Winner of the 2015 Astral Artist National Auditions, Project Fusion strives to entertain and inspire audiences as well as promote camaraderie among artists through unique collaborations. Formed in 2010 by graduates of the Eastman School of Music, Project Fusion has been praised for staging engaging and communicative concerts, achieved in part through the distinctive feat of performing musical programs exclusively from memory. The ensemble is also known for its diverse musical programming that includes new music, standard repertoire for the saxophone quartet, as well as arrangements and transcriptions. The quartet has captured top prizes in the world’s most prestigious chamber music competitions including the Gold Medal at the 40th Fischoff Chamber Music Competition and First Prize at the 2013 Music Teachers National Association Chamber Music Competition. In 2013, Project Fusion became the first saxophone quartet to earn Grand Prize, as well as the Hugo Vianello Audience Choice Award, at the 6th Plowman International Chamber Music Competition. Comprised of dedicated and passionate teachers, Project Fusion has presented convocations, clinics, and workshops in numerous K-12 schools as well as residencies and master classes at colleges and universities throughout the Midwest and East Coast. The ensemble is dedicated to public arts outreach, and has also presented recitals and educational programs in retirement communities, libraries, churches, and civic centers across the U.S. Project Fusion’s name is derived from the philosophy that music is an infinite, ongoing “project” guided by a sense of adventure and creativity, and that the “fusion” of ideas results in meaningful and enjoyable artistic creations.
Described as having an “effective sense of phrasing and dynamic sensitivity” (Florida Classical Review), saxophonist Dannel Espinoza (soprano saxophone) is an award-winning soloist and chamber musician based in south Florida. Lauded as one of the outstanding young artists in his field, Dr. Espinoza is a D’Addario Performing Artist, and has performed throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.
In demand as a recitalist, guest artist, and clinician, Dr. Espinoza performs regularly with ensembles and orchestras in south Florida and has worked with students at schools throughout North America and Europe. As a soloist, Dr. Espinoza was awarded second prize at the Music Teachers National Association Young Artist Competition, and was winner of the Arizona Music Teachers Association Young Artist Competition (2006 and 2007), Tucson Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition (second place 2006), and was named the winner of the Southwest Region for the Music Teachers National Association Young Artist Competition (2007).
Dr. Espinoza is a founding member, and soprano saxophonist, of the award-winning saxophone quartet Project Fusion, an ensemble that has been praised for “elevating the saxophone to its rightful throne.”(LA Splash Magazine) In 2013, Project Fusion attracted national attention through the unique feat of performing musical programs exclusively from memory, reaching critical acclaim by becoming the first saxophone quartet to be awarded the Grand Prize and Audience Choice Award at the Plowman Chamber Music Competition. In that same year they were also awarded 1st place at the Music Teacher National Association Chamber Music Competition and Gold Medal at the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition. Project Fusion has also won top prizes at the Arriaga Chamber Music Competition (2012) as well as the Coleman-Saunderson award at the Coleman International Chamber Ensemble Competition (2012).
An avid chamber musician, Dr. Espinoza has taken part in many ensembles of all shapes and sizes. Formed in 2010, Kontra Duo with harpist Kristina Finch released their first (self-titled) album in 2014, which has been described as energetic, sweet, sassy, graceful, and muscular. Dr. Espinoza also served as the inaugural assistant director to the Eastman Saxophone Project - the first conductor-less saxophone ensemble in the United States to perform completely from memory. Previous chamber music accolades include being the first saxophonist to win the Alice Coleman-Grand Prize at the Coleman International Chamber Ensemble Competition, and residencies with National Music Festival, Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, Hot Springs Music Festival, Ethos New Music Festival, Music in the Mountains, Festival of New American Music, and the Artist Series of Tallahassee.
An exciting arranger, Dr. Espinoza has produced many arrangements for saxophone ensemble, quartet, and duet for saxophone and harp. These arrangements include Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring for saxophone ensemble, which was premiered by the Eastman Saxophone Project and experienced by over 20,000 viewers in three days via YouTube, Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre for saxophone ensemble, Borodin’s String Quartet No.2 for saxophone quartet, Saint-Saëns’ Fantaisie for Violin and Harp for saxophone and harp, as well as many others.
A native of south Florida, Dannel Espinoza is the adjunct professor of saxophone at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, as well as actively pursuing a career as a freelance saxophonist and maintaining a private studio. Dr. Espinoza maintains a busy chamber and solo performing schedule. He completed his Doctor of Musical Arts in saxophone performance and literature with a minor in conducting at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY; where he was also awarded the prestigious Performer’s Certificate. His Bachelors and Masters degrees were earned at Northern Arizona University, and Florida State University, respectively. His primary teachers include Jonathan Bergeron, Patrick Meighan and Chien-Kwan Lin. From 2011-2013 Dannel served on the faculty of Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester, NY, and served as teaching assistant at both Florida State University and the Eastman School of Music.
