Student takes center stage

Avery Davis and Valparaiso University Department of Music professor Nicole Lee welcome the audience before the performance. Lee accompanied Davis as the pianist throughout the evening.

No introduction was needed as Valparaiso University music student Avery Davis entered the stage to begin his senior recital.

With Davis’ friends and family supporting from the audience in the Duesenberg Recital Hall in the Center for the Arts, the 30-minute recital featured five pieces including “Midnight Euphonium,” “Von der Jugend,” “Sai Ma,” “Vier ernste Gesänge” and “Libertango” played on the euphonium. The show ended with a standing ovation for the senior music and Chinese studies major.

“What I think about beforehand is they want you to do well. I know these are my friends, my mentors, my family and they all want to see me do well,” Davis said. “When you go out there and have that mindset, it’s much more fun that way.”

A euphonium, not the most commonly known instrument, is described by Davis as a “baby tuba” because it is smaller and plays an octave higher. It is part of the lower brass section in orchestras.

Davis has been playing the euphonium for seven years after finding it during his high school years. Playing in his high school band as a sophomore, he found an instrument that made him feel at home.

“I felt it was easier, with the trumpet I felt like I could play it but I don’t know. It was just something about when I played my baritone for the first time it was a lot easier and it felt right. I felt right at home,” Davis said.

The lead up to the concert was a long one for Davis, who spent six months preparing, whether it be selecting music or practicing.

“I selected compositions that would both showcase things I liked and also my Chinese studies and my admiration for (composer) Johannes Brahm,” Davis said.

Despite the long buildup for Davis, he never felt the pressure of performing in such a large venue until a week before show time.

“I was quite nervous; I normally don’t get that nervous before a performance, but when Monday hit, I was,” Davis said. “Loosening up backstage, making a couple jokes about myself and laughing with professor (Nicole) Lee let me loosen up.”

Working under Richard Watson, Davis has been trying to absorb what he can from him and use the skills in his performances by making music entertaining and showing the audience things they can’t see on the sheet music.

“The expression you use when you play and how your phrasing takes place,” Davis said. “Making sure something's always going somewhere musically.”

Davis felt his recital went well and described the end of it as the ultimate bittersweet, having practiced for months and having it all culminate into a 30-minute recital. He was accompanied on the piano by adjunct music professor Nicole Lee, who he has played with throughout his time at Valpo.

“She’s always great at following me if I decide on the concert to take a new tempo, which I did,” Davis said. “So if I decide to phrase something a little different, she’s right there with me, which is awesome that we have that connection where we can look at each other and know it’s going to be fine.”

Lee also feels that she and Davis had a connection musically and she has enjoyed working with him not only for his senior recital, but over his four years at Valpo.

“He’s an excellent student; I can’t say enough good about him,” Lee said. “He works so hard, he’s always prepared, he has a great attitude and he’s just a wonderful kid. I’m sad he’s leaving.”

Immediately after the concert, it was hard for Davis to fully understand that the whole process was over after so much work.

“Is it really over? I’ve been practicing nearly everyday for the past few months and working hard,” Davis said. “After it’s over you’re kind of speechless, like I’m really done I can relax a little bit now. I’m so happy that I’ve accomplished this, this milestone and this matriculation process, but at the same time it’s like, oh man that will probably be the last time I play my recital at Valpo.”

Following his senior recital, the work isn’t done yet for Davis, who now has to prepare for another upcoming concert.

“Next is continuing to practice for other concerts with the orchestra and band,” Davis said. “We have the Christmas concerts coming up and epic movie themes so I’m working toward those. (I’ll) also (be busy) with researching my Chinese and Japanese studies senior thesis.”

Contact Joey Clark at

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