Musicians set to perform at Plowman Chamber Music Competition

Thursday, March 11, 2010 | 5:21 p.m. CST; updated 5:28 p.m. CST, Thursday, March 11, 2010
From left, Brandon Kies, Doug O'Connor, Gai Qun and Quinn Lewis of the Red Line Saxophone Quartet pose for a group photo. The four are students at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. In the 2008 Plowman Competition, Red Line was given one of the judges’ special recognition awards.

COLUMBIA — Musicians from across the nation will be in Columbia this weekend for the fourth Plowman Chamber Music Competition. Eighteen non-professional ensembles will compete for a grand prize of $5,000.

“I am looking forward to hearing some of the greatest chamber music performances,” said Ayako Tsuruta, the artistic director and a founder of the competition, which began in 2006.

If you go

 What: Plowman Chamber Music Competition

When: Semi-finals are from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; finals are 7 p.m. Sunday

Where: Saturday at First Baptist Church, 1112 E. Broadway; Sunday at Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts, 203 S. Ninth.

Admission: Saturday $20 full day, $10 half day or with student ID; Sunday, $20. Tickets are available in advance or at the door.

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Musicians are coming from states including Illinois, Colorado, Texas and Pennsylvania, Tsuruta said.

The Plowman Competition is in memory of the late Janice Plowman, a Columbia community member who dedicated her life to education and the arts.

The Red Line Saxophone Quartet is coming from Rochester, N.Y., where members Brandon Kies, Gai Qun, Doug O'Connor and Quinn Lewis are students at the Eastman School of Music. In the 2008 Plowman Competition, Red Line was given one of the judges’ special recognition awards.

“They made a huge impression on us back in 2008 because they performed with their music memorized, which is extremely rare for chamber music, especially for saxophone quartets,” Tsuruta said.

O’Connor, who plays soprano sax, said the group looks forward to returning to Columbia. "We’re extremely excited to connect with other groups,” he said.

This year's judges are Russian pianist Boris Berman of Yale University, Israeli violist Atar Arad of Indiana University and American trombonist Mark Kellogg of Eastman and the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra.The judges were scheduled to participate in class discussions and lectures with students in the MU School of Music this week.

In addition to the $5,000 grand prize, there are $2,000 first prizes in the categories of Piano and Strings, and Woodwinds, Brass and Percussion and two $500 honorable mentions. There is a special Hugo and Lucy Vianello Audience Prize, which is decided by listeners, Tsuruta said.

All competition events are open to the public and will be held Saturday at First Baptist Church and Sunday at Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts. Finalists will be announced at 8 p.m. Saturday. At the finals, which will be held Sunday evening, five ensembles will play for 30 minutes each. Tickets for either day are available at the Missouri Theatre box office or at the door.

Last year's grand prize winner was the Jasper String Quartet, which formed when the members were students at Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio.

Because the Missouri Theatre was under construction in 2008, the competition was moved to First Baptist. Last year, it was not held.

This year will be the first year the event is co-presented by the Missouri Symphony Society and the Odyssey Chamber Music Series. The MU School of Music, First Baptist Church and Hennessy & Sons Music, are also sponsors.

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