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The Revival of the Southwick Recitals, an Emerson tradition

In 1900, Henry Lawrence Southwick, then-dean of Emerson College, launched an oratory recital series that became a popular Boston tradition for more than a century. The “Southwick Recitals” are back this year, but with some new twists against the backdrop of a pandemic.

Kenneth Grout, Communication Studies executive-in-residence

This Friday, Nov. 6, the Southwick Recitals return under the leadership of Kenneth Grout, Communication Studies executive-in-residence and a former affiliated faculty member who received the 2020 Alan L. Stanzler Award for Excellence in Teaching.

Throughout its history, the Southwick Recitals featured faculty, alumni, and other accomplished performers. But this year, students will take the stage…or rather, screen, as the recitals will be delivered from their homes, dorm rooms, or wherever they are safely distanced.

“For me, reviving the Southwick was a natural fit,” says Grout. “I had thought about having a student recital of oral presentation of literature before I even knew about the Southwick. The more I learned about it, the more intrigued I became. So, when (Communication Studies Department Chair) Dr. Greg Payne asked me to take it on, I jumped at the chance. I didn’t realize students had not traditionally been involved. Dr. Payne could not have been more supportive of my idea of having a student Southwick.”

Of the students selected to perform, Grout says, “These are gifted presenters who really elevate the pieces they are performing and should generate a true sense of pride for all Emersonians.”

Grout has spent much time over the past several weeks working with the students, as well as rehearsing his own recital. “I wasn’t planning on presenting anything myself, but (Dr. Payne) ‘strongly encouraged’ me to do so. The idea of presenting along with my students is simultaneously thrilling and nerve-wracking. It’s almost like having to ‘put my mouth where the money’s been.’ I’m sure my presentation will go OK, but I’ll be glad on Friday when I can go home, go to bed, and not rehearse in the dark until sleep takes me over.”

Visit the Southwick Recitals page to register for this year’s event, and to learn more about this year’s program and performers.

A recording of the 2020 Southwick Recitals is now available to view.

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