Pianist Bruce Leto took attendees on “The Grand Tour of Italy” at his thesis performance.

Pianist Bruce Leto always knew that his senior thesis would be a recital, but after participating in the Orfeo International Music Festival in Vipiteno, a Northern Italian medieval town, in 2011, and at the suggestion of his advisor, Ruth Marshall Magill Professor of Music Curtis Cacioppo, he decided to focus solely on performing the music of Italy. His thesis, “The Grand Tour of Italy: A Performance and Multimedia Experience,” transported the audience to the home of pasta, pizza, and Montepulciano via the works of composers from the 18th through the 21st centuries and accompanying local photos.

“My thesis presentation can perhaps influence other musicians to offer a multimedia accompaniment, such as a Powerpoint or video, to their future performances,” says Leto, who is beginning New York University’s two-year master’s program in Performing Arts Administration this fall. “The synergy of music, musicology, and multimedia into arts presentations is a direction that many musicians are currently pursuing.”

What inspired your thesis?

I chose to pursue this project because I was interested in the compositional motivation of European composers from the 18th through 21st centuries. Many of these composers were, in fact, influenced by the cultural legacy and tradition of Italy in their works—“the Grand Tour.”

How did you advisor help shape your thesis?

Professor Cacioppo helped me with so many different aspects of my thesis. First off, he suggested that I focus the scope of my thesis on the area of Italy, rather than on European musicians in general. In addition, he instructed my piano playing while I was learning the repertoire for my thesis and helped bring forth my musicianship during the process. Curt also helped me assemble the pictures of Italy in my thesis, which corresponded to different pieces that I performed. Overall, Curt enabled me to flourish as a musician in my thesis and, really, throughout my whole time at Haverford College, which I am grateful for.

What did you learn working on your thesis?

I learned a lot about giving special attention in my playing to dissonant passages of musical works.


Watch Leto’s thesis performance:



“What They Learned” is a blog series exploring the thesis work of members of the Class of 2014.