A-Z Index

News Feature

March 7, 2024

Student’s musical involvement leads him to national competition

By Kayla Holman, communication assistant

A Northwest Missouri State University student will test his musical performance skills this month in a nationally selective competition with hopes of furthering his music education.

Gabe Roller, a senior instrumental music education major from Muskogee, Oklahoma, has been invited to compete in the semifinal round of the 2024 Naftzger National Young Artists Competition March 16-17 at Wichita State University.

The Naftzger Young Artists Auditions and Music Awards are administered by Wichita State’s School of Music and with support from the Naftzger Fund for Fine Arts Inc. It is a nationally selective competition with roughly a dozen finalists in each division this year.

Gabe Roller (right) considers Dr. Joseph Tomasso (left) a key mentor in the Northwest music program. (Submitted photo)

Gabe Roller (right) considers Dr. Joseph Tomasso (left) a key mentor in the Northwest music program. (Submitted photo)

Roller was born into a family of musicians and began playing instruments in sixth grade. He plays the bassoon, saxophone and is perfecting the oboe.

“Being a musician who can play instruments is just extremely satisfying,” Roller said. “You practice for hours and hours on end and notice your own sound or technique improving.”

Roller was drawn to Northwest because his high school teacher had a connection with Dr. William Richardson, a Northwest professor of music. Richardson then introduced him to Dr. Joseph Tomasso, a Northwest assistant professor of music. From that point, Roller said he knew he’d enjoy Northwest’s music program.

“I knew I was going into music education, but I also wanted to perform,” Roller said. “One of the first days I walked in, (Tomasso) said ‘I know you’re an education major, but I’m going to treat you like a performance major’ – which is exactly what I wanted.”

Roller performs in Northwest’s Wind Symphony, Symphonic Band, Concert Band and Jazz Ensemble.

“My involvement at Northwest has helped me because professors and colleagues have opened doors for me that I did not even know existed,” Roller said. “My professors show me scholarships, honor groups to audition for, competitions to compete in and just immense musical knowledge that I would not have learned had I not come here.”

Roller’s application to the Naftzger National Young Artists Competition required a video recording. After submitting a video compilation of him playing the bassoon, he received an invitation to the semifinal round of the competition.

“When you finally get an email back, and you get to see that ‘congratulations,’ it’s like OK, I am doing the right thing,” Roller said.

After the final round on March 17, one person will be named the Naftzger Young Artist Award winner and receive $5,000. Three other division prizes of $2,000 will be awarded, and $500 each will be awarded to four division runners-up.

In 2023, Roller won the principal bassoon position in the National Intercollegiate Band and first place in the collegiate division of the Midwest Double Reed Society Young Artist Competition. He is the 2024 assistant principal bassoon in the Collegiate Band Director National Association’s national honor band.

“If I won my division, it would be such a huge confidence boost as well as such an amazing accomplishment to put on my resume as I look for graduate programs in the next year,” Roller said. “Being an undergraduate who has performed in two collegiate honor bands, won a competition, and would have acquired a brand-new win from this competition would leave me in a wonderful position to apply for graduate teaching assistance positions.”

After graduating from Northwest this spring, Roller hopes to teach music in a collegiate setting while performing with symphonies and orchestras. He also hopes to own a private music studio.


Dr. Mark Hornickel
Administration Building
Room 215