Dr. Rochelle Sennet has established herself as a well-known performer, teacher, and scholar. Her recital programs showcase her versatility at the keyboard, with frequent performances of works by Bach, Beethoven, and African American composers such as H. Leslie Adams, Adolphus Hailstork, James Lee III, and Pulitzer-Prize winning composer George Walker. She received the Bachelor of Music degree from San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Master of Music degree from University of Michigan, Artist Diploma from Texas Christian University, and the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from University of Illinois, all in piano performance.
In 2012, her recording of George Walker’s Piano Concerto was released on the Albany Records label, and she was the first pianist record this difficult work since Natalie Hinderas in 1976. Robert Schulslaper of Fanfare Magazine described her performance of Walker’s concerto: “Rochelle Sennet plays the concerto…with supreme confidence.” She is also featured on this recording, performing on Walker’s triple concerto, Da Camera. George Walker himself praised her performance of his music. She also recorded eighteenth-century composer Leopold Kozeluch’s second piano concerto and three harpsichord sonatas for four-hands with the Classical Chamber Players, which was released on the Mark Records label during the summer of 2013. Her most recent CD, entitled “Alkebulan’s Son: The Solo Piano works of James Lee III,” was released in May 2014 on Albany Records, which received rave reviews in American Record Guide.
Recent performances include solo appearances at the Nizhny Novgorod State Conservatory and Balakirev Music College in Russia, where she gave the international debut of James Lee’s Piano Sonata No. 1, Eastman School of Music in Rochester, Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Start High School in Toledo, Ohio, Stillman College in Alabama, and Hastings College in Nebraska. She performed Samuel Barber’s Piano Concerto with the Blue Lake Festival Orchestra in Michigan during the summer of 2015, which was broadcast live on WBLV-Blue Lake Public Radio. She made a chamber music appearance at Weill Recital Hall in New York City, and she recently gave the world premiere of James Lee III’s Concerto for Piano and Winds with the Morgan State University Symphonic Band in Baltimore, Maryland.
She premiered the Second Piano Sonata of James Lee III, Associate Professor at Morgan State University, at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts in Urbana, Illinois. Lee’s sonata, composed specifically for Dr. Sennet, was performed with the composer in attendance. She has presented lecture recitals at the College Music Society National Conference, the College Music Society Great Lakes Regional Conference in Dayton, Ohio, and the Illinois State Music Teachers Conference. Other appearances include solo recitals as well as being invited as masterclass clinician at the University of New Mexico at Las Cruces, People’s Music School in Chicago, Flint Institute of Music in Michigan and the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music in Milwaukee. She was also invited as guest artist at Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and on the Music at St. Paul concert music series in Flint, Michigan. In 2006, she performed Etude Fantasy by John Corigliano, Oscar-winning composer, at a concert at the University of Illinois in which the composer was in attendance. She has also served on the piano faculty at the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp since 2006, is currently the headmaster for the Illinois Summer Youth Music Advanced Piano Camp, and has made guest appearances at the American Festival for the Arts in Beaumont, Texas. As an adjudicator, she was invited to judge competitions such as the Zelpha Wells Piano Competition in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Walgreens Concerto Competition in Highland Park, Illinois, and the Eastern Illinois University concerto competition in Charleston.
Dr. Sennet has also won numerous competitions. In 2006, she was co-winner for the Krannert Center Debut Artist Competition. In 2002, she was a national finalist for the MTNA Collegiate piano competition. As winner of the 2001-2002 MTNA/TMTA Competition, she performed a Mozart concerto with the orchestra of the Houston High School for the Performing and Visual Arts at the TMTA Convention in Corpus Christi, Texas. She has also performed John Corigliano’s Piano Concerto with the University Philharmonia Orchestra in Michigan, Beethoven’s Concerto No. 2 with the Sewanee Festival Orchestra in Tennessee, the Barber Piano Concerto with the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Orchestra, and Beethoven’s Concerto No. 1 with the Lamar University Chamber Orchestra in Texas. She is an active member of Music Teachers National Association, College Music Society, the Center for Black Music Research, and Society for American Music, and Phi Kappa Phi honor society. She is currently serving as Co-President of Champaign-Urbana Music Teachers Association, and East District Chair of the Illinois State Music Teachers Association music competitions. Dr. Sennet's previous teachers include Ian Hobson, Tamas Ungar, Logan Skelton, and Mack McCray.
Classical music should not be limited to the conventional, but should embrace both the old and new. I believe that musicians should experiment with their recital programs to reach a wider audience. I encourage my students to explore a wide variety of stylistic periods, including works that are not frequently performed. The possibilities of music are endless and my hope is that my students come away from our time together with a stronger means of communicating their ideas. I also encourage students to find their own voice through attention to an increased self-confidence and enjoyment of music-making. Often, I will offer several solutions to playing passages to aid in expanding their musical palette. I advocate the performing of chamber music to widen their perspective. Next, I promote the importance of technical and musical mastery, as well as full-body awareness. Through this awareness, my students are able to eliminate piano-playing injuries that have become all too common in our field. Above all, I believe that performance, scholarship, and pedagogy can be combined. The understanding of common pianistic challenges as well as an awareness of stylistic traits will only serve to enhance performance. In addition, the inclusion of research will lead musicians to explore new ideas about standard and unconventional repertoire.