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Drake University hosts winners of the Fischoff Competition

Maria Heath

The Des Moines Civic Music Association partnered with the Fischoff Competition and Drake University to bring award-winning professional musicians to Sheslow Auditorium last weekend.

​“Students can see the future of being in music,” said Lizzie Murphy, a Drake junior who is interning with the Des Moines Civic Music Association. 

​The Fischoff Competition is the nation’s largest chamber music competition and will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. The first place winners, or Gold Medal winners, go on a Midwestern tour to celebrate their win and share their music with the country.

​CMA Executive Director Brian Coyle knew he had to get Des Moines on the tour itinerary.

“I called up Kara Kane, who’s the executive director of Fischoff, and said ‘I want to get your people out here,’” Coyle said.

Luckily, Kane liked the idea just as much as Coyle.

On Sept. 23, Mixed Media, a saxophone quartet, visited Sheslow Auditorium to perform a well-attended show. The stop was the last on their tour, but a first visit to Des Moines for all four members of the group.

​The quartet is composed of Michael Chapa on soprano saxophone, Julien Bergen on alto saxophone, Lindsey Welp on tenor saxophone and Grace Gelpi on baritone saxophone.

​“Thank you so much for welcoming us into your community,” Gelpi said in between songs in the group’s set.

​Mixed Media’s set contained music from a variety of styles, including classical Bach chorales to music from the romantic era by Schumann.

Chapa said one of the main reasons the group’s repertoire is so unique is because they “explore the variety of music the saxophone can offer.”

​Even the existence of such a quartet was new for many. A majority of hands went up when Gelpi polled the audience on who had never seen a saxophone quartet live before.

​Introducing new styles and genres of music is a goal of the Civic Music Association during their 97th season. Their program cover reads: “Expand your musical horizons.”

“Some people call classical music a dying art,” Murphy said. “CMA really works to bring that whole blend of different music styles to intrigue not only those older standard audiences, but also new ones as well.”

In addition to introducing generations, young and old, to music they may not be familiar with, CMA is also working to connect professionals with students for learning opportunities.

​“We have this great collaboration where we’re bringing wonderful artists into the [Drake] music department, and they’re bringing great [students],” Coyle said.

​This symbiotic relationship has allowed CMA to use Drake’s facilities but also given students the opportunity to engage with successful people that share their passion.

“To see students who are succeeding so early in their careers, that can be inspiring,” Murphy said.

​Mixed Media did a Drake master class with two saxophone quartets as part of their stop in Des Moines. Murphy said to actually see the award-winning group in person was a surreal experience.

​The relationship between the Civic Music Association and Drake goes back decades. The relationship will continue as CMA brings artists to Sheslow four more times this semester.

​The next performance will be Nov. 11 in Sheslow Auditorium. Wu Fei and Abigail Washburn will be playing a concert of Chinese classical and folk music.

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