St. Joseph’s University, New York President Donald R. Boomgaarden, Ph.D., will perform on the piano a selection of songs from the great Brooklyn-born pianist and composer George Gershwin at the Brooklyn Campus on Monday, April 25.
Dr. Boomgaarden, a classically trained pianist, is the featured performer in The Presidential Recital, “Gershwin’s Piano Transcriptions of His Most Famous Songs,” taking place in the Tuohy Hall Auditorium at 12:40 p.m.
Dr. Boomgaarden’s admiration for Gershwin and his music was influenced by his grandfather and great uncles, who played in a jazz orchestra in the 1920s and 1930s.
“My grandfather and his brothers … performed works by Gershwin and the other well-known composers of the day,” said Dr. Boomgaarden, who holds master’s and doctoral degrees from Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester.
“As a child, I remember my grandfather speaking of Gershwin as one of the best jazz composers,” he added.
A noted historian of 18th-century opera, music aesthetics and harmonic theory, Dr. Boomgaarden said that although the main focus of his musical training was classical, his tastes are much more diverse.
“I have always led a ‘double life’ — incorporating popular elements into my musical world, including having my own bluegrass bands, playing fiddle and banjo, and frequently playing popular selections as encores in my classical piano recitals,” he said. “To me, devoting a full recital just to Gershwin seemed like a fun idea, and I have enjoyed learning these transcriptions immensely.”
At the recital, Dr. Boomgaarden will perform six transcriptions that Gershwin did of his own tunes, including “The Man I Love,” “I’ve Got Rhythm,” “Do it Again,” “Who Cares,” “Sweet and Low-down,” and “Do-Do-Do.” Brooklyn campus faculty member Veronica Kaninska will join Dr. Boomgaarden, singing “The Man I Love,” as well as “Summertime.”
Ms. Kaninska is a talented soprano and a teaching Instructor in recreational and leisure studies.
The performance will also include one of Gershwin’s solo piano works, the second of three preludes he composed in 1926, Dr. Boomgaarden said.
“This particular one is my favorite, and was described by Gershwin as ‘a sort of blues lullaby,'” Dr. Boomgaarden said. “Gershwin was a virtuoso pianist, so all of these pieces have technical and musical complexities, which are certainly on the same level as many classical works.”
Dr. Boomgaarden enjoys the opportunity to perform for the University community.
“It is one way I have of connecting to the students, faculty, staff, alumni and neighbors,” he said. “Performing is also a part of who I am, and — much like teaching — gives me the energy and drive I need to perform my other duties.
“I would only be half a person if I had to neglect my artistic side — and I think all of us have that ‘other side’, our creative side, which we need to nourish in order to bring the best of ourselves forward in life,” he continued. “Not incidentally, that is also the side that frequently connects us with God, and all the greater things around us, and provides us with the insights and joy that make life meaningful.
“I hope people feel something of that joy of life when I perform these pieces.”