by Audrey Ladele

Christina Lai
Pianist Christina Lai (Photo Courtesy of Lai)

Every year, the UNC Department of Music admits and nurtures a wide array of students who have a passion for music. This department’s careful consideration of different musical interests, faculty support, and comradery of students all contribute to the ideal college environment for young musicians to begin their careers.

When looking at alumni such as pianist Christina Lai, the creativity and discipline that the department embodies is evident in her post-undergraduate career. The department is excited to host her and her colleague, Pedro Maia, in recital on Sunday, February 9th at 3:00 pm in Person Recital Hall.

Lai graduated from UNC in 2015 as a music major and Kenan Music Scholar, a full-ride scholarship given to four students a year who demonstrate exemplary work in music. In addition to full coverage of tuition, the program covers all other student fees, musical enrichment opportunities, and grants free admittance to select Carolina Performing Arts performances and masterclasses with renowned guest artists.

Initially during her undergraduate career, Lai planned to minor in chemistry and then attend graduate school and pursue a career in pharmacy. However, the deeper she dove into her music studies, the more passion she found she had for it. Ultimately, she decided to focus on music in her undergraduate career and beyond. The constant support of professors, mentoring staff, as well as the community of peers fostered within the department and the Kenan Music Scholar program all contributed immensely to her continued dedication to music. The access to performances and general success of students within the Kenan Music Scholar program also changed her idea of what a music career could look like for her.

As Lai stated, her time in the department and the success of other Kenan Music Scholar alumni gave her “a view of the future, of what [she] could do.”

Currently, she is in the final year of her Ph.D. program at Florida State University, where she has been researching an up and coming female composer from New York, Missy Mazzoi. Upon earning her doctorate, she hopes to teach at the university level.

Pedro Maia
Violinist Pedro Maia (Photo Courtesy of Lai)

Lai’s recital partner, violinist Pedro Maia, is a fellow graduate student at FSU, also in his final year of his Ph.D., researching Brazilian composer, Flausino Vale. Maia started his undergraduate career in Brazil but finished at the University of Southern Mississippi. While he initially intended to go into music performance, after gaining experience in teaching and coaching, Maia also hopes to teach at the university level.

Maia and Lai met when performing a chamber recital together at FSU. From this performance, they began playing together regularly, forming a rapport, and now they’re bringing their duo to Carolina.

Lai and Maia have crafted a diverse program for their performance at Carolina. They will be playing the classic Violin Sonata by César Franck along with underperformed pieces, Szymanowski’s Mythes, Op. 30 and Schumann’s Three Romances for Violin and Piano, Op. 22. Lai explains “the Szymanowski and the Clara Schumann are not well-known pieces and … we really wanted to share these pieces that not many people have played. They each have their own kind of story.”

The Franck Violin Sonata is one of the most well-known and frequently performed pieces in the violin repertoire, although Maia highlighted how it’s challenging the work is, particularly for the pianist.

“Franck is known for being one of the hardest pieces for the piano,” Maia said. “The Franck [will] just always be in my heart forever because of its name in music.”

Szymanowski’s Mythes is an interesting piece, composed of three movements, each meant to tell the narrative of a Greek myth. Maia detailed the difficulty of this piece, illuminating how “…the language… is delivered differently from what we’re used to in the usual 19th-century and 18th-century music. Besides being hard individually, it’s very hard to pull it together as an ensemble because the rhythms are complicated.” Lai added, “there’s running notes all the time and the patterns are irregular…” However, the complexities of the work allow for many beautiful and contrasting moments.

When discussing Three Romances For Violin and Piano, Maia noted “the Schumann is very simple and lovely… and just beautiful.”

Speaking on the pieces, both Lai and Maia agreed that they hold no favorites. Lai described how “each of them just makes you feel something different, … all of them have their own special place.”

Upon being asked what they hope the audience gets out of their performance, Maia replied, “hopefully [they leave] feeling something different from [what] they were before.” As Maia stated, “words cannot explain what music is,” so be sure to make it to their recital to discover, or perhaps rediscover, these beautiful pieces!

To visit the event page for Lai and Maia’s recital, click here.

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