Beset by financial demands, college students have become increasingly more inventive in devising ways to fund their educations. Arizona State University undergraduate Chaz Salazar has been literally playing his way through school.
At 21, Salazar is a success story from Rosie’s House, the downtown Phoenix-based non-profit providing lessons and instruments for young musicians. “I started to play [the flute] in fifth grade when I was at Valley View Elementary School,” says Salazar. “In eighth grade…my band director, Mr. [Edward] Gaona, told me about Rosie’s House and said, ‘…The next step to being a musician is to take private lessons.’”
Thanks to a recommendation from Phoenix Symphony flutist Joe Corral, Salazar was able to begin lessons with longtime Rosie’s House teacher Judy Conrad. “My first lesson was so packed and filled with things I didn’t even know,” exclaims Salazar, “…so much…and she told me about long tones and I started to do them and my sound just bloomed.” He smiles and continues, “It’s been amazing — Judy is like a grandma to me. She’s taught me so much…I owe most of it to her.”
Salazar went on to win a spot on the National Public Radio show From the Top, garnering a Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award and performing on several broadcasts. From that experience he was inspired to coach weekly sectionals and give private lessons to students at Valley View, his alma mater.
Now Salazar studies with Elizabeth Buck at Arizona State University’s School of Music, although he’s also worked with another Phoenix Symphony flutist, Brian Gordon. “He just gave me free private lessons out of the kindness of his heart,” says Salazar of Gordon. “He was very generous to me…and I still go to study with him every now and then.”
Salazar has a tangible affinity for his instrument. “I thought [of] the flute as being of a very pure sound, with a pure tone,” he explains, “and I wanted to be the one making that sound.” Today he performs on a high-quality Altus flute given to him by Arizona Musicfest during his freshman year of high school. “The flute really sings,” says Salazar.
The young flutist’s infectious enthusiasm, natural talent, and innate good manners have won him loyal supporters like Don Morse, Minister of Worship and the Arts at Central United Methodist Church, which hosted Salazar’s benefit recital in early June. Salazar raised funds to participate in two summer festivals: Canada’s Pacific Region International Summer Music Academy (PRISMA), and the Interharmony International Music Festival in Italy. “They’re very intensive, so we get high doses of information as far as our learning…very concentrated doses,” says Salazar.
His other patrons include Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust president and CEO Harriet Ivey, who matches funds earned by Salazar through his fundraising efforts and his part-time job at Target. Another source of encouragement is businessman James Hagger, who lives in the Phoenix retirement community where Salazar’s mother works as a caregiver. “He’s one of my big supporters as well,” says the flutist, “both financially and emotionally. Salazar’s father is a server assistant at Aunt Chilada’s, a restaurant at the Arizona Grand Resort, and neither he nor Chaz’s mother are musical. “Even though my dad knew nothing about this kind of music,” adds Salazar, “…he heard me play and that’s when it sold him.”
Salazar began performing benefit recitals as a high school sophomore, raising money to pay for school while gaining experience onstage and expanding his repertoire. “My idea is to get a good, small audience and really to move them,” he says, and that’s just what happened at his June recital with pianist Snezana Krstic, which was one of the best of the season.
The program opened with Philippe Gaubert’s rich but playful Fantasie, and continued with a brilliant, wide-ranging new sonata by ASU graduate Eric Hessel. “I gave the world premiere of the piece…and loved it so much that I programmed it on my recital,” declares Salazar.
He continued with the unaccompanied Syrinx by Claude Debussy, a haunting, unforgettable work, and ended with the vigorous Fantasie on themes from Der Freischutz by Paul Taffanel. “The piece is based on Weber’s opera by the same name, which loosely translates to The Free Shooter,” says Salazar. “There are very fast variations in the middle section that are quite virtuosic…it’s definitely a barn-burner.”
Keep an eye out for Salazar’s future performances — he’s an active member of Buck’s flute studio at ASU, and he occasionally offers free community recitals that you won’t want to miss as you follow his progress through the world of professional classical music.
The Arizona Bach Festival continues its third season of performances through this weekend with an organ recital, a chamber orchestra performance, and last night’s unusual piano duo program of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.
