Courtesy of Milo Reynolds-Dominguez / photo by Priscilla Tsang

April 26, 2020

Music Seniors Reflect on Theses

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The coronavirus pandemic greatly disrupted Cornell’s academics, but as Arts has covered through March and April, Cornell’s artists have faced additional challenges while finding creative solutions to the transition to online classes. Musicians Katie Sadoff ’20 and Milo Reynolds-Dominguez ’20 spoke to the Arts Editor to share their thoughts on music in transition.

Sadoff, majoring in computer science and music, said the transition online has not been seamless for music majors. “Zoom is great for conversing with people, but when you’re playing music together, and there’s a one second delay, the whole piece falls apart,” she said. “So it’s hard to do an ensemble virtually — to perform and practice music.” Sadoff, trained as both a classical and jazz clarinetist, remarked that the “synchronous quality of jazz” was practically impossible to simulate online, with improvisation out of the picture.

Sadoff had planned on inviting family and friends to her thesis presentation and performance. She said: “I was really looking forward to the culmination of my four years at Cornell and the past 12 years I’ve been playing clarinet.”

“Musicians around the world are having to cancel performances that they’ve spent hours on and poured their souls into,” Sadoff continued. Sadoff mentioned the cancellation of the long-anticipated concert with Wynton Marsalis, along with many other shows in Lincoln Hall. “It’s really heartbreaking to know that you’re not going to be able to perform with these people anymore.”

Lincoln Hall is currently offering an online series called “Quarantunes” to help fill the Cornell concert void with professors’ remotely recorded music.

Sadoff concluded the conversation with a positive view on her semester being cut short. She said, “It’s kind of beautiful that Cornell offered us something that we’re so sad to have taken away from us.”

The content of vocalist and guitarist Reynolds-Dominguez’ thesis morphed under the constraints of home life: Not having in-person access to Cornell’s community of musicians “drastically shifted [my thesis].” Reynolds-Dominguez continued, “I was originally planning to do a composition for chamber singers and the organ, but the performance was cancelled …  I’m hoping to just turn in the final score and maybe some program notes for a hypothetical concert.”

“[The transition online] also has shifted the subject matter of my thesis,” Reynolds-Dominguez’ shared. “My whole piece is centered around home, and grappling with different facets of what home means, and how identity intersects with that.”

Reynolds-Dominguez described how the project changed: “The composition was going to end with a happy, feel good, end-of-senior-year feeling, and now I want to leave it a little more unresolved, and give it a darker turn at the end of the piece. My art reflects everything happening in my life.”

The musicians discussed how they had some time to create and sit with their work at home now, as well. In regards to their work, Reynolds-Dominguez said with a smile, “Maybe this is a blessing in disguise.”


Emma Plowe is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. She currently serves as Arts Editor on the 138th board. She can be reached at [email protected].