SJC President Donald R. Boomgaarden, Ph.D., delighted a crowd of nearly 100 people inside the Tuohy Hall auditorium on Tuesday, playing Polish folk music composed by Frédéric Chopin on the piano.
The hour-long lecture and performance, “Chopin’s Mazurkas: Understanding the Connections Between Musical Form and Musical Emotion,” was part of the Chamber Music and Afternoon Jazz Spring Parlor Series presented by SJC Brooklyn’s Council for the Arts.
“I don’t play these pieces because I have to, I play them because I can’t help myself,” said Dr. Boomgaarden, a concert pianist, explaining his love for the music of Chopin and other composers of classical music. “It allows me to express things and emotions that cannot be expressed in words.”
Dr. Boomgaarden played an array of Chopin’s mazurkas — short pieces of music played in triple meter at a lively tempo. Chopin’s Opus 17, the longest of his mazurkas, “captures the world of the great opera house,” Dr. Boomgaarden said before sitting at the piano to play the piece.
“When’s the last time you heard of a college president with so much talent?” asked Ramona Candy, director of the Council for the Arts. “He has contributed so much to the arts. It’s wonderful to have a leader of that ilk at St. Joseph’s College.”
A graduate of the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, Dr. Boomgaarden has enjoyed a long career as a performing artist, learning how to play piano at a very young age. One of his recent performances was an all-Chopin recital of mazurkas, nocturnes, preludes and waltzes. He is also a noted historian of opera, music aesthetics and harmonic theory.
Students, staff and faculty often witness Dr. Boomgaarden practicing on pianos at SJC Brooklyn and SJC Long Island. He has said it is vitally important that he maintains his ability to play pieces by Chopin, Beethoven and other composers from memory.
“Once you’ve put all the effort into learning something as difficult as a Chopin ballade, you don’t want to let it go,” said Dr. Boomgaarden, who is teaching a music class this semester at SJC Long Island. “I had one teacher explain it to me as, ‘Don, these pieces are your life. They are your career.’”
Mary Butz ’69, a member of the Board of Trustees at St. Joseph’s College, attended the Tuesday event.