What’s a Zzyzx?

A zzyzx is indigenous to areas of New York, Washington D.C., and Colorado. It can often be spotted in its natural habitat eating extremely spicy(!!) ethnic foods and chicken wings while drinking local micro brews. It has been sighted wandering around random music schools practicing furiously until the late hours of the night and spending hours looking up hilarious youtube videos.

We are often asked many questions about how we got started as a group and also how we are able to stay together since we live all over the country (literally!). So, here’s the story about us. Hmmm… where to begin…

We all went to Indiana University for one reason – to study with Otis Murphy (and we heard they have really amazing pizza there!). While we were students, we were primarily focused on performing as soloists, however, a few of us were in various chamber groups that would constantly be changing due to people graduating, moving away, etc. All four of us became very close friends over the years – we would often hang out on the weekends, go to Bear’s Place after masterclass, eat lunch together, etc. When it came to Stacy and Stephen’s last year at IU, we thought of an ingenious idea… let’s form a quartet! Why didn’t we think of this before?! continuing…

Part of the challenge of starting a new group is also coming up with a name. We thought of names for weeks, but couldn’t really come up with anything that was “catchy” or “original” and something that people would remember. One afternoon, we were having lunch at the infamous Bear’s Place, where many “enlightening” conversations would happen, and Dana said, “How about Zzyzx?”. All of us said… “What’s a Zzyzx?!”… and “How do you spell it?!”. Dana explained to us that it is a road in California, on which he often travels when he visits family in Costa Mesa, California. A degree of mystery also surrounds the area that Zzyzx Road leads to and local legends have dubbed it “the road to nowhere ” (but hopefully not for us!) There’s even a movie about Zzyzx Road (We watched it once. We don’t recommend it.)! We looked up more info about this strange word and found out that it is the last word listed alphabetically in atlases, dictionaries, and directories! So, we figured naming ourselves after something that is difficult to spell and pronounce would be a great idea?! All joking aside, we actually are really happy that Dana came up with the name – it’s very unique and memorable and for some strange reason, it somehow fits our group! Besides, it’s a great conversation starter!

After our first year together as a quartet, Stacy moved to New York to be a saxophonist with the West Point Band and Stephen moved to pursue his doctoral studies at the University of Iowa. The next year was somewhat of a trial year for us to see if we would be able to perform together even if we weren’t able to rehearse on a regular basis. We only did a few performances that year and felt that we continued to improve as a group even though we didn’t have as much rehearsal time as we did when we were all at IU together. The following year, we began to do more frequent performances including a couple of tours and decided to record our first CD. Shortly after recording, Dana won a position in the US Navy Band in Washington D.C. and Matt moved to Rochester, NY to begin his doctoral degree at the Eastman School of Music.

Although some may think that living so far apart would make it difficult to function as a chamber group, we have somehow managed to find ways to make it work. We email a lot(!) and skype frequently to talk about repertoire, performances, business, etc. Typically, we will have a long rehearsal weekend once a year in the fall to put new music together for our upcoming performances. We all come extremely prepared, have practiced our parts, studied the scores and have written cues in our individual parts. We typically rehearse 5-8 hours a day during those weekends depending on the difficulty of the music that we are preparing. When we get together for performances, we will usually rehearse the day before and do the performance the following day. Most importantly, we always make time to have some fun whenever we are together though! What’s that saying about all work and no play? 🙂 Overall, we have a great time together and have become best friends over the years! Performing together as a group has become a highlight of all of our careers so far and we look forward to many more years to come!

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Zzyzx plays Bach

Live performance from our trip to Japan:

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Hell’s Gate on YouTube!

Here is a video from our most recent live performance!

Hell’s Gate by David Maslanka

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Saxophone Olympics 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

Saxophone Quartets Prepare for Summer Saxophone Olympics in Scotland

American Federation of Musicians, Sports Division – by Rusty Keys, Izzy Sharp, and Mosley Flat

 

April 1st, 2012

 

St. Andrews, SCOTLAND – Saxophone quartets around the globe are raring up for this summer’s Saxophone Olympics to be held in St. Andrews, Scotland from July 10-15th, 2012. The Olympics mark the culmination of an incredible year of saxophone events which began last July with the 3rd International Jean-Marie Londeix Competition.

 

Earlier in March, saxophonists journeyed to Tempe, Arizona to participate in the North American Saxophone Alliance National Games, which are held biennially. While on site, we were able to interview several quartets who have qualified for the Olympics about their preparation.

 

Stacy Wilson, team captain of the Zzyzx Quartet, offered a general outline of Zzyzx’s strategy. “Well, we know what we’re up against. There are several younger quartets in the mix this year and we can count on them all to play to their strengths. Mana will undoubtedly pull out their signature move of playing triple-high-D’s at pianissimo in unison, perfectly in tune, and h2 has an arsenal of extended techniques at their disposal. We’re going to keep up with the others using our traditional maneuver: performing increasingly faster transcriptions.”

 

We attempted to question Dannel Espinoza, baritone saxophonist of the Mana Quartet, about Stacy’s thoughts on Mana’s strategy, however we caught him in the midst of a defensive tactic known as the “territorial bari-stare,” a highly aggressive mode of eye contact between baritone sax players utilized to intimidate and incite one another.

 

The more experienced quartets, New  Century and PRISM, have years of training under their belts and several victories from Olympics past. When questioned about tactics, Drew Hays of the New Century Quartet indicated that their preparation is highly secretive and takes place somewhere deep in the woods where no one can spy on their rehearsals. Tim McAllister, of PRISM, indicated that home field advantage will have nothing to do their performance and that “Scotland will be no different than Philly or NYC.”

 

The absence of Dana Booher, baritone saxophonist of the Zzyzx Quartet, at the NASA National Games was notable and sparked rumors as to whether he is in the process of being traded to another quartet. We contacted Dana by e-mail about these speculations to which he responded “nope, I will definitely be in Scotland with Zzyzx. Now, in the future, if I become MVP that might open up my options.” It should be noted that Booher is an enormous fan of prolific football quarterback Peyton Manning, who recently left the Indianapolis Colts for the Denver Broncos.

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We’re playin’ a Concerto!

We are very excited to announce that we will be featured soloists at the Opening Gala Concert at the NASA Biennial Conference at Arizona State University in March! Stacy, Stephen and Matt will be performing “Hell’s Gate” by David Maslanka for Saxophone Trio and Wind Ensemble. This is very exciting for us because it is our very first concerto performance as a group! Dana will be on tour with the Navy Band at that time, so we will be performing as a trio instead of a quartet. We are really looking forward to the performance and can’t wait to see many of our friends at the upcoming conference!

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Someone’s a Doctor!

Big Congrats to our alto saxophonist, Stephen Page, for finishing his doctorate in Saxophone Performance from the University of Iowa! He is now Dr. Stephen Page!

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Upcoming Performance!

Hi Everyone! We would love to invite you to our next concert on November 19th in Gloucester, VA. We will be performing at the Arts at Abington Concert Series at 5 pm. Our performance will include works by Prokofiev, Escaich, Glazounov, Sibelius, Pierne, two world premiers and more! It should be a fun program and we hope to see you there!

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