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Megan Card, Published August 10 2012

NDSU professor makes name on sax on global stage

FARGO - As Matthew Patnode’s fingers glide effortlessly across the keys of his saxophone, he closes his eyes, leans forward and begins the conversation.

“I love how the horn almost sounds like a human voice,” Patnode said. “It can sing, moan, groan, even laugh.”

Patnode has gone a long way since junior high, when he first picked up the instrument. The associate music professor at North Dakota State University made his talent known globally last month at the 2012 World Saxophone Congress in Scotland.

A festival held every three years for more than 1,000 saxophonists and other musicians around the world, this year’s gathering took place July 10-15 at St. Andrews University.

Featuring various concerts, performances and lectures from world-class musicians since 1969, Patnode was among this year’s festivalgoers as a member of a performing trio. Patnode performed for the third time at the festival with Texas Tech University Professor Lisa Rogers on marimba/percussion and Dianna Ross of Minot State University on piano.

Playing “Penny Lane Variations, op. 15,” composed by Christopher Gable, a professor at the University of North Dakota, Patnode said nerves were high as Rogers had flight issues and only made it to the festival 15 minutes before their performance.

“It’s one thing to play a concert for community members on campus. It’s another thing entirely playing in front of a room of professional saxophonists,” Patnode said.

But Patnode is a world-class musician, so he can handle the pressure of performing, Gable said of the saxophonist.

“As a composer, it’s thrilling to see great musicians like Matt performing your score,” Gable said.

Patnode is not new to having an on-stage presence. He performs almost weekly in local ensembles, including the popular Fargo group Post Traumatic Funk Syndrome.

But commercial music and major festivals aside, Patnode said he doesn’t do it for the name recognition. It’s about his NDSU students.

“Every time I attend a conference or performance, it reinvigorates my passion to expose my students to what’s out there for them,” Patnode said. “I want to see them take what they see and hear, and go off on their own and explore.”

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