The XY Quartet has only been playing together for about a year, but the all-male saxophone ensemble from Tennessee Tech University has been invited to the nation’s top chamber music competition for student and young professional musicians.
Of approximately 150 applicants, 12 string and 12 wind ensembles are selected every year for the Fischoff National Chamber Music Association competition. The groups are chosen based on a 20-minute recorded performance. Each piece of music on the DVD must be recorded in one take.
“This is a really big deal,” said junior Clarksville native Brant Poindexter, who plays tenor sax. “It’s a huge opportunity for us to get our names out there and represent the university. As far as I understand, we’re the youngest group there.”
The ensemble already has a history of winning. Earlier this spring, the quartet took third place in the Music Teachers National Association South Division competition after winning the state-level competition in November.
The quartet rehearses together for about 10 hours a week in addition to their other performance groups and class work. Three days a week, they practice before 7 a.m. They have been working on the hour-long program for the Fischoff since the fall.
The competition will be May 10-12 at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. A jury will eliminate half of the groups for each of two rounds. The final three in each category will get cash prizes of more than $1,000. The grand prize-winning ensemble will get about $11,000 and a tour of Italy and the United States. Musicians younger than 35 are eligible for the competition.
“We’ve done a little bit of research about the other groups,” said baritone sax player Curtis Vanzandt, a sophomore from Bartlett. “As long as we do our best, I think we stand a pretty good chance.”
This is not the first time TTU saxophone professor Phil Barham has sent his students to the Fischoff. One ensemble went in 2008 and again in 2009, though they did not reach the top three either time.
All first-year music majors at TTU are required to join an ensemble. Poindexter and fellow juniors Ryan Ramsey, of Goodlettsville, and Damian Cheek, of Mt. Juliet, joined forces two years ago and added Vanzandt last year. They are all music education majors.
“When Curtis got here, we just adopted him,” said Ramsey, a soprano saxophonist. “Even back then, we all realized we could be pretty good together.”
The quartet will give a preview concert at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 2, in Wattenbarger Auditorium in TTU’s Bryan Fine Arts Building.