Quincy Ponvert ’23’s senior recital this Sunday is not only the end of their time at Swarthmore, but also marks the capstone of their highly memorable stretch of music as a student.
Ponvert’s recital will include arrangements of tango standards and modern pieces played by Swarthmore’s first student tango group, Sexteto Strapatta, as well as arrangements for solo bandoneón, original compositions, and taiko pieces with members of the Swarthmore Taiko Ensemble.
The recital follows an open workshop and concert last month in which Sexteto Strapatta, which Ponvert founded, collaborated with the professional ensemble Abaddón. The experience began with sectional rehearsals with the professional ensemble providing notes and critiques to the students before the open workshop. Sexteto Strapatta and Abaddón then played together for final changes before the concert.
Ponvert led the concert and played bandoneón. Other student musicians included Daniel Song ’25 and Emma Gabriel ’25 on violin, Isshin Yunoki ’25 on piano, and Henry Cassel ’23 on bass. Both Sexteto Strappata and Abaddón featured Shinjoo Cho, who is Ponvert’s coach and who coordinated the workshop and concert. Also performing with Abaddón were Leandro Ragusa on bandoneón, Sergio Reyes and Ina Paris on violin, Emilio Teubal on piano, and Pablo Lanouguere on bass.
Ponvert started learning the bandoneón in their sophomore year, and received funding from the College to study ethnomusicology in Argentina in the summer of 2020. But when COVID-19 hit, they instead used the funding to purchase a bandoneón and take lessons over Zoom with an instructor from Argentina.
“It was a very, very slow and grueling process,” says Ponvert, an honors music major with an honors minor in education and a course minor in Latin American studies from New Haven, Conn. “And then I started really studying with Shinjoo when I was back in school, in 2021 and 2022.”
When Ponvert decided to form a tango quintet at Swarthmore, they assembled “this team of the best musicians at Swarthmore” to form what was originally a quintet. Cho became their coach and got in touch with Jenny Honig, director of concert programming, production, and publicity for the Department of Music and Dance and co-coordinator of the Fetter Chamber Music Program.
Andrew Hauze ’04, senior lecturer and co-coordinator of the Fetter Chamber Music Program; the rest of the faculty; and Honig “have been really really supportive in getting inviting musicians to play here and doing tango programming,” says Ponvert, “which is something that as far as I know, has never happened here.”
“Quincy is adventurous and joyous,” says Cho, who adds that the tango coaching sessions help the students access a genre of music that's not customarily taught in classes or schools outside of Argentina.
“Beyond playing music previously unknown to them, they get to experience how non-classical, non-jazz music is learned and interpreted, especially in an ensemble setting, such as Sexteto Strapatta,” Cho says. “The individual sessions establish the tango instrumental technique and styling and teach them the role and capacity of their instrument in the tango genre.
Though tango is common in Argentina, Abaddón is international and based in New York.
“Emilio, the pianist; Pablo, the bassist; and Leandro are all Argentinian,” says Ponvert. “Sergio is Guatemalan, and Ina is Cuban, and Shinjoo is originally from Korea, but lives in Philadelphia. In general, the tango scene in the U.S. is pretty diverse.”
Above all, Cho is excited to see “the culmination of all of Quincy’s musical interests that spans a few centuries, including their original works.”
Ponvert’s senior recital will be held Sunday, April 23 at 3 p.m. in Bond Hall, then again at 7:30 p.m. in Lang Concert Hall for the second Fetter Chamber Music Concert. The performances, sponsored by the Department of Music and Dance, are free and open to the public, and the evening performance will be streamed live.