Saxophone quartet with Grand Valley ties awarded with "one of music's highest achievements"

May 23, 2018

Saxophone quartet with Grand Valley ties awarded with "one of music's highest achievements"


  • Members of the Donald Sinta Quartet include (from left to right) Danny Hawthorne-Foss, Joe Girard, Zach Stern and Dan Graser.
    Photo Credit: courtesy of Dan Graser


Posted on May 23, 2018

The Michigan-based saxophone ensemble, the Donald Sinta Quartet, has received many awards and sentiments of praise since its inception, and now the group can add one of the highest achievements in the field of music to its list of accolades.

The Donald Sinta Quartet received a gold medal in the Senior Wind Division of the 45th annual Fischoff Competition during an awards ceremony on May 13.

Dan Graser, associate professor of saxophone at Grand Valley and soprano saxophonist in the quartet, said his mind filled with relief after learning that the quartet won the top prize in its division.

“We had attempted this competition two times before in 2012 and 2013 and didn’t place,” said Graser. “After so many hours of individual practice and endless hours of rehearsal, it was just a relief to have recognition for all of that hard work and ‘burning the candle at both ends,’ as they say.”

In addition to receiving the award, the Donald Sinta Quartet will also participate in a Gold Medal Tour throughout the Midwest during the month of September. During the tour, the group will not only perform, but will also hold master classes for saxophone students and chamber ensembles at educational venues.

“Winning the Fischoff is one of music’s highest achievements — an award of incredible importance with both national and international ramifications,” said Danny Phipps, Music, Theatre, and Dance Department chair. “No other faculty member at Grand Valley has ever achieved this, and I am very pleased and proud to see professor Graser so justly recognized.”

The Senior Wind Division of the Fischoff Competition is open to all wind players whose average age in the group is 30 years old or younger.

“It’s a very diverse array of groups as you are likely to have a saxophone quartet, brass quintet, wind quintet, reed quintet and various sextets and trios all competing against each other with vastly different repertoire,” Graser explained.

The Donald Sinta Quartet’s gold medal reflects the ensemble’s mission of striving to elevate the standard of the classical saxophone quartet.

“It’s our mission to show with music, both new and old, that the saxophone quartet is capable of an incredible array of repertoire, sounds, colors and musicianship,” said Graser. “By playing entirely from memory and talking to the audience, we hope we can also show a newer, more engaged way of delivering a classical music performance.”

In addition to Graser, members of the Donald Sinta Quartet include, Joe Girard (tenor saxophone), Zach Stern (alto saxophone) and Danny Hawthorne-Foss (baritone saxophone).

Named for Donald Sinta, a mentor to the ensemble’s members and a former saxophone professor at the University of Michigan, the quartet has won multiple prestigious awards in the past, including first place at the 2013 Concert Artists Guild Competition, first prize at the 2017 M-Prize Chamber Arts Competition, the Alice Coleman Grand Prize at the 2013 Coleman Chamber Music Competition and first prize in the 2012 North American Saxophone Alliance Quartet. The quartet will release its first CD, “Collider,” later this year, and the group also facilitates the National Saxophone Quartet Composition Competition, which selects two new quartet works from up-and-coming composers each year.

A performance video submitted by the Donald Sinta Quartet for the Fischoff Competition audition can be viewed in the above media player.

For More Information Contact: Matthew Makowski in University Communications - (616) 331-2228

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Page last modified May 23, 2018