Label: Equilibrium
Item Number: EQ139
Format: CD
Year Recorded: 2014
Lessons of the Sky
by Leaman & Rackers Duo
Clifford Leaman - saxophone
Joseph Rackers - piano
Leaman & Rackers Duo
Clifford Leaman - saxophone
Critics have hailed Clifford Leaman “an artist of the first order…intuitive, exciting, and enthralling." (Paul Wagner, The Saxophone Journal) Leaman reveals himself to be {an} artist of technical brilliance and emotional commitment." "The range of colors is impressive..." (Jack Sullivan, American Record Guide) Professor of saxophone at the University of South Carolina, Dr. Leaman received the Bachelor of Science degree in music education from Lebanon Valley College, and the Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in performance from the University of Michigan where he was a student of Donald Sinta. He served on the faculties of Furman University, Eastern Michigan University and The University of Michigan prior to his appointment at the University of South Carolina. He is currently president-elect of the North American Saxophone Alliance, and will serve on the Executive Committee of that organization through 2016.

Leaman is in great demand as a soloist and clinician and has performed and taught throughout the United States, Canada, Italy, Spain, France, Slovenia, Sweden, Thailand and in China where he was a featured guest artist eight times since 2004. He has performed as a concerto soloist with the ShenZhen Symphony Orchestra, at the XII World Saxophone Congress in Montreal, Canada (2000), the North American Saxophone Alliance’s 2006 Biennial Conference in Iowa City, Iowa, the 2008 International Navy Band Symposium in Washington D.C., and the XV World Saxophone Congress in July, 2009 in Bangkok, Thailand. Additionally, Leaman has given master classes at major schools of music and conservatories world-wide, including Northwestern University, Eastman School of Music, University of Michigan, Duquesne University, Bowling Green State University, University of Georgia, University of North Texas, Penn State University, Conservatorio Superior de Música de Aragón, Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya, Conservatoire de Strasbourg, the Royal Academy of Music (Stockholm), Beijing Central Conservatory, Shanghai Conservatory and the Sichuan Conservatory.

Leaman, in collaboration with pianist Derek Parsons, formed the Ambassador Duo in 1990. The Ambassador Duo has performed concerts throughout the world and has released three critically acclaimed compact discs on the Equilibrium label titled “Brillance” (EQ-21), “Excursions” (EQ-55), and “Illuminations” (EQ-77). Leaman has also performed extensively with percussionist Scott Herring, giving concerts and master classes at many universities and conservatories since 2005 when they formed the RoseWindDuo. Their debut compact disc recording, “Release,” (EQ-92) was released in 2008 and features works for alto saxophone and marimba. Leaman is also featured on a variety of recordings of solo and chamber works for Redwood Records, CRS and the University of Arizona Recordings.

An avid supporter of contemporary music, Leaman has commissioned and given the world premiere performances of numerous works, including concertos by Pulitzer Prize-winning composers, Leslie Bassett and Michael Colgrass. His recording of the Bassett with the University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra is available through Equilibrium Records (EQ-63). Dr. Leaman is an artist-clinician for Rico Reeds, Inc. and the Conn-Selmer Company, Inc. and performs exclusively on Selmer saxophones and Rico reeds.
Joseph Rackers - piano
Hailed as an “American virtuoso” (Audiophile Audition), “enormous power and intelligent, instinctive interpretation” (Spoleto Today), and “simply dazzling” (The State), pianist Joseph Rackers has performed for enthusiastic audiences in New York, Chicago, Kiev, Rome, Shanghai and Washington D.C., at venues across Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Bulgaria, Ukraine and extensively throughout the United States. His performances around the world include the Dame Myra Hess Concert Series, Shanghai and Sichuan Conservatories of Music and Yantai International Music Festival, Kiev International Music Festival, Banff Centre for the Arts, Moulin d’Andé Arts Festival, Varna International Piano Festival and Society of Composers International Conference, to name a few. Gramophone writes “the results are consistently compelling…as if Rackers response were primarily to his relationship with the composer as some sort of kindred spirit”.

Joseph Rackers is an International Steinway Artist and has given recent concerts at the Infiorata di Genzano in Italy, Sulzbach-Rosenberg International Music Festival in Germany, Burgos International Music Festival in Spain, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and Piccolo Spoleto Festival, among others. He has recorded for the MSR Classics and Beauport Classical labels and his performances have been broadcast on WFMT Chicago, Radio Libera Tutti in Italy and on NPR affiliate stations throughout the United States. His recent solo release with MSR Classics was praised highly by the press; “unflappable virtuosity…highly expressive…committed to letting the composer’s voice—as he hears it—come through” (American Record Guide), “compelling power, rhythmic persuasiveness…consummate style…complete mastery” (Atlanta Audio Society).

Rackers is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the Doctor of Musical Arts and Master of Music degrees and was awarded the Performer’s Certificate. His principal teachers were Natalya Antonova and Raymond Herbert with additional study or masterclasses with Julian Martin, Misha Dichter and Blanca Uribe. Also active as a chamber musician, he has performed widely as a member of the Lomazov/Rackers Piano Duo. The duo garnered significant attention as the Second Prize Winners of the Sixth Ellis Competition for Duo Pianists, the only national duo piano competition in the United States at that time. As advocates of modern repertoire for piano duo, they have given premieres of numerous works across the United States, including several works written specifically for them.

A devoted teacher, Rackers has taught at the Eastman School of Music and was awarded the school’s annual prize for Excellence in Teaching. He has been invited to residencies at the Sichuan Conservatory and Yantai International Music Festival in China and has given masterclasses at major universities and colleges across the United States. His students have been prizewinners in national, international and regional piano competitions, including fifteen students who have earned prizes in Music Teachers National Association Competitions and South Carolina Music Teachers Association competitions. He is Co-Director of the Southeastern Piano Festival and serves on the faculty of the Burgos International Music Festival in Spain. He is in demand as a jury member for national and international piano competitions, including the Hilton Head International Piano Competition.

Dr. Rackers is currently Associate Professor of Piano at the University of South Carolina School of Music.

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