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Kremer wins senior soloist competition

Her mother is a parish liturgist, conducts children’s and adult’s church choirs, and brought her straight to the church when she was born; there, the choir sang to her, their voices echoing off the church walls and surrounding her with harmonic sound. Her siblings all play instruments, and they are connected through the expression of music. Since her childhood, Sarah Kremer has been enveloped in music.

Kremer during her daily practice session in Hvidsten. Photo by Maddie Malat.
Kremer during her daily practice session in Hvidsten. Photo by Maddie Malat.

“It’s [music] that has been a deep part of me from a very young age on,” Kremer said.

Kremer, senior saxophone performance major, has played the saxophone for 12 years and she also plays the violin. She is involved in the following ensembles: Jazz I, Symphonia, Concordia Band, and sax quartets. She is also a student director for Jazz III and recently for Symphonia.

Saxophone has always been her true and first love. In fifth grade, Kremer got to choose what instrument to play and she fell for the saxophone because students who played it could play the melody in the jazz band.

“I just really like jazz, the reediness of it and how expressive you can be with it,” Kremer said.

Lately, however, Kremer has found a new area of music that really sparks her interest.

“I love jazz, but recently I have been really interested in conducting,” Kremer said.

This summer she stayed on campus to do score studying. Now, she is doing an independent study for conducting with Foster Beyers, conductor of Concordia Orchestra and professor of conducting class. She is also participating in a student conducting position for orchestra which allows her to practice at the podium and work on portraying what she wants in the music through her gestures rather than through an instrument.

“The pure expression that one person can give without even having an instrument, their ability to embody the piece they are conducting and try to draw that out of their ensemble and how creative you can be when you are in that position [conducting] — it gives you the go ahead to create and make something awesome,” Kremer said.

Beyers has been conducting at Concordia for five years and conducting for 20 years total. He said at the end of a semester of conducting courses, a student is chosen to student-conduct an ensemble. Last week, Kremer was selected to conduct Symphonia Orchestra and Beyers remembers the hard works she put into preparing the score.

“She studied for countless hours and knew it backward and forward and when she got that 10 minute brief opportunity, music just poured out of her,” Beyers said. “It really paid off.”

Last week, Kremer’s passion for music brought her the win of the Senior Soloist Competition.

Dr. Peter Haberman conducts Concordia Band and he was one of the judges for the competition. He’s an alumni of Concordia from 1997 and it’s his fourth year conducting at the college. Since his graduation he also conducted in public, and graduate schools along with other colleges for 18 years.

The tradition in the Concordia Band is to select a student from the ensemble to tour with the band as a soloist. Kremer has been in the Concordian Band since sophomore year, allowing her the opportunity to audition for the competition. According to Haberman, this tradition has been in place since the ‘80s. However, it wasn’t always the student’s choice to audition for the soloist position.

“In the past, students were chosen by the conductor,” Haberman said. “During the Scott Jones era as conductor, there was a change to let students self-identify that they wanted to audition.”

Haberman believes giving the students the choice to audition gives them the opportunity to work hard and grow during the process of preparing for the competition. It also helps students identify their focus in music and what future opportunities they want in music.

“I am happy to continue the tradition to have a competition for the position, because I have seen how many more students see this as an opportunity for the future and take it,” Haberman said.

Judges in the competition look for a variety of factors in the musician’s performance.

As one of the judges for the competition, Beyers said that in a soloist, he looks for good sound, rhythm and intonation. Everyone who competed demonstrated these factors and the performance levels were very high, Beyers said. The other factor he looks for is expression.

“You are looking for, ‘does the person express themselves comfortably?’” Beyers said. “Do you feel something when they play?”

Kremer is incredibly talented, creative and sensitive, according to Beyers. He said that she is comfortable expressing herself and her emotions through her music, which is difficult to teach.

“She was just sort of born that way,” Beyers said.

Haberman also looks for a variety of factors during the competition. Along with the intonation, and great musical performance that Beyers looks for, Haberman pays attention to how well the musician plays with their accompanist and their stage composure. When it comes to Kremer, Haberman said that her musicality was no issue.

“Without knowing it, she has a default that exudes music,” Haberman said. “She starts with music and technique and everything else fills in. She makes music all of the time.”

In order to prepare for the competition, Kremer picked her piece last April. It was the third movement of Paul Christianson’s Concerto for the alto saxophone. She stayed in the

 Fargo-Moorhead area over the summer, because of her score study. “It gave me a window of opportunity to practice every day and chip at the piece little by little,” Kremer said. “I did that all the way up to the competition.”

Kremer did not prepare for this piece on her own. Her musical mentors helped inspire her work and push her along the way. Russel Peterson, Jazz I conductor, Kremer’s mother and Beyers are her mentors.

“They push my boundaries,” Kremer said. “They never let me settle for anything.”

When working at a piece, whether it be performing or conducting, her mentors never tell her that it’s good enough. They push her to figure things out on her own and to keep improving.

“It teaches you that everything in your life, you should work for,” Kremer said. “Nothing is going to be handed to you.”

Haberman, Kremer’s Concordia Band conductor since sophomore year, witnessed Kremer’s musicianship as a  result of her hard work. Her freshman year, Kremer made it into Jazz I, the highest jazz band, and Haberman was taken aback by her talent.

“It was the first time I heard her play by herself and I was impressed by her ability to improvise and that the improvisation had some sense of an overarching line and form, which is an impressive talent for a young musician,” Haberman said.

Before auditioning for the Senior Soloist Competition, Kremer was really nervous. Beyond the nerves, Kremer saw the audition as an opportunity to show off her talent in front of her peers.

She auditioned because she wanted something that would challenge her and give her something to work toward. Kremer also wanted to gain some experience in playing in a professional setting. During the audition, Kremer focused on the end goal and on enjoying the music.

“Once I started playing there was so much freedom and ease and I wanted to have fun with it,” Kremer said. “I wanted to have fun with it and tried to be as expressive and musical as I could be.”

After the audition, Kremer said she could see herself winning.

“When I want something, I want it really bad, so I go for it and do everything I possibly can to accomplish it,” Kremer said.

Within two hours of auditioning for the competition, Kremer was selected to perform a solo with the Concordia Band on their tour this year.

“Playing as a soloist with a band or orchestra…that has been on my mind since I was a freshmen,” Kremer said.

This year the Concordia Band will perform nine times throughout their tour of South Dakota and Minnesota.

As the tour with Concordia Band approaches, Kremer is excited for performing at the different locations. The crowds there are receptive and enthusiastic Kremer said. She thinks the piece she chose will be something new for them to enjoy.

“I hope that it shows I am making music at a high level and doing a great job,” Kremer said.

After college she is hoping to attend graduate school and work toward her certification in education.

“I would love to teach at a college somewhere and be a professor,” Kremer said. “I am really interested in leading an orchestra of some kind.”

Kremer plans to continue playing her saxophone and playing professionally. She wants to continue playing, because even though being a musician can take some work, she can still unwind and have fun.

Haberman sees the talent in Kremer and knows her determination will take her to high places.

“The world is littered with talented people who don’t work hard, but she has that work ethic,” Haberman said. “She has high expectations for herself.”

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