Published: March 7, 2024 By

Louis SaxtonFor senior Louis Saxton, the decision to go into music and the decision to come to CU Boulder was made the same way—by the inspiration of a teacher. 

“I chose to pursue music because I had a really amazing teacher as a kid. She taught me from age 4 until probably 14 or 15, and she is the reason that I love music,” says Saxton, who’s pursuing a Bachelor of Music in cello performance. “Getting to see how infectious her love of music was, I thought, I want to do that.”

When it was time to pick a school for his undergraduate degree, Saxton explains, “It was evident after five or six minutes in my trial lesson with [Associate Professor of Cello] David Requiro, it was a really quick connection. He has a good way of giving constructive feedback in a manner that’s uplifting and isn’t just smacking you down for playing out of tune.”

Saxton is the College of Music’s 2024 Presser Undergraduate Scholar Award recipient. The $3,000 award goes to an undergraduate music major at the end of their final year of study, chosen by faculty vote. Award recipients demonstrate a high level of musical and academic excellence, leadership and impact through formal or informal roles in the College of Music, CU Boulder and our community, and will have advanced equity and inclusion values and priorities.

“It’s a big honor,” continues Saxton, who was also awarded first prize in the College of Music’s Concerto Competition in February. “It’s really flattering to know that the faculty have noticed my exuberance, we’ll call it. I’ve tried really hard to get to know a lot of the different professors and I’ve been really lucky to get to work with them. It’s nice and it’s humbling to get recognition for that.”

A couple of College of Music faculty members who made a particular impression on Saxton are Associate Professor of Viola Erika Eckert and Assistant Professor of Composition Annika Socolofsky.

“Erika seems to offer help to anyone in the entire College of Music. I’ve gotten coachings from her and every one of them has been so wonderful,” Saxton says. “And Annika Socolofsky’s Instrument Design Lab class was so amazing because I think that all music majors, especially in classical music, tend to have this very rigid idea of what you have to do to be a musician, how you need to compose, how you need to perform. 

“Her class was eye-opening to the possibilities behind all different kinds of music and new music, and the fact that we need experimentation even when it goes horribly wrong.”

After graduating in May, Saxton will take a gap year, teaching cello students, working, gigging and preparing for future auditions. He hopes that his pursuits will lead him to a career that combines his love of teaching and performing.

“I think it would be really fun to be a part of a university music program that is really strong and brings in excited students,” he adds. “I would love to keep teaching because I had such good teachers.

“I feel so lucky that I’ve had teachers who have lifted me up and inspired me. Like David, I got to see him play with the Boulder Philharmonic and it was bonkers—I want to be that teacher for somebody, too. They see you perform and they feel inspired.”