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Award-winning quartet with Grand Valley ties releases debut album

  • Dan Graser, associate professor of saxophone
  • Members of the Donald Sinta Quartet include (from left to right) Danny Hawthorne-Foss, Joe Girard, Zach Stern and Dan Graser.

Posted on September 16, 2019

A Michigan-based saxophone ensemble, the Donald Sinta Quartet, has released a debut album just over a year after earning what is considered a top achievement in the music field.

The quartet, which includes Dan Graser, associate professor of saxophone at Grand Valley, last year won the gold medal in the Senior Wind Division of the 45th annual Fischoff Competition.

Graser, soprano saxophonist in the quartet, said having albums to sell at shows has improved the connection that group members have with their audience.

“The number-one question we got asked nearly everywhere we went as performers, and we’ve performed hundreds of places now, is ‘Do you have CDs?’” Graser said. “A lot of people our age and younger aren’t familiar with CDs, but classical music audiences want CDs. So we had to fill that gap.”

Released in June, “Collider” has been in the works for more than three years. The record includes compositions written by students who won the Donald Sinta Quartet National Composition Competition, held in Ann Arbor every year.

While the quartet has performed in many noteworthy settings, including Carnegie Hall and with the Michigan Symphony Band in Beijing, Graser said releasing an album is something the group needed to do before taking the next step.

The release also means that the quartet will have CDs available at its upcoming tour that includes stops in Tyler, Texas; Lincoln, Nebraska; Steamboat Springs, Colorado; and North Newton, Kansas.

Graser said releasing a CD not only enhances the group’s profile, but it can also be inspiring to younger musicians.

“When you release your own recording, you feel like now, well hopefully, folks younger than you are going to have the same feeling that you had with your mentors,” Graser said. ““It feels like I’ve joined the ranks of some of the people I’ve looked up to.” 

While releasing a full album helps connect Graser to his audience, it also gives him a new way to connect to his students at Grand Valley.

“Advising students on repertoire, performance practices, and how to navigate some of that part of the business are all things that our quartet work has made possible,” Graser said. “The ideal music professor, at least for me, is someone who is a great pedagogue but also someone who practices what they preach and can demonstrate the ‘why’ and ‘how’ with their playing and performing work.”

The full concert schedule and full performance videos can be found on The Donald Sinta Quartet website at https://www.donaldsintaquartet.com

-Story by student writer Olivia Conaty