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BGSU teachers attract winning music students PDF Print E-mail
Written by DAVID DUPONT Sentinel Arts & Entertainment Editor   
Friday, 31 January 2014 11:28
Violist Adam Solsburg plays Rapsodie from Suite Hebraique by Ernest Bloch during rehearsal with the BGSU Philharmonia at Kobacker Hall Wednesday January 29, 2014. (Photo: Enoch Wu/Sentinel-Tribune)
The powerful pull of a great teacher will be evident when the winners of the Competitions in Music perform Sunday at 3 p.m. in Kobacker Hall on the Bowling Green State University campus. PHOTO BLOG
Saxophonist Aiwen Zhang, violist Adam Solsburg and pianists Jeff Manchur and Xueli Liu all earned the honor of performing with the orchestra in December in a rigorous two-round competition that crowns two undergraduates and graduates. The orchestra will be conducted by Robert Collins and Brady Meyer, both master in orchestral conducting students studying with Emily Freeman Brown. Tickets are $10.
All four winners were attracted to BGSU by the prospect of studying with a particular faculty member.
Zhang, a native of China, heard saxophonist John Sampen and his wife, composer and pianist Marilyn Shrude, at a master class in Shanghai where she was studying. She was in her second year of high school. She was so struck by what Sampen had to offer, it made her want to study in the United States.
"In China," she said, "our professors are very focused on technical things instead of musical things. Dr. Sampen taught me how to phrase the music, to imagine the story behind the music."
On Sunday she will be performing Jacques Ibert's Concertino da Camera. The piece sets the alto saxophone against an 11-piece ensemble of strings and winds. Zhang, a junior, said that it is a common competition piece for saxophonists. Still it remains fresh. "You can discover a lot of new details every time you play it, so it never gets old."
Solsburg, a senior, found his inspiration closer to home. While in high school in Ann Arbor, Mich., he studied viola with Megan Ferguson, who was then on faculty at BGSU.
She involved him in activities in her BGSU studio, so BGSU seemed comfortable choice for college..
Ferguson has since moved to Washington D.C., so Solsburg now studies with Matthew Daline.
It was Daline who steered him toward "Rapsodie" from Ernest Bloch's "Suite Hebraique." Solsburg had heard another Bloch piece, but Daline said it would be better to tackle "Rapsodie" first.
"It's really grown on me, the more I play it," the young violist said.
Solsburg said the piece shows off the range of the instrument, "bringing out the deep tones of the viola."
That rich lower register, "the mellow tones," he said, are what first attracted him to the instrument when he was 9.
Manchur was attracted to Alfred Schnittke's Concerto for Piano in part by its darkness. When he heard a performance of the concerto in his native Manitoba, and "it spoke to me then."
Schnittke is a Russian composer who lived under Communist rule. His difficult music was out of fashion with the authorities, and that sense of oppression is ever present.
The composer includes "Orthodox hymns and chants underneath this dissonance and bombastic piano playing," Manchur said.
Manchur worked on it during his first year in the Doctorate in Contemporary Music Program at BGSU. "It was exciting to get my fingers around it."
Now two years later the piece is a winner for him.
He came to BGSU to study with Thomas Rosenkranz. He'd heard Rosenkranz perform and found his playing inspiring. Also he had a friend who'd studied with him.
Liu, a master's student in piano performance, said she'd heard about Robert Satterlee through her piano teacher in China. Her teacher had another student who'd gone to study with Satterlee.
"I always wanted to go abroad to study," so knowing Satterlee was "a very good teacher" she included BGSU on the list of schools she applied to pursue a masters in piano performance.
She will be performing Franz Liszt's "Totentanz," or "Dance of Death."
"It's really powerful, really dark," she said. While there are a few soft sections, most of it requires powerful playing.
Liu draws on all the muscle in her petite frame to deliver the sound. "In performance I may go crazy," she said.
Adding to the excitement, she said, is having the full orchestra, the largest contingent of musicians on the program, behind her.
It's the experience that drew her to enter the competition. When she first saw others competing, she knew "I want to do this."
Solsburg said the competition is about more than winning, it's about the entire experience of preparing the piece before the competition and then in rehearsal for the concert.
"I feel I'm growing so much working with the orchestra and conductors," he said. "That's the important thing for me."
Last Updated on Friday, 31 January 2014 12:28

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