Adams State College
Four Adams State College student musicians received the honor of performing at the University of Nevada Las Vegas. The saxophone quartet, including director Ryan Janus, Adams State saxophone instructor and USAF Academy Band and Falconaries musician, Rose Stroback, Kayla Hunt, Leslie Kahler, and Dan Kenealy, played at the North American Alliance Region 2 Conference, in February.
At the conference, the quartet performed “Quatour pour Saxophones” by Pierre-Max Dubois. Kenealy describes the first movement as moderately fast and the second movement as very slow. “The third movement is the fastest, with lots of changing meters and a light, bouncy feel. I would consider the fourth movement the most technically challenging, with many quick chromatic passages written for each instrument.” Hunt said it was definitely an accomplishment to perform the composition.
In a four person ensemble, Kahler said you can’t hide behind anyone else and the musician must play their part confidently while listening to the other members of your group. She compares learning a new piece to a math equation. “We all are part of the same equation and have to do our job in order to solve it.” Kenealy equivocates preparing for a performance to a puzzle. “When you first sit down and read a new piece, it’s like opening a puzzle box.” After an idea of the big picture, the musicians find similar pieces to fit together. “Once the last pieces fall into place, it gives you a chance to step back and see the final product and you are ready to share it with everyone else.” He appreciates the tremendous satisfaction when the hard work pays off.
Because Kahler and Kenealy student teach in the Denver area, this meant a lot of personal practice time for the sax players. The weekend before the conference the ensemble rehearsed for five hours. “Ending the last note at the performance, I felt amazing,” Hunt said. “We started and ended together and sounded like a saxophone quartet.” Kahler said by performance time, “you’ve spent so much time preparing that you just have to breathe and let it happen.”
Ryan Janus, Adams State applied saxophone instructor, formed the quartet. Kahler, a clarinet major, chose the soprano saxophone because Dan “hates the soprano” and she thinks it is kind of like a shiny, golden clarinet. Hunt plays alto saxophone, Kenealy the tenor saxophone, and Stroback’s instrument is the baritone saxophone.
The student musicians say Janus maintains a positive attitude and encourages them to reach their potential. For Kenealy, Janus’ style is systematic, and he consistently holds the group to the challenge of preparing the music precisely in all aspects. However, he also balances this attention to detail by encouraging the students to explore different possibilities in terms of expression and interpretation. “The result is a well polished final product with some of our own unique nuances,” Kenealy said. Hunt agreed saying by the final dress rehearsal, Ryan addressed the final issues regarding balance and blend, tuning, and articulations.
Kahler and Kenealy will graduate in May 2011. Kahler, has multiple majors including music, performance, English, and secondary education and plans on pursuing a master’s degree in music performance. “It was absolutely an honor to perform at this conference,” said Kahler. “We were performing at a conference with saxophone quartets from Arizona State and even some professional groups, not very many people can say that they’ve had that kind of experience in life.” Kenealy plans to teach band or choir at the high school level. He believes the experience advanced the Adams State Music Department’s reputation nationwide
Hunt, a music education major, said she appreciated representing the music department. “I’m not going to lie, I was also nervous about performing in front of tons of saxophone professionals. But in the end, I learned so much that I would love to have the opportunity to again.”
Being exposed to performances by professional groups, like Prism, presented the students with a chance to imagine their future. Performing was only part of the experience; Janis took the quartet to ride a roller coaster at New York, New York in Las Vegas. “I don’t think I have ever screamed that much in my entire life,” Kahler said. Hunt said she enjoyed “every bit” of the trip, from flying to Vegas, figuring out the bus system to get to UNLV, to arriving back to Alamosa at 4:30 in the morning. “It was an amazing experience for me all around.”
The conference performers included professional groups and all levels of graduate and undergraduate and even high school groups. Musicians also attend clinics and visit a show room full of instruments and accessories for sale where vendors demonstrate the latest developments in saxophone design and accessories.