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The Scarlet & Black

The many talents of Royce Wolf

Wolf+at+the+piano.+Photo+by+Mary+Zheng.
Wolf at the piano. Photo by Mary Zheng.

Royce Wolf, Associate Professor of Mathematics & Statistics, who is on leave this academic year, will be performing a piano recital in Sebring-Lewis Hall, located in Bucksbaum, on Wednesday, Feb. 26 at 12 p.m. as part of a recital tour of Midwest liberal arts colleges. The performance will feature music by Bartók, Ives, Prokofiev and Hindemith.

Wolf has been playing piano since age 14. He first learned the violin, but found that the range and repertoire of the piano suited him better.

“There are a lot of very talented people who have written an enormous amount of music literature for it,” Wolf said.

He used to practice and perform with Rebecca Stewart—a flutist who was a librarian at Grinnell until a few years ago—and found that he most enjoys and learns from working with other musicians.

“It’s just fun from a social angle, not to be holed up in your own little place with nothing around you. You’re forced to listen to the other person and work with the other person. It helped me solve a tempo problem, which is a problem a lot of amateurs have—letting the tempo get driven by a number of unmusical things.”

As a mathematics professor, Wolf has found that his style of mental processing helped with learning music.

“Harmony is a mathematical system. Mathematics is a way of organizing abstract ideas and harmony is exactly that. Learning harmony, learning how to read music was very easy for me, and I think that is because of my mathematical mind,” Wolf said.

On various dates, beginning last Sunday at Simpson College and ending at Beloit College on Saturday, April 12, Wolf will be performing solo recitals at different institutions. He arranged the tour himself, emailing colleges in the area at which he was interested in performing. Wolf believes recitals are very valuable learning experiences for a musician.

“[You learn] how to handle nerves, how to handle performance. To listen to the music, that’s one of the more powerful things … in performance, you put the technical details and hardcore memory issues in the background,” Wolf said. “You say to yourself ‘I’ve done that work and I know that very well, I’m going to just listen to the music.’ … You try not to quiz yourself, that’s what’s dangerous.”

Wolf at the piano. Photo by Mary Zheng.
Royce Wolf at the piano. Photo by Mary Zheng.
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