October 2, 2022
Ithaca, NY | 50°F

Life & Culture

Senior cello recital inspired by lunch with strangers

Senior Madeline Docimo, a music education major with a concentration in cello performance, has grown accustomed to seeing many of the same faces on her travels through the halls of the James J. Whalen Center for Music in her four years at Ithaca College. She’s also grown tired of just how many faces she can’t place a name to.

“I was like, ‘wait a minute,’” she said. “There are so many people around me right now. It’s my final semester of my senior year. So many people around me that I don’t know … there’s all these other passionate people who are passionate about the exact same thing, and I didn’t even get a chance to know them really or know where they come from.”

That’s when she became inspired to begin a project for her elective recital called, “It’s Just Lunch.”

As part of her project, Docimo took 12 people who were essentially strangers out for lunch to get to know them better. Now, with the lunches completed, Docimo will compose short musical passages, called motifs, that she feels personify each individual. In turn, those whom Docimo took to lunch will write poems about Docimo and the experience they had with her.

To culminate the project, Docimo and her lunch partners will perform their pieces simultaneously. There will be no prior rehearsal, so the performance will be the first time that Docimo hears the poems and that everyone else hears her music. The concert will take place in Nabenhauer Recital Hall on March 16. Docimo said the most memorable part of her recital will be the spontaneity of these joint performances.

“The magic of it is, I don’t know what they’re going to say and they don’t know what I’m going to play, so this is going to be the only performance of this piece, and it’s going to be insanely special for everyone involved,” Docimo said. “A lot of it’s going to be improvised, so we’ll see what happens, and I’m trying to leave as much of the control out of my hands.”

Docimo’s performance will be very nontraditional in the realm of Whalen recitals, as it will feature food, face painting and spoken-word performances in addition to the music. Associate professor Elizabeth Simkin, Docimo’s cello instructor for the past four years, said this performance will be unlike any recital she has seen at the college.

“It’s going to have a very spontaneous feeling because … compared to most of the recitals we have around here there will be part of it which is completely unrehearsed, and we like to rehearse a lot,” Simkin said. “We never know what’s going to happen with Madeline … I’m just thrilled to see her running with something without distraction and really kind of deepening into this particular kind of creative capacity.”

Docimo said she chose each person she took to lunch based on what she knew about them. Docimo’s lunch with junior Matthew Byers, for instance, was inspired by their common interest in the Spanish language. She sat down with lecturer Jean Sutherland because Docimo took Sutherland’s class as a freshman and wanted to reconnect with the woman that was one of her favorite professors. Like these two individuals, many of those that Docimo had lunch with were people whom she had crossed paths with briefly or admired from afar.

Junior Christina Christiansen was one of the first people that Docimo took to lunch. Docimo said she had always seen Christiansen as someone who was “too cool” to approach. However, after their lunch together, Docimo learned that Christiansen felt the same way. The young women said they quickly formed a bond and now are very close friends.

“I found out that we have a lot more in common than I thought we would,” Christiansen said. “We have a lot more in common personality wise, and we have very similar world views and personal philosophies … and I realized that we complement each other really well. We just really hit it off, and there was an instant connection that went further than I think either of us expected it to.”

Though Docimo said her new relationship with Christiansen is the strongest bond formed from the project, she was pleasantly surprised to find that she has managed to keep in touch with each person she shared lunch with. These connections, Docimo said, are the most valuable part of the overall experience of the “It’s Just Lunch” project.

“The biggest takeaway out of this is just find a way to get to know everyone,” Docimo said. “Find a way to be anyone’s friend that you want to be. There are so many people that we could connect with, but we just don’t. I feel like that’s the message that I want to send. It turned out being just so much fun and so natural, so just ask someone out to lunch.”