On Thursday, more than 80 young College Station saxophonists got a front row seat to The Italian Saxophone Quartet before the musicians performed their concert at A&M United Methodist Church later that night.
The visit was part of the Friends of Chamber Music’s concert series. For each of the five concerts the organization hosts, they bring an outreach component to the community. The outreach programs have included elementary, secondary and college students.
Every student in the audience for Thursday’s outreach at Oakwood Intermediate School was a saxophonist in College Station schools from the sixth grade through high school. For about an hour, they watched Federico Mondelci on soprano sax, Davide Bartelucci on alto sax, Pasquale Cesare on tenor sax and Michele Paolino on baritone sax perform a selection of the hundreds of songs in their repertoire.
“The kids were really responsive and [had] almost a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see that kind of group play,” Oakwood Intermediate band director Travis Barney said. “… I just hope it broadens their horizons and lets them see how many possibilities are out there in the world for musicians.”
While learning how to play the instrument is a huge component of the students’ music education, said Eric Eaks, fine arts director for the district, it is also important the students see examples of people who turned their love of music into a career.
“Playing music, being a part of fine arts is something that can be truly a lifelong skill and passion,” he said, thanking Friends of Chamber Music for making it possible. “… It’s just a great opportunity that we’re thrilled to get to be able to support and make happen.”
College Station High School senior and alto saxophonist Jillian Skaggs said it was “thrilling” to see the quartet perform.
“They blend every note. Nothing was out of tune. Their technique was far and beyond anything I’ve ever heard,” she said about the performance that ranged from Bach to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. “… It was really cool to experience this. Even though we’re from different lands, different cultures, we all enjoy music.”
Berkley White, a sixth grade alto sax player at Oakwood, said she could imagine the song when she closed her eyes. She also noticed their breathing techniques and said she was hoping to try that as she continues playing.
That feeling is something people cannot get from hearing music on a phone or the radio or watching a performance on YouTube, The Italian Saxophone Quartet founder Mondelci said.
“They don’t have the opportunity to listen often to classical music performed live,” he said. “I know that the music — the vibration, the sound — that you can hear acoustically from the performance is so different. It brings you so much energy; that gives you inspiration.”
Mondelci is a saxophone professor at the Conservatorio Rossini in Pesaro, Italy, where he taught Bartelucci, Cesare and Paolino.
During a question-and-answer portion of the program, the musicians told the students about their instruments and their practice routines. While all that is important, Mondelci said, he hopes the students left the performance inspired. That inspiration can then lead them to find what they are looking to do in their lives.
The experience can be something the students remember forever, he said.
“This was my experience when I was young, and I’m very happy to share again from the other side,” he said.
Each of the musicians’ introduction to the saxophone was different, he said, but they all started in wind bands in small cities where there were not many opportunities to learn other instruments like the violin or piano.
“Really, I fell in love with the saxophone immediately, and the same for them,” he said.