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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

andPlay brings classical music to the present

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Maya Bennardo (left) plays the violin and Hannah Levinson, Ph.D. (right) plays the viola in the duo andPlay. PHOTO COURTESY OF SHERVIN LAINEZ

It’s no secret that classical music is not what’s commonly listened to by today’s generations. What was first composed in the 17-1800s has very few (if any) similarities to rock, pop, alternative and rap genres that populate playlists today.  

However, integrating the classical style into the modern day might not be as far-fetched as it may seem. Violinist Maya Bennardo and violist Hannah Levinson, Ph.D., formed the classical duo, andPlay, in 2012 after both moving to New York to pursue their master’s degrees and playing in other ensembles together.

“People think classical music is this old thing that’s already always been in existence, but not realizing it’s still being created,” Levinson said. 

AndPlay takes a unique approach to classical music in the hopes of showing their audience that classical music is not a thing of the past. While thoughts of classical music are typically associated with composers like Beethoven and Mozart, this duo strictly plays “contemporary classical music,” which is music by current composers. 

“A lot of times, as students, we’re encouraged by our teachers, and for good reason, to study a lot of the music of the past to build up our technique,” Bennardo said. “But then, also realizing that there’s music being written today, will hopefully encourage students to want to start exploring that.”

According to Levinson, the duo works directly with composers in a collaborative process where the composers write pieces specifically for andPlay. To Bennardo, being in contact and “opening the dialogue” with the composer is very different from being sent a musical score and being expected to play it.

“I like having that time and space to be with composers,” Bennardo said. “It doesn’t ever feel like it’s one sided, and one person is dictating something, and I just have to do it. It feels like we’re in a conversation.”

AndPlay’s most recent project has been working directly with four composers from higher-education institutions in the Philadelphia area: Suzanne Sorkin, Ph.D., associate professor of music, music chair, theatre and film chair at St. Joe’s, Richard Belcastro, assistant professor at Delaware County Community College, Richard Brodhead, professor emeritus at the Boyer College of Music and Dance at Temple University and Ingird Arauco, Ph.D., professor of music at Haverford College. 

Each composed a piece specifically for the duo, which they then performed for students at each educational institution.

“We’re very different from one another in terms of our compositional style, but I think that sort of helped us all grow as we have worked together now on a number of different concerts over the past four years,” Sorkin said. 

Belcastro, one of the composers, writes “experimental” classical music stemming from his rock and pop background. Belcastro said his style of writing for andPlay allows the artists to interpret the music in their own way and perform it in a way no other duo would. 

“I have been getting more and more into freedom for the performer,” Belcastro said. “It’s not so much improvisation, it is a very structured list of instructions that don’t require you to count and be exact with each other in the traditional sense, but more in a conversational way.” 

Along with their selection of compositions, their performance style is also unique. According to Levinson, andPlay always introduces the pieces they play.

“That can be a little different than a normal concert in that we try to really bring our personalities into it and connect with the audience by just providing a little background about the piece or what they’re about to hear or about the project in general,” Levinson said. 

AndPlay brought their unique take on classical music to St. Joe’s on Sept. 30 as part of their recent project. Sorkin was excited to give her Music Composition class the type of experience that andPlay could deliver.

“I think for a lot of our students at Saint Joseph’s University, this might be the first time that they engaged in new classical music,” Sorkin said. “So, I wanted them to have a kind of immersive experience.”

Joshley Moore ’24 said she hasn’t had much exposure to classical music, but she enjoyed hearing music that she would not typically listen to.

“I’m really happy I [went] because the experience is something that, as somebody who’s into music, it is new, it showed me a different side,” said Moore. “When you love something, I think you should know every aspect of it, and it gave me a view that I never had.” 

Allison Kite 22 contributed to this story. 

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