Creating Original Music Project to present award-winning works
from Missouri student composers in concert on Saturday, April 15

Some of the winners at the 2016 COMP Festival

Whether heard on a concert stage or in a theater, on film or TV, or in a video game or app, every piece of music starts with a composer – and every young composer needs a start.

That’s why Mizzou’s Creating Original Music Project (COMP) will present performances of award-winning original works by young Missouri composers at the twelfth annual COMP Festival, held from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Saturday, April 15 in the Fine Arts Building on the campus of the University of Missouri.

Admission is free and open to the public. The junior division concert, featuring works from elementary and middle school winners, begins at 10:30 a.m., with the senior division concert of music by high school winners following at 2:30 p.m.

The festival also will be streamed live online at https://music.missouri.edu/concert-audio-streaming, with the audio stream going live 10 minutes before the start of each concert.

COMP was founded in 2005 to encourage K-12 students in Missouri to write original music and to provide performance opportunities for those works. It is a joint venture of the Mizzou New Music Initiative and the Sinquefield Charitable Foundation, which provides an annual gift of $80,000 to sponsor the competition.

Every year, in addition to having their music performed at the COMP Festival, the winning composers in each age group and category and their schools receive cash prizes. High school winners also receive a scholarship to attend the Missouri Summer Composition Institute, Mizzou’s high school summer music composition camp.

“The Mizzou New Music Initiative began with the Creating Original Music Project competition and summer camp, and COMP still is fundamental to our efforts to help composers of all ages grow and develop,” said Jeanne Sinquefield of the Sinquefield Charitable Foundation. “Hundreds of Missouri students have enjoyed opportunities from these programs over the last 12 years, and it’s encouraging to see both repeat winners and first-time entrants among this year’s group of winning young composers.”

The 2017 Creating Original Music Project (COMP) competition categories and winners are:

Elementary School – Song with Words
1) Brooke Noelle Eck of Woerther Elementary School, Ballwin, for “Full Blown Storm.” Sponsor: Rachel Puleo.
2) Jackson Smith of Our Lady of Lourdes Interparish School, Columbia, for “Pokémon.” Sponsor: Sarah Nolke.
3) Landon Irvin of Reeds Spring Elementary School, Reeds Spring, for “Game of Life.” Sponsor: Susan Gillen.

Elementary School – Instrumental
1) Yueheng Wang of Ulysses S. Grant Elementary School, Columbia, for “Echoing in the Sky.” Sponsor: Pam Sisson.
2) Natalie Johnson of Rogers Elementary School, St. Louis, for “Winter Snow.” Sponsor: Donna Buehne.
3) Stone Gill of Arcadia Valley Middle School, Ironton, for “Grab a Mic.” Sponsor: Chuck Lee.

Middle School – Fine Art
1) Brandon Kim of Jefferson Middle School, Columbia, for “The Quarrel.” Sponsor: Jaime Canepa.
2) Ammar Farra of Smithton Middle School, Columbia, for “Brass Trio in C Minor.” Sponsor: Emily Ebrecht.

Middle School – Popular
1) Grace Ensor, Holly Travers, Posey Bischoff, and Katie Downey of Steger Sixth Grade Center, Rock Hill, for “The Path of Life.” Sponsor: Kevin Cole.
2) Elsa Kelley-Marcum of Jefferson Middle School, Columbia, for “Deal with the Devil.” Sponsor: Christine Nichols.

High School – Fine Art
1) Brandon Thibodeau of Kearney High School, Kearney, for “Kaleidoscope.” Sponsor: Chris Heil.
2) Olivia Bennett, a home-schooled student from Nixa, for “The Hare.” Sponsor: Gabe Fleetwood.
3) Cheyenne Stumpf of Cuba High School, Cuba, for “Ki Bhavi Ragini.” Sponsor: Shannon Moore.

High School – Popular
1) Cooper Carr of Lee’s Summit West High School, Lee’s Summit, for “I See You.” Sponsor: Kirt Mosier.
2) Julia Riew of John Burroughs School, St. Louis, for “No More.” Sponsor: Robert Carter.
3) Menea Kefalov of Ladue Horton Watkins High School, Ladue, for “Storm.” Sponsor: Twinda Murry.

High School – Jazz
1) Jack Snelling of Webster Groves High School, Webster Groves, for “Lovesick.” Sponsor: Kevin Cole.
2) Samuel Luetkemeyer of Calvary Lutheran High School, Jefferson City, for “Playin’ Hooky.” Sponsors: Melisa Ahlers and Calee Gerth.

Each student who enters the competition must have the signature and sponsorship of his or her school’s music teacher. Community agencies, churches, after-school programs, private teachers, and other musical mentors also may sponsor their young musicians in partnership with the student’s school music teacher.

