The new work “Electric Blue Sand,” composed by Stephen Lias, professor of music at SFA, will be performed by SYBARITE5 when the string quintet performs in the College of Fine Arts’ University Series at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, in W.M. Turner Auditorium. Photo: Brian Braun

Stephen Lias

Stephen Lias

NACOGDOCHES, Texas – The exciting string quintet SYBARITE5 will perform the newly composed “Electric Blue Sand,” written by Stephen Lias, professor of composition in the Stephen F. Austin State University School of Music, when the ensemble performs at SFA in the College of Fine Arts’ University Series.

The concert is at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, in W.M. Turner Auditorium and is sponsored in part by Cataract, Glaucoma, Cornea & Retina Consultants of East Texas/Benchmark Optical/Medical Arts Surgery Center.

SYBARITE5 is known for its eclectic repertoire – from Piazzolla to Brubeck to Radiohead  – and its unconventional approach to music performance, according to Scott Shattuck, associate dean of the College of Fine Arts and director of the series.

“This group of passionate young performers, all top professionals based in New York City, grabs and holds audiences in a way that’s truly special,” Shattuck said.  “They keep audiences on the edge of their seats.”

In conversations with SYBARITE5’s booking agent last spring, Shattuck suggested the ensemble consider performing a piece that would be written by Lias, whose works are regularly performed throughout the United States and abroad, specifically for SYBARITE5 and its wide-ranging repertoire.

“I was, of course, delighted that they agreed,” Lias said, “and I wrote the piece for them in June of this year.”

Lias describes “Electric Blue Sand” as “a fun little piece” that the audience may find a little out of the ordinary. Its name, which Lias chose following the work’s completion, came from NASA’s “mind-blowing” discovery this past summer of a bright blue sand bar on Mars.

“Knowing that SYBARITE5 specializes in genre-bending music that is often fun and/or unconventional, I just decided to write a fun little piece that was slightly funky and irreverent,” Lias said. “I had nothing particular in mind when I wrote it other than to capture energy in an enigmatic way. Thus, when I finished it and was looking for an enigmatic title that also sounded like it had energy, the headline ‘NASA discovered an electric blue sand dune on Mars’ seemed to give me exactly what I wanted.”

Comprised of Sami Merdinian and Sarah Whitney, violins; Angela Pickett, viola; Laura Metcalf, cello; and Louis Levitt, bass, SYBARITE5 has taken audiences by storm all across the U.S., Shattuck said.

“I hadn’t heard of them until they were recommended to me,” Shattuck confessed, “but when I heard their recordings, watched their videos, read their reviews and saw how quickly they had conquered the classical charts and the nation’s most prestigious venues, I knew they would absolutely thrill our audience. They truly are the cutting edge of string music in America today, and knowing how much they love to collaborate with innovative composers like Steve, I wanted to see if we could make a connection that would create a unique opportunity for our audience.”

Prior to the performance, Lias and Dr. Jennifer Dalmas, associate professor of violin and viola in the SFA School of Music, will present an informative talk at 7 p.m. in Griffith Gallery. The gallery is located across the hall from Turner Auditorium, which is inside the Griffith Fine Arts Building, 2222 Alumni Drive. The audience is invited back to the gallery for a post-performance reception to meet the performers and to honor the corporate sponsor.

Single event ticket prices for the University Series are $25 for adults, $20 for seniors and $10 for non-SFA students/youth. Tickets for SFA students are $3.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit, stop by the Fine Arts Box Office in Room 211 of the Griffith Fine Arts Building, or call (936) 468-6407 or (888) 240-ARTS.