Matthew Amedio (alto saxophone) is the newly appointed assistant professor of saxophone at the Greatbatch School of Music, Houghton College and instructor of instrumental music at Houghton Academy. In May of 2016, Matt graduated from the Eastman School of Music with his master's degree in saxophone performance and literature, under the tutelage of Professor Chien-Kwan Lin. While working towards his master's degree, he served as a graduate teaching assistant at Eastman coaching saxophone quartets, teaching lessons to non-majors, as well as teaching the saxophone methods course to music education majors. He previously attended Northwestern University for one year studying under Dr. Timothy McAllister. While at Northwestern, Matt was the principal saxophonist of the prestigious Northwestern University Wind Ensemble and soprano saxophonist of the Northwestern University Saxophone Ensemble. Prior to attending Northwestern, Matt earned a dual bachelor’s degree at the Eastman School of Music in saxophone performance (under Professor Chien-Kwan Lin) and music education (under Professor Richard Grunow). During his undergraduate at Eastman, Matt performed with the Eastman Wind Ensemble and Eastman Symphony Orchestra as principal saxophonist, and was a founding member of the Eastman Saxophone Project (ESP), the first conductorless saxophone ensemble in the United States to perform completely from memory. Matt also earned the John Celentano Award for chamber music excellence as well as a Performer’s Certificate at Eastman, the highest distinctions awarded at the conservatory. Matt has performed throughout the United States, as well as in China, Canada, France, Germany, Salzburg, and the Czech Republic, in venues ranging from the stage of the Eastman theatre in Rochester, NY, to the Rudolphium in Prague, Czech Republic.
As a dedicated chamber musician, Matt currently holds the alto saxophone chair in Project Fusion and the tenor saxophone chair in the East End Saxophone Quartet. As a member of Project Fusion, Matt won consecutive top prizes in the Fischoff, Plowman, Music Teachers National Association (MTNA), Coleman, Arriaga, and North American Saxophone Alliance (NASA) competitions. In 2015 Project Fusion was selected as a winner of Astral Artists national auditions, and as a result has been very active as both recitalists and clinicians in the Philadelphia area. Performing as the tenor saxophonist in the East End Quartet, Matt has won 1st prize in the Music Teachers National Association Competition (MTNA) as well as the Chamber Music Yellow Springs Competition, becoming only the second saxophone quartet to secure this coveted prize in the competition's 30-year history. Always striving to enrich community life, East End has performed numerous recitals and outreach concerts throughout the Northeast, and has a debut album set to release in the Fall of 2016.
In 2012 Matt was named the 1st prize winner in Vandoren's Emerging Artist Competition, which resulted in his Paris debut. Most recently his international travels have brought him to China, where he was a featured soloist with the Eastman Saxophone Project. While on a two-week tour with the ensemble, he performed Jonathan Russell's "Double Concerto for two bass clarinets" alongside studio mate Jon Wintringham in Shanghai, Beijing, Jinan, and Ningbo. Stateside, Matt has been seen performing with the New World Symphony in Miami, FL, under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas, and performing in masterclasses throughout the country being led by Claude Delangle, Vincent David, Timothy McAllister, Lynn Klock, Carrie Koffman, Chien-Kwan Lin, and the XASAX saxophone quartet.
A proponent of new music, Matt has performed with Eastman’s new music ensemble, OSSIA, and has played on several concert series throughout the greater city of Rochester presented by Sound ExChange, Washington Square Concert Series, and the RESTisNOISE. Always looking to expand the repertoire of the saxophone, Matt has premiered works by composers such as David Maslanka, Jonathan Russell, Graham Lynch, Robert Morris, Samuel Adler, Bill Cunliffe, Kyle Quarles, Dave Deason, Chris Castro, and Stratis Minakakis.
Michael Sawzin (tenor saxophone) currently resides in Dayton, Ohio where he is Instructor of Saxophone at Wright State University along side Dr. Shelley Jagow, Professor of Saxophone and Assistant Director of Bands. He also assists as a sixth grade Beginning Strings Instructor in the Northmont City School District.
While a resident in Chestertown, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, he was Director of Youth Programming for OuterArts Maryland Inc. As director for the Fiddlesticks! music program, which offers tuition free string instruction for students in Kent County, he conducted the Fiddlesticks! Orchestra, taught group classes and private lessons and coordinated logistics with parents, students, and Kent County Public Schools. Also, Michael was the Personnel Manager for the National Music Festival Orchestra (2013-2018) (NationalMusic.us).
