Saxophone study at Grand Valley State University is entirely focused on developing the abilities the student brings to our program. The studio environment here is one of great enthusiasm, support, and competitive drive. We are committed to providing the very best undergraduate education on the instrument and by the time you leave here you will have the technical ability, knowledge, and musicality to perform any piece in the classical and modern saxophone repertoire. Whether you are looking to become an educator, performer, administrator, or enter any other part of the music business, your study at GVSU will provide you with the artistic training needed for you to become a major artist in your field.
All Saxophone majors and minors receive lessons with Dr. Graser on a weekly basis. During your lesson you will be assigned technical work in addition to etudes and repertoire. Lesson notes are taken digitally by Dr. Graser and sent to the student following each lesson. Lesson topics will include technique, tone, vibrato, articulation, extended techniques, repertoire, intonation, and voicing. At the end of every term, the student will perform a technique jury for Dr. Graser in addition to their repertoire jury for the GVSU faculty.
The entire studio meets once a week in a large masterclass setting. During this time, Dr. Graser will present a performance or pedagogical topic, several students and student quartets will perform, and the rest of the studio will provide constructive comments to the performers. Additionally, upperclassmen will be called upon to do some peer-teaching with their colleagues and present pedagogical topics of their own.
GVSU offers several performance opportunities for students including the Symphonic Wind Ensemble, Concert Band, Laker Marching Band, Jazz Ensembles, Jazz Combos, Saxophone Quartets, and the nationally renowned GVSU New Music Ensemble. Auditions for ensembles are held at the beginning of every term. Saxophone quartets receive an hour coaching every week with Dr. Graser.
GVSU offers a student recital hour every Friday for students to perform for their peers. Additionally, half and full hour recitals are open for students to schedule with Dr. Graser. Studio Recitals will be scheduled each term and feature a mix of solo and quartet playing. In addition to performing for studio class, students will sign-up for guest artist/ensemble masterclasses throughout the year. Additionally, students can compete in the GVSU concerto competition and saxophonists have had very good success with that in recent years, please check out the Media page to hear some of these performances!
A special focus is placed on developing healthy practice habits and a robust yet efficient practice routine. This involves a large warm-up practiced on a daily basis with the goal of removing the technical difficulties inherent in saxophone performance so the student can focus entirely on the musical aspects of their work when they work on their repertoire. Students are expected to be practicing three hours per day in addition to their ensemble rehearsals, lessons, and coachings. On a daily basis, students will begin with some version of the following:
Long-Tones: Practiced in every register, at every dynamic, with and without vibrato
Tone-Matching: between all registers
Voicing: Mouthpiece exercises, Pitch Bends - from Donald Sinta's "Voicing," Overtone Practice - from Sigurd Rascher's "Top Tones"
Articulation: Single, Double, and Triple Tongue
Intonation: Practiced with Tuning CD
Mechanism Exercises - Front-palmkey, pinky-keys, altissimo fingerings
Technique: Full range scales - Major, Minor, Whole-tone, Diminished; all intervals from Kynaston's "Daily Studies" and Londeix's "Les Gammes Intervalles"
Expression: Some sort of lyrical selection from opera, art song, transcriptions...
Etudes: Beginning with Ferling, Bozza, Berbiguer, Lacour, Lauba