By DAVID DUPONT
BG Independent News
Like a lot of kids, Nick Fox used his family’s cookware for drums when he was little. Jerry Emmons was into drumming on his school desk with pencils. “I got in trouble,” he said.
On Sunday night, Emmons and Fox with fellow percussionist, Emanuel Bowman, brought that childhood fascination with making rhythm to fruition and won the graduate division of the Wayland Chamber Music Competition at Bowling Green State University.
“Catfish” by Mark Applebaum had Fox drumming on three cast iron pots that have passed down to him from his grandmother. And Emmons worked with three pieces of lumber while Bowman played a set of bongo drums. The piece doesn’t specify instruments, Fox explained, just three metals, three woods, and three skins so they could create their own version.
Landlocked Percussion was one of 13 undergraduate and graduate small ensembles that competed in the event that began with the semifinals Saturday, culminating with the finals.
The Undergraduate Division winners were the Autumn Trio with Ling Na Kao, violin, Gretchen Hill, clarinet, and Varissara Vatcharanukul, piano.
Unlike the percussion trio, the Autumn Trio draws members from different instrumental areas.
They may never have met each other had they not been brought together as an ensemble for the Wayland Competition. The three sophomores first assembled as freshmen. Hill said she didn’t remember who on the faculty initiated the creation of the trio.
Hill said she and Kao do play together in the Bowling Green Philharmonia “but we sit on different sides of the ensemble, so we don’t get to interact much.”
They are pleased that they had this opportunity to get to know each other.
For Vatcharanukul and Kao playing in a small ensemble was a first. Figuring out how to work together was a challenge. “It was a new experience,” Kao said.
“It was really hard,” she said, especially given they were venturing into playing contemporary music with Paul Schoenfeld’s “Freyiakh,” a piece influenced by klezmer music.
Kao said she discovered the piece was searching for music for the trio on the internet.
Fox said Landlocked Percussion first came together as a quartet, but one member had to drop out to prepare for his doctoral recital. The group has been together for about two months. They are committed, he said, to continuing the project. “We hope to keep the trajectory going.”
“A big thing for with music for me is the emotional connection,” Emmons said. “It’s easy to get that emotional connection with the music, the audience, with a small intimate ensemble like this. The emotion is heightened.”
“It’s the first time I’ve had such an awesome experience,” Bowman said.
He said “Catfish” with its “groove-based” sound offered a good contrast to the second piece on the trio’s program Toru Takemitsu’s “Rain Tree.” That piece used marimbas, vibraphone, and bells and was “beautiful, ethereal, and spacious,” Bowman said.
One of the judges, Terry King from Syracuse University, said the variety in the music and instrumentation he heard during the finals was a challenge for the judges as well.
“The performances were all of very high quality,” he said. “What I was looking for was the conviction of the performance … how they sold their music was the main thing for me.”
BGSU faculty members Dan Piccolo and Brian Snow coordinated this year’s competition, the 11th.
Piccolo said it was a rare opportunity for students to be able to prepare and perform chamber music, and then be adjudicated by judges from outside the school.
Separate panels judges the semifinals and finals.
The competition also gives students a chance to hear their peers from all the College of Musical Arts’ studios, Snow said.
Each member of the winning ensemble receives $200, and each member of the runner up ensemble receives $100.
The runner ups were:
- Undergraduate Division – The Fifth Circle Reed Quintet, Ava Wirth, oboe, Kendra Sachs, clarinet, Andrew Hosler, saxophone, Jennifer Bouck, bass clarinet, and Nicole Grimone, bassoon.
- Graduate Division – Segetem Quartet, Soren Hamm, soprano saxophone, Claire Salli, alto saxophone, Jonathan Kierspe, tenor saxophone, and Piyaphon Asawakarnjanakit, baritone saxophone.
The wining and runner up ensembles will have additional performance opportunities.
On April 6 at 9:30 they will perform on WGTE-FM. They will also perform at the Toledo Museum of Art, Sunday April 15 at 3 p.m. and at the Manor House in Toledo’s Wildwood Metro Park on Tuesday, April 17, at 8 p.m.
King said that this kind of event is not common in music schools. “This is a real feather in their cap. Very high quality. It’s as good as any school.”