WSU faculty win national music contest

Quintet aims to promote Asian composers, music



After winning the American Prize, they released their third CD and will perform in Thailand summer 2023

PUNEET BSANTI, Deputy news editor

From China to Thailand, the Pan Pacific Ensemble has traveled extensively to showcase their talents, and just last week they won the 2022 American Prize for Professional Chamber Music.

Established in 2016, the Pan Pacific Ensemble is a wind quintet composed of members Michael Garza and WSU School of Music faculty members Sophia Tegart, Keri McCarthy, Shannon Scott and Martin King. The ensemble recently received a new member, Gabby Boffoni.

“You can kind of think [The American Prize] as the Grammys or the Oscars for specifically classical musicians,” Tegart said. “People submit recordings to this competition and it goes out to a panel of judges and they reduce it to a semi-final round and then to a final round.” 

McCarthy said the Pan Pacific Ensemble strives to represent Asian composers by commissioning and playing their music as a group. 

“It’s repertoire from Asian composers whose music is not well represented in the United States, or globally. So we’re trying to promote this new music from these wonderful people and bring it to audiences who haven’t heard it and represent that music well,” she said. 

The Pan Pacific Ensemble began with McCarthy and Garza who met in Thailand in 2011.

“We were talking about wanting to expand our instruments, particularly our double reed instruments, the oboe and bassoon,” she said. “So we were talking about wanting to expand those instruments and their visibility [in Southeast Asia].” 

Their first experience as a group was at the two-day China-ASEAN Contemporary Music Festival in Nanning, China, which attracts composers and performers from across China and Southeast Asia, McCarthy said. They prepared two concerts worth of music in one week, and they had never played together before, Tegart said. 

The ensemble commissions music from composers of Asian heritage or Americans who have delved deeply into music from Asia, she said. 

For winning the American Prize, the ensemble will win a monetary reward, and they are featured on the American Prize website, McCarthy said. 

“[The American Prize] has grown in national prominence. There’s no question that most performing musicians know about this prize now, I think, so to be awarded top honors for professional chamber music is just a huge honor, a great life accomplishment,” McCarthy said. 

This week, the group released their third CD, which was recorded in a recording studio in Kimbrough Hall Music Building.

The Pan Pacific Ensemble has a promising future that lies ahead as they will be performing in Thailand summer 2023 and have an invitation to Rural Borneo, an island on the coast of Malaysia. In the future, McCarthy and Tegart said they would love to perform in America and for people at institutions, like WSU.

“I think we were lucky enough to have experienced some amazing music and come across music that has been written but just hasn’t made it to the U.S.,” McCarthy said.