The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release

March 9, 2006

Three-headed Brass Ensemble Returns For Second UI Concert March 23

Cerberus, the University of Iowa faculty brass trio that specializes in improvisational performances, will be joined by pianist and Soundpainting conductor Evan Mazunik and poet David Hulm for a free concert at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 23, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

Cerberus, named for the three-headed dog that guards Hades in Greek mythology, is made up of Jeffrey Agrell, horn; Brent Sandy, trumpet; and John Manning, tuba. The group was formed in 2005 and gave its first public concert at the UI last May.

As Agrell explained, "Cerberus is dedicated to the exploration of new types of musical expression for brass, with emphasis on spontaneous invention. This makes a virtue of necessity, since there is no written repertoire for this instrumentation."

"It is impossible to predict what will happen at the concert March 23, except to say that the listener should expect the unexpected," he said. "We will be musically illustrating a number of Hulm's wonderful poems, several of which will be invented during the concert from audience suggestions."

Soundpainting has been one of Agrell's interests for several years. This is a system of conducting/composing developed for musicians, dancers, poets, actors and visual artists working in the medium of structured improvisation. The system includes a vocabulary of more than 750 gestures made by the conductor/composer indicating the type of improvisation to be made by the performers. Mazunik, a UI graduate, studied Soundpainting with its creator, Walter Thompson.

Agrell noted that Cerberus gave its first concert last year with Thompson performing as Soundpainting conductor and sax and percussion player. "We played to resounding audience approval," Agrell said. "It was the only chamber music concert I've ever seen that received a standing ovation at the end."

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.

A founding member of the award-winning Atlantic Brass Quintet, Manning joined the UI faculty in 2004. He has toured across the United States and around the world with the Atlantic Brass Quintet, including performances in Korea, Japan, Costa Rica, France, Kuwait, India, Pakistan, England, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The quintet has won six international chamber music competitions and performed at the White House, Tanglewood, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Savannah Onstage, the Sacramento Festival for New American Music and other festivals and concert series around the country.

An active freelance musician, Manning has performed with the Boston Symphony, the Empire Brass and the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra. He has also served as principal tubist with the Vermont Symphony and Albany (N.Y.) Symphony. Outside the realm of classical music, he has performed with the Shirim Klezmer Orchestra, Naftule's Dream, Brass Planet, the Pee Wee Fist, the Jazz Composers Alliance Orchestra, Arlo Guthrie and John Lithgow.

As a Yamaha solo artist he has appeared at Louisiana State University Octubafest, the International Tuba Euphonium Conferences 2000 and 2002, and Music Educators Conferences in Connecticut and Massachusetts.

Prior to coming to the UI, Manning was on the faculty of the Boston Conservatory, Boston University's School for the Arts, the Tanglewood Institute and the University of Massachusetts. He has conducted tuba master classes around the United States and worked with brass students in Japan, Costa Rica, Panama, Egypt and Oman.

Originally from Raynham, Mass., Manning received his undergraduate degree from Boston University and his graduate degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He served as the solo tubist with the Air Force Band of the Golden West and was involved in numerous recordings and performed extensively throughout the western United States.

Sandy, who joined the jazz faculty in 2000, is a jazz trumpet and flugelhorn performer, teacher and clinician. Sandy performs regularly with local and regional jazz groups including the OddBar Trio, the Grismore Scea Group and Equilateral. As a former member of the Orquesta Alto Maiz and Oddbar he has made seven CDs, toured Europe in 1998 and twice been featured on "Jazzset with Branford Marsalis" on National Public Radio. He is an educational specialist/clinician for Conn/Selmer and a Conn Vintage One trumpet and flugelhorn artist.

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 cellist Gil Selinger.

He has written the score for the documentary "Checker King" screened at the 2002 DOCtober Film Fest in Santa Monica, California, 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 of 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, New York, where he fuses traditional liturgy with contemporary innovations.

Hulm has a master of fine arts degree from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a master's degree in African American World Studies from the UI. As a graduate student and visiting faculty member he taught at Iowa from 1986 until 2002. He currently teaches English full-time at Kirkwood Community College in Iowa City. He is also an active freelance writer.

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

For information on UI arts events, visit on the World Wide Web. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Peter Alexander, 319-384-0072,