Steven Banks, a first-year master’s saxophone student of Taimur Sullivanat the Bienen School of Music, received first place with the Kenari Quartet at the inaugural M-Prize Competition at the University of Michigan. The quartet received a $20,000 prize for winning the senior winds division in the competition.

The Kenari Quartet went on to perform at the Grand Prize Gala Concert on Thursday, May 19, along with the Calidore String Quartet, winner of the senior strings division, and Yarn/Wire, winner of the senior open division. The Calidore String Quartet took home the $100,000 Grand Prize.

Watch a Video of the Kenari Quartet’s Gala Concert Performance

Based at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, the M-Prize Competition was recently established to identify and showcase the highest caliber of international chamber music ensembles. It is the largest chamber music competition in the world in terms of both prize money and number of applications. The competition received more than 170 applications from 13 countries. Twenty-nine ensembles were invited to participate in the semifinal and final rounds in Ann Arbor on May 18 and 19, 2016.

The Kenari Quartet comprises saxophonists Steven Banks, Bob Eason, Kyle Baldwin, and Corey Dundee. Founded in 2012 at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, the group has earned top prizes at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, the J.C. Arriaga Chamber Music Competition, the Plowman Chamber Music Competition, Chesapeake Bay International Chamber Music Competition, and the Coleman Chamber Music Competition. In collaboration with Naxos Records, the quartet recently recorded their first album, which is anticipated for release in late 2016.

Steven Banks has been a featured soloist with the North Carolina Symphony, the Durham Symphony and the Indiana University Symphony Orchestra. Prior to attending Northwestern, Banks studied with Otis Murphy at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Banks has won top prizes in several competitions, including first prizes in the Indiana University Woodwind Concerto Competition, Joseph M. Bryan Concerto Competition, and the Durham Symphony Young Artist Competition. Banks was also chosen to perform on NPR’s “From the Top” on show 241 at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.

Axiom Brass, a quintet that includes Bienen School of Music alumni Kris Hammond (G12, trumpet) and Jacob DiEdwardo (G13, horn), received third place in the senior winds division, along with a $3,000 prize.

For more information about the M-Prize, visit mprize.umich.edu.


  • Taimur Sullivan
  • woodwinds