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"New music and new ideas": Blue Quartet on making music in unexpected places

 Blue Quartet performs outside Traverse City Tourism

Saxophonists Samuel Hartt, Lauren Troutman, Jonah Kulick and Joshua Elwood have been planting music in unexpected places with IPR's Sound Garden Project.

The farmers market, the dollar store, the laser tag arena - those are just a few of the places that the ensembles in IPR's Sound Garden Project have been planting music this summer.

These three resident ensembles have been spotted presenting music everywhere from Frankfort to Petoskey.

One of this year's ensembles is the Blue Quartet, a saxophone quartet founded at the University of Michigan.

Their members are Samuel Hartt (soprano saxophone), Lauren Troutman (alto saxophone), Jonah Kulick (tenor saxophone) and Joshua Elwood (baritone saxophone).

Blue visited IPR's Studio A recently to perform some original music for saxophone quartet and discuss what it's been like playing outside a conservatory environment all summer.

The Blue Saxophone Quartet poses with their saxophones outside Dollar General.
The Blue Saxophone Quartet poses with their saxophones outside Dollar General.

The four musicians agreed that the way they have been performing music this summer is unlike any other experience they've had so far in their careers.

"It's quite a different experience than what we're used to as conservatory musicians," Joshua Elwood explained. "Our audiences are not there to pick apart every little imperfection in our playing."

Instead, they've found that these audiences they've encountered during the Sound Garden Project prefer connection over perfection.

"Traditionally, we prioritize playing with great response and blending in our technical facility, but that's not really what comes across to the listeners," Jonah Kulick said.

He said they've needed to forget some of their conservatory training and focus more on connecting with audiences: "We're bringing energy to the audience and selling this piece of music that we've come to enjoy."

The members of Blue are also planning to take these experiences back into the conservatory environment with them when they return to the University of Michigan this fall.

"Our academic performance help us grow and are important for us to pursue seriously, but our public performances will be a bigger part of our identity as an ensemble," Elwood explained. "We want to bring music to those that otherwise wouldn't have access to enjoy this music that we love."

Music performed in Studio A
Caryl Florio, Quartette (excerpt)
Ida Gotkovsky, Quatuor (excerpt)

IPR's Sound Garden Project is made possible in part thanks to the generous support of Golden-Fowler Home Furnishings.

Kelley DiPasquale engineered this recordings heard in this podcast.

Alexandra Herryman provided additional support.

Dr. Amanda Sewell is IPR's music director.