Praised for his “seamless technique” and “sumptuous lyricism” (The Philadelphia Inquirer), saxophonist Doug O’Connor has performed across Asia, Europe, and the U.S., including appearances at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Merkin Hall, Carnegie Hall, and Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. He recently appeared at the XV World Saxophone Congress in Bangkok, where he gave the worldpremière performance of Christian Lauba’s 15th etude, Worksong; in addition, he was recently featured with the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra performing the worldpremière of Baljinder Sekhon’s saxophone concerto, The Offering. Also as a soloist, Mr. O’Connor has been featured with the National Symphony Orchestra, Symphony in C, Musica Nova, and the Eastman and University of Wisconsin Eau Claire Jazz Ensembles. Actively working with a variety of composers, he is a firm advocate of both new and traditional repertoire.
Dr. O’Connor was the Second Prize winner of the 2nd International Jean-Marie Londeix Saxophone Competition in Bangkok. In addition, he has won top prizes in many other solo competitions, including the NASA Classical Solo Competition, the MTNA Young Artist Woodwind Competition, the 2004 National Symphony Orchestra Young Soloists Competition, and the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra’s Mary Graham Lasley competition. Finally, he is a winner of Astral Artists’ 2003 National Auditions and was a finalist for the Concert Artists Guild competition in 2009.
With a passion for chamber music, Dr. O’Connor is a founding member of the Red Line Saxophone Quartet as well as the reed quintet REED5. While playing soprano saxophone in Red Line, the group won grand prizes at the Chesapeake, Coleman, NASA, and MTNA chamber music competitions, as well as divisional gold medals at the Fischoff and Plowman chamber competitions. Red Line performed most of their concerts by heart, premiered five new works for sax quartet and electronics in NYC, and released a CD on iTunes, Back Burner.
Doug O’Connor holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Saxophone Performance from the University of Maryland, where he was music director and conductor of its Philharmonia Ensemble chamber orchestra, in addition to Master and Doctor of Music degrees from the Eastman School of Music. He recently served as Associate Lecturer of Saxophone at the University of Wisconsin in Eau Claire for the 2011-12 academic year, and is currently beginning his service with the United States Naval Academy Band in Annapolis, MD.
“Yet another wonderful example of the tremendous versatility of the cello in the right hands, which Natalie Spehar’s clearly are.” – Susan Scheid, Prufrock’s Dilemma
An accomplished classical, rock, and folk cellist, Natalie has performed as a member of several ensembles, including most recently the Élan Duo (with Doug O’Connor, saxophone), the Great Noise Ensemble, the Low End String Quartet and the Washington, D.C. based cello rock ensemble, Primitivity. With a strong interest in contemporary music, Natalie has enjoyed mastering and premiering new and experimental works for cello, including several recent projects with live electronics and tape.
Natalie has performed as a soloist with Graham Reynolds in The Kennedy Center’s presentation of The Difference Engine, with the University of Maryland Percussion Ensemble, and with the Canton Symphony Orchestra, and has presented world premiere performances in venues including Ravinia, Severance Hall, and the National Gallery of Art. She has also been awarded several scholarships, among them a USA Projects grant, the Canton MacDowell Club Scholarship and the Howard Hanson Scholarship toward her studies at the Eastman School of Music. In the summer of 2009, Natalie was one of five American performers selected to participate in Northeastern University’s Fusion Arts Exchange, a program and concert tour funded by the U.S. Department of State that featured young musicians from six countries, and in 2011-12 she participated in the inaugural New Music on the Point contemporary music festival as well as the inaugural Fresh Inc. Festival led by Chicago’s esteemed Fifth House Ensemble. An enthusiastic presenter of new music, Natalie has premiered new cello works by composers Tomek Regulski, Finola Merivale, Orie Sato, Keane Southard, Andrew Watts, famed Syrian recording artist Malek Jandali, and her 2011-12 season featured her in premieres of works by renowned composers Zoe Keating, Sarah Lipstate, Cornelius Dufallo and Hannah Lash. Natalie also recorded an original soundtrack for the television documentary Through the Eye of the Needle, as well as composed and recorded the solo cello original soundtrack for the award-winning animated film Test Anxiety.
Natalie holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Cello Performance as well as a Certificate in Arts Leadership from Eastman School of Music, where she studied with Alan Harris. An avid supporter of music outreach, Natalie has recently served as an Arts & Learning Intern for Young Audiences, Inc., an educator with Music For Life, and a performing member of the MacDowell Music Club, all national organizations dedicated to encouraging and providing community music education. She currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, and looks forward to the upcoming season, in which she will present several solo cello premieres in the Washington, D.C., Ohio, and New York City areas, as well as record her solo debut CD.
For more details about the Élan Duo, check out their website.
Walter Piston – Divertimento for Nine Instruments – I. Allegro
for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, two violins, viola, cello and double bass
Viola Yip – I Hear That Voice
for bass clarinet, piano, cello, and alto saxophone
Eugene Astapov – Nibiru
for baritone saxophone and cello
Sydney Kjerstad – So Totally, Shamelessly Cheesy, You Guys
for soprano saxophone and cello