Texas Tech University

Saxophone Day: Award-Winning Mirasol Quartet at Texas Tech

Heidi Toth

November 6, 2015

The group recently recorded its debut CD and is now on tour.

Mirasol Quartet

Texas Tech University's premier saxophone quartet is on tour after winning a gold medal at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition at Notre Dame University in May.

The Mirasol Quartet, composed of James Barger, a doctoral student from Carrollton; Ben Still, a master's student from Raleigh, North Carolina; Andrew Reinhart, a senior from Lewisville; and Ben Donnell, a senior from Levelland, won the gold medal in the wind division of the Fischoff competition.

David Dees, a professor of saxophone in the School of Music, has coached the ensemble for almost two years.

“I am tremendously proud of this group,” Dees said. “Their Fischoff Gold Medal is a potentially once-in-a-lifetime event for all of us. This is a truly distinctive honor for them, the saxophone studio, the School of Music and Texas Tech. It is the culmination of two years of fantastic teamwork and music-making.”

The Fischoff competition is the largest chamber music competition in the world. Every year more than 100 string or wind ensembles from more than 20 countries participate. The quartet is Texas Tech's first ensemble to be accepted into the live rounds of the competition, much less win a gold medal.


This is the latest recognition for the group, which is transitioning from a university-based ensemble into a professional chamber music ensemble. Dees said the quartet performs several times each semester, from Lubbock venues to regional and national conferences and competitions throughout the state and in Oklahoma, Illinois and California. The ensemble rehearses for up to 20 hours per week, plus each member spends a number of hours in individual practice and study.

The ensemble is touring this fall as part of the Fischoff winners' tour of the Midwestern United States and recently finished recording their debut CD, which will feature music of French composer Florent Schmitt and American composers Frank Ticheli and David Maslanka.

Barger, a doctoral student, said the ensemble's development has been both fun and musically challenging. He has enjoyed both the success and the company of the other musicians. He's looking forward to the evolution of the Mirasol Quartet, he said.

“In the beginning we were just having fun making music together,” he said. “However, we kept improving and started being accepted into, and placing well at, some big-name chamber music competitions. But competition aside, we are all great friends who enjoy each other's company and just have a great time making music.

“The experience has been great. We each bring our own strengths, interests and musical tastes to the group in what has been a very successful meld for us.”