Dean Minderman (1957-2021)

Dean Minderman at the piano
Dean Minderman performing at the Big Muddy Blues Festival in St. Louis, 2018

We at the Mizzou New Music Initiative and the MU School of Music are saddened to learn of Dean C. Minderman’s passing. Dean was the voice of this blog and our Twitter profile for the last 11 years, and as part of Slay & Associates’s team, worked tirelessly to promote MNMI’s activities. If you’ve ever been a visiting composer or performer at Mizzou, or if you’re a student or faculty composer who’s won an award or participated in an opportunity, Dean has written about you. If you’re a writer, journalist, or media outlet in Missouri who’s ever covered our events, you learned about them through Dean. When MNMI embarked on an exciting collaboration with the St. Louis Symphony, the HEC Network in St. Louis aired a segment featuring interviews with our composers — all thanks to Dean. 

“My collaboration with Dean was crucial since my very first week at Mizzou,” says MNMI Managing Director Jacob Gotlib. “He cared about his work so deeply, and over the years taught me what it means to care that much as well. I didn’t understand what an ‘eye for detail’ really meant until I worked with Dean — he never let anything past him, and continually pushed me to be the best I could be.”

“As a graduate of Mizzou, Dean was a perfect fit for spreading the word about the wonderful opportunities of the Mizzou New Music Initiative. He took deep pride in seeing our success and sharing it with the world. We will deeply miss his contributions to Mizzou New Music and to the St. Louis jazz scene,” says Stefan Freund, MNMI Artistic Director.

“We are so appreciative of Dean’s work for our School. He always made us look and sound good and was a stickler for excellence. I’m thankful we were able to work with him and be the subject of his great writing for so many years,” says Julia Gaines, Director of the MU School of Music.

A graduate of Mizzou’s prestigious journalism program (BM 1979), Dean maintained great affection for his alma mater throughout his life. His first contact with new music came from an electronic music course he took with Emeritus Professor of Composition W. Tom McKenney. Dean combined his love of writing and music, writing myriad articles for the St. Louis Riverfront Times, NewMusicBox, and numerous other publications. His first love, however, was jazz and blues — Dean was a staple of the jazz and blues scene in his native St. Louis, playing piano and keys in multiple bands. His most significant contribution to his city’s musical scene was St. Louis Jazz Notes, a blog he maintained for over 16 years that chronicled upcoming events and rising artists, both in St. Louis and nationally. 

Dean’s impact on the Mizzou New Music Initiative — and his efforts to bring the world’s ears, eyes, and words to our activities — has been tremendous. We miss him dearly. If you would like to share any thoughts or stories about Dean, please leave them in the comments below.

Stefan Freund wins commission from Barlow Endowment

University of Missouri professor of composition and Mizzou New Music Initiative artistic director Stefan Freund has won a commission for 2021 from the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition.

Freund (pictured) was one of 9 composers selected from among 259 applications this year to the Endowment’s General and LDS commissioning programs, which will award grants totaling $60,000 to the winners.

The Barlow Endowment was established in September 1983 through a gift from Milton A. and Gloria Barlow to Brigham Young University for the purpose of “engendering and supporting excellence in musical composition through the university and the BYU College of Fine Arts and Communications.”

The Endowment hosts an international composition competition every year, receiving applications from around the world. The application are reviewed by a panel of musicians, who select the winners that will be commissioned to compose new works during the next year.

Freund will use his $6,000 grant to write a new work for Splinter Reeds, who will premiere the piece as part of a residency at Mizzou planned for 2023.

This is the second year in a row that a Mizzou faculty member has won a major commission from the Barlow Endowment. In 2020, assistant professor Carolina Heredia was awarded a grant which she used
to write a new work for Duo Axis, featuring flutist Zach Sheets and pianist Wei-Han Wu.