While at the Eastman School of Music, Michael completed dual Master of Music degree (2013) in Saxophone Performance and Literature under the tutelage of Dr. Chien-Kwan Lin and Music Education under Dr. Richard Grunow. He previously completed dual Bachelor of Music degree with Honors in Music Education and Saxophone Performance (2009) from Wright State University in Dayton, OH, with Dr. Jagow. While at Wright State, Michael was a winner of the WSU Concerto Competition (2007) and Honors Recital (2009).
Michael is a founding member of the Eastman Saxophone Project (2010) and saxophone quartet, Project Fusion. As a member of Project Fusion, he has been awarded top prizes in the 2012 North American Saxophone Alliance Quartet Competition (AZ), the 2012 Coleman Chamber Music Competition (CA), and the 2012 J.C. Arriaga Chamber Music Competition (CT). In 2013, the quartet also received 1st prize in the MTNA Chamber Music Competition, grand prize and audience award at the Plowman Chamber Music Competition, and Gold Medal at the 40th anniversary Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. The quartet has expanded the saxophone quartet repertoire collaborating with composers Stephen Dankner, A.J. McCaffrey, and Marc Mellits.
As a member of the Avion Saxophone Quartet, Michael received the Edgar Hardy Early Impact Scholarship, the Dayton Chamber Music Scholarship, and the Chamber Music Fellowship at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln (2006, 2007) where they studied with the Chiara String Quartet. Avion was also chosen to perform at the International Symposium for Music Education in Bologna, Italy. Avion released their first CD in 2009 featuring two world premieres: Stop is the New Go by A.J. McCaffrey and Green No. 26 by Chris Serena.
Michael has taught in various settings ranging from beginning instrumental instruction to collegiate teaching. While a resident of Southern California, he was the Instructor of Saxophone at the University of California Riverside, Instructor of Woodwinds at Fountain Valley High School, The Southwest Conservatory, and Trabuco Hills High School.
Matt Evans (baritone saxophone) is an avid soloist, chamber musician, and teacher. Currently ABD for his DMA in Saxophone Performance and Literature from the Eastman School of Music, Matt is concurrently finishing an MA in Music Theory Pedagogy at Eastman, and he received his MM and BM in Saxophone Performance and Literature from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in 2008 and 2010. Matt is currently Adjunct Professor of Music Theory at Roberts Wesleyan College.
As a soloist, Matt has performed in Thailand, Germany, and throughout the United States. In 2012, Matt won 2nd Prize in the Music Teachers National Association Young Artist Woodwind Competition and in 2011 he advanced as a semi-finalist in the 3rd International Jean-Marie Londiex Competition. Matt also earned 2nd prize in the Lakeshore Wind Ensemble Concerto Competition in 2008, and he has been awarded the Performer’s Certificate at both the Eastman School of Music and the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, the highest performance distinction awarded at either institution.
Matt is a founding member of the internationally renowned Zzyzx Quartet. Zzyzx recently performed a concerto grosso at the 2012 North American Saxophone Alliance in Tempe, AZ, and in May 2011 became the first American chamber ensemble to advance to the semi-final round of the Osaka International Chamber Music Competition in Osaka, Japan. Zzyzx also won 2nd prize in the inaugural North American Saxophone Alliance Quartet Competition at Columbia, SC in 2010 and has been a featured artist in the Saxophone Journal.
Matt was Assistant Director of the Eastman Saxophone Project from 2012-2013 and oversaw the proliferation of the ensemble through social media when ESP’s performance of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring garnered over 27,000 views on YouTube in a three-day span. A contemporary music enthusiast, Matt is also President of OSSIA New Music and he has commissioned new works by prominent composers such as David Maslanka and John Mackey.
In 2011, Matt received the Teaching Assistant Prize for Excellence in Teaching at the Eastman School of Music, an award given to the top graduate instructors at the conservatory. An active teacher, Matt has taught music theory and literature and aural musicianship courses, coached undergraduate chamber ensembles, and taught applied private lessons at the University of Rochester. As saxophone instructor at the Eastman Community Music School, Matt directed the New Horizons Saxophone Ensemble, and taught private and group lessons to a studio of over 20 students.
Matt can be heard on Zzyzx’s two critically acclaimed albums - Intersections and Zzyzx Road released in 2013 and 2010 respectively. Matt is a Yamaha Performing Artist as well as an Artist-Clinician for Rico Reeds and d’Addario, Inc., and he performs on Yamaha saxophones and Rico Reserve reeds exclusively.