Caber Smith’s senior recital: a display of creativity and musicianship at UNLV


The UNLV community is brimming with creativity as students continually exercise their ideas through various media like art, music and photography. 

Caber Smith, a composition major at the UNLV School of Music, recently showcased his creative talents at his senior recital.

This past Friday, Smith’s friends and family gathered at the orchestra and band room within the Beam Music Center to listen to three original compositions by Smith. 

The first piece, titled “Low G for Ukulele,” started the performance. Smith, who’s been playing ukulele for the majority of his life, used this opportunity to challenge his skills in playing and composing. 

A relatively short composition of plucky melodies and bouncing rhythms, the first piece set the tone for the show, as Smith described it as a warm-up for himself and the audience. 

The following piece, “Chicanery,” was written for solo baritone saxophone and was performed by Ernesto Flores. Living up to the definition of its name, the piece centered around a running motif that Smith manipulated in various ways, leaving the audience guessing as to what would happen next. 

The motif would appear in different octaves and tempos, and would even emerge reversed at certain points. Flores stomped while playing certain measures, adding to the piece’s experimental approach.  

Smith, while initially hesitant to compose for baritone saxophone, credits the success of this piece to the enjoyment he found in the composition process and to Flores’ expert performance.  

“‘Chicanery’ was so much fun for me. I’ve never written for saxophone before, and the only reason why I wrote ‘Chicanery’ in the first place was because I was supposed to have a string quartet for this recital, which couldn’t work out logistically. Since Ernie had been bugging me for three or four years to write him a saxophone piece, I figured I’d use this chance to do it,” Smith said. 

“I started composing and probably around 80 to 85% of the piece was done in a weekend. Sometimes, you just get that spark and think ‘This is the best thing ever’ and you just write, write, write. But most of the time, you’re in the weeds working things out until it makes sense,” Smith added.

The recital concluded with “Purgatory,” a piece written for the full orchestra. Featuring strings, horns, woodwinds and percussion, the piece evoked feelings of limbo and stasis, much like its name. The percussion created a back-and-forth call between the strings in some sections, while the woodwinds and strings bounced off each other in later measures. 

The grandeur of the horns and timpani contrasted well with quieter moments of strings and flutes adding to the overall dread and anxiety of the composition. 

When asked about his composition process Smith said, “The way I compose is very, very cyclic. I like to have one motif that I can play around with. I like inverting things, putting things backwards, augmenting things; I like every single note of a piece to be connected to the beginning. That’s very important to me, so it’s all coherent.” 

Smith’s recital was a success, as those in attendance took photos and commemorated the moment afterward. Smith also noted that while he still felt nervous even after the recital, he was glad it went well. 

For future dates of UNLV student-led shows, recitals and other facets of creativity, check out UNLV’s online events calendar.


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