By Kaitlyn Kelley
The Dana School of Music’s Helix Saxophone Quartet will be a semifinalist in the North American Saxophone Alliance 2020 Biennial Conference at Arizona State University on March 6-9.
With only 20 quartets selected across the entire nation, the group sees it as an honor to have been chosen to represent Youngstown State University.
Daniel Slencsak, a senior saxophone performance major, is excited to represent his school and compete against bigger schools like Michigan State University.
“This is a pretty big deal,” he said. “Any saxophone quartet at any school is able to compete, and about 60 entered. … Really big-name schools will be there, and it feels really great to represent Youngstown State.”
According to the 2020 conference lineup, three of the 20 groups competing are from Michigan State University. There will also be quartets competing from larger schools such as Arizona State University, the University of Oklahoma and Northwestern University.
Since YSU’s Helix Saxophone Quartet was one of the 40% of selected semifinalists, the group feels its work has paid off. According to Slencsak, only the most elite are selected.
The convention features performances from collegiate and high school soloists and quartets as well as a jazz competition for adults not enrolled in any school. The North American Saxophone Alliance picks all entries.
Noah Landry, a sophomore saxophone performance major, acknowledges that the competition will be big, but he is not intimidated.
“If anything, it’s [going to be] very exciting to see ourselves up there with some of the biggest quartets in the country,” he said. “We really are grateful to be one of those quartets.”
Despite the competition and preparation, the group isn’t just focused on winning. All four members of Helix are excited to just perform together, arrange the songs and enjoy the traveling experience in Arizona.
Santino Almasy is the only senior music education major in the group, but he hasn’t let that stop him from having a good time practicing with the other quartet members.
“I love performing,” he said. “One of the songs we get to perform actually features a baritone saxophone solo, and I’m excited to be featured. It’s a beautiful piece.”
Almasy added he was excited to just enjoy the trip to Arizona, as he has never been west of the Mississippi before.
“Excited is an understatement,” he said. “I’ve never been to Arizona before, and I really want to see the Grand Canyon.”
According to the conference guidelines, up to six quartets will advance to the final round on March 6. The Helix Saxophone Quartet hopes to make it to the final round, and the members thank the Dana School of Music and James Umble, professor of saxophone, for his countless hours of coaching and guidance.
The quartet members are looking forward to making their school, coach and themselves proud.