PULLMAN, Wash. – “‘Exceptional’ is an understatement” when describing student Eric McElroy, said Washington State University music professor Gerald Berthiaume who has worked with students more than 35 years. “With his breadth of knowledge about so many things in so many areas, he is something new and different.”
McElroy, a native of Arlington, Wash., will perform his senior piano recital free to the public at 4:10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8, in Kimbrough Concert Hall at WSU Pullman. Selections will include Ginastera’s “Sonata No. 1,” Ravel’s “Valses Nobles et Sentimentales,” Beethoven’s “Sonata No. 26 (Les Adieux)” in E flat major, and Bach’s “Prelude and Fugue” in G major.
McElroy is a WSU Regents scholar, member of the Honors College (http://honors.wsu.edu) and recipient of the 2013 Presser Award, the School of Music’s (http://libarts.wsu.edu/music/) most prestigious scholarship, among other awards and scholarships.
“He’s exceptional and unusual in many different ways—from his piano performance to his knowledge of music history,” Berthiaume said. “His ability to conduct is at an unbelievable level for someone his age, and he’s also a terrific composer.”
(Listen to McElroy on the piano at https://news.wsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Piano-audio.mp3)
Scholarship enables life-changing experience
McElroy was honored last spring with a scholarship to study at one of the most renowned music conservatories in Vienna, Austria, the world capital of classical music.
His six months of intensive music education and training at the Vienna Conservatory “proved invaluable,” Berthiaume said. “I think his educational experience there, studying piano with two top-notch teachers, Viennese and English, will be transformative to his life and future career as a musician.”
McElroy agrees: “To say that I feel ‘expanded’ intellectually and musically is really just another way of saying that I feel even more curious and more excited about the things that I’ve always been interested in. I am approaching my last year at WSU not as an ending but as a beginning.”
As McElroy readies himself for graduation in December, he’s also preparing to audition for master’s degree programs at three major conservatories in Vienna.
New horizons on a distinguished journey
“My goal has always been to go as far as my talents can take me,” he said. “Leaving WSU and the teachers here will be a struggle, but WSU has given me the opportunity to go abroad and see that there’s so much more to learn, which is exactly what should be expected of a great university: not only to teach students how to think, but more importantly to teach students to always want to learn.”
A pianist since the age of three, McElroy began composing in the second grade. At age 15, he won his first concerto contest with the Everett Symphony Orchestra performing Francis Poulenc’s piano concerto.
He was a national finalist for the Music Teachers National Association composition competition in 2008 and won the National Association for Music Education’s national composition contest at age 16.
Flourishing in a ‘healthy environment for learning’
McElroy said he chose the music program at WSU because “the piano faculty at WSU is unique in the considerable amount of time it spends working directly with its students. Other institutions, especially larger ones, often lack this degree of interaction.”
McElroy recently sat down for the first time at the new Steinway grand piano in Bryan Hall auditorium at WSU Pullman. The elegant black instrument was brought to the hall last spring while he was in Vienna.
“I’ve heard it’s pretty mellow,” he said, embarking on a colorful melody. Suddenly, he gave the keys two solid attacks. “It’s got a little bite,” he noted with appreciation and resumed yet another exceptional performance.