Artist Spotlight: Tristan Renfrow

Andrew LaCombe

(courtesy of the artist)

After starting guitar and piano lessons at age six, Tristan Renfrow immediately fell in love with music.

“[Since then], I’ve never been able to imagine myself doing anything else with my life and feeling satisfied,” he said.

Renfrow, a percussion performance major and a junior at Lawrence, plays frequently and in many different settings. But he will always recall one performance from several years ago when he was a member of the children’s chorus for the Florentine Opera Company in Milwaukee.

“I vividly remember ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,'” said Renfrow. “We were reciting lines of Shakespeare opposite famous opera singers on the most ethereal set. It was a completely surreal experience for me at such a young age.”

Renfrow started playing percussion in fifth grade because the idea that playing percussion requires versatility was very appealing. His transition to percussion was very successful. In 2008, Renfrow won the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Young Artist Competition. He played his marimba concerto with the orchestra several times, yet another unforgettable experience for the young percussionist.

Renfrow came to Lawrence wanting to perform several different styles of music as often as possible and he is certainly doing so: Renfrow is a current member of the LSO, LUJE and a jazz small group. Off campus, he performs with the Manitowoc Symphony and Salsa Manzana, which is a new group that consists of musicians from across the Fox Valley.

Renfrow will give his junior recital Wednesday, April 6 at 8 p.m. in Harper Hall. One of the pieces he will play is “Loops II” by Phillippe Hurel. Renfrow said this complex work is the hardest piece of music he has ever played.

“Although the music may seem to be undergoing perpetual transformation because of the morphing process, the listener will nevertheless feel it is going round in circles, since each long procedure brings you back to the starting point, like the little local loops that you can hear throughout the piece,” he explained.

Improvisation is one of the many musical practices that Renfrow enjoys. “I love the spontaneity and ephemeral nature of improvised music,” he said. “I’ve only recently started learning the jazz idiom or ‘language,’ but have always been attracted to improvisation.”

Renfrow, who won the Civic Music Association of Milwaukee’s Collegiate Music Competition in November, is not exactly certain where his career in music will take him.

“I try to take advantage of every opportunity that I find and make the most of it. Auditioning to graduate programs, freelancing, professional auditions and traveling to learn other cultures’ music are all paths I’m leaving open,” he said.

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