13th annual SaxFest a shrill success
UCF students key in organizing event
Published: Wednesday, April 4, 2012
Updated: Thursday, April 5, 2012 09:04
Early Saturday morning, the rehearsal hall on UCF’s campus was filled with a noise that was heard from the distance. As one drew nearer to the building and opened the door of the rehearsal hall, the blare of a shining saxophone hit full force, along with about four other accompanying saxophones.
Visitors and local artists from all over Florida joined together to host the 13th Annual Central Florida SaxFest, an event held annually to help promote the growth, education and music community for many aspiring saxophonists. In addition, the event is extended to local high schoolers, students in the UCF music program, state-wide music students and even alumni. Individuals came from as far as the University of North Florida.
The last couple of years, the event has been put on by Dr. George Weremchuk.
Weremchuk has been a professor at UCF since 1996, when he started off as a part-time adjunct. Since 1999, he has been a full-time adjunct. He is also currently the assistant professor of saxophone at the UCF. Weremchuk was featured on the recording by Michael Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony, “New World Jazz.
Weremchuk described the festival as a chance to “give students an opportunity to interact with world-renown and internationally known artists.” He strives to bring two featured artists every year, one classical artist and one jazz saxophonist.
“For a lot of these students, it is rare to get this close to these guest artists,” Weremchuk said. “It allows for them to want to go home and practice and get better. It also allows for students in high school to visit the campus and see the music program, allowing them to become interested and maybe one day come here.”
Along with world-class artists, UCF students are selected to play alongside the guest artists and have the opportunity to be critiqued by these professionals.
This year, Steven Mauk and Gary Campbell were the selected guest artists. Mauk is a more classical concentrated artist, while Campbell has his roots in jazz. Both are esteemed, international artists, who have contributed to the world of saxophone music in new and exciting ways. Campbell has a CD, Intersection, which takes a blend of Afro-Cuban and Brazilian music and mixes it with modern jazz. In his career, Mauk has written more than 100 articles, authored four books, and he has also performed in many locales, including the Netherlands, Croatia and for the United States Navy. He has been well-received everywhere and won many awards over his lifetime, including the National Artist Award from the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society from the years 1995-98.
“The students are very talented these days and the teachers are very willing and knowledgeable; so, if they are willing to listen and learn and work hard, they can reach their potential,” Mauk said. “Work with the music, making it your own. When students are able to listen and do this, they will go far and succeed.”
In order for this event to be a success, it took the planning and dedication from the coordinator Weremchuk, but there were many students that dedicated their time and effort to this event.
The UCF’s Saxophone Collegium Executive Board members played a key role. Joshua Senften is a sophomore studying music education and has been playing the saxophone for nine years. Senften is one of the students in the music program who was key in helping seek the funds through student government for this years SaxFest. He said that his favorite part of playing the saxophone is “improvising with something I’m comfortable with; being able to let my ideas go and flow without having to think about it.”
“Everyone being of the same community and knowledge is a great part of the event. It also allows you to see competition,” Senften said. “It also creates camaraderie through music.”
Billy Meether, a sophomore studying music performance, has been playing the saxophone for 10 years. Meether was another student who helped organize the event with Senften.
“My favorite is being exposed to people we wouldn’t normally get to be exposed to,” Meether said.
His favorite part about playing the saxophone “is being able to express [himself] without words.”
Meether, Senften and all the other students present were evidence of how hard work, dedication and the yearning to learn has brought students from all over back to the event year-after-year. The day-long event of performances, master classes and reading sessions is evidence of how the arts are still alive and thriving at UCF and how people like Weremchuk are continuing the pursuit of further knowledge and skill mastery.
“It’s a great opportunity to hear and experience music you might not have been exposed to before,” Weremchuk said. “Most people associate saxophone with jazz, but it exposes students and the community to styles they might not have heard before.”