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Classical harmonica master from Trossingen, Germany, shares sounds with students, ISing Choir

by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Susan Sauter, a classical harmonica world champion, shows off a miniature harmonica that some students at Vose Elementary School would get.Before fusing her talents in performances with the ISing Choir last weekend, Susan Sauter warmed up by sharing her classical harmonica stylings with a potentially tough crowd.

Fortunately, the four pieces she performed on Thursday afternoon, May 1, passed muster with the first- and second-grade students at Vose Elementary School.

While some children were clearly more enthralled than others, Sauter, visiting from her home in Trossingen, Germany, felt like she connected with the squirming throng assembled in the school gym.

“I hope they like it,” she said just after the performance. “I hope maybe it would inspire them to want to learn music.”

Sauter, whose earned international accolades at competitions and festivals in Innsbruck, was in town for her third visit to work with ISing as part of the city of Beaverton’s Sister Cities Program. The nonprofit, Beaverton-based choir utilizes the city’s overseas connections to collaborate with a variety of musicians in local concerts and international tours. Trossingen is one of Beaverton’s sister cities. by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Susan Sauter plays a classical song on a harmonica for first- and second-grade students at Vose Elementary School.

“We met Susan on our last tour three years ago through Germany,” noted Stephen Galvan, the ISing Choir’s artistic director and conductor. “She auditioned us — and we passed.”

Sauter, 24, and the choir performed three free-admission “Out of the Americas” shows between May 2 and 4 at Bethel Congregational United Church of Christ at 5150 S.W. Watson Ave. The series served as a benefit for the Marathon Scholars program, which provides mentoring and college scholarships to homeless students in the Beaverton area.

The four or five pieces Sauter and the choir collaborated on ranged from highly arranged and choreographed pieces to more improvised and solo sections featuring Sauter’s chromatic harmonica.

“The music we’re doing is quite eclectic,” Galvan said. “It was a mixture. There was some solo work and improvisation. Some of the music Susan came up with on the fly.”

As much experience the choir contains, the performers were impressed and honored to work with the prodigy.

“The unique thing about it is she is so talented and gifted,” he said of her command of the instrument. “If it’s in the range of the harmonica, she can do it.”

Making delightful sounds through manipulating air comes as naturally as breathing to Sauter, who grew up near the Hohner harmonica factory in Trossingen. She started playing at age 8 and soon joined the Hornerklang youth orchestra. Declared harmonica master of Trossingen in 2004, she went

on to win in the group category at the World Harmonica Festival in 2005 and won as a soloist two years later at the World Music Festival in Innsbruck, Switzerland.

These days, Sauter enjoys alternating between solo and group collaborations.

“It’s not the same thing,” she said. “When you’re solo, it’s more classical. With an orchestra, it’s more mixed music.”

Performing with ISing as well as for children reminds her what she likes most about music.

“I like to play with the choir. It’s the harder music I prefer,” she said. “Stephen and ISing are the reason I’m here. It’s always an honor to play for children.”

Veronica Galvan, the new principal at Vose Elementary School, 11350 S.W. Denney Road, was pleased to have a world-class musician share her joy with children in the Title 1 school, which caters to kids from lower-income families.

“I think they enjoyed it,” she said. “Anytime someone offers something like this that enriches students, I’m going to say

‘yes.’ This was a really good opportunity.

“A lot of them never hear this kind of music,” Galvan added. “It’s good to see them move around and dance. They liked it a whole lot.”by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Susan Sauter presents a miniature harmonica to first-grader Tony Padilla at Vose Elementary School.

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