Five Lawrence students and an Appleton Xavier High School senior were winners last month in the Neale-Silva Young Artists competition, an event sponsored by Wisconsin Public Radio. Violinist Claude Halter, pianist Jacob Ertl, and the members of the Lawrence University Hobnob Horn Quartet were each awarded $250 for their accomplishments. They capped off the experience with a performance in WPR’s “Live from the Elvehjem” at UW-Madison’s Elvehjem Museum on March 24. The Neale-Silva Competition is open to musicians 18-26 years of age who are either from Wisconsin or attend a Wisconsin college. Perhaps it should say “musicians currently residing in Appleton,” since this March was the fourth time in six years that Lawrence has sent winners of the Neale-Silva competition to the Elvehjem.
Claude Halter, a freshman at Lawrence and a student of Professor Stephane Tran Ngoc, is from Vicennes, France. Halter competed with Felix Mendelssohn’s “Violin Concerto #1 in e minor” and performed excerpts of the concerto in the live radio broadcast. Jacob Ertl, a Xavier senior from the studio of Professor Michael Kim, performed “Mephisto Waltz” by Franz Liszt, the famed composer of the Hungarian Rhapsodies.
The Hobnob Horn Quartet is composed of four seniors at Lawrence: Colleen Perry, from Pepperell, Massachusetts; Kris Shaffer, from Gurnee, Illinois; Anna Skrupky, from Turtle Lake, Wisconsin; and Alicia Waite, from Fort Collins, Colorado. The quartet, which has played together since their freshman year, is hitting the competition circuit hard in their final year with a set of relatively modern music. Their program at the Elvehjem included “Fanfare for Brass” by Kerry Turner, excerpts from Hindemith’s “Sonata for Four Horns,” and “Quartet #1 for Horns” composed by quartet member Kris Shaffer. Shaffer submitted his composition to the International Horn Society Composition Contest earlier this year and is still waiting for the results.
“Performing at the Elvehjem was an interesting experience because we had both a live audience [at the museum] and a live radio audience,” said Hobnob Horn Quartet member Anna Skrupky. The WPR concert provided a unique performing experience for all the Lawrence competition winners since their performances could waft through the Elvehjem galleries to browsing art enthusiasts and reach the seated audience while their music simultaneously reached every Wisconsinite tuned into WPR.
In addition to their second-place award at the Midwest Horn Conference in February, the Neale-Silva competition marks the beginning of a season of competitions for the Hobnob Horn Quartet. They are scheduled to compete in the finals of the Coleman Chamber Ensemble Competition April 27 at the California Institute of Technology. Next for the quartet is the semi-final round of the Fischoff National Chamber Music competition on May 10 at the University of Notre Dame. Fischoff, which bills itself as “America’s Premier Educational Chamber Music Competition,” is complete with a winner’s tour to Europe, appearances in Italy at the Emilia Romangna Festival, and a $5000 grand prize. The Hobnob Quartet will be adding a sixth piece, “Six Pieces for Four Horns” by Nikolai Tcherepnin, for the Fischoff competition.
This year is the Hobnob Horn Quartet’s first dive into the waters of competition, and their last year to perform together before they scatter to graduate schools. They gave a half-recital their sophomore year and will be appearing again on stage in Harper Hall at Anna Skrupky’s senior recital on June 1.
The Hobnob Horn Quartet (left to right) Kris Shaffer, Alicia Waite, Colleen Perry, and Anna Skrupky (Quinn Lake)