Several other composers with Mizzou connections also won commissions this year from the Endowment. Texu Kim, a resident composer at the 2014 Mizzou International Composers Festival, was awarded the $12,000 Barlow Prize to compose a major new work for sinfonietta that will be premiered in 2023-24 by Alarm Will Sound, London Sinfonietta, Oakland Symphony Orchestra, and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

Also winning Barlow commissions for 2021 are David Biedenbender, who was a resident composer at the 2011 MICF; Wang Lu, a resident composer for the 2016 festival; and Lansing McCloskey, who visited the Mizzou campus as a guest composer in 2015.

The judging panel included Neil Thornock, Chen Yi, Ben Sabey, Benjamin Taylor and Miguel Del Aguila of the Endowment’s Board of Advisors, plus guest judges Tania León, Kristin Kuster, Lisa DeSpain, and Chance Thomas.

Mizzou composer, musicians featured in
PBS special celebrating Missouri’s bicentennial

A new work written by a Mizzou composer and performed by MU faculty members will be featured in “Show Me the Music: A Celebration of the Missouri Bicentennial,” a television special that will air beginning this week on PBS affiliates in Missouri.

“Waterways” was written on commission specifically for the bicentennial project by Stefan Freund (pictured), who is MNMI’s artistic director and professor of composition at Mizzou. The work then was performed and recorded in May at the Sheldon Concert Hall in St. Louis by MU faculty members Alice Dade (flute), Eli Lara (cello), Julie Rosenfeld (violin), and Wes Warnhoff (clarinet).

Their performance will be seen as part of the “Show Me the Music…” special, which celebrates the 200th anniversary of Missouri becoming the 24th state to enter the Union on August 10, 1821. The program features what producers call “a kaleidoscope of many of Missouri’s musical genres,” including blues, rock, bluegrass, ragtime, and jazz, performed by musicians from around the state.

In addition to the Mizzou faculty ensemble, other performers include jazz pianist Peter Martin with his trio, augmented by saxophonist Bobby Watson and trumpeter Keyon Harrold; St. Louis vocalist Anita Jackson; ragtime pianist Royce Martin; bluegrass star Rhonda Vincent and her band, The Rage; and fiddler Howard Marshall and friends.

“Show Me the Music…” will premiere at 7:00 p.m. CDT on Monday, August 9 on St. Louis’ Nine Network, followed by multiple repeat broadcasts on all four of Missouri’s PBS affiliates continuing through September 4.

The first airing on Kansas City’s KCPT and mid-Missouri’s KMOS, which covers Columbia, Jefferson City, Warrensburg, and Sedalia, will be at 7:00 p.m. Thursday, August 12, with Ozarks Public Television‘s first broadcast set for 8:00 p.m. Friday, August 13. (For a complete schedule, please consult your local listings.)

After the broadcast premiere, in addition to repeat airings on all four stations, “Show Me the Music…” also will be available for viewing online via The Sheldon’s website.

“Show Me the Music…” was created in partnership by the Missouri Arts Council; The Sheldon; Kemper Foundation – Commerce Bank, Trustee; JPL Development LLC; Sinquefield Charitable Foundation; St. Louis Cardinals; and the Budds Center for American Music at the University of Missouri.

Composers Festival spotlight: Chen Yi

The Mizzou New Music Initiative is pleased to welcome Chen Yi as one of two distinguished guest composers for the 2021 Mizzou International Composers Festival.

Chen (pictured) is a distinguished professor of composition at the Conservatory of Music and Dance at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. A finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Music for her composition “Si Ji” (“Four Seasons”), she was born and raised in Guangzhou, China and is known as a prolific composer who blends Chinese and Western traditions, transcending cultural and musical boundaries.

She holds a BA and MA in music composition from the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, and a DMA from Columbia University in New York City. Chen was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2005, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2019.

As a distinguished guest composer for the MICF, Chen will give individual composition lessons to the resident composers, make a public presentation on her music, and consult with the ensembles who will be performing her works during the festival.

The Mizzou New Music Ensemble will play Chen’s “Near Distance” as part of the “Mizzou New Music” online concert on Wednesday, July 28, and Alarm Will Sound will present the US premiere of Stefan Freund’s arrangement of Chen’s “Sparkle” during the “World Premieres II” online concert on Saturday, July 31.

