The Lawrence University Saxophone Quartet and pianist Melody Ng were recently named winners of the Neale-Silva Young Artists Competition, alongside students from the Julliard School and the University of Illinois, marking the fifth time in the past seven years that Lawrence students have won the competition. The winners performed live on Wisconsin Public Radio on March 21.The saxophone quartet, made up of junior Sara Kind and seniors Jacob Teichroew, Bryan Wente, and Rasa Zeltina, performed “Tetraphone” by Lucie Robert, a piece Teichroew describes as romantic as well as dissonant and rhythmically driving. Robert, who lives in Paris, spent last spring as a guest composer at Lawrence. During that time, members of the quartet were able to learn about the composer’s performance intentions, and what Prof. Steven Jordheim, the quartet’s coach, calls Robert’s “unique style.”
As performers, the quartet members were able to achieve success through a strong connection to their chosen piece and to one another as musicians. The difficulty of the piece, Teichroew said, showed off the group’s sensitivity, in addition to their technique. Teichroew also said that the members of the quartet “expected the absolute best from each other.”
The saxophone quartet gained experience during the winter term, performing “Tetraphone” in Washington D.C. at the National Saxophone Symposium, where they were enthusiastically received. They also plan to share “Tetraphone” with the Lawrence community in a performance later this month.
Freshman Melody Ng performed two pieces that complemented different aspects of her musicianship. Ng’s teacher, Prof. Anthony Padilla, said, “Claude Debussy’s Prelude from ‘Pour le Piano’ suite demonstrates her youthful enthusiasm and sense of rhythmic drive, while her interpretation of Franz Liszt’s ‘Legend of St. Francis of Paola Walking on the Water’ shows a mature ability to evoke orchestral sonorities and poetic images at the piano.”
The live broadcast presented a special kind of performance challenge to the musicians, but they adapted to the occasion gracefully. Ng pointed to the dual communication enabled by the presence of a live audience as well as radio listeners. The radio audience is different, said Ng, because they do not “receive the visual effects of a live performance,” which means that making a “crystal clear sound” is vital to the musical presentation. Teichroew said that the saxophone quartet focused on maintaining awareness of the live audience, which he thinks helps performers remember “what it is about the piece [they] are trying to express.”
Both the quartet and Ng practiced daily and intensively in preparation for the competition. Their fusion of artistic talent and hard work undoubtedly made them stand out from the pool of 34 competitors.
The competition is funded by the estate of the late Eduardo Neale-Silva, a former University of Madison professor who emigrated from Chile in 1925. Neale-Silva was a devoted fan of classical music and regularly listened to Wisconsin Public Radio programming. Participants in the competition are between the ages of 17 and 26 and must be from Wisconsin or study at a Wisconsin college.