Rawlins Piano Trio first concert of the year
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Rawlins Piano Trio first concert of the year

The Rawlins Piano Trio will perform the first of two concerts on Oct. 6. The trio is comprised of USD faculty members assistant professor of violin Ioana Galu, assistant professor of music Sonja Kraus and the founder and director of USD’s master’s degree in collaborative piano Susan Keith Gray. Galu plays the violin, Kraus plays the cello and Gray plays the piano.

The Rawlins family founded the trio in 1987 because they wanted more for the string department and with their funding, USD was able to hire a second string professor.

“As part of the gift, they asked that the two string professors and a pianist form a trio and do various outreach performances in the region,” Gray said.

This October 6th concert is titled The Colors of The Fall in relation to one of the main pieces they will be performing that was composed by Jennifer Higdon, a Pulitzer prize winner.

The piece has two movements, the first being called Pale Yellow and the second being Fiery Red. The trio drew from these titles to come up with the name of their concert. Gray said the trio has performed this piece before but believed it fit well with the theme they were going for.

“We wanted something to add to the program that was more contemporary and American. Also we decided we wanted work by a female composer so it checked off all of those boxes,” Gray said.

The other composers to be included are Felix Mendelssohn, a german composer from the 1800’s. The piece they are performing is 30 minutes long.

“It has four movements, four different sections to it, and so it’s incredibly expressive, but also highly virtuosic. It’s quite a difficult piece for all of us, but it’s kind of, it’s what they call the Warhorse piece,” Gray said.

The other composer they are playing from is an Israilil American, Ilan Rechtman. The trio has been practice Rechtman’s 20 jazz movements over the last few years and performing them at concerts over the years. This concert they will perform the final three.

“It was our goal to learn all twenty of them, and we have finally learned all twenty of them, so this concert will probably be the end of our playing them at every concert,” Gray said.

The Rawlins Trio in the past mainly performed their USD concerts at Colton Recital Hall, but due to renovations this concert will be performed at John A. Day Gallery in the Warren M. Lee Center for the Fine Arts. The construction at the Colton Recital Hall will be finished two days after the Rawlins Trio Concert.

In the past the trio would, when possible, have a recorded interview with the composers before each performance piece. This year they are changing to having a video play along as they perform.

The art department is providing the trio with footage from the iron pour project where they melted iron into molds to make sculptures and art. This video is planned to go along with the Fiery Red Movement. For the other movement, Pale Yellow, the trio is receiving photographs from a former piano professor, Dr. Susanne Skyrm.

The Rawlins Piano trio enjoys being able to share with their students the process of performing concerts and sharing the gift of music to general audiences.

“Music can be very powerful and a pleasure just to enjoy listening to it, but it can also be moving. So we like to choose pieces that have a wide range of attributes to them that would create any one of those possibilities,” Gray said.