The magic of Munson: Senior prepares for narrative-driven recital


Photo by Melody Lile

Tanner Munson, senior vocal performance major,  performing in the “Spring Awakening” production at the downtown Joplin, Missouri  Pride Parade on August 31, 2019. 

Victoria Gaytan

When Tanner Munson learns the text of a song, he aims to tell that narrative as honestly as possible. 

Senior vocal performance major Munson wouldn’t be here if he hadn’t joined choir his freshman year of high school. He learned he not only had a talent for performing, but he enjoyed it, and when college applications came around, he wanted to make a career out of it. 

Munson said he loves digging into the text – the lyrics – and how the composer set the text to music. He says he finds it fun and thinks that is what a big point of artistry is all about– being able to tell that narrative.

“What I like about music is that there’s lots of contrast, and there’s lots of push and pull,” he said.

“So the text can be generally happy or sad, or one mood, and the music could set a totally different mood. That kind of juxtaposition is what’s really interesting, and it’s a lot of fun to play with as a performer.” 

One of the things that has helped Munson significantly, especially this semester, is preparation. 

“He is a hard worker,” said Kathy Nenedal, who is the piano accompanist that will accompany Munson. “He does most of his preparation on his own.” 

Because Munson is prepared beforehand, whenever he and Nenedal meet, they are able to focus on arranging the sets. 

Munson’s prior preparation allows him more time to work with Nenedal and other accompanists before performances.

“We’ve got some really stellar accompanists here,” Munson said. “We have Kathy Nenedal, Donna Power, Debra Snodgrass, and Glenda Austin. [Kathy] has been with me since I started here. I’ve had her every semester, and she’s saved my life more times than I could even count.

“I just feel like they don’t get a lot of recognition, but these things couldn’t happen without them.”

The recital, which will be a culmination of everything he has learned at Southern, will be unified by emphasizing classical music’s influence on modern music.

Classical music experimented with chord progressions, instrumentation, and forms, which are the structures by which the music is set. 

Munson has put together sets that are story-driven, and emphasize the text. His sets will include classical compositions and each will end with a modern, pop, or jazz song that will tie the set together. He included some pieces by Johann Bach, Johannes Brahms, Adele, and Sam Smith.

He has also written vignettes about things that are significant, such as his relationship with his mother and meeting his first love in college. The songs in his set are based around these stories.

In his recital, Munson will not only be able to share his own stories through singing, but he will also be relating them to pieces of music that others might be familiar with, as well as showing how classical pieces have influenced modern music. 

 “I’m just really excited to share a new idea and a new format of how this could be done,” Munson said.