Saxophone performer and assistant professor Zach Shemon has been on a roll since he came to the UMKC Conservatory last year and this summer’s saxophone workshop reflects his dynamic style.
Shemon is also a member of the prestigious saxophone PRISM Quartet. Two-time winners of the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, PRISM has performed in Carnegie Hall on the Making Music Series, in Alice Tully Hall with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and throughout Latin America under the auspices of the United States Information Agency.
Champions of new music, PRISM has commissioned more than 150 works, many by internationally celebrated composers, including Pulitzer Prize-winners William Bolcom, Jennifer Higdon, Zhou Long, and Bernard Rands; Guggenheim Fellows William Albright, Martin Bresnick, Chen Yi, Lee Hyla, and Steven Mackey; MacArthur “Genius” Award recipient Bright Sheng; and jazz masters Greg Osby and Tim Ries.
Shemon also serves on the music faculties at Interlochen Arts Camp and the Interlochen Saxophone Summer Institute. This summer he is also heading up the Conservatory’s UMKC Saxophone Workshop, July 14–20, one of the Conservatory’s many summer camps.
We asked Zach a few questions about the symposium and how he got started playing the saxophone.
What makes the saxophone workshop exciting?
ZS: What I’m excited about is having top-level high school students from around the country on campus together for a full week. At the workshop, students will completely immerse themselves in music and saxophone playing the entire time they are here, performing for each other, and playing in saxophone quartets and a large saxophone ensemble. They will perform for the faculty in master classes, receiving feedback that will help them take their playing to the next level. Daily clinics will cover a wide variety of topics, such as technique, approaching the altissimo register, vibrato, reed work, extended techniques, and more.
What kind of music will the student perform?
ZS: The workshop will focus mainly on students’ solo repertoire, saxophone quartet, and large saxophone ensemble. Additionally, students will be introduced to jazz improvisation and cover approaches to improving sound and style in a variety of musical genres, but sessions will be mainly geared toward classical saxophone.
What else will students get to do?
ZS: In the evenings, students will get to hear some of Kansas City’s finest jazz and classical musicians perform live. We’re also planning a trip to the American Jazz Museum, a jam session at The Blue Room, and various other fun activities. The workshop will feature faculty recitals on campus and will culminate in a concert featuring the students at the end of the session.
That sounds fantastic! When did you start playing sax?
ZS: I began playing saxophone in middle school band. My older brother played saxophone—he and his friends would let me sit in with their saxophone quartet and were very encouraging when I was young. In high school, I became more serious and practiced as much as I could. In the summers, I attended saxophone workshops and quickly discovered I was not the only person my age that took musical study seriously.
You found saxophone comrades at the saxophone workshops; that’s great.
Where did you study after high school?
ZS: I went to the University of Michigan for undergrad and masters, followed by Indiana University where I completed a Performer Diploma, and I am in the process of completing a doctorate. I also studied at the Université Européenne de Saxophone, Gap, France, and at the Aspen Music Festival and School.
What compelled you to start this workshop for saxophone students?
ZS: I started the workshop at UMKC to give high school students an experience like I had–total immersion in the activity they are most passionate about. I hope students who attend the workshop leave inspired, with the knowledge they need to make huge strides in their playing.
Thanks, Zach. It sounds like the perfect opportunity to be completely immersed in an instrument, find new friends, and to hang out with like-minded saxophone performers.
The UMKC Conservatory’s Academy’s other summer camps include these exciting offerings!
New Horizons Band Camp, (May 18-22) provides a music-making experience for adult instrumentalists. The program is designed especially for NHIMA (New Horizons International Music Association) members, but non-members are welcome to join as well!
Summer Conservatory for Singers (June 8–13) provides a comprehensive musical experience for students ages 14–18 who are interested in the art of singing.
Summer Composition Workshop (June 14–20) for ages 14+ is an intensive weeklong musical experience that helps young composers hone their craft and find their creative voices.
Wind Band Teaching Symposium (June 15–20) is an intensive professional development workshop with UMKC Conservatory Director of Bands Steven Davis and distinguished guest clinicians.
Choral Conducting Symposium (June 22–26, 2014) is a workshop that focuses on technique for the choral conductor.
UMKC Jazz Camp (June 22–26, 2014) is for young jazz instrumentalists and vocalists ages 12+. Participants work with UMKC Conservatory’s top-notch jazz faculty and with well-known guest artists.
Glenda Brown Choreography Project (July 20–August 1) offers choreographers and dancers a phenomenal opportunity to explore and develop both technique and artistry.
Professional Development Workshops UMKC credit include reading sessions offered by J.W. Pepper, classes, and unique performing arts experiences.
Call the Conservatory Academy, 816-235-5448, for more details, or go to conservatory.umkc.edu.