Dr. Jenna Sehmann

Dr. Jenna Sehmann

NACOGDOCHES, Texas – Dr. Jenna Sehmann, assistant professor of oboe and music history at Stephen F. Austin State University, will present the concert “Postcards from America” at 6 p.m. Sunday, March 24, in Cole Concert Hall, Wright Music Building, on the SFA campus.

Built around Susan Kander’s work “Postcards from America,” the program features American musical works with connections to postcards or written letters to others. Co-collaborator on the program is Eunjin Bang, collaborative pianist at SFA, with Zeke Bocklage, visiting professor of theatre, and Nita Hudson, voice lecturer, also performing.

“My academic research is focused on the connections between words and instrumental music,” Sehmann said. “Usually I perform pieces inspired by literature. I thought it would be different to instead focus on letters, or postcards, one person speaking to another. I also like to include unique performance aspects, so I’m excited to have two SFA faculty members collaborating as dramatic narrators for two of the pieces.”

“Postcards from America” tells the story of an immigrant who comes to America during the industrial revolution to find work in New York City. Each movement is a postcard to his family in Europe. Bocklage is the featured narrator.

“The work starts out hopeful, as the immigrant has just arrived in the ‘Land of Opportunity,’” Sehmann said. “The later movements become much more grim as the immigrant grapples with the realities of factory work, all while still trying to maintain a positive front for his family.

“This work interested me as I’m always looking for interdisciplinary compositions,” she adds. “The ‘postcard’ is read preceding each movement, and sometimes the words are optimistic while the music tells a different story.”

“Wishful Thinking” for English horn and piano is composer Kincaid Rabb’s “postcard” to the world amid the 2020 pandemic. Sehmann was part of a consortium to commission the work in 2020 and premiered the piece that year. “Performing this piece again in 2024 is interesting,” she said, “as Kincaid’s words of hoping for a different world post-pandemic seem very distant today.”

The concert also features “My Dearest Ruth” by Stacy Garrop, which was commissioned by Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s sons in 2013. The text comes from her husband Martin Ginsberg’s last letter to her.

“Garrop arranged this work for oboe and piano at my request earlier this year, and this is the world premiere of the oboe version,” Sehmann said. “While the words aren’t present during this version, the audience will hear an audio clip of Ginsberg reciting the letter before the performance.”

Hudson narrates on “Why else do you have an English horn?” by Christopher Berg. An interdisciplinary work for English horn and actress, the piece was originally written for the stage actress Elaine Stritch. Based on poems by V.R. Lang, it is a conversation between the actress with the English horn responding.

Admission to the concert is free. For additional information, contact the SFA School of Music at (936) 468-4602.