By Nick Ward
Photos by @zachfromottawa

The Raven Saxophone Quartet will be competing in the semifinals of the International Chamber Ensemble Competition at the New England Conservatory in Boston on March 7, 2020.

The Music program’s saxophone Instructor and Director of Saxophone Ensembles (including The Raven Saxophone Quartet), Mike Tremblay says the Quartet has achieved this amazing feat through talent, diligence, and fantastic chemistry.

“The Raven Saxophone Quartet is unique in how the four individuals have really figured out how to play as a unit,” explains Tremblay, who has over thirty years in the music industry as a performer, woodwind specialist, and educator. “They feed off each other’s energy and their time and feel are superb.”

Rebecca Cowal, Zachary Sedlar, Liam Nesbit, and Samuel Boucher are the Bachelor of Music students who make up the group.

“I’ve learned a lot from being in the Quartet,” says third-year student Boucher. “All of our players put in an incredible amount of work and count on me to do the same. We rely on each other when it comes to realizing a piece of music. The quartet has motivated me to work hard every day so we can fly high as a unit.”

Sedlar echoes his teammate’s sentiments.

“The main thing I have gained from playing with my fellow Ravens is the ability to stay aware of the music that each individual brings to life, all at the same time. I no longer play as an individual musician; I am a part of a whole,” says Sedlar.

Below: The Raven Saxophone Quartet Perform (Preliminary round of the International Chamber Ensemble Competition)

The Quartet was formed in September of 2019 as one of four quartets for Carleton University Music’s Saxophone Ensemble, which has existed for around ten years. These Ensembles help students garner valuable ensemble experience and refine their performance skills, including timing, reading, feel, and intonation.

It also contributes to their dynamism as musicians, expanding their comfort level across various genres as the groups tackle many styles of music from all over the world. Typically, saxophone quartets perform two in-house concerts per year and usually have several outreach concerts as well.

First-year student and Quartet member Liam Nesbit says that being part of the Saxophone Ensemble program has had tremendous benefit towards his growth as a young musician. Particularly, he credits Carleton Music for a more intimate and focused learning environment. “In high school, I only ever experienced groups with twenty or more people, so this has been a welcome change. On top of that, the difficulty of the music we play is much higher and this has challenged me to keep improving.”

The Quartet’s appearance at the International Chamber Ensemble Competition will mark the first time Carleton students have been afforded the chance to perform classical chamber music to international judges for a chance to win a professional appearance in several of New England’s upcoming chamber music series events.

Player Rebecca Cowal is hugely appreciative of this opportunity to represent Carleton Music in the competition. “We have worked very hard together,” she says.

“This is an incredible experience. The fact that we have a chance to win is mind-blowing – we are definitely hoping to progress to the final round of this competition.”

Tremblay has been very impressed with the Quartet’s musical range. “The repertoire is extremely difficult,” he says. “They ferociously devour large scale works by rehearsing on their own to get things ready for performance. Typically, they use recordings of other quartets as a tool for tempos, style and articulation.

Rebecca, Zachary, Liam, and Samuel always show up to my rehearsals prepared,” he adds.

“I’ve been teaching at Carleton Music since 1994, and this is one of the most exceptional groups I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Four hard-working musicians who are also really nice folks to deal with on a daily basis. We’re really looking forward to heading to Boston and share the stage with musicians from all over the world!”

“What warms my heart is knowing we have Carleton’s support in this endeavour; it is a wonderful feeling to be acknowledged for hard work,” says Sedlar.

Support the Raven Saxophone Quartet at the International Chamber Music Ensemble Competition by visiting their page on Carleton’s FutureFunder platform.

The Quartet: Who’s Who

Rebecca Cowal, soprano saxophone

Rebecca is in her third year studying jazz saxophone at Carleton University. Majoring in tenor saxophone, her influences include Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins, and Joel Frahm.

Zachary Sedlar, baritone saxophone

Zac is in his final year of Carleton University’s Bachelor of Music program. Zac draws inspiration from many genres of music and is influenced by saxophonists Harry Carney, Ronnie Cuber, Donny McCaslin, and Colin Stetson, to name a few.

Liam Nesbit, alto saxophone

Continuing with his first year of Carleton University’s Bachelor of Music program, developing his skills as a jazz saxophonist further. He draws influence from the likes of great players such as Phil Woods and Cannonball Adderly.

Samuel Boucher, tenor saxophone

Samuel is currently in his third year of Carleton University’s Bachelor of Music program, studying to become a well-versed jazz saxophonist. Samuel draws inspiration from many jazz legends such as Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Chet Baker, and Charles Mingus.

SUPPORT THE QUARTET ON FUTURE FUNDER

Wednesday, February 26, 2020 in
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