On Saturday, April 10, the 2021 Briggs Chamber Music Competition was held in Britton Recital Hall and McIntosh Theatre. The Briggs Competition was created in an ongoing effort to encourage the excellence of chamber music performance at SMTD and to provide performance opportunities for various ensembles. It is named in honor of its benefactors and evolved from the Dale and Nancy Briggs Chamber Music Endowed Enrichment Fund, established in 2004 and endowed in 2006, to support program and/or scholarship needs in chamber music.
SMTD is excited to recognize this year’s winners:
First Prize Winner & Michigan Composition Prize Winner: Aero Quartet
“Given the scarcity of performances in the past year, Aero Quartet is incredibly thankful for the opportunity to showcase our work in the 2021 Briggs Chamber Music Competition. We selected Corey Dundee’s (DMA ’20, composition) Shifting Gears to compete for the Michigan Composer Prize, awarded for the best performance of a piece written by a current member or recent graduate of the University of Michigan Composition Studio. In addition to being a widely sought-after composer, Corey is a saxophonist and member of the legendary Kenari Quartet. His deep understanding of the instrument and medium makes Shifting Gears thrilling to perform.”
Praised by Pulitzer Prize finalist and Grammy award-winning composer Augusta Read Thomas for their “nuanced, colorful, artfully sculpted” performances, the Aero Quartet is committed to promoting new and traditional repertoire for saxophone quartet. Most recently, the ensemble has collaborated with world-renowned American composer Jennifer Higdon on a new work for saxophone quartet to be recorded and released in the Summer of 2021 and was named first prize winners in the 2021 Music Teachers National Association Chamber Music Competition and the New Orleans Chamber Music Competition. The members of Aero are Salvador Flores (BM ’21, saxophone) on soprano saxophone, Walt Puyear (MM ’21, saxophone) on alto saxophone, Matthew Koester (DMA, saxophone) on tenor saxophone, and Brian Kachur (BM ’21, saxophone) on baritone saxophone.
“It’s a great honor to take part in the historic legacy of chamber music at the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance and this first prize award is a truly special way to conclude our ensemble’s inaugural year. Thank you to Matt Albert, chair of the Chamber Music Department, and Dale and Nancy Briggs for making this competition a reality.”
Second Prize Winner: Eros Quartet
“As a competitive chamber ensemble, The Briggs Competition allowed us our sole in-person competition environment something which we as a group treasure very deeply. As musicians, our main purpose is to perform and without Briggs, all our work for the year would have been recording work. We can not thank the University enough for the opportunity to perform and we are deeply honored to place second at this historic competition.”
Founded in 2020, the Eros Quartet is composed of students from the studio of renowned saxophonist Dr. Timothy McAllister at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. The ensemble focuses on showcasing the dynamic sound worlds of the saxophone quartet, programming everything from contemporary compositions to transcriptions of traditional repertoire. Eros Quartet was recently named as finalists in the 2020–21 MTNA Chamber Music Competition, Winner of the 2021 NOLA National Chamber Festival Competition, Quarterfinalist of the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, and Second Prize in the 2021 Briggs Competition at the University of Michigan. Eros is composed of Philip Kleutgens (BM ’22, saxophone), soprano saxophone from Las Vegas, NV, Jordan Savage (BM ’22, saxophone, BS ’22, computer science), alto saxophone, from Scottsdale, AZ, Roberto Campa (BM ’23, saxophone) tenor saxophone, from Monterrey, Mexico, and Jason Fraizer (BM ’22, saxophone), baritone saxophone from Franklin, TN.
Third Prize Winner: Brahms Trio
“We are grateful to have had this opportunity because it brought some much-needed normalcy to this very unusual school year.”
Clarinetist Everett Rutledge (MM ’21, clarinet) is currently a second-year Master’s student, studying with Daniel Gilbert and Chad Burrow. He received his Bachelor’s degree (cum laude) at Tennessee Technological University (Tech), where he studied with Mark J. Cramer, Jacqueline Eichhorn, and Wonkak Kim. Rutledge has distinguished himself in many ways: in 2019, he received honorable mention in the Joan Derryberry Memorial Concerto Competition at Tech, and he co-founded the Ventus Reed Quintet, where he served as bass clarinetist until his graduation. In 2018, he was a finalist in the Nashville Philharmonic Concerto Competition and was the winner of the Young Artist division of the Music Teachers National Association Competition. His woodwind trio, the Picardy Third, also placed second in the Music Teachers National Associations Chamber Group Competition that year. Cellist Andres Ayerbe (BM ’24, cello) is a first-year undergraduate from Houston, Texas. A student of Richard Aaron, he is currently pursuing a dual degree in Cello Performance and Data Science. In 2019, he placed first in both the Fort Bend Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition and the Senior String Division of the Clear Lake Concerto Competition, performing with both of their ensembles in the spring of that year. He has attended the Meadowmount School of Music, where he studied with Julia Lichten and performed in masterclasses with Lynn Harrell and Jeffrey Solow. Additionally, Ayerbe has performed in masterclasses with Clive Greensmith, Hannah Roberts, Brinton Smith, and the members of the Juilliard Quartet. He was formerly in the Houston Youth Symphony and was also in a string quartet that brought classical music to underprivileged areas, something he wishes to continue doing throughout his musical career. Pianist Peter Smith (MM ’22, piano) has performed extensively throughout ten different states. In 2019, he performed Saint-Saëns’s Piano Concerto No. 2 under the baton of Xian Zhang, Music Director of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, as the winner of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) Concerto Competition. He has distinguished himself in numerous additional competitions, including the Neapolitan Masters Competition and the NOMEA Competition of Italy, the World Piano Teachers Association Finland Competition, and several domestic competitions. Smith received both his high school diploma and his Bachelor’s degree from UNCSA, studying with Eric Larsen, Artistic Director of the Meadowmount School of Music, and Dmitri Shteinberg. In the future, he hopes to pursue a DMA in collaborative piano. Smith is currently a first-year Master’s student, studying with Arthur Greene.
This year’s judges were Chris Anderson, trombone, (Oberlin Conservatory), Suren Bagratuni, cello, (Michigan State University), Steven Banks, saxophone, (Ithaca College), Sang Mee Lee, violin, (Music Institute of Chicago), and Natalie Zhu, piano, (Kingston Chamber Music Festival). The winners were awarded the following prize money: First prize $4,000, Second prize $2,000, and Third prize $1,000. The $1,000 Michigan Composition Prize was given for the best performance of a piece written by a University of Michigan composer (either a current student or a graduate from the classes of 2016–20).