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University of Iowa News Release

March 9, 2006

UI Faculty Member And Guest Will Perform A Spontaneous Program March 21

Jeffrey Agrell, who teaches horn at the University of Iowa School of Music, and pianist Evan Mazunik, a UI alumnus who now lives in New York, will present a performance that, unlike most concerts, has a program that will be created on the spot, at 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 21, in Clapp Recital Hall.

The program, Agrell said, will be invented at the time of the performance, partly from audience suggestions. The concert will be free and open to the public.

Agrell has become known for his performances exploring various types of musical improvisation. Many of these have been presented in collaboration with Mazunik, who has become active in the field of Soundpainting, a technique for directing ensemble improvisation.

"Evan and I have been doing improvisation-based concerts and giving improv workshops since 2000, all around the country," Agrell said. "But we have not been able to rehearse since he moved to New York City a year and a half ago. To make a feature out of what might otherwise be a problem, we play concerts that are completely invented at the time.

"How do we do it? We listen very carefully to each other and respond. It's very challenging for us, and it is a different experience for the audience as well: They are there 'at the creation' of each piece, and they watch and listen as we create material, and then respond to it, develop it, abandon it, come back to it; they watch us paint ourselves into corners and then figure out how to get out again; and we all marvel together at the times when the magic works just right and the pieces fit together like a polished composition.

"We don't know how each piece sounds or how it will finish until we get there ourselves. It takes a lot of courage and faith, but somehow it always works out, and it is always a lot of fun. Sometimes we take suggestions from the audience to base the next piece on. But there is nothing like this approach in either classical or jazz, and it is a very engaging experience for both us and the audience."

Agrell and Mazunik have developed an approach to improvisation that is not jazz-based. Their Creative Workshops are designed to teach improvisation to classically trained musicians and show how imagination and creativity can revitalize both technical and expressive music making. They recorded the CD "Repercussions," which integrates improvised and written material. They have also teamed up with New York cellist Gil Selinger to form the group Duende and record the CD "Gregorian Chance."

Agrell joined the UI School of Music faculty in 2000 after a 25-year career as symphony musician. At the UI he teaches horn, directs the Horn Choir, teaches introduction to improvisation and performs with the Iowa Brass Quintet. Before coming to Iowa, he was associate principal horn with the Lucerne (Switzerland) Symphony Orchestra 1975-2000, playing symphonic music, opera, operetta, ballet, musicals, choral music and chamber music.

Agrell began composing and arranging during his college years and played jazz guitar and electronic music in the 1980s. For the past decade he has had a steady stream of commissions from professional chamber music ensembles. His works have appeared on CD and have been broadcast on radio and television nationally and internationally. Several of his compositions have won awards.

Widely respected as performer, teacher and composer, Agrell has performed and given clinics and lectures at regional, national and international workshops. He is on the faculty of the Asian Youth Orchestra in Hong Kong and is a member of the Advisory Council of the International Horn Society. An avid writer, he was on the editorial staffs of two brass journals for decades, writes two regular columns for the Horn Call, the journal of the International Horn Society, and has some 80 published articles to his credit. He is on the faculty of the Kendall Betts Horn Camp and is currently working on a book of "Improvisation Games for Classical Musicians."

Agrell has degrees from St. Olaf College and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He did further studies at the Institut de Hautes Etudes Musicales in Montreux (Switzerland) and at the Basel Conservatory.

Mazunik's broad experience as a pianist, composer and improviser includes work with distinguished musicians including Carla Bley, Steve Swallow, Dick Oatts and Robert Paredes. He currently plays in several ensembles dedicated to original material, including UBUNTU, the Curious Citizens and a duo with Selinger.

He has written the score for the documentary "Checker King" screened at the 2002 DOCtober Film Fest in Santa Monica, Cal., and aired on HBO2. While at the UI, he served as musical director for "In Sarajevo," a musical that received its premiere as part of the 2002 Iowa New Play Festival, and a collaborative production of Charles Mee's "Trojan Women."

Mazunik is trained in Soundpainting -- a sign language for live composition -- and currently serves as both assistant conductor to the New York Soundpainting Orchestra and the artistic director of the Gamut Soundpainting Ensemble. In addition, he plays keyboards for the Walter Thompson Orchestra. Mazunik also serves as the music director of Resurrection Presbyterian Church in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, where he fuses traditional liturgy with contemporary innovations.

The School of Music is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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