About the Competition

Houston Underground is the country's largest chamber music contest for amateur saxophonists. Begun with the belief that chamber music is the best possible medium for young musicians to develop, Houston Underground strives every year to provide players with the opportunity to showcase their talents, develop their technique, take ownership in their playing, discover the rewards of musical discipline, meet and interact with other players, and compete for cash prizes in a contest setting. Competitors have gone on to pursue a variety of fields and disciplines, many of which include musical studies at some of the nation's top music schools.

Frequently Asked Questions

(If you've got any questions that aren't on this list, or if you're worried that your circumstance doesn't apply, contact us at contact@houstonsax.com. We're friendly.)

  • Can I compete in both the Solo and Quartet competitions?
    Yes. Your whole quartet may, if they'd like.
  • Can we get an early/late start time because we have prom/band concert/graduation/work/whatever?
    We do our best to accommodate schedule requests, and can usually honor one request per quartet. We won't be able to give you the exact times you ask for, but we'll do our best to make it work for you.
  • I'm in Junior High. Can I compete in the Solo Contest?
    Yes! There's no separate contest for Jr High students, but we will allow you to compete and waive the required list if you'd like.
  • I'm 35 years old. Can I compete?
    No. Unless you're currently a high school or jr. high student. In which case. . . well, I guess you're OK.
  • Do I have to play all the required works in the list for the Solo Contest?
    No, just one of them. You can play anything else you'd like too; up to 12 minutes.
  • Do I have to have a pianist? Why can't I just play it without accompaniment?
    You need a piano player for every piece that has a piano part. We require this because the works you're playing aren't only saxophone – the music is bigger than just your part. Being a good chamber musician means the ability to listen and react to those playing around you, and this makes you grow and develop as a musician. Unaccompanied works don't need a piano, of course.
  • Is there a required list for the Quartet Contest?
    Nope. Play whatever you want.
  • My group wants to play (insert ridiculously difficult piece here). Can we do that?
    Sure, but remember: the judges won't be impressed by how hard the piece is. They'll be impressed by how well you play. Pick music that you can play well.
  • I wrote a piece. Can we/I play that? How do I prove I wrote it?
    Sure! We require you show us some proof of a legally purchased copy if it's published. If it's totally new, just show us your original work (handwritten parts, a final score, whatever) on the day of the contest to prove it and we'll be good with that. You should know also that original pieces, while cool, don't necessarily impress the judges. Again, you'll be judged on your performance of the works, not the quality or source of the work itself.
  • Can my Mom watch our performance?
    Yep. All performances are open to the public.
  • What if I don't want my Mom to watch?
    You're on your own there. We're probably going to side with your Mom.
  • What if my question isn't listed here?
    Give us an email!

2017 Rules

Both Solo and Quartet contests will be held Saturday, May 20th, 2017 at the Moores School of Music, University of Houston, 3333 Cullen Blvd, Houston TX 77204, and beginning at 9:00 AM. Contest will end at the conclusion of the final performance, followed by a brief period for judges' deliberation, and finally by the awards ceremony.

Applications are available for download from the website. Application fee is $60 per quartet and $50 per solo applicant, acceptable in check or money order only, made out to Dan Gelok Saxophone Instruction. Applications are non-refundable and must be postmarked by April 15th. Applications must be mailed to:

Houston Underground Saxophone Quartet Competition
CO: Dan Gelok
4510 Alamo Ave
Sugar Land, TX 77479

Any application sent in after April 15th will be accepted until May 1st, but a late fee of $10 will be added to registration price for any application.

Quartet Competition

Quartets must be comprised completely of students who are currently enrolled in high school or junior high. Quartets entering the Junior High division must be comprised completely of current junior high students. Students do not need to attend the same school in order to compete in an ensemble together. Furthermore, students may appear in more than one ensemble.

Any arrangement of four saxophones (i.e., SATB, AATB, AATT, etc.) will be acceptable. Quintets and trios are allowed, although more repertoire is typically available for quartet instrumentation. Contestants are encouraged to utilize a standard SATB arrangement.

Quartet performances must last no longer than 15 minutes. While there is no minimum time requirement, performances that go past 15 minutes will be cut off by the judges. No penalty will be given for exceeding the time limit.

Every member of the quartet must play at some point in the performance.

Original copies of all performance works must be owned, and some proof of ownership must be provided (on the day of the contest) in order to participate.

Solo Competition

The Solo Competition is open to all high school students. Students are required to choose ONE work from the following list:

  • Paul Creston – Sonata – Movement I
  • Bernhard Heiden – Sonata – Movement I
  • Paule Maurice – Tableaux de Provence – Movement V

Beyond selecting one work from the required list, students may supplement their performance with anything else of their choosing, up to 12 minutes of performance time. While there is no minimum time requirement, performances that go past 12 minutes will be cut off by the judges. No penalty will be given for exceeding the time limit.

All contestants in the Solo Competition are required to provide piano accompaniment for any appropriate works. If the contestant prefers, Houston Underground can provide a pianist for $75. Pianist fee is in addition to the registration fee and will include one rehearsal and the performance.

Students are allowed to compete both in the quartet and solo competitions. Every effort will be made on behalf of the competition to avoid schedule conflicts.

Whereas there is currently no contest available exclusively for Junior High students, any interested Junior High students may perform in the High School contest and waive the work from the required list.


Monetary prizes will be presented in the form of a check to Solo Contest prize winners and representatives of quartets winning the High School Division. In addition, the winner of the People's Choice award and the first and second place contestants in the Junior High Division will receive checks made out to the representative of the quartet.

  • First place (High School Division) will receive a check for $400.
  • Second place (High School Division) will receive a check for $200.
  • Third place (High School Division) will receive a check for $150.
  • First place (Solo Contest) will receive a check for $250.
  • Second place (Solo Contest) will receive a check for $150.
  • Third place (Solo Contest) will receive a check for $100.
  • First place (Jr. High Division) will receive a check for $125.
  • Second place (Jr. High Division) will receive a check for $75.
  • The People's Choice winner will receive a check for $150.

Houston Underground claims no responsibility for any damages sustained to persons or property of contestants, audience members, or any participants during the competition.

All questions may be sent to contact@houstonsax.com.


Moores School of Music

University of Houston
3333 Cullen Blvd
Houston, TX 77004

Quartet, Solo, and Junior High Contests
Saturday, May 20, 2017

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Hosted by the Moores School of Music
At The University of Houston
3333 Cullen Blvd, Houston, TX 77004