W&L senior solo recitals show off students’ musical journeys

One performer sang a musical theater set about the fear and vulnerability of coming out


Solo recitals represent the pinnacle and completion of the music major. Photo courtesy of the Lenfest Center website

Adelaide Loving, Staff Writer

The music majors of the class of 2023 are finishing their graduation requirements, just like all Washington and Lee seniors. But unlike most majors, theirs requires a pinnacle moment: the solo recital.
Nat Ledesma, ’23, sang 16 pieces of music in their hour-long performance on Jan. 29 after spending the past eight months preparing for their senior recital.
Ledesma’s program included songs in a variety of languages and styles, all chosen by them and their applied voice professor Gregory Parker.
“I think the value in it for me was knowing that I put together something I could be proud of,” Ledesma said. They said they wanted to tell a personal journey.
Ledesma’s crafted journey started with Italian arias and French, German and Spanish art songs. Their performance culminated in a three-piece musical theater set. The set explored the fear of coming out and the simultaneous vulnerability and freedom that comes with loving and being loved.
Ledesma is a vocal music education major and a member of the Choir Conducting Mentorship Program (CCMP) and University Singers. They plan to pursue teaching, not solo vocal performance, after graduation.
Ledesma said they used to think music education majors should write a thesis about education instead of doing a solo performance. Now that their recital is over, they feel differently.
“I’m going to have to coach kids on this someday, so it’s a good thing I’ve done it,” Ledesma said. The recital has also been beneficial because many of the jobs they are applying to require proof of vocal talent, Ledesma said.
Senior recitals are common in music programs across the country, said Director of Choral Activities Shane Lynch. All Washington and Lee music majors are expected to prepare and perform a senior recital with their instrument of focus.
Taylor Colaizzi, ’23, performed his senior recital on Nov. 13. He played pieces from classical, romantic and modern periods on the clarinet and will continue to perform in Lenfest as a member of the University Wind Ensemble.
Michael McLaughlin, ’23, a CCMP member and University Singer like Ledesma, will sing various bass arias in his recital on March 31.
Lynch said it is important for choral performers like McLaughlin and Ledesma to have experience singing on their own and as part of a larger group.
“Solo music is a part of music teaching,” said Dr. Lynch. “Voice and choir are two halves of one coin and you need both of them if you’re really going to become better as a singer.”
Ledesma, who is currently a student teacher working with high school choir students, said they can already tell how helpful the senior recital has been for their growth as an educator
“I got back into the classroom today,” said Ledesma, “and I realized how many things from my senior recital—that I had just done—I was already applying.”