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Students and Faculty Reflect on International Music Festival


Posing for a photo outside the Mayor's Reception in Saarburg are (from left) Lauren Schack Clark, Michelle Byrd, Lane Hall, Brianna Allen, Dale Clark, Nathan Liouh, Taylor Gambill and Christopher Dixon.

JONESBORO – Six music majors and two faculty members from Arkansas State University will fondly remember 2016 for the experiences they enjoyed at the Saarburg International Music Festival and School in Germany.

The students are Brianna Allen, Taylor Gambill, Lane Hall, and Nathan Liouh, bassoons; Christopher Dixon, piano; and Michelle Byrd, soprano.  Dr. Dale Clark, bassoon, and Dr. Lauren Schack Clark, piano, served as faculty members by festival invitation.

The focus of the festival was chamber music and opera.  The students were accepted into the program as a result of auditions via video recording. 

They each played or sang multiple times during the two weeks.  The Clarks were in a faculty recital, and Dale Clark performed in ensembles on two additional student concerts. 

Some performances were in Saarburg, a city in western Germany near the borders of France and Luxembourg; others were in the surrounding towns of Schmelz, Irsch and Orscholz. 

The concerts in Saarburg were held in different venues, including the beautiful St. Laurentius church, built in 1854, and an auditorium owned by the town, the Stadthalle Saarburg. 

One concert was held in a former bell factory, now a museum.  On that evening, soprano Michelle Byrd was featured in staged opera scenes from "Zehn Mädchen und kein Mann" ("Ten Girls and No Men") by Franz von Suppé (1819-1895). 

As a pre-formed ensemble, the four bassoonists performed several times together and also with other musicians.  They were featured at the Mayor’s Reception and at an outdoor concert at a beautiful venue in Schmelz.  Pianist Christopher Dixon performed on several different chamber concerts, including a piece for clarinet, horn and piano, and another for violin, flute, clarinet and piano.

"It was a very enriching and intensive program in chamber music that I have not experienced before," commented Taylor Gambill. "I especially enjoyed collaborating with musicians from around the world. I would highly recommend the Saarburg International Chamber Music School and Festival to all A-state musicians interested in a great chamber music experience. I hope to attend again next year."

The students and faculty members stayed in two conveniently-located hotels.  Breakfast and lunch were provided, and these meals allowed everyone a chance to get to know each other, discuss music and have a break from the busy schedule.  Many students and faculty members took advantage of a bus tour on the free day, taking them to Luxembourg City and then to Trier, the oldest city in Germany. 

Students and faculty members at the Saarburg International Festival and School were from numerous countries around the globe.

“Everyone was very kind and collegial," stated Lauren Schack Clark.  "The faculty members were not only first-rate musicians, but all were extremely supportive, and we made many friends.”

All six students were grateful to have received funding to assist with tuition and travel from the Office of Global Initiatives, the Dean’s Office, other campus sources and private donations.

The Clarks have been invited to return as faculty members again next year.  Joining them will be Matt Carey, assistant professor of voice at A-State.  Musicians who are interested in participating may contact Lauren Schack Clark at lsclark@AState.edu and learn more at https://saarburgfestival.de/.  Singers and instrumentalists of any age may apply.  The dates for the 2017 Saarburg Festival are July 17-31, and the deadline for the application and video screening audition is January 31, 2017.

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