Monday, May 20, 2024

Concert showcases musical talent

Tables and chairs were set up in the Strand Center for the Arts. Artwork was displayed all around the gallery as the community gathered around a piano and a single chair with lunches in their brown bags.

The Brown Bag Sessions Concert was held at the Strand Art Gallery this past Friday, with various Plattsburgh State musicians performing on the guitar, piano and clarinet. Guests were encouraged to bring their lunches to the gallery to add a more relaxed vibe to the concert.

Senior business administration major and music minor Sean Houlahan played first with his guitar as he played Heitor Villa-Lobos’s Étude No. 1. Houlahan said he started playing guitar when he was 12-years-old. Even though he’s had teachers over the years, he said he’s also figured out different aspects of playing through practice.

“My guitar instructor here (Michael Fratino) really inspires me because he’s incredible,” Houlahan said.

Houlahan said other inspirations for playing include the flamenco guitar, which is a guitar similar to a classical acoustic guitar but with thinner tops and less internal bracing. Some of his other inspirations include Stevie Ray Vaughan and Led Zeppelin.

Overall, Houlahan said he enjoyed the setting at the Strand Art Gallery a lot, and the event had a great turnout.

“The fact that it’s more casual and the people are like eating and stuff, it makes the mood more comfortable,” he said. “I thought this was nice, definitely better than a stage.”


Junior audio video production and music double major and business minor Rachel Hurtt was up next, as she played Chopin Mazurkas, which is a piano piece played for Polish dances. Hurtt has been playing piano for seven years, and she said piano allows her to express herself.

“Playing piano is like saying all the things you wanted to say and more. It goes into all the emotions you can’t necessarily convey to other people,” she said, “but when you play, you can connect with those emotions.”

She said the piece she performed was also during the romantic era so her piece delved into the deeper emotion behind music.

Senior music major Trevor White played the clarinet and was accompanied by the piano as he played Sonota for Clarinet and Piano by Leonard Bernstein. Bernstein composed the music for West Side Story, and White pointed out that it’s present in the piece he played.


“So in listening, you do hear elements of what evolved into the score for West Side Story,” he said. “There is a spiciness and tenderness there. It had that dance-like quality.”

White said he hasn’t played clarinet for too long, so he was nervous to perform. It was his solo performance playing the clarinet. He said for this particular piece, he worked with PSUC piano instructor Jun Matsuo since the beginning of the semester, so he was glad it went successful.

“Flutes are my primary instrument, so I’ve been performing on that for a long time since high school,” he said. “This was definitely different performing the clarinet in front of all these people for the first time.”

Senior double major in music and studio art Ryan Mahony was the next performer. Mahony has been playing the piano since first grade, but wasn’t serious about it until high school. He started taking piano lessons with Music Chair Karen Becker, and she recommended he start taking lessons at PSUC.

Mahony played Johann Sebastian Bach’s Preludes and Fugues.

“What got me into music was printing music sheets offline of video game tunes. That got the ball rolling and then got me into playing more classical music,” he said.

Senior music and audio video production double major Drew Caico closed the show with a guitar piece called Mediterranean Sundance by Al Di Meola. Caico said Becker is really fond of him getting involved with these types of events, especially because it’s his last semester here.

“In third grade, I took up violin, and I took that up until my senior year of high school. Nine years ago, I learned how to play guitar, and I taught myself,” he said. “I didn’t have any lessons until I got here to Plattsburgh.”

During the summers, Caico also uses his audio video major to record and send out CDs. Caico said he likes different types of music, but when it comes to guitar, he likes certain styles.
“For guitar though, I’m pretty inspired by a lot of different genres like classical and flamenco and also Spanish and Gypsy jazz,” Caico said. “Those four styles are my favorite.”
He said he really wants to expand on those four styles because they are very unique.

“Not just someone who plays blues or whatever or rock,” he said. “No one really knows how to play flamenco and Gypsy jazz or anything like that.”

For those who missed the concert, the same performers with the addition of PSUC student Ricardo Burgos will be performing at 1 p.m. today in Myers Fine Arts Gallery.

Email Kavita Singh at

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