New director of American Music Week keeping plenty busy

8:58:21 AM CDT - Friday, October 22, 2004

By Shannon Littlejohn

The new clarinet professor at Wichita State has not been lacking for things to do since her arrival.

That's because Suzanne Tirk, assistant professor of clarinet, inherited more than just a full-time teaching load from recently retired clarinet professor James Jones. She also inherited the American Music Week Festival, an annual event hosted by the School of Music and directed by Jones for 27 consecutive years.

"This is the first time I've gotten to organize concerts like this," says Tirk, who has only been on campus since the beginning of the fall semester. "I'm very excited."

Tirk came to WSU from a teaching position at Bemidji (Minn.) State University. She earned her bachelor's degree in music performance at the Lawrence University Conservatory of Music in Appleton, Wis. She finished her master's in music performance at Michigan State University and is working toward completing her doctorate from Michigan State.

The 28th annual American Music Week will be a great showcase for both students and faculty, says Tirk. Although time and budget constraints limited the possibilities of bringing guest artists in for this year's festival, she notes that the quality of WSU's music faculty more than makes up for that.

In fact, when Tirk first played with members of the Lieurance Woodwind Quintet she was in awe.

"I have been listening to their CDs since I started attending college," Tirk says. "The Lieurance Woodwind Quintet made a huge impact on my development as a chamber musician. To now be a member of the group is a great honor."

Tirk laughs easily and doesn't hesitate to do so often mostly at herself as she sorts through e-mail notes from participating faculty artists.

 "I'm still getting information together, so I'm worried I might leave someone out," she says when asked what's on the program for this year.

Some highlights, however, of this year's American Music Week include WSU's Sotto Voce Trio performing "Waterwords," a "song cycle for three instruments you would not normally see grouped together," says Tirk. The piece was commissioned by the Kansas Music Teachers Association. Vocalist Dorothy Crum, saxophonist Jean Lansing and pianist Sylvia Coats comprise the trio, which will have already premiered "Waterwords" at the KMTA state conference at the end of October.

"Dreaming in Colours," written for the Meg Quigley Vivaldi competition, a contest for young female bassoonists from the Americas, will feature Nicolasa Kuster on bassoon and Bridget Hille on piano.

Tirk is happy to be performing on clarinet, with Ann Glasmann on harp, Dean Roush's "4 Elements," representing Aristotlean elements of Earth, Water, Air and Fire. She'll also perform on "Three Pieces for Flute, Clarinet and Bassoon," by Walter Piston, with Nicolasa Kuster on bassoon and Frances Shelly on flute.

"It will be really exciting to perform the Piston at WSU," says Tirk, who recently performed the piece in Panama with Kuster and Shelly at the 1st Festival of Double Reeds in Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

Another highlight will be Judith Saxton on trumpet, with Anna Jeter on organ, performing Phil Snedecor's "Tribute." The duo will also perform George Gershwin's "Someone to Watch over Me," with Jeter on piano.

"The festival is a nationwide effort to promote American music," says Tirk, noting that university campuses across the United States participate. At WSU, the festival was initiated in 1976 in conjunction with the American Music Center in New York City. It has long attracted renowned guest artists and composers, is known for the commissioning of local composers, and has won recognition from the National Federation of Music Clubs, including a first prize in 2003.

The festival presents a great opportunity for the community, she says.

"It's a chance for people to hear our talented faculty and students and appreciate the innovative work of the nation's composers," says Tirk.

The 28th annual American Music Week will feature a student recital at 1:30 p.m. and a faculty recital at 7:30 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 2; and a student recital at 1:30 p.m. and a faculty recital at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 4. All performances will be in Wiedemann Recital Hall. Student recitals are free; faculty recitals are $5, with discounts available. For more information, call the College of Fine Arts Box Office at 978-3233.

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