Other recent premieres include “Plum Blossom,” a piano solo performed by 15 semi-finalists at the Fifth Hong Kong International Piano Competition; a three-movement symphonic work, “Introduction, Andante, and Allegro,” co-commissioned by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic and performed by the SSO at Benaroya Hall in Seattle; and “Fire,” commissioned by the Chicago Center for Contemporary Composition and performed by Grossman Ensemble at Logan Center Performance Hall at the University of Chicago.

Chen’s music has been performed and commissioned by many leading musicians and ensembles, including Yehudi Menuhin, Yo-Yo Ma, Evelyn Glennie, the Cleveland Orchestra, the BBC, Seattle, Pacific, Kansas City, and Singapore Symphonies, the Brooklyn, NY, and LA Philharmonic, Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden, and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. Her music also has been recorded on labels including Bis, New Albion, CRI, Teldec, Telarc, Albany, New World, Naxos, Quartz, Delos, Angel, Bridge, Nimbus, KIC, and China Record Company.

Chen has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the Lieberson Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Other honors include first prize from the Chinese National Composition Contest, the Lili Boulanger Award, CalArts / Alpert Award, ASCAP Concert Music Award, and many more.

She has received the UMKC Kauffman Award in artistry/scholarship twice, in 2006 and 2019, and the faculty service award in 2012. Chen also has been awarded honorary doctorates by Lawrence University, Baldwin-Wallace College, University of Portland (OR), New School University (NYC), and the University of Hartford.

Known as a strong advocate for new music, American composers, Asian composers, and women in music, Chen has served on the advisory or educational boards of the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Chamber Music America, Meet The Composer, the American Music Center, New Music USA, the American Composers Orchestra, the League of Composers/ISCM, the International Alliance of Women in Music, and the Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy.

Chen Yi is the subject of an eponymous biography written by Leta E. Miller and J. Michele Edwards and published in December 2020 by the University of Illinois Press. You can hear some samples of her music in the embedded players below.

“Ning,” recorded July 2015 at Beijing Conservatory, featuring Alexandra Greffin-Klein (violin), Sun Jing (pipa), and Alexis Descharmes (cello).

“Percussion Concerto,” performed in October 2018 at the Staller Center for the Arts Stony Brook University in Stony Brook NY, featuring the Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Eduardo Leandro, and percussion soloist Sun Yi.

“The Fisherman’s Song,” performed by Yang Yang (piano) and Michael Taylor (violin) in February 2020 at Ward Recital Hall, Catholic University in Washington DC.

From December 2017, the Curtis 20/21 Ensemble at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia presented a portrait of composer Chen Yi.

Composers Festival spotlight: David T. Little

The Mizzou New Music Initiative is pleased to welcome David T. Little as one of the two distinguished guest composers for the 2021 Mizzou International Composers Festival.

Called “one of the most imaginative young composers” by The New Yorker, he has been recognized particularly for his operas “Dog Days,” “JFK,” and “Vinkensport” (with librettos by Royce Vavrek), and “Soldier Songs,” which have been widely acclaimed, “prov[ing] beyond any doubt that opera has both a relevant present and a bright future,” according to the New York Times.

Little (pictured) holds degrees from Susquehanna University (2001), University of Michigan (2002), and Princeton University (PhD, 2011), where his research explored the intersection of music and politics.

He has served previously as executive director of MATA and on the board of directors at Chamber Music America, and currently chairs the composition program at Mannes—The New School.

As a distinguished guest composer for the MICF, Little will give individual composition lessons to the resident composers; make a public presentation on his music; and consult with the groups who will be playing his music at the festival.

He’ll have two works performed at the 2021 MICF. Vocalist Karim Sulayman and resident ensemble Alarm Will Sound will debut the first part of Little’s new opera “What Belongs to You,” as part of the “World Premieres I” concert on Tuesday, July 27; and the Mizzou New Music Ensemble will perform his “descanso (waiting)” during the “Mizzou New Music” concert on Wednesday, July 28.

In addition to “What Belongs to You,” Little currently is composing a new solo cello work for virtuoso Matt Haimovitz, and also is developing a new work commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera and Lincoln Center Theater.

