When guest artist Greg Sauer takes his position in front of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra, it will be a first for him.
But it won’t be the first time he’s in Columbus.
“I’ve been in the orchestra many times,” Sauer said.
For the past two seasons, Sauer has been acting principal cello.
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“He is an exceptional musician who plays the cello in a most natural manner and produces a warm and vibrant sound,” said George Del Gobbo, the orchestra’s conductor and music director. “He has been a very positive presence in the orchestra and has led the cello section both by example and through the depth of his knowledge and experience. It has been a true pleasure working with him, and I look forward to this opportunity to display his talent through the performance of the Schumann concerto.”
The Florida State University cello professor is excited about his star turn in Schumann’s “Cello Concerto, Opus 129 in A-Minor.”
“I’ve played it before, many years ago,” Sauer said. “I love it. It’s one of my favorite cello concertos. It is like a lot of Schumann’s music. It has a wide range of emotions from elation to very introspective, dark music. This wide ranges come in a short order, very quickly.
“It is written with a lyrical singing music which is the strong suit of the cello.”
Sauer began playing piano when he was 9. Right after that, he also started playing the cello.
“I pretty quickly gravitated to the cello,” Sauer said. “I liked the sound of the cello and I liked playing in a group in the orchestra. Playing the piano is generally a little more solitary. I like the more social aspect of playing the cello.”
Playing with the Columbus Symphony means a six-hour round trip from Tallahassee. Since several members of the orchestra come from Florida’s capital city, sometimes they carpool, he said.
It is a commitment, Sauer said. The orchestra rehearses four times before each concert, once Thursday night, Friday afternoon and evening and Saturday afternoon.
“I usually drive up on Thursday and sometimes drive back,” he said. “It depends on my teaching schedule. Other times, I stay over the three days.”
After a concert, he says he usually “jumps in the car and drives back.”
However, this time, since he’s the guest artist, he’ll probably go out with other members of the orchestra after the concert and go home on Sunday.
“I’m going to celebrate a bit,” he said. “That’s my plan.”
Sauer got his undergraduate degree from the Eastman School and his master’s from the New England Conservatory.
Now 46, Sauer taught at the University of Oklahoma for 11 years before moving to Tallahassee, where he’s been teaching for five years.
“The Florida State University school of music is a really strong one,” he said. “Some of the people on the string faculty suggested that I apply. The job brought me here. The weather is a bonus except for the summer.”
His wife, Amanda, is the executive director of the Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra. They have two children, Ben, 9, and Elizabeth, 7.
They are both playing piano.
“They’re liking it,” he said. “Well, sometimes they don’t like to practice.”
Amanda Sauer is a pianist, who has “morphed into an arts administrator.”
“She’s my boss (since he also plays first cello in the Tallahassee Orchestra). But I had the job first; she started last summer.”
Right now, he has 19 students at FSU.
“That keeps me out of trouble,” he said, laughing.
He tries to practice two to four hours a day, usually early in the morning.
“I try to get my practice in before classes when I’m not so exhausted,” Sauer said. Because of his young children, who need his attention, he doesn’t get a lot of practice at night.