William Averitt’s “Black Pierrot” inspired by poet Langston Hughes

Mizzou musicology professor Stephanie Shonekan leads a discussion with William Averitt on the poetry of Langston Hughes.

Mizzou musicology professor Stephanie Shonekan (at left) leads a discussion with composer William Averitt (second from right) on the poetry of Langston Hughes.

For his latest commissioned work “Black Pierrot,” composer William Averitt once again has drawn inspiration from the poetry of Langston Hughes.

Scheduled for a world premiere on Saturday, March 18 at First Baptist Church in Columbia, “Black Pierrot” was commissioned by Mizzou’s director of choral studies Paul Crabb for the University Singers and the Mizzou New Music Ensemble, directed by Stefan Freund, with funding from the Sinquefield Charitable Foundation.

Averitt, who’s now professor emeritus of music at Shenandoah University in Winchester, VA after serving on the faculty there from 1973 to 2012,  is known particularly as a composer of choral works.

He has received commissions from a wide range of organizations and artists, including Texas Lutheran University, Choral Arts of Seattle, Virginia Music Teachers Association, organist Dudley Oakes, the Bach Choir of Pittsburgh, Opus 3 Trio, Murray State University Concert Choir, and the Shenandoah Conservatory Chamber Choir.

Other commissions include works for the Virginia-based contemporary music ensemble Currents, Shippensburg (PA) Summer Music Festival, Paducah Symphony Orchestra, First Presbyterian Church of Columbia, SC, Sonus Ensemble of Washington, DC, the Youth Orchestras of Prince William (VA), choreographer Elizabeth Bergmann, Shenandoah University, Winchester (VA) Musica Viva, and the Hans Kindler Foundation of the Library of Congress.

Averitt has incorporated his interest in the work of Langston Hughes into several of his compositions.  His “Afro-American Fragments,” composed in 1991 with the text of a 1930 poem by Hughes,  has been performed by a number of professional choruses, including the Grammy winning ensemble, Conspirare, which in 2004 released three movements of the work on their CD through the green fuse.

“Afro-American Fragments” also has been performed by the Washington Singers, the Desert Chorale, the New Texas Festival, the Air Force Singing Sergeants, Kantorei (Denver, CO), Winchester Musica Viva and by numerous university choruses throughout the country, including last year by the University Singers.

More recently, Averitt has written two more works based on Hughes’ poetry. “The Dream Keeper” was composed in 2009 for Choral Arts of Seattle and included on their CD Mornings Like This, while “The Deepness of the Blue” originally was composed in 2012 for Texas Lutheran University, with subsequent performances from Choral Arts Northwest and the Evansville University Choir.

All three of Averitt’s Hughes-related cycles were recorded by the UMKC Conservatory Singers and released as an album titles The Deepness of the Blue on MSR Classical.

Performing Hughes’ work in Missouri actually brings the poet back to his roots, for though he is identified in the popular imagination with the Harlem Renaissance, Hughes in fact was a native Midwesterner, born in Joplin, Missouri and raised in Lawrence, Kansas.

A prolific poet, essayist, novelist, and playwright as well as a social activist, Hughes wrote a wide variety of works ranging from personal to political, chronicling the lives and feelings of 20th century African-Americans, as well as the social conditions they endured, in a way that still resonates today.

Hughes during his lifetime was closely associated with jazz music, not only as a listener, but as a participant – reciting his poetry on record with Charles Mingus, contributing lyrics to pianist Randy Weston’s album Uhuru Afrika, and even writing a children’s book called The First Book of Jazz.

More recently, his epic poem “Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz,” written in 1960, was performed for the first time with music by composer  Laura Karpman in March 2009 at Carnegie Hall, and subsequently became the centerpiece of “The Langston Hughes Project”, a multimedia concert presentation.

Averitt’s “Black Pierrot” is based on seven poems by Hughes, each incorporated into a movement of the work. It begins with a celebratory feeling via the poet’s “A Black Pierrot” (1923), “Breath of a Rose” (1944), and “Jazzonia” (1923).

As Averitt writes in his program notes, “the mood changes abruptly and profoundly with the fourth movement,” which features Hughes’ brief 1923 poem, the ironically titled “Justice.” and is followed by musical settings of “Song for a Dark Girl” (1927), “Silhouette” (1944), and the concluding “To a Dead Friend” (1922).

As a side note, while the title and text of “Black Pierrot” come from Langston Hughes, the title and the work’s instrumentation also reference another significant cultural figure of the 20th century, composer Arnold Schönberg.

Specifically, “Black Pierrot” is written for soprano, choir and a sextet of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and percussion, an instrumental ensemble that sometimes is called a “Pierrot plus percussion,” after Schönberg’s “Pierrot Lunaire,” which was written in 1912 for a single vocalist accompanied by a similarly configured quintet of two winds, two strings, and piano.

