Summer research connects music and scholarship


GVL/ Bethann Long

Colleen Garcia, Staff Writer

Grand Valley State University student Rebecca Hanson hosted a lecture and recital on Sept. 15 presenting her research through the Student Summer Scholar Program at GVSU. 

The event featured Hanson’s summer research project, exploring composer Franz Schubert’s Piano Sonata in A minor, D. 845. Through the lecture and recital, Hanson was able to present her findings and opinions in her research, “The Integration of Performance Practice and Stylistic Understanding in the Realization of Schubert’s Sonata D. 845, I. Moderato.”

Hanson said she has always had a passion for music but began playing piano at the age of 10. Soon after, she began classical piano lessons at the age of 14.

Hanson became interested in this project during her time at GVSU and decided to participate in the university’s undergraduate research program to further her knowledge. 

The summer scholar program is open to all GVSU undergraduate students who have not completed the requirements for graduation and will be enrolled in the university for a full semester after their summer work. This opportunity allows students to work on creative projects or research in their chosen field of interest with the help of faculty and stipends from GVSU.  

This lecture recital explores applications of my, and my mentor Sookkyung Cho’s, research on the impacts of original instrumentation, performance practice and music scholarship on a modern pianist’s interpretation of the first movement of D. 845,” Hanson said.

Associate professor of piano at GVSU, Dr. Sookkyung Cho, was Hanson’s faculty mentor for her research and is also interested in Schubert’s music. Hanson chose to work with Cho because of her experience and former research for her doctoral dissertation on Schubert’s 1817 B-major sonata. 

“I knew that pursuing this topic with such a knowledgeable mentor would lead me to realizations with broad applications extending to and beyond works I will study, learn and listen to in the future,” Hanson said.

Through Hanson’s research, she was able to explore opposing viewpoints to her own and expand her knowledge of music. She was able to look at compositional aspects of the musical piece and see how the elements were interpreted by various individuals. 

One compositional element she researched was the work’s repetitiveness, something that Hanson finds pleasing and alluring while other critics find overbearing. Hanson explored how components work to create what she perceives to be beauty within Schubert’s music despite others’ criticism of the music. 

“I instead agree with those who articulate their appreciation for the nuances of his repetitions and further argue that this element of composition allows for severe creativity in numerous areas,” Hanson said. “Repetition can emphasize the significance and pure beauty of smaller manipulations to material, like repeating one melodic fragment in a lower register. Or, it can do so in larger manipulations, like alterations to the figuration of a musical theme.”

Another experience that Hanson had through her faculty mentor was attending the Fortepiano Performance in Hunter, New York. The concert was held by forte pianist Yiheng Yang who performed Schubert’s Piano Sonata in G major, D. 894 on a Graf fortepiano. 

“To me, Schubert’s music is greatly reminiscent of natural elements,” Hanson said. “I was at this isolated music festival and music camp nestled in the Catskill Mountains, listening to an artist perform this work beautifully on a historical instrument, and it was just this extremely powerful, consummate experience.”

Through the different aspects of her summer scholarship, Hanson said she found meaning in her individual project and was able to tie in her knowledge to the broader scope of the music field.

“That evening performance contextualized my research project as a whole, leading to a realization of why my research—finding a way to aesthetically and contextually realize D. 845—was important and relevant to artists,” Hanson said. 

The GVSU Student Summer Scholar Program is open to students of any interest and applications for next summer are due by Feb. 3.