Last Things With Pianist Caleb Jaster

Music student Caleb Jaster performing.   Photo credit: Vanilla Kalai Anandam

Music student Caleb Jaster performing. Photo credit: Vanilla Kalai Anandam

Someone once told me we are not last things. After everything is said and done and we are gone, the earth will be left with little company. Stones will remain. Stones and water— these are last things. Stones, water, dust, and vibrations. Vibrations survive everywhere— under our bare feet on cold ground, on the tips of our fingers, in body and in mind, in our ringing ears. They pulse in words and grandfather clocks, reverberating in the very air we breathe. Such a tension hung in the Saturday evening air of a room hosting two harpsichords, a full house— uncommon at most Marshall Field music recitals— and one single Ibach grand piano. 

The word vibration is defined as a mechanical phenomenon whereby oscillations, repetitive variations, occur about an equilibrium point. An equilibrium is defined as a state in which opposing forces or influences are balanced; such is the bestowed power of vibrations which in turn create sound waves, music. Vibrations may survive everywhere but they thrive because of their various frequencies. A philosopher notes that “the word ‘war’ carries a whole different vibration than the word ‘peace’. The careful selection of words, helps to elevate our consciousness and resonate in higher frequencies.” But what happens when the vibrations of our words cannot reach an equilibrium point— when they cannot balance opposing forces?

English composer Sir Malcolm Henry Arnold once said, “Music is the social act of communication among people, a gesture of friendship, the strongest there is.” He walks through an audience of family, friends, and teachers, from near and far, to a swelling applause. A subtle nervous gulp, the first note of Alberto Ginastera’s Danza de la Moza Donosa, op. 2 no. 2 and within seconds, the room is at equilibrium, at ease. The polished gold pedals become continuations of his feet, the piano now an appendage of himself, as the tempo picks up with Beethoven’s “Tempest” from Piano Sonata no. 17, Op. 31. Heads nod along around me, in sync with the pianist, senior Caleb Jaster’s bobbing head. His eyes are closed. 

Halfway through the six-piece programme, his confidence is apparent as his head bobs ahead of the music in anticipation; practice has familiarized the notes to physical recognition. French composer and pianist Erik Satie reminds that, “the musician is perhaps the most modest of animals, but he is also the proudest.” Jaster (’16) is not burdened by ill-conceived notions of the pursuit of perfection or of “authentic performance”, a fortunate result of his unconventional training.          

Taught by his jazz pianist father in their New Hampshire home for four years, it wasn’t long before seven-year-old Caleb sought more structure and difficulty. He began studying with a day camp instructor, Noelle Beaudin, and enrolled in her newly founded summer camp, the Lake Winni Overnight Music Camp, the only non-competitive summer music and recreational camp for musicians ages ten to eighteen. Jaster now serves as a head counselor on the Sandwich, New Hampshire grounds. A program at the University of New Hampshire during high school gave him “a glimpse into the more advanced sort of typical conservatory world,” which facilitated for him an interest in music history, but, he says, not much else. 

He chose to attend Sarah Lawrence College to “get the conservatory setting [he] wanted without being part of the machine of classical music which [he] hates so much”–pursuing a study of the social sciences while maintaining the intensive music third with Professors Carsten Schmidt and Sung Rai Sohn. Jaster’s father is an alumnus of the College as well. Summing up his philosophy, he said he believes “music is meant to be played live and it’s always up to the performer to take his or her interpretation of a piece and perform that”. 

French exchange student musician Claire Quiry, who accompanied him on two pieces during his senior recital, played with tremendous passion and technique on the piano and the harpsichord, notes running parallel, playfully weaving in and out. Jaster’16 also speaks highly of his experiences playing with dedicated musicians and friends, in and out of chamber groups. His senior recital came to a resounding finale with Antonín Dvorák’s Lento Maestoso and Poco Adagio from the Piano Trio no. 4, Op. 90 “Dumky” with a reunion of his last chamber music recital trio. His accompaniment, cellist Baylie Petit’19 and violinist Elise LeBihan’19 represent the future of the talent the music department cultivates. 

The cello comes in at the top of the piece, Baylie Petit’s command and performance stunning while LeBihan’s violin blackens any peripheral distractions— the strings proving themselves as a force to be reckoned with. The last chance to see the trio reunited once more will be at the Wall to Wall Chamber Music concert at the end of the spring semester. Although we must bid goodbye to many talented musicians who will have their senior recitals in the upcoming weeks from April 3rd to May 7th, there is no cause for concern as to the future of Marshall Field’s results. Just imagine the rousing successes Petit’s and LeBihan’s senior recitals will be in 2019.

Vanilla Kalai Anandam '19

SLC Phoenix

The Phoenix is a non-profit, student-run publication representing the voices and opinions of Sarah Lawrence College community members. Our print edition publishes bi-weekly on Tuesdays, and our online edition is updated multiple times per week. Anyone may attend our open meetings at 9:00 PM on Wednesday nights in the North Room of the Pub.