Eric Wuu, left, Paul Watrobski and Xander Edwards, right, will perform in the Cello Studio Concert at 4 p.m. Saturday, April 6, in FA-Casadesus.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Student cellists find success on and off stageTweet
Xander Edwards, Paul Watrobski and Eric Wuu are not only three of Binghamton University’s premier cellists – they are student-musicians who excel in the classroom and onstage.
“People often say: ‘I can’t believe you are taking 22 credits,’” Watrobski said. “When you tell them that music is a part of it, they say ‘Oh, it’s just music. That doesn’t count.’ It really does count. We’re spending hours in the practice rooms and rehearsals.”
The three – none of whom are music majors – will display their music talents at 4 p.m. Saturday, April 6, at Casadesus Recital Hall, during a “Cello Studio Concert” that is free and open to the public. Edwards, Watrobski and Wuu will be joined by freshman Andrew Card and will perform solo numbers and as a quartet.
Edwards, a junior economics major, will perform Brahms’ “E Minor Sonata,” while Watrobski, a junior computer engineering major, will play Mark Summer’s “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming.” Wuu, a senior double-major in art history and economics, will perform “Salmacis,” a composition by fellow University student Santino DeAngelo.
“We all have pieces that we are ready to showcase,” Edwards said. “So we’ve put together a Saturday concert.”
The cellists, who describe themselves as “permanent fixtures” of the University Symphony Orchestra, said they have always provided each other with the motivation to work harder. There is no competitiveness nor ego in the group.
“In general, we are a ‘chill-like’ group of cellists who all get along well,” Edwards said. “It’s always been a supportive community between all of us.”
The three also have no trouble describing each other’s strengths.
“Beyond words, Xander has the best technique of all of us,” Wuu said. “Paul is like a mixture of me and Xander in both musicality and technique. I have a lot of musicality to compensate for my lack of technique!”
“Eric plays with such unbelievable passion,” Edwards said. “I’ve tried to incorporate that into some of my playing. When I watch Paul play, I really enjoy the musicality that he has. I’ve learned a lot just from watching him.”
“Xander plays with such great technique,” Watrobski said. “Everything is so precise. I always feel like I can’t get to that level, but I’m going to keep on trying.”
All three took on the cello at an early age. Wuu started in second grade on a recommendation from his sister.
“I thought violins were overly shrill,” he said.
Watrobski began playing the violin in first grade before a teacher told him that his hands were better suited for a larger instrument. He has played the cello ever since and also has played trumpet, flute, saxophone and guitar.
“I’m not very good at any of (the others),” he said. “But it’s fun to mess around and see what kinds of sounds you can create.”
Edwards, meanwhile, started on the cello as a kindergartener. His parents were initially against the idea.
“They thought I would quit after a year,” he said. “But I stuck with it.”
Although all three continued to play cello, they decided to major in other areas at Binghamton University. Edwards, who has studied abroad in Botswana, is pursuing a pre-med track with hopes of going to medical school and becoming a doctor. Wuu is working on two theses and was an undergraduate fellow last semester with the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH). Watrobski, who works in the Watson Advising Office, took part in a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at Oakland University in Michigan in summer 2012, has received the Janet Brady Memorial Scholarship in music and is a 2012 Lockheed Martin Engineering Scholar.
“It can get to be overwhelming trying to balance everything,” Watrobski said. “Sometimes I’ve asked myself: ‘Can I do all of this?’”
Watrobski’s workload drew laughs from Wuu and Edwards when he said that he had joined the University’s crew team this year and has continued to work at Wegman’s on the weekends.
“I think you’re crazy!” Edwards said.
Watrobski, Wuu and Edwards all find that music is a great complement to their hectic, academic lives.
“I’ve been told that I live in a practice room,” Wuu said. “I go to the practice room between classes. I appreciate how music allows me to lose my train of thought and get lost in the moment.”
“It was a big surprise for a lot of people in my high school that I wasn’t going (to college) for music,” Watrobski said. “Even though it’s not my ‘area of study,’ I knew that I wanted to keep going because it’s a passion I have and it’s a great outlet for stress. It feels good to play.”
The cellists, who praised faculty members Timothy Perry and Stephen Stalker for much of their successes, also stressed the importance of the ties between music and their majors. For Edwards, the analytical thinking he uses in music has helped him as he studies for the Medical College Admission Test.
“When you perform a piece, you want an emotional connection – something the listener can relate to,” Edwards said. “In order to do that, you have to know the music very well and be able to express the composer’s intent to the audience. You have to analytically look at the music thoroughly.”