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Haruko Murphy, piano, plays “Ava Maria” with her husband Otis Murphy, saxophone, Friday, Oct. 18. Ava Maria is a piece the two typically play with their six childern. Logan Wiley

Otis Murphy plays for 2nd SCMS concert

The Solo and Chamber Music Series made way for its second performer: Otis Murphy, playing wild repertoire for the alto saxophone. 

The PSU department of music hosted the 2nd Solo and Chamber Music Series (SCMS) concert featuring saxophonist Otis Murphy in concert with his wife Haruko at the piano. The concert took place on Friday, Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m. in the Sharon Kay Dean Recital Hall in McCray Hall. Murphy performed a variety of works for saxophone, including “Arioso and Presto” by James Barnes, “Ave Maria” by Valdimir Vavilov, “Fire in the Earth” from the David Maslanka Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Wind Ensemble, “Le Api” by Antonino Pasculli, “Blooming Ireland” by Ryota Ishikawa, “A Gershwin Fantasy” arranged by Martino, and “White Field: A Bird Sings an Epilogue” by Tsutomu Narita. 

“I am so thankful to be here with you all,” Murphy said during the recital. “I cannot thank you enough from the bottom of my heart that I get to be here with you.” 

Murphy is professor of saxophone at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, joining the faculty there at the age of 28 and becoming one of the youngest faculty members ever hired there. In addition to this professorship, he has won numerous awards and contests, including the Adolphe Sax International Saxophone Competition and the Jean-Marie Londeix International Saxophone Competition. Murphy has also appeared in many different venues including Carnegie Hall in New York City, Casals Hall in Tokyo, and Palau de la Musica in Valencia, Spain. Despite these accomplishments, Murphy said that his “greatest treasure” is his wife. 

“I could not do this alone, and I’m so proud I get to perform with my beautiful wife on the piano back there,” Murphy said. “She and I are a team and we work together, play together, (and) live together. Our whole lives are together.” 

The pieces performed on the recital were all pieces that Murphy had done before. For example, Murphy performed the Maslanka Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Wind Ensemble his first year as a faculty member at the Jacobs School of Music, and the “Ave Maria” is a piece that he often performs with his family. 

“We have six kids, and they all play musical instruments,” Murphy said. “Horn, cello, flute… I’m so used to performing this piece (“Ave Maria”) with a larger group, it’s kind of odd to be performing it with just Haruko and I.” 

Murphy also demonstrated some unique techniques that can be performed on the saxophone. In “Le Api,” Murphy had to use “circular breathing,” a technique that allows a player to play and breathe at the same time. The piece was made up of fast, moving lines that did not leave time to breathe normally. 

“I thought that was so impressive,” said Thomas Deane, junior in music education. “That circular breathing was super cool; it really made the recital…” 

Murphy played pieces by mostly living composers and arrangers because the age of the saxophone as an instrument. The instrument has only been in existence for little over a hundred years and thus, the repertoire for the instrument is limited. 

“I thought the White Field was one of the cooler pieces on the concert,” Deane said. “It gave me some strong feelings, because it was so, so beautiful…” 

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