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2016 Summer Scholar: Natasha Talukdar

Playing piano has been a constant in Natasha Talukdar’s life.

Natasha Talukdar
Natasha Talukdar Photography: Jonathan Cohen.

Playing piano has been a constant in Natasha Talukdar’s life.

“I began playing piano at the age of 5,” said Talukdar, an English and music performance double major from Port Washington, N.Y. “My parents emigrated here then and they wanted us to have all the opportunities we could get.” Although it’s something Talukdar is passionate about, she still has to dedicate a lot of time and effort into honing her skills.

“Practicing is not easy and any professional musician today can tell you that,” Talukdar said. “It takes a lot of self-determination, hours and hours of physical and mental practice, and an incredible amount of concentration.” Now a senior, Talukdar was chosen as a Summer Scholar after being recognized for her work as a musician.

The Summer Scholars and Artists Program is a competitive program offered by Binghamton University’s Undergraduate Research Center. It provides selected students with a $3,000 stipend that serves to support their research, creative activities, or scholarship. Each student selects a faculty member to act as their mentor, and the faculty member receives a $1,000 stipend. It is an opportunity for students to independently explore the field they’re most interested in. In the future, Talukdar hopes to continue piano and turn it into a career as a collaborative pianist.

The project she conducted during the summer of 2016 was called “An Apprenticeship in Collaborative Piano with Dr. Joel Harder” and took place in both Binghamton, N.Y. and New York City. Collaborative piano is the term reserved for pianists whose performances are accompanied by other musicians, dancers or singers. “Through Summer Scholars, Dr. Harder and I [perfected] my practicing techniques to allow me to grow technically as a musician and to greater help my musicality,” Talukdar said. “I hope my audience gets a greater appreciation of classical music and collaborative piano through my project.” All her hard work accumulated into one final fall recital.

“We are working on Schumann’s famous song cycle Dichterliebe in my vocal collaboration class and I am very interested in going into it more,” Talukdar said. “As for my solo repertoire I plan to work on my pieces for graduate school auditions, as well as preparing for my Honors Senior Recital.” For Talukdar, help came from a former Summer Scholar, Caitlin Gotimer ‘15, who is now pursuing a master’s degree in vocal performance at the Cincinnati Conservatory. “She helped answer any questions I had and truly inspired me to apply,” Talukdar said. Before applying, Talukdar knew she wanted the guidance of Harder, an accomplished pianist and Binghamton University faculty member who received his doctorate in musical arts from the Juilliard School of Performing Arts. “He has helped me with all the rough patches that a student faces,” she said.

Harpur College’s Music Department, which Talukdar refers to as “stellar,” and her parents’ never-ending support are the reasons she’s been able to take her passion this far. Through classes and other resources she’s had the chance to work with world-renowned musicians such as Roberto Diaz, the president and CEO of the Curtis Institute of Music. “I have loved every professor I’ve had and the attention that each student gets is incredible,” Talukdar said. “They are always supportive of what students want to pursue,” The dedication required to become a professional musician was not always so enticing for Talukdar.

“When I was younger I used to hate practicing and I attempted to quit piano a few times but my parents did not let me and I am so glad they pushed me to keep going,” Talukdar said. “I started to love performing and practicing piano for myself and my love for it started to come out as I got older.”

One of the most rewarding times in her musical career was when she was selected to do a solo performance at Carnegie Hall during her senior year of high school. “From that moment on I knew that performing was what I was meant to do and that it would remain my passion for the rest of my life,” Talukdar said. Her choice to follow her dreams, even throughout college, has helped keep her focused on her goals for the future.

There are no signs of piano and music ever leaving it. “It has provided a way for me to truly express myself and to free myself from the stressful parts of life,” she said. “Life is not easy and playing piano has given me something to always look forward to, whether it be today or in my future.”

Last Updated: 8/30/16