When German organist and composer Max Reger arranged the concertos – originally written for various configurations of strings, winds, and harpsichord — for piano four hands between 1905-1906, he was taking another step in a long tradition. Bach often rearranged his own works for different instrumentations, recycling his melodies and themes over the years, and he was one of Reger’s favorite composers; “Bach was his big, big idol,” says pianist Eckart Sellheim. “Bach, Beethoven, Brahms…those three…were Reger’s spiritual and compositional mentors.”
A former professor at the University of Michigan and Arizona State University, Sellheim has served on the faculty and as guest lecturer at conservatories across Germany, earning a respected reputation for historical performance accuracy, with a particular interest in the fortepiano (the modern piano’s predecessor). He and his wife, collaborative piano specialist Dian Baker, performed three of the six Brandenburgs last night at Central United Methodist Church.
The appeal of the Brandenburgs is complex, says Sellheim. “It’s this mixture of very recognizable melodies…the rhythm, the incredibly clear structure, and the beauty of the slow movements.” He elaborates, “They’ve become sort of a main staple of the repertory, and many people grew up with them.”
Bach wrote the six concertos in the early 18th century for the noble court in Brandenburg, a northeast German state. Perhaps because of its difficulty, his music languished unheard for over a century, but today it’s nearly as popular as Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.
Max Reger systematically studied Bach’s keyboard works and also created numerous transcriptions and arrangements of music by composers ranging from Bach to Hugo Wolf, his own contemporary. A friend of Richard Strauss and Hans Pfitzner, Reger is sometimes considered the musical link between Brahms and Schoenberg. “He was highly controversial,” says Sellheim. “He ventures out into unknown fields, particularly the piano music, but never crosses the line.”
“You have to realize,” he continues, “it was an incredible time around the turn of the century, 1900 – there was Wolf, and Strauss, and Ravel, and Debussy…they changed the course of music.” Born in 1873, Reger was a renowned organist known as “the second Bach” because of his keyboard skills. His compositions include modulations and structure flirting with 12-tone rows, but looking back to Baroque and Classical styles.
“Reger had no sympathy for the harpsichord,” Sellheim says, “but Bach on the modern piano is really no problem at all – it works very fine.” Reger’s transcriptions are hugely challenging for the performers – according to Sellheim, the composer said he had the “greatest fun” writing them, interweaving complex lines from numerous instruments into just 20 fingers on a single keyboard.
“It’s fun to play,” he adds, “and as always Bach is so enticing and so interesting, fascinating…not only in the technical and musical aspects, but also rhythm.” Sellheim pauses. “The feeling is always that Bach goes back to the core of music – he makes us clean and clear…it’s so revealing.” He laughs. “The cleaning process makes you sober, if you’re not sober before, and gets you back to the origins…you need to confess something – there is no hiding. Everything is completely open.”
The Festival’s president, Arizona native Scott Youngs, created a seven-year “American Bach” series in his position as director of music at All Saints’ Episcopal Church and Day School. After offering more than 50 cantatas along with Bach’s St. John and St. Matthew Passions, he continued by developing the Festival, a non-profit organization with its own board.
“We strive to present Bach’s music in a variety of ways,” says Youngs. “The music is so versatile and today’s taste so eclectic that we don’t feel constricted by any convention. At least one concert each year is slightly ‘off the wall.’” He continues, “This year’s concert for piano four hands…some portions are strictly from Bach’s scoring, and some portions are…through a much more Romantic and contemporary lens. Lots of notes!”
If you go
- Friday, January 11, 7:30PM at Central United Methodist Church, 1875 N. Central
Eckart Sellheim and Dian Baker play Reger’s transcriptions of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos
- Saturday, January 12, 3PM at All Saints’ Episcopal Church, 6300 N. Central
David Enlow performs a dramatic recital on the Visser tracker organ
- Sunday, January 13, 3PM at Camelback Bible Church, 3900 E. Stanford Dr., Paradise Valley
The Festival Chamber Orchestra welcomes violin soloist Stephen Redfield and flute soloist Elizabeth Buck