Two MSU Saxophone Quartets Compete on National Stage, Earn Top Honors

Auteur and Echo Quartets make rounds at major competions, including both at Fischoff.

Auteur Quartet Chemie Ching, Chris Ogden, Kristen Zelenak, Jeff Kinsey
Echo Quartet: Casey Grev, Matt Tracy, Kyle Landry, Eric Troiano

While MSU basketball earned a repeat appearance at the National Collegiate Athletic Association “Big Dance,” two MSU graduate saxophone quartets in the College of Music Saxophone Studio are also bringing home the hardware from prestigious national competitions.

Coached by Professor of Saxophone Joseph Lulloff, the Auteur and Echo Quartets successfully advanced through several rounds at prestigious chamber music competitions to earn top honors. The two quartets were also invited to compete this May at the granddaddy of chamber music competitions in Notre Dame, Ind.: The Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition.

Lulloff says the recent performances of the two quartets will be etched into the record books of the studio’s competitive achievements. He also says it’s extremely rare to have two saxophone quartets from the same studio compete at the Fischoff in the same year.

“To get to this stage, you have to have both a high level of playing as an individual and as a group,” says Lulloff. “It’s also notable that they’re competing as saxophone quartets against chamber groups with a mix of instruments and storied traditions.”

In addition to the Fischoff news, spring competition highlights include the Auteur Quartet’s first-place finish at the Coltman Chamber Music Competition in Austin, Texas. Grand-prize winnings include a cash prize of $2,000, a radio broadcast, and a return invitation to play on the Austin Chamber Music Festival Series next year.

The Echo Quartet finished in the semi-finals of the Plowman Chamber Music Competition in Columbia, Mo. Judges also awarded the Echo Quartet a special commendation recognition in the 69th Coleman Chamber Competition in Pasadena, California.

Lulloff says that while the recent successes add to MSU’s profile, the competitions primarily build experiences and opportunities for students.

Auteur Quartet member Chemie Ching agrees.

“Competitions aren’t just about winning,” says Ching, a first-year doctoral student. “I’ve become very attuned to anything I play now—be it a solo or in a big ensemble. Competing has been very helpful.”

Echo Quartet member Casey Grev seconds.

“Over the years, we’ve learned to be very critical of ourselves in rehearsals,” says the first-year doctoral student. “We pick apart every detail, and it’s an excruciatingly slow process. A competition is really another performance, and we put it all out there. Our job is to see how beautiful we can make the music sound.”

Members of the Auteur Quartet include Chemie Ching, Jeff Kinsey, Chris Ogden, and Kristen Zelenak. Members of the Echo Quartet include Casey Grev, Kyle Landry, Matt Tracy, and Eric Troiano.

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