University Singers, Mizzou New Music Ensemble
to premiere new work by William Averitt
in concert on Saturday, March 18

The University of Missouri’s University Singers and Mizzou New Music Ensemble will present the world premiere of “Black Pierrot,” a newly commissioned work from composer William Averitt, in a concert at 7:00 p.m. Saturday, March 18 at the First Baptist Church, 1112 East Broadway in Columbia.

General admission to the concert is $5 for the public, free for Mizzou faculty, students and staff.

“Black Pierrot” was commissioned by Mizzou director of choral activities Paul Crabb for the University Singers and the Mizzou New Music Ensemble with funding from the Sinquefield Charitable Foundation.

Inspired by seven poems written by Langston Hughes, the famed African-American poet, novelist and playwright who was born in Joplin, MO, it is scored for soprano, choir, and an instrumental sextet of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and percussion.

William Averitt, who will be in Columbia for the premiere, has composed numerous works that have received performances throughout the United States and in Western Europe, Russia and Asia. He has received composer fellowships, grants and commissions from organizations including the National Endowment for the Arts, Meet the Composer, and many others. Averitt (pictured) is professor emeritus of music at Shenandoah University in Winchester, VA, where he was on the faculty from 1973 to 2012.

In addition to attending Saturday’s concert, while he’s visiting the Mizzou campus Averitt also will give a presentation on his music at 3:00 p.m. Friday, March 17 in Loeb Hall, and will give private lessons to selected student composers.

Mizzou New Music Initiative seeks high school students
for Missouri Summer Composition Institute

Mizzou’s Tom McKenney with COMP Camp students

The Mizzou New Music Initiative is looking for Missouri high school students interested in music composition to attend this year’s Missouri Summer Composition Institute, which will be held from Sunday, June 18 through Saturday, June 24 on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia.

Known informally as “COMP Camp,” after MNMI’s annual Creating Original Music Project contest for student composers, the Institute is open to students entering grades 9-12 and entering college freshman.

The week-long program offers young composers from across the state the opportunity to receive composition lessons from MU faculty, learn from and interact with other creative minds, and compose a new work to be premiered at the end of the week by the camp’s resident ensemble.

The program also is an outstanding value, as the fee is just $100 and includes all instruction and activities, plus six nights in a double room in one of Mizzou’s newest, air-conditioned residence halls and meals.

Class size is limited so participants can receive personal attention. All current and former Creating Original Music Project contest winners of high school age receive a full scholarship to the Missouri Summer Composition Institute, and additional scholarships are available based on financial need.

The application deadline is Monday, April 24. Applicants must complete the online application form (https://goo.gl/forms/KfMuhUZgeKDuP7JM2) and submit a score and a recording of a representative composition, plus a list of completed works.

Materials can be emailed to MNMI managing director Jacob Gotlib at gotlibj@missouri.edu, or sent by postal mail to: COMP Camp c/o Jacob Gotlib, 138 Fine Arts Building, University of Missouri School of Music, Columbia, MO 65211

For more information, visit https://music.missouri.edu/CMP/camps, or contact Jacob Gotlib via email at gotlibj@missouri.edu or by phone at 573- 884-9478.

Aaron Mencher wins third place in American Prize composition competition

Mizzou student composer Aaron Mencher‘s piece “New” last month was awarded third place in the 2016 American Prize in Composition – Band/Wind Ensemble, Student Division competition.

Mencher (pictured) is a sophomore composition major and Sinquefield Scholar from John’s Creek, GA, a suburb of Atlanta.

“New” previously was a winner in the 2015 NAfME Student Composers Competition, and was premiered by the All-National Concert Band. The work also was performed last year by the University Wind Ensemble, and has been published by Murphy Music Press.

Last semester, Mencher won the Boston New Music Initiative’s 2016 Young Composers Competition with his work “Uncertainly Yours,” which was performed by the Mizzou New Music Ensemble as part of their season-opening concert in October in Columbia, and then by BNMI’s ensemble in November in Boston.

Composer Don Freund in residence this weekend at Mizzou

This weekend, the Mizzou New Music Initiative will welcome composer Don Freund to campus for a four-day residency.

A professor of composition at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music since 1992, Freund (pictured) is an internationally recognized composer whose works range from solo, chamber, and orchestral music to pieces involving live performances with electronic instruments; music for dance; and large theater works.

He has been described as “a composer thoughtful in approach and imaginative in style” (The Washington Post), whose music is “exciting, amusing, disturbing, beautiful, and always fascinating” (Music and Musicians/London ).

