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Free concert at Gammage to showcase ASU's finest musicians

February 10, 2014

Annual Concert of Soloists features full orchestra

Come out to the Tempe campus to enjoy what ASU's Timothy Russell says is "one of the most exciting concerts of the year."

The Concert of Soloists, slated for 7:30 p.m., Feb. 12, at Gammage Auditorium, highlights the School of Music’s best and brightest – the winners of the ASU Concert of Soloists Finalists Program – playing together with student conductors and the ASU Symphony Orchestra.

Russell, a professor of music and director of orchestras at ASU, says the annual concert is a longstanding tradition that dates back to well before he started teaching at ASU 21 years ago. Shortly after his arrival, Russell launched the Student Composition Competition. The winner of that competition gets his or her work premiered at the Concert of Soloists.

“It promises to be a special evening that you won’t want to miss," said Heather Landes, director of the School of Music.

The concert is free. 

To determine who gets to play in the concert, each area of the school – woodwinds, brass, strings, voice, keyboard and percussion/guitar – holds its own competition every fall, from which two students go on to compete in the finalist program. Each division of the school sends a member of its faculty to judge the finalists. There’s also a judge from music therapy/music education and Russell, himself.

For the finals, the students performed accompanied by a piano, but on Feb. 12, the four winners of the competition will perform with a full orchestra.

“The concert is of great interest to the community because it showcases so many different dimensions of our School of Music," Russell said.

This year, three of the four winners are undergraduates: Andrew Boyle, a second year undergraduate in the piano performance program studying with Robert Hamilton; Yuanmiao Li, a senior violin performance major studying with Danwen Jiang; and Marc Placencia, a senior tuba player studying with Deanna Swoboda.

The fourth winner is Kristi Hanno, a first year master of music student in clarinet performance studying under Robert Spring and Joshua Gardner.

The winner of the Composition Competition is Joshua Jandreau, a doctoral student in composition, whose piece, “In Light Surrounded," will premiere at the concert. Jandreau describes the piece as “a tone poem, which is exactly how it sounds – a poem, but through music instead of words."

Andrew Boyle, who will perform Edvard Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 16, said that being selected for the Concert of Soloists was a tremendous honor, and that he is excited about the opportunity because “it gives me a chance to share what I believe to be the meaning of the Grieg Piano Concerto with the public generally. It is enduring music that deserves a fresh retelling and rehearing by modern ears."

Clarinetist Kristi Hanno will perform a much more recent piece: 20th-century composer Henri Tomasi’s Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra.

“This is the first time in 21 years that (a student playing) Tomasi has won the competition," Russell said. “It’s very new compared to the Grieg."

Russell noted that while there are always “standard traditional favorites" that win the competition, the world of classical music is changing, and that Hanno’s professor, Robert Spring, has “really changed the way that people listen to the clarinet."

“When one of our professors is cutting edge, their students often follow their lead," Russell said.

Yuanmaio Li will perform Erich Korngold’s Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35, and Marc Placencia will play Rolf Wilhelm’s Concertina for Tuba.

Placencia said that he was excited to play the tuba for an audience that may never have heard it played as a solo instrument. “Also," he added, “playing a concerto in beautiful Gammage Auditorium is a rare and exciting opportunity."

The free concert at ASU Gammage is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., Feb. 12. For more information about the ASU School of Music, visit