Keystone Saxophone Quartet
“Promoting Music in our Schools and Communities, for LIFE!
KSQ:  Local Musical Group kept busy!

Keystone Saxophone Quartet becomes local hit
After a few years “break” from the group, KSQ has come back with a renewed energy.  Joining the group this past year is BJ (Robert) Hickey. BJ joins playing tenor along with Mark on Alto 1 and Soprano, Judy on Alto 2 and her sister Janet on Bari.  KSQ started their year performing at Mark’s company banquet.  “From the moment we played our first notes together, we were convinced this group had great promise.  Plus, we really enjoyed each other. Our group dynamic is fun which certainly makes the hard work we put into the group even that much more enjoyable” says Mark. 

Central PA and Beyond!
by Mark Burke
KSQ performed in early 2008 for the Warrior Run Middle School and High School Band students.  By April, the group had prepared for their performance at the Graystone Court in Roaring Springs, PA, the home of Mark’s Mom, Dad and Grandmother.  The early summer of 2008 offered the opportunity for KSQ to help the community. In a May 15th Concert in the Town Park, KSQ helped raise an additional $500 for the Curves for Women, Curves A-THON for Cancer Research. 

“What began as a comment made in passing, turned into a real goal for the group” says Mark in regards to the plan to perform a recital.  By September 25th, the group was ready to perform at Lycoming College. KSQ filled the hall for the noon concert series.
From that point on, word of mouth helped the group secure two additional performances for the year.  The group performed for the Pennsylvania Association of Retirees and ended the season just recently performing in Waverly New York for the Hudock Moyer Wealth Management Client Appreciation event.

“We have great plans already in the making for 2009 including a tribute to Leonard Bernstein.  The quartet will welcome guest performer, Greg Alico on percussion in a performance of West Side Story Selections” says Mark.  The group will be performing as the pre-concert artists for the May Williamsport Symphony concert.  Additional plans are being made now, so stay tuned for more.   

Behind the Scenes

From the Studio – Have you ever wondered what it takes to “make the music” behind the scenes?  KSQ’s success comes from running our group with efficiency.  In just 1 short year, the quartet has prepared over 20 pieces of music to performance level.  While some do not take as much preparation time as other, most require several hours of group prep time AND hours of individual prep time as well.  “We have to travel to get together, so we make sure we are all prepared for our practice sessions.  We plan the sessions at least a month in advance, so that we know where and when we will meet and what we will be working on. We work hard to be organized and efficient” says Mark.

Before any music is worked on, research is needed to find music that fits the group.  The group all participates in choosing music. Members will often hear music from other groups, or know of tunes that if available would be great additions. One of the groups more recent additions to its repertoire, Take Five, was a favorite of BJ’s.  This 5/4 jazz piece has made a great addition to our group. However, the instrumentation was not exactly what we needed. So, Judy, the group’s transposition and arranging expert, created the Tenor part from an existing Alto III part. Now, the piece is a perfect match for KSQ. 

Going on the road is a lot of work. The group consolidates as much as possible.  Fitting 5 instruments, including the big Bari, into a car, with four people, often a change of clothes, sound equipment for larger halls, music stands, instrument stands and more takes organization.  The group generally prepares the night before placing all needed items into the staging area.  Come time for travel, the group packs up and ensures nothing is missing.   

Judy fills the role of Chief Organizational Officer.  She ensures we are all coordinated on rehearsal dates and performance times.  She also takes care of our outreach efforts handling communications with outside organizations and arranging for performances.  As you can imagine, juggling the needs of those who want us to perform with the schedules of four active people can be a challenge.

This years growth also meant attention was needed on our instruments.  We started our efforts with no Bari sax.  So, a borrowed one filled the needs in the beginning. However, we knew if we wanted to grow we needed to invest.  So, Mark tried out some instruments and brought home a new Bari.

After the Bari, Mark added a new Soprano and new Alto to his instrument family.  “Groups that perform as we do often ignore the opportunity to ensure a cohesive sound through matching all of the instruments as much as possible.  We play exclusively on Yanagisawa Saxophones” says Mark. The similar instruments, all from the same manufacturer help us create a uniform sound, one that is classical in nature, but can be equally convincing on American Marches, Ragtime, light Jazz or Broadway hits. 

That’s all from Behind the Scenes! 

Members of KSQ: Accept the call to perform!

The success of KSQ has created the opportunity for the group to perform outside the quartet.  In October, the members of KSQ hit the road, touring PA with FiveByDesign.

“This opportunity was one of the highlights of my career. The entire FiveByDesign group were incredible performers and great people to spend a week with on the road” says Judy.  For more information on FiveByDesign, readers can visit their website at

Symphonic Saxes take the stage

In November, Mark was invited to play the Soprano Sax solo in Ravel’s Bolero with the Williamsport Symphony.  Williamsport was home to the 2008 Governor’s Award for the Arts.  The concert was the culminating event for the week filled with Arts events and performances.  “I must have played the short solo a thousand times.  None were ever the same. The solo is a beautiful example of how music changes every time you play it.  This piece is deceiving.  It looks simple.  But, to play it well, delicately, yet powerfully, it takes a ton of prep – well, at least it did for me” says Mark. 

In February, Mark and BJ will be rejoining the Williamsport Symphony to perform the saxophone parts to American in Paris by George Gershwin.  Judy and Janet can be heard in the clarinet section.
Back In Action

The 2008-2009 season was a busy one for KSQ.  Since May, we have all taken some time to catch up to life.  In particular, I've been busy getting viaAcademies started. So we are eager to get the group into rehearsal again.  This season we are adding a few great tunes into our mix.  Daniel Dorff's Fast Walk, Mike Curtis' Invitacion de Tango and a great traditional quartet, the Singele Premier Quatour.  Stay tuned into and visit our blog at for the latest news and information.  MB (Nov. 28th, 2009)
KSQ:  Joins Forces with viaAcademies and Central Oak Heights at the Summer Sax Quartet Workshop 2010.

Four students from Central PA recently joined us for an amazing event.  viaAcademies, an online music academy, KSQ and the great team at Central Oak Heights sponsored the opportunity for students to join forces in music.  The event includes 10 hours of rehearsal and topic coverage (including ensemble rehearsing, personal performance, goal setting, and performance techniques).  Read more about it in our press release.  For 2011, the event will be expanded to include 3 quartets.  Students are encourage to speak to their teachers now.  Auditions will be held in the spring of 2011.

Learn more...