~Nois Saxophone Quartet member Brandon Quarles

On November 4, 2018 ~Nois Saxophone Quartet will be our special guests for the premiere performance of our 63rd season!


Chicago’s own ~Nois is a professional saxophone quartet of rising stars! Founded in 2016 by graduate students at Northwestern University, ~Nois (pronounced "noise") has quickly emerged as one of the premier young ensembles dedicated to innovative and engaging performances. Known for their “masterclass-level demonstrations of precise articulations and glowing legatos” (I Care if You Listen), “truly innovative musicianship,” and “raw creativity” (Cacophony Magazine), ~Nois has been awarded prizes at prestigious chamber music competitions including the Second Prize in the Open Division of the 2018 M-Prize International Chamber Arts Competition, the Silver Medal at the 2017 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, Second Prize at the 2018 North American Saxophone Alliance Quartet Competition, and First Prize at the 2016 Chicago Woodwind Ensemble Competition. ~Nois was invited to be an Ensemble Fellow to the 2018 Blackbird Creative Lab, where they worked closely with fellow Chicago-based ensemble, Eighth Blackbird.*

We asked the members of ~Nois to share with us their journeys in music, musical influences and inspirations, and words of advice that they have for young musicians.


Brandon Quarles is the soprano saxophonist and Executive Director of ~Nois. A Doctor of Musical Arts student at Northwestern University, Brandon is a soloist, chamber musician, and improviser who thrives on collaboration to create engaging and thought-provoking experiences.*

Please tell us a bit about your journey in music and in life.  I grew up in a small town called Ringgold, GA right outside of Chattanooga, TN. My parents love music (my father is even a rock drummer) so it was always around in our home. I came to love performing through singing along to the radio and my favorite cassettes and when I finally got to sixth grade, I somehow decided to play the saxophone. My first love of the saxophone was through jazz (I would often go to the public library to check out Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker CDs) and I was introduced to the classical side of the instrument when I started taking private lessons in eighth grade with Clint Schmitt, the Adjunct Instructor of Saxophone at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. But my biggest musical epiphany came when I was 15 and heard the Beatles’ iconic “Tomorrow Never Knows” for the first time. I had no idea what this crazy mash-up of rock, classical, experimental, and non-western music was and I’ve been on a quest to create new sounds ever since. I did my undergraduate degree at the University of Georgia and moved to the Chicago area for my master’s at Northwestern University. I’m currently in the final year of coursework for my doctorate at Northwestern and I love being a part of the new music scene here in Chicago.

What have been some of your musical influences?  My biggest saxophone influences are my teachers Clint Schmitt, Connie Frigo, and Taimur Sullivan. Some of my biggest musical influences in general include the Beatles, Jackson Browne, Radiohead, Charlie Parker, Wilco, and Benjamin Gibbard.

Please share a bit about your favorite musical memory?  When ~Nois performed in the Open Division finals of the 2018 M-Prize Chamber Music Competition, we played Pauline Oliveros’ Thirteen Changes, a completely improvised piece that we had been touring for 5 weeks before the competition. In that performance, I was truly moved by the music that my fellow quartet members were creating right there on the spot and had one of those rare, magical moments of transcendence where I felt extremely connected to my quartet-mates, the audience, and music.

What’s on your iPod?  I collect as much recorded music as I possible can and thus carry around one of the 120GB iPod classics that they discontinued a few years ago, but it sadly doesn’t even hold all of my music library. So here are a few of the artists who are always on my iPod: The Beatles, Death Cab for Cutie, Wilco, Radiohead, Bob Dylan, The National, and the Velvet Underground. Here are a few of my recent favorites: Hop Along, Jason Isbell, Charly Bliss, boygenius, and Noname.

Which composer/musician – past or present – would you most like to meet for a coffee and why?  It would absolutely be John Lennon and I’d love to talk about what it was like to create music that truly changed the world.

What does music mean to you?  Music means everything to me. It is the way in which I process the world and the way in which I express myself. Music has always been a part of my life and has guided me through all the highs and lows of life’s journey. Through music, I can express all of my feelings and connect with others.

What inspires you?  My mentors, quartet-mates, my friends, and my students inspire me everyday.

What do you do to relax?  When I was younger, I used to play guitar and keyboards in rock bands so I often play and sing pop/rock songs as a way to relax. When I need to totally step outside of music, I can often be found reading fiction and non-fiction alike.

Do you have any advice for young musicians?  Listen. Listen. Listen. In order to become a well-rounded musician, we need to listen to as much music as possible from as many different cultures and genres as possible. Every different musical corner has something to teach us about how we might find our own music. But we shouldn’t just listen to music; we must also listen to the world around us. In order to make music that connects with people, we must be connected to the world and to the human experience. Don’t ever just cloister yourself in a practice room — get out into the world and listen to all of the incredible things that life has to offer so that you can channel that experience through your art.

Please share any thoughts that you may have about the Northshore Concert Band.  Performing with the Northshore Concert Band is truly a dream come true. There is such an incredible history of musical excellence and community engagement with this ensemble and it’s an honor to be a part of this. The opportunity to make music with Dr. Mallory Thompson, one of my greatest mentors during my time at Northwestern and a continual inspiration in the pursuit of musical and professional excellence, is truly a treat and I’m incredibly excited to share this performance with all of the members of the ensemble.

Learn more about Brandon Quarles and ~Nois here.

*reprinted from noissaxophone.com

Letters from Home

Sunday, November4, 2018, 3:00 pm

Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, Northwestern University

50 Arts Circle Drive, Evanston, Illinois


Learn more about the Northshore Concert Band at www.northshoreband.org