The Melville Library Galleria is usually a quiet atrium disrupted only intermittently by the bustle of students coming and going from class or the occasional tour group of prospective students. Most of the time, however, it’s not exactly a space bursting with life.
But on Tuesday, the Galleria transformed with the Art of the Violin Concert Series.
“It really brings the galleria to life,” Gisele Schierhorst, music librarian and liaison to the music department, said. “The music students are top notch; the repertoire is great.”
The violin’s strings sang inside the atrium, the sound filled the four-story space to its brim.
The makeshift stage was right in front of the plaques that recognize distinguished Stony Brook professors. Next to the Central Reading Room entrance was a shiny black baby grand piano. A music stand for the performers stood just a few feet away, with 12 chairs for an audience extending toward the north reading room.
Aviva Hakanoglu performed first. She closed her eyes and moved with the music during her solo, ebbing and flowing with the dynamics and different runs.
The concert was a bit unconventional, but for Hakanoglu, the library is familiar terrain.
“I’ve played in a few library concerts this year, and there’s a reason I signed up to do it again,” the first year Doctor of Music Arts student said. “It’s great performing practice in a somewhat unorthodox concert space, but it’s also a really wonderful opportunity to share what the music department does with the rest of the university in a central location.”
The acoustics of the space can be helpful but also difficult to deal with.
“Clicking shoes and elevator dings are very audible,” Hakanoglu said. “But on the flip side, the violin can ring in a space that somewhat resembles a church acoustic.”
The concert’s location gave it its charm.
“I love the hustle and bustle of it and that people can stop and appreciate this amazing music that’s being performed in the midst of this a busy corridor,” Jennifer Frautschi, a violinist and artist-in-residence in Stony Brook’s Graduate Program of Music, said. “It’s a chance to catch people who are in transit.”
Passersby stopped to listen, some smiling and some with quizzical looks on their faces. They remained for a moment or two before moving on with their day. Some students paused to listen for longer or to snap a quick photo or video of the impromptu concert.
“I just happened to be here while it was going on,” Lucia Muzzarelli, a junior human evolutionary biology major, said. She spied the performance from the third floor, almost like she was in a balcony seat.
The concert series is a recent development for the university. It began three years ago and Tuesday’s concert was the third in three months this semester. Collaboration between the Melville Library and Stony Brook’s music department brought Frautschi’s graduate violin students to perform during the middle of the day.
Frautschi said the idea to have a more public concert came to her quickly after she started teaching at Stony Brook University three and a half years ago. She saw how few people outside of the music department came to the student recitals, and wanted to expose the student body to the music her students worked so hard on.
“We produce such a volume of concerts that basically no one attends them,” Frautschi said. She added that one of her students looked to the library as a venue to give the high-caliber graduate music students more exposure.
“It’s such a special part of Stony Brook that people usually don’t get to see,” Muzzarelli, who is in Stony Brook Opera, said. “It’s a hidden gem here.”
These concerts allow for more of the campus to hear the relatively unknown yet highly talented performers in the department of music. And they’ve been a hit with the campus community since the library concerts began.
“It just kind of took off,” Schierhorst said. “More and more I’ve seen people start to come before the concert starts and to take a seat and grab the program and just kind of anticipate it happening.”
Schierhorst said these concerts only appear to be growing in popularity and they may incorporate different instruments in the future. For now, at least once or twice a semester, the galleria will be filled with the sound of music instead of the hurried hum of the student masses.