Arts & Culture

Artist spotlight: Michael Dawkins ’12

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, April 4, 2011

Michael Dawkins ’12 is not a music concentrator, but he has always made time for maintaining his virtuoso piano abilities.

If you see Dawkins play, you will be astonished by his flawless performance of a complicated classical composition. While playing “Gaspard de la Nuit” by Maurice Ravel, Dawkins’ hands fly over one another with a skillful control of the entire range of keys. Bauer’s piece varies from light, fluttering melodies to strong, hard chords. With ease, Dawkins matches the changes, moving left hand over right with grace.

Dawkins said he has been playing since he was eight years old. In first grade, he met two girls who played the piano, and he decided he wanted to be like them. He started taking classes and learned as much as he could. He wanted to master the instrument, and he did.

Dawkins has continued to play in college because it is something he loves to do, and he does not want to lose his abilities.

“It’s like a skill you acquire — like learning to write or learning a language,” he said.

Dawkins said his favorite composer is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. “I feel that people underestimate who Mozart was,” he said. In the 1700s, “Mozart was their Lady Gaga.”

Though he said he best plays music by Franz Schubert and Sergei Rachmaninoff, Dawkins’ favorite pieces to play are Frederic Chopin’s.

“He’s an extremely gifted pianist,” said Arlene Cole, adjunct lecturer in music and Dawkins’ piano teacher.

Cole, who listened to Dawkins’ admission tapes, said he was “highly rated” by the music department before his arrival.

“He’s very talented and can play whatever (piece) he chooses to learn,” Cole said.

At Brown, Dawkins plays for the local Unitarian church and used to accompany participants of the University’s Applied Music Program. He has also helped the Music Department during previous summer sessions.

In last year’s Chaminade Music Club Competition, he won first prize with Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 3.

But Cole said Dawkins’ “main focus is on school life and less on classical music.”

Dawkins said he finds it difficult to balance school with piano practice, but he finds days to work intensely on piano and other days to focus on homework. Though he said he could not imagine his life without classical music, he is looking to play more jazz music in the future.

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