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January 23, 2009
Vol. 50 No. 12

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Saxophonist to teach, play for aspiring musicians

Jonathan Helton
World-renowned saxophonist Jonathan Helton will be appearing at Susquehanna for a guest artist recital on Sunday, Jan. 25 at 8 p.m.

The recital will take place in Stretansky Hall in the Cunningham Center and will feature Helton along with his colleague from the University of Florida, Steven Thomas. Thomas will accompany Helton on the cello.

Both Helton and Thomas will teach a master's class at 1 p.m. on Sunday in which they will work in the studio with saxophonists and also in the cello studio. The master's class is being supported in part by the Conn-Selmer Factory, the department of music and the Susquehanna University Speaker's Fund.

Gail Levinsky, associate professor of music, said Helton is on tour in the northeast, so she arranged to bring him to Susquehanna.

"I think he's a strong teacher and he brings much to my students," Levinsky said.

Levinsky said the purpose behind the Artist Series is to connect students on a cultural and educational level to "elements and programs they wouldn't readily be able to see."

"Typically when folks go on tour, it's with an instrument and piano, and this is a little bit unique in that they will be performing works for saxophone and cello," Levinsky said.

Levinsky said: "I'm not doing this type of programming this year, so they [students] are gaining from hearing different musical compositions, which makes them better musicians. Any time a musician hears other musicians perform, that enhances their own musical understanding."

Helton said that he and Thomas will be performing four works for alto saxophone and cello. "There are not a lot of pieces written for this unique instrumental combination," Helton said.

The four pieces to be performed include: "Sonate pour saxophone alto et violoncelle" written by Edison Denisov, which Helton said is one of Denisov's most successful pieces; "Field Music: Ash," which was written for Helton by Jonathan Elliott; "Four Short Songs: a certain sadness," written by Mark Engebretson, and Dorthy Chang's "Walk on Water."

Levinsky said having a diverse program of well-known composers as well as newer composers is "really good, especially when you have a department that has students that are interested in composition. I think that adds another element to hearing musical programs."

Helton said during the master's class students will have the opportunity to play pieces they have been working on for him. Helton said, "I will spend some time with them to help them improve their technique, their musical expression, and generally help to raise the level of musical effectiveness of their performance."

"One of the things that I think happens on the university campus, regardless of discipline," Levinsky said, "is when you're connected to a department and a professor, you hear the same thing, and so even if it's the same discipline or working with the same piece, to have another person's input on how you're performing that piece is extraordinarily helpful and insightful.

"I think both for the department of music and the university as a whole," Levinsky said, "the department is a wonderful resource for our students and for the university community, but also for the larger Snyder County community. Exposure to the arts is so vitally important and we have a community that is thirsty for it."

Levinsky said she invites the entire community to come out to the recital, but especially young students in the saxophone and cello world. She said, "The sort of standard operating procedure is to present an instrument accompanied by a piano, so to hear traditional instruments in an untraditional way is very exciting and the making of a wonderful experience."

Admission to the recital is free.

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