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NASA 2020 Biennial Conference Presenter — Elissa Kana

Mark your calendars now to join us Friday-Monday, March 6-9, 2020 for the NASA 2020 Biennial Conference at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona.
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Saxophone Player
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Name: Elissa Kana
Presentation Date: Monday, March 9, 2020 11:40 AM
Presentation Venue: Organ Hall
Presentation Title: Colere Quartet
Type of Presentation: Student Classical Chamber Music Performance
Proposal Duration: 17

An active saxophonist and music educator, Elissa Kana has performed in festivals and conferences worldwide.  In 2014, Elissa was named second-prize winner of the International Saxophone Symposium and Competition.  A passionate chamber musician, Elissa holds the alto chair of the Colere Quartet, which was recently awarded First Prize in Winds, Brass, and Percussion at the 2019 Plowman Chamber Music Competition. 


Elissa is a doctoral student at the University of Iowa, where she serves as a teaching assistant for the musicology department; previously, she was the teaching assistant to Dr. Kenneth Tse and was a recipient of the Iowa Performance Fellowship. Elissa has worked as a coordinator and teaching assistant at the American Saxophone Academy, teaches at the Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp in the summers, and maintains an active private studio in the Iowa-City area. Her principal teachers include Frederick L. Hemke, John Sampen, Kenneth Tse, and Karen Wylie.

Ensemble Bio:

Founded in 2017 at the University of Iowa, the Colere Quartet is an Iowa-City based ensemble comprised of saxophonists John Cummins, Elissa Kana, Greg Rife, and Dennis Kwok. Colere presents engaging programs consisting of a wide range of classical as well as contemporary repertoire. Recent performances include recitals at the University of Iowa, Augustana College, and Monmouth College, performances at North American Saxophone Alliance conferences, and appearances at a variety of community engagement concerts. 


Colere has had success at recent chamber music competitions including First Prize in Winds, Brass, and Percussion at the 2019 Plowman Chamber Competition and two consecutive semifinalist performances at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition in 2018 and 2019. 


Colere is a Latin word meaning “to cultivate.”  This name was inspired by Iowa’s expansive farmland and the group’s commitment to cultivating musical life in the Midwest and beyond.

Other Performers / Participants


John Cummins

Soprano Saxophone


John Cummins has appeared throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia in a variety of solo and chamber music performances. Recent highlights include the North American premiere of Thierry Escaich’s concerto, Le Chant des Ténèbres, at the 2018 NASA Biennial Conference in Cincinnati, OH, chamber concerts throughout the Midwest with the Colere Quartet, and appearances with the Quad Cities and Dubuque Symphonies as an orchestral saxophonist. 


John has commissioned or premiered new works by Marilyn Shrude, David Smooke, Daniel Baldwin, Ian Dicke, Nima Hamidi, and Alexandros Spyrou and has appeared in performance with New Music Detroit, pianist Lydia Artymiw, and marimbist Gordon Stout. He completed a D.M.A. at the University of Iowa in 2018, where he was a teaching assistant and Iowa Performance Fellow, and he now teaches saxophone and chamber music at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL, where he assists Randall Hall with teaching the saxophone studio. 

Dennis Kwok

Baritone Saxophone


Dennis Kwok Tsz Kiu is passionate about drawing audiences deeply into the art of music and has imprinted his passion in music all over the world. In recent years, Dennis has made remarkable accomplishments as a soloist, quartet and ensemble musician. In 2013, he was awarded the Saxophone Winner of the Yamaha Young Performing Artist Competition. In 2014, he advanced to the first round of the prestigious Adolphe Sax International Competition in Dinant, Belgium. As a baritone saxophonist of the Colere Quartet from the University of Iowa, he advanced to the semi-final of the prestigious Fischoff Chamber Music Competition in 2018 and was awarded the First Prize of the Plowman Chamber Music Competition in 2019. 

Dennis holds BM, with the addition of the Meredith Wilson scholarship, and MA from the University of Iowa. Currently, he is pursuing DMA at the University of Iowa, under the tutelage of Dr. Kenneth Tse. 

Greg Rife

Tenor Saxophone


Greg Rife is a saxophonist and music educator currently pursuing a DMA at the University of Iowa where he is the teaching assistant to Dr. Kenneth Tse. 

Greg is an active solo performer and as a member of the Colere Quartet. Recent appearances include performances at NASA conferences, a concerto performance with the Illinois Wind Symphony, and at competitions including the Fischoff and Plowman chamber music competitions. Greg serves on the faculty of Monmouth College in Monmouth, IL where he directs the Concert Band and the Fighting Scots Marching Band. Greg also serves as the saxophone instructor in the Lincoln-Way School District in New Lenox, IL.

Greg holds both a BME and MM in saxophone performance degrees from the University of Illinois where he was a student of Debra Richtmeyer.

Pieces to Be Performed

Title Composer Duration
TBA Alexandros Spyrou 6
Phases of Water Nina Šenk 11