Artist in Residence Dazzles in Debut

By Resident Reed Browning —

On Tuesday evening, May 29, Harrison Ponce, Kendal at Granville’s new Artist in Residence, made his first public appearance in the community. From start to finish he was a hit.

He opened the show by stepping to the piano, seating himself and, without a word, launching himself upon a riveting performance of Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C-Sharp Minor. Having thereby seized the attention of all of us in the packed Amelia Gathering Room—in theater terminology it was a “sold-out house”—and aided by a self-prepared PowerPoint program, he then turned to his three self-defined goals for the evening: 1) telling us about himself; 2) outlining his ambitions for his summer residency; and 3) introducing us to his music.

We learned that Harrison grew up in Florida, beginning his piano studies at age three. He attended a high school for gifted students. When he accepted a scholarship offer from Denison University, he had his first occasion to leave Florida. (He displayed photos of himself in his first encounter with snow!) At Denison he was a double major—music and chemistry (focusing on computational research, simulations and polymers)—and one of the threads of his talk was his hope to link these two interests. He graduated less than two weeks before his appearance at Kendal. Throughout his talk, he made it clear that he regards his family—mother, brother, grandmother and cats—as the central element of his life.

The program Harrison has created for Kendal over the next three months involves biweekly concerts, guest performances by Denison instructors and fellow students, a lecture or two on musical topics and a series of art-focused interactions with residents designed in part to help us see how the visual/tactile arts (painting, weaving, basketmaking, for example) and the art of music can nourish each other by interpenetration.

Harrison also introduced us to three of his own compositions, including his earliest effort, a Latin-style waltz, and his most recent piece, a work he composed in his last year at Denison, titled “Transcendentalism.” The third piece was a multimedia event, with Harrison at the keyboard performing the piano portion of a composition that also involved a slowly shifting urban image on the screen and a sound-track that captured the bustling, busy and raucous tempo of urban life. The work, he explained, was designed to reflect an urban reality: the existence of loneliness (the piano) amid the crowd (the sound-track). It was, he added, inspired by New York City.

Enthusiastic applause evidenced the audience’s gratitude when the presentation ended, and it was easy to glean from post-program conversations that Harrison’s presence and plans have excited Kendal’s residents. So, we are delighted to welcome our new neighbor and to bask in the confidence of knowing that our new Artist-in-Residence program is getting off to a spectacular start. A summer of delights awaits us.

Artist in Residence Harrison Ponce