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!

2019 Rules

What's New

  • New online application process
  • New preliminary video round for solo competition
  • Houston Underground will no longer provide pianists for solo competition

All official rules and details are contained below.

Dates and Deadlines

The Houston Underground Competition will be held Saturday, May 18th, 2019 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.

All applications are due by April 15th; there will be a late registration period for the Quartet Competition as long as performance spots remain. Late registrations (made after April 15th) will be charged a $10 late fee.

Applications

Applications are available on the website at the Apply page. Application fee is $75 per quartet and $50 per solo applicant, payable via PayPal in the online application. All application fees are non-refundable.

Applications will be received by April 15th, or until all performance time slots are filled. Late registrations will be accepted for the Quartet Competition as long as time slots remain. Late registrations (made after April 15th) will be charged a $10 late fee. A waitlist will be created for overflow quartet applications.

Quartet Competition

Quartets must be comprised completely of students who are currently enrolled in high school or junior high. 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 in 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.

While there is no dress code for the competition, performers are encouraged to present themselves professionally.

Original copies of all performance works must be owned, and some proof of ownership (sales receipt, score, original published physical editions, etc.) must be provided on the day of the contest in order to participate. Public domain works are acceptable, provided that the parts performed are also public domain.

Jr. High Quartet Competition

Quartets entering the Junior High division must be comprised completely of current junior high students. Jr. High Quartets will NOT compete against High School quartets, although the two contests may be held in the same room.

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 in 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.

While there is no dress code for the competition, performers are encouraged to present themselves professionally.

Original copies of all performance works must be owned, and some proof of ownership (sales receipt, score, original published physical editions, etc.) must be provided on the day of the contest in order to participate. Public domain works are acceptable, provided that the parts performed are also public domain.

Solo Competition

The Solo Competition is open to all current high school students, and will have two rounds. The first round will consist of an online video competition, and the final round will happen live on Saturday, May 18th, 2019.

The Solo Competition deadline for applications is April 15th; Houston Underground must receive all applications by that date. Late entries will not be considered.

First Round: 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
  • Darius Milhaud – Scaramouche – Movement I
  • Jacques Ibert – Concertino da Camera – Movement I

Beyond selecting one work from the required list, students may supplement their performance with other works of their choosing, up to 10 minutes of performance time. Performances must include piano (when appropriate) and be uploaded to YouTube, Vimeo, Google Drive, or any other file-sharing or video-streaming platform. Video URL links must be provided in the application process. A panel of judges will review the videos by April 20th.

All recordings must be video recordings (not audio-only) and consist of a single take of a complete work or movement. Recordings must not contain any overdubs, cuts, or other editing. Recordings may be made from live performances or studio performances, with or without an audience. Audio quality must be good enough to discern the performance, but will not be a factor in scoring the performance.

Final Round: 32 contestants will be chosen to advance to the final round, on Saturday, May 18th, 2019 at the Moores School of Music, University of Houston, 3333 Cullen Blvd, Houston TX 77204, and beginning at 9:00 AM. Final round contestants will be announced no later than April 21st, and announcement of the finalists will be made via email.

Finalist 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. Repertoire may include music from the first round, but there is no required repertoire for the final round.

All contestants in the Solo Competition are required to provide piano accompaniment for any appropriate works. Contestants must arrange for pianists on their own; unlike previous years, Houston Underground will NOT be providing pianists for contestants. However, contact emails of pianists are available upon request from Houston Underground.

While there is no dress code for the competition, performers are encouraged to present themselves professionally.

Students are allowed to compete both in the Quartet Competition and final round of the Solo Competition. Although they occur on the same day, every effort will be made on behalf of the competition to avoid schedule conflicts.

Since there is currently no solo 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.

Original copies of all performance works must be owned, and some proof of ownership (sales receipt, score, original published physical editions, etc.) must be provided on the day of the contest in order to participate. Public domain works are acceptable, provided that the parts performed are also public domain.

Prizes

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 Quartet) will receive a check for $400.
  • Second place (High School Quartet) will receive a check for $200.
  • Third place (High School Quartet) 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 Quartet) will receive a check for $125.
  • Second place (Jr. High Quartet) 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.

Houston Underground does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), disability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status, in any of its activities or operations.

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

Location

Moores School of Music

University of Houston
3333 Cullen Blvd
Houston, TX 77004

Quartet, Solo, and Junior High Contests
Saturday, May 18, 2019

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Hosted by the Moores School of Music
At The University of Houston
3333 Cullen Blvd, Houston, TX 77004
contact@houstonsax.com