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Rick to play pieces from ‘From Russia With Love.’

Next week, Hillsdale College stu­dents and faculty will have the oppor­tunity to hear a sam­pling of Russian culture thanks to Katherine Rick, adjunct pro­fessor of piano and staff accom­panist at the college. Rick’s upcoming piano recital, “From Russia with Love,” will include pieces spanning three dis­tinct eras of clas­sical Russian music and feature three Russian com­posers. The per­for­mance will be Monday, Nov. 19 at 7 p.m. in Conrad Recital Hall.

“I hope to expose people to the breadth of Russian music,” Rick said. “The first com­poser, Rach­maninoff, is very much in the post-romantic, west­ernized Russian style. Prokofiev is in the Soviet, mid-20th century style with all the dis­so­nance that comes with it, and then Mus­sorgsky rep­re­sents the folklore and his­toric side of Russian culture. I think among those three com­posers you can get a sense of the uniquely Russian con­tri­bu­tions to clas­sical music.”

The recital theme was inspired by Rick’s expe­rience growing up in Russia. The child of mis­sion­aries, Rick and her family moved to Russia when she was five. Soon after, her brother began taking piano lessons from their mother. Rick’s com­pet­itive streak flared and she insisted on taking lessons as well. Within six months, however, her mother rec­og­nized her daughter’s talent and enrolled her at a pre-con­ser­vatory piano program in Yakutsk, a town in north­eastern Siberia. Rick’s family moved to St. Petersburg when she was 11 years old and she con­tinued her musical edu­cation at a con­ser­vatory. There, stu­dents were imme­di­ately placed on one of three tracks: pro­fes­sional, mid­dling, or amateur. Rick was placed on the pro­fes­sional track.

“The Russian system is very intense and very immersive,” Rick said. “The school I went to was actually a boarding school, although I lived at home. You’d have three or four lessons a week plus classes in music history, music theory, ensembles like choir or chamber music, plus all the general edu­cation courses. It was a tough system, the kind of place where if you don’t keep up you get kicked out.”

Although it was chal­lenging, Rick appre­ciates the prepa­ration she was given. Now, grat­itude for the rig­orous training she received is some­thing she hopes to convey to her audience.

“This is my third year at Hillsdale and I wanted to bring some­thing from my back­ground to the college,” Rick said. “The theme of the recital draws on my expe­rience growing up there. Through my graduate studies I focused on Russian music. I did my doc­toral thesis on Rach­maninoff and then my lecture recital on the first piece I’ll be playing, the Rach­maninoff ‘Vari­a­tions on a Theme of Corelli.’”

Sophomore Sofia Krusmark has been taking piano lessons from Rick for two semesters and credits her with reigniting her love for music.

“I went to a concert the first semester of my freshman year, where Dr. Rick was playing with Dr. Blackham,” Krusmark said. “It was enthralling to watch her. She is so artic­ulate. She hits the notes per­fectly. She’s able to make her pieces a story and make it look easy. She’s a miracle, as a person and as a pianist.”

Krusmark urges her fellow stu­dents to attend the recital.

“You will not be dis­ap­pointed,” she said. “I think you will go and see some­thing beau­tiful because you’re going to see a woman who has devoted her life to playing music beau­ti­fully and to giving that gift to other people. That’s really special and people should go to cel­e­brate the gift that she has given to so many of us.”