started playing, I was always taken by the secret magic that all music seemed to have for me. While listening to something, I could close my eyes and literally see flashes of colors or even complete panoramic images, so inspired by the music. A recording of Chopin's 'Minute Waltz' called to mind a rustic French village which grew more elaborate with each listening; and Faure's 'Requiem' once lolled me into a terrifyingly serene nightmare in which I floated through a foggy, moss-infested river Styx accompanied by Death in shredded black rags.

"Often times, the music I study will inspire similar images or even complete narratives, which may cause me to develop storylines to a relatively complex level. Although this is usually just a superficial mode of interpreting a piece of music, it also can help make it more exciting for the listeners, and sometimes--when logical analysis fails--even shine light on it for the performer."

Dr. William Lipke, chair of the music department and professor of piano, said Dickinson has developed into one of the strongest pianists he has seen, both technically and musically. "Teaching Charles is like working with a graduate student because he is able to engage in critical thinking about the score while considering information about the pianistic, theoretical and musicological aspects simultaneously."

Dickinson began playing at age 10, and as a young teenager studied at Rice University Preparatory Department. Unlike most young children, Dickinson said he has always enjoyed listening to classical music, even at the age of four. "When I was six-years-old, I used to listen to the classical station until midnight." He said he believes classical musicians are "drawn inexplicably" to the music.

A stand-out in the Music Department, his contributions to the Theater Department have also won acclaim. He was instrumental in the success of such productions as "Good" and "Cinderella", both directed by Dr. Paul Newman, program coordinator for theater. "I still talk about 'Good' today, it meant the world to me," Dickinson said.

Newman said Dickinson was his right-hand man during the production of "Good". "He patiently prepared the actors, teaching them their very difficult, classic songs, working and rehearsing the harmonies and tempos until my actors, who are not trained singers, could sing competently as their characters. He took the leadership for all the music, including hand picking the orchestra and rehearsing them on his own time. Charles was very aware that he and his musicianship added a significant, emotional content to the play that would have not been nearly as profound without his contribution."

After receiving his degree from Adams State, Dickinson is furthering his talents by pursuing a master's degree in piano performance, studying with the German pianist Falko Steinbach at the University of New Mexico, whom Lipke recommended. He wants to attend a conservatory on the East Coast following his graduate degree.

To continue to attract quality students, such as Dickinson, the Adams State College Music Department is hosting "A Noteworthy Evening" at April 5 in the Luther Bean Museum to raise money for music scholarships. For information call 719-587-7621.

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By Linda Relyea