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Saint Louis University Student Plays Piano for Premiere Performance of ‘Stardust Suite’

by Maggie Rotermund
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Maggie Rotermund
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The Original Arrangement Debuted at the 2023 St. Louis Literary Award Ceremony

Literary Award performance

Saint Louis University senior Serina Daniels, center, performed at the 2023 St. Louis Literary Award Ceremony April 13 with Blake Hernton on violin and Corey Kretzmer on cello. Photo by Sarah Conroy. 

ST. LOUIS – As part of the 2023 St. Louis Literary Award ceremony honoring Neil Gaiman, the audience was treated to the premiere of a new arrangement of “Stardust Suite,” by composer Ilan Eshkeri. Eshkeri is an award-winning composer, artist, songwriter, producer and creator whose work has appeared in theatre, film, television and video games.

Gaiman accepted the award at a sold-out event Thursday, April 13, at the Sheldon Concert Hall. 

Saint Louis University senior Serina Daniels was part of the trio performing the piece. Daniels played the piano with Blake Hernton on violin and Corey Kretzmer on cello.

Edward Ibur, executive director of the St. Louis Literary Award, reached out to Daniels after seeing her play last fall.

“The wonderful pianist Kariné Poghosyan was coming to SLU to perform in November, and I was offered the opportunity to open her concert by performing one of the pieces I was preparing for my senior recital in the spring,” Daniels said. “Mr. Ibur happened to be in attendance, and after the performances, he approached me and graciously asked if I would be interested in performing at the Literary Award event.”

Eshkeri, who composed the original music for Gaiman’s “Stardust,” is based in London.

“I am always humbled to hear musicians perform my music,” Eshkeri said. “It is nearly 20 years since I composed Stardust, and the fact that people still want to perform it and listen to it is the greatest reward a composer could ask for.”

The trio each began preparing their parts individually before coming together for three rehearsals before the Award ceremony. Because of the time difference, Daniels said the trio would record themselves rehearsing and Eshkeri would email back feedback. 

“I am really grateful to Ted Ibur for giving me this opportunity and for Ilan Eshkeri and his team's involvement in adapting his music for Blake, Corey, and me,” Daniels said. “I always feel motivated to play the best that I can whenever I am given any piece of music, especially one that was adapted for this event. I was proud to be playing at this wonderful event and hoped that the beauty of the piece would be conveyed to the audience.”

Daniels is a double major, studying both piano performance and Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences. She said many of her Fine and Performing Arts friends also manage two majors.

“The music program here is primarily made up of double majors, so it is structured in a way that is extremely helpful for those with other academic interests,” she said. “I have loved the flexibility and community that I have gained from being a part of the Fine and Performing Arts Department at SLU.”

Daniels she appreciated that SLU allowed her to continue learning and performing music. She has been involved with both the string quartet and the piano ensemble while at SLU. Daniels is the 2023 recipient of the James D. Collins Award for Academic Excellence in Fine & Performing Arts.  

“My main career goal is to become a speech-language pathologist,” said Daniels. “I have been playing music since I was 4 and it has been integral to my life.”

St. Louis Literary Award 

The St. Louis Literary Award is presented annually by the Saint Louis University Libraries and has become one of the top literary prizes in the country. The award honors a writer who deepens our insight into the human condition and expands the scope of our compassion. Some of the most important writers of the 20th and 21st centuries have come to Saint Louis University to accept the honor, including Margaret Atwood, Salmon Rushdie, Eudora Welty, John Updike, Saul Bellow, August Wilson, Stephen Sondheim, Zadie Smith and Tom Wolfe.

Saint Louis University

Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic institutions. Rooted in Jesuit values and its pioneering history as the first university west of the Mississippi River, SLU offers more than 13,500 students a rigorous, transformative education of the whole person. At the core of the University’s diverse community of scholars is SLU’s service-focused mission, which challenges and prepares students to make the world a better, more just place.