Saxophonist Pietro performs at Englert

BY JULIA JESSEN | APRIL 05, 2012 6:30 AM

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Bouncy staccatos, smooth crescendos, and playful melodies will fill the Englert Theater today when saxophonist Dave Pietro takes the stage.

He will première a new set of five songs commissioned by Hancher, called Iowa Memoirs, at 7:30 p.m. today in the Englert, 221 E. Washington St.

"I'm really excited to hear how the music reflects his experiences," said Hancher Programming Director Jacob Yarrow, who has known Pietro for more than 10 years. "I think some of it will be kind of impressionistic and others will be a little more about the specific instances or interactions with specific people."

Hancher commissioned Pietro for the new works while he was working on a three-week residency in Iowa completed in three parts over the course of the academic year. During the duration of this residency, he said he was very inspired by his surroundings.

"He's been an East Coast person his whole life, and so to be in the Heartland of the U.S. where it's farmland, and fields, and small cities was a totally different experience for him and a good source of inspiration," said Erin Donahue, Hancher's education programming director, who worked closely with Pietro.

He said the first piece he composed, "Sunrise on the Muscatine Highway," was inspired by an early morning drive he took with Donahue to Muscatine High School.

"We got up before the birds, and we were driving east and got to see the sunrise, and it was so beautiful," Pietro said. "I just started playing, and it just came to me — the idea of this drive, and most of the other pieces came to me like that, thinking or reflecting about something."

During his residency, Pietro worked with students at the University of Iowa as well as high-school and middle-school students throughout the state. He said he emphasized that music requires individual responsibility as well as being sensitive to others, something he thinks could be applied on a greater scale as well.

"I look at the world in that way," he said. "As if we're all just playing a giant symphony, and if we all just learned to listen better and to support one another and take care of our own individual responsibilities, I think the world would be a better place."

Donahue said the concert is a chance for locals to see a musician who has ties to the community.

"I think it's a great opportunity to see an artist who's not as well-known as some jazz artists, but someone who has invested a lot of time in Iowa and Iowa City and the community," she said.

Pietro said he appreciated the opportunity to be able to do the Hancher residency. It gave him a chance to create music inspired by the new faces and places he encountered, including local hangouts, including the Sanctuary, 405 S. Gilbert St.

"I love Iowa, and I'm not just saying that to be patronizing," he said. "I love the people here; there's a lot of great music happening in the state, and I got to see a lot more of Iowa than I'd ever seen before — I really had a great time."

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