Freund also has a personal connection to the University of Missouri, because in addition to being an esteemed composer and educator, he’s also the father of Mizzou’s Stefan Freund, professor of composition and artistic director of the Mizzou New Music Initiative.

An alumnus of the Eastman School of Music, where he earned a masters degree and a doctorate, Don Freund is the recipient of numerous awards and commissions, including two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Guggenheim fellowship. He has served as guest composer at many universities and music festivals, and presented master classes in the US, Europe, Asia, and South America.

Before joining the faculty at the Jacobs School, from 1972 to 1992 he was chairman of the composition department at Memphis State University, where he founded the university’s annual new music festival and programmed nearly 1,000 new American works. Also active as pianist and conductor, Freund been involved in those capacities in the performance of some 200 new pieces, usually in collaboration with the composer.

During his visit to Columbia, Freund will coach the Mizzou New Music Ensemble and give individual lessons to several student composers. He’ll also give a public presentation of his works, and talk about one of his favorite composers in a lecture titled “Composition Lessons with J.S. Bach.”

Freund’s residency also will include public performances of two of his works. The Columbia Civic Orchestra, conducted by Stefan Freund, will perform Don Freund’s “Preludes for Orchestra” as part of their concert on Sunday, February 26 at the Missouri Theatre, a performance that also will feature the premiere of Mizzou composer Henry Breneman Stewart’s new piano concerto.

Then on Monday, February 27, the Mizzou New Music Ensemble’s concert at Whitmore Recital Hall will include Freund’s 2013 composition “Mixed Blood.”

For more about Don Freund, read the interview with him published in 2015 in the Society of Composers newsletter, and listen to his music on his SoundCloud page and on the Jacobs School of Music site.

Third Coast Percussion residency: A look back

From the Grammy Awards to Mizzou with Third Coast Percussion

When Third Coast Percussion visits the University of Missouri next week, not only will they be coming directly from the Grammy Awards, they’ll actually be bringing a bit of Mizzou along with them.

The Chicago-based group is nominated for a Grammy this year in the category of “Best Chamber Music/ Small Ensemble Performance” for their album Steve Reich, and they’ll also be performing at the Grammy “Premiere Ceremony” hosted by comedian Margaret Cho before the nationally televised portion of the awards gets underway on Sunday, February 12 at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles.

When they get to Columbia the next day, the four members of TCP will be looking at a busy schedule, culminating in a concert on Friday, February 17 at the Missouri Theatre, but also including various other activities throughout the week, most notably a workshop presentation of a new piece they recently commissioned from a Mizzou alumnus.

José Martínez, who earned his master’s degree in composition from Mizzou in 2016, was selected by Third Coast Percussion to participate in their Emerging Composers Partnership for the 2016-17 season.

Now pursuing doctoral studies at the University of Texas, Martínez during his time in Columbia was the percussionist for the Mizzou New Music Ensemble; a resident composer at the 2014 Mizzou International Composers Festival; and the winner of the 2013 Sinquefield Composition Prize, the University’s highest honor for a composition student.

After being chosen by Third Coast Percussion for this year’s Emerging Composers Partnership, he took part in a series of workshops with the group as a prelude to writing a new piece to be premiered in a concert this spring in Chicago.

That commissioned composition, “Two Questions About Time,” will get its first official performance on Sunday, May 28 at the Chicago venue Constellation, but Mizzou students and curious Columbia listeners will be able to hear how it’s shaping up in a public open workshop session with TCP and Martínez from 10:00 a.m to noon on Thursday, February 16 in Room 112 of Loeb Hall.

Third Coast Percussion’s residency also will include a performance for students at Lee Elementary School and a masterclass with the MU Percussion Studio on Tuesday, February 14; a joint public performance of Terry Riley’s “In C” with the Mizzou New Music Ensemble at 2:00 p.m. Wednesday, February 15 at the Student Center; and a reading session of new music by Mizzou student composers Jake Smucker, Trey Makler, and Aaron Mencher at 7:00 p.m. Thursday, February 16 at Whitmore Recital Hall.

Though TCP won’t be playing Martínez’ new work at their concert on Friday, the program nevertheless will have another connection to the Mizzou New Music Initiative, as it will include music by two former distinguished guest composers at the Mizzou International Composers Festival.

The group will play “Resounding Earth, mvt. 2, Prayer,” written by Augusta Read Thomas, who was a guest at the 2014 MICF; and “Surface Tension,” by Donnacha Dennehy, who took part in the 2012 festival. Steve Reich’s 2009 “Mallet Quartet” and Glenn Kotche’s “Wild Sound, part 4,” written in 2014, will complete the evening.

Photo of José Martínez (center) with Third Coast Percussion via https://www.instagram.com/thirdcoastpercussion/.