Meet the Artists: Mixed Media

By Connor Marrott '25 | American Studies and Theatre

[About a 5 MIN read]

Mixed Media MTA Hero
Mixed Media MTA Hero

Meet the Artists: Mixed Media

By Connor Marrott '25 | American Studies and Theatre

[About a 5 MIN read]

Winning this group national recognition at the prestigious Fischoff Competition this past year, the Georgia-based Mixed Media quartet uniquely balances innovation and tradition in the often stagnant classical music landscape. We are proud to welcome this quartet on September 13, 2022. We asked this dynamic group a few questions about their teamwork and style in preparation for their feature in the Philbin Studio Theatre at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. Saxophonist Michael Chapa responded. Here are his answers. 

How did the quartet meet/form?

Chapa: Initially, we met each other because we all studied at the University of Georgia together during the 2021-2022 school year. We told our professor, Dr. Connie Frigo, that we were interested in playing in a saxophone quartet, and she ended up assigning us together. We immediately clicked as a group, and from there the rest is history!

How have your lives changed since winning the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition?

Chapa: The Fischoff competition itself is such a warm, enthusiastic, and pleasant environment. I have made some of my closest friends during my experiences in South Bend, and the feedback from the jury has shaped my learning process in a powerful way. Furthermore, the Gold Medalists engage with the community, extending beyond the concert hall and into people’s lives who otherwise wouldn’t have an opportunity to experience the beauty of music. I am deeply grateful that this opportunity exists for young musicians to springboard into an artistic community of the highest level. I’ve grown immensely as a musician as a result of the Fischoff experience!

What is the most challenging piece in your current repertoire and why?

Chapa: I would say that Viet Cuong’s Prized Possessions is the most difficult piece on the program. There are many extended techniques that are utilized in both movements, such as slap-tonguing, pitch bends, and quarter tones. On top of that, the music demands a high degree of rhythmic precision, otherwise, the morphing effect of the first movement and the driving nature of the second movement does not come through. The first movement, Mother’s Monster, also requires the four saxophones to blend seamlessly with each other in terms of pitch and color of sound, which requires a lot of attention to detail from each player.

How often and for how long do you rehearse each week and what does your rehearsal schedule generally consist of?

Chapa: The group now operates remotely for most of the year, as our members live in different parts of the country. In preparation for the Fischoff, we rehearsed about 6-8 hours per week, starting in August. In the month before the competition, we were rehearsing daily and regularly performed publicly to prepare. We always begin rehearsals with an in-depth warm-up, which usually consists of long tones, tuning exercises, and playing chorales to center the group sound. We then focus on very specific sections of the pieces we are working on. If we are playing a piece from memory, we will run the piece in a variety of different ways to test our memory.

Does the quartet have a shared favorite or memorable performance thus far?

Chapa: I think we all agree that our Double Gold performance at the Fischoff was our favorite performance. The group’s communication felt so natural and we were making spontaneous musical decisions. Above all, we had fun during the performance, and I think that translates to the audience. 

How do you stay motivated throughout a demanding season, especially during the Fischoff Double Gold Tour?

Chapa: It’s immensely rewarding to play in a group that is so dedicated, but I have to allow myself time away from the horn occasionally to recharge. It’s also very easy to stay motivated when you are playing with such great artists and friends.

What’s the most enjoyable part of playing an instrument? The most challenging?

Chapa: What I love most about playing the saxophone is just how versatile the instrument is. The saxophone can easily sound like a brass instrument, a woodwind, or a human voice. There are even percussive techniques on the instrument that greatly enhance the scope of what the saxophone can do.

This versatility really shines through when you play with four other saxophonists, and with enough artistic training and with a good enough ear, you can make the ensemble sound like any combination of instruments. However, because of this versatility, composers ask us to do complex things on our instruments, especially in the saxophone quartet genre. Our repertoire is often very complicated, and while the saxophone is one of the easier instruments to begin playing, the music we play requires a lot of dedication and precision.

What is one piece of advice you would give to aspiring artists?

Chapa: Always stay curious. It’s easy to grow complacent with the music you’re making. Feed your artistry by listening deeply and pushing the boundaries of what you can do on the instrument.

We are so grateful to have Mixed Media for their encouraging answers, and we can’t wait to hear them soar at the Philbin Theatre on Tuesday, September 13, 2022. Remember to reserve your tickets to hear this fascinating, yet familiar group!

Categories: Meet The Artist, News + Announcements