Other recent works include “hold my tongue,” performed at Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ in Amsterdam; “the earthen lack” for London Sinfonietta; “Ghostlight—ritual for six players,” presented by Eighth Blackbird at the Kennedy Center; “AGENCY” for Kronos Quartet; “and dress in magic amulets, dark, from My feet” for The Crossing; and “Black Lodge” for Beth Morrison Projects.

Little’s music has been presented by the LA Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall, LA Opera, the Park Avenue Armory, Holland Festival, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, BAM Next Wave, and Opéra de Montréal.

From 2014–2017, he was Composer-in-Residence with Opera Philadelphia and Music-Theatre Group. The founding artistic director of the ensemble Newspeak, his music can be heard on New Amsterdam, Innova, Sono Luminus, Centaur, and National Sawdust Tracks labels.

Little has received awards and recognition from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Meet The Composer, the American Music Center, the Harvey Gaul Competition, BMI, and ASCAP.

You can hear some samples of David T. Little’s music on his SoundCLoud page and in the embedded players below.

“It Is Time/I Have A Rendezvous” from “JFK,” performed by Laura Krumm (Jackie), Heather Johnson (Jaqueline O), Jessica Jones (Clara) and Djordge Nesic (music director, piano):

“Two Marines” from “Soldier Songs,” performed by Christopher Burchett (baritone), Zac Ballard (boy), and Newspeak. conducted by Todd Reynolds, during the 2013 Prototype Festival at the Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts in New York City.

A salon concert featuring the operatic works of David T. Little, performed by Lauren Flanigan, Lauren Worsham, Christopher Burchett, and David Adam Moore.

“Creators in Concert,” produced in 2015 by Opera America.

Composers Festival spotlight: Nina Shekhar

Resident composer Nina Shekhar is a first generation Indian American who grew up in Detroit and now lives in New Jersey, where she is pursuing her PhD in composition at Princeton University.

She previously completed composition graduate studies at the University of Southern California and undergraduate studies at the University of Michigan, earning dual degrees in composition and chemical engineering.

Shekhar (pictured) has the unusual distinction of having three of her pieces programmed as part of the 2021 MICF. The new work she wrote as a resident composer, “Turn Your Feet Around,” will be performed by Alarm Will Sound as part of the “World Premieres II” online concert on Saturday, July 31.

In addition, her composition “Don’t Beat a Word” will be performed by Khemia Ensemble during the “Mizzou New Music” online concert on Wednesday, July 28, and “[redact]” will be presented as part of the ANTiCX event “Entry Points of Empathy” on Friday, July 30. (Shekhar is only the second composer to have three works performed during one year of the MICF; the first was resident composer inti figgis-vizueta in 2019.)

Her other recent and upcoming events include performances by the New York Philharmonic, LA Philharmonic (with soloists Nathalie Joachim and Pamela Z), Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and New World Symphony. More current projects include commissions for the Grand Rapids Symphony, Albany Symphony, The Crossing, 45th Parallel Universe Chamber Orchestra (sponsored by GLFCAM), saxophonist Timothy McAllister, and Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) (sponsored by LA Phil and New Music USA).

Shekhar’s music has been commissioned and performed by leading artists including Eighth Blackbird, International Contemporary Ensemble, LA Philharmonic, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, JACK Quartet, and many more. Her work has been featured at venues including Carnegie Hall, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Walt Disney Concert Hall (LA Phil’s Noon to Midnight), Library of Congress, National Gallery of Art, National Sawdust, and numerous others.

Shekhar recently was appointed as the 2021-2023 Composer-in-Residence for Young Concert Artists. She also is the recipient of the 2021 Rudolf Nissim Prize; two ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, in 2015 and 2019; and the 2018 ASCAP Foundation Leonard Bernstein Award.

An active educator, Shekhar is a composer teaching artist fellow for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and is on faculty at the Idyllwild Arts Academy and Brightwork newmusic‘s Project Beacon initiative. She also has held composition residencies at Western Michigan University and Portland State University, and recently served as an inaugural debut fellow of the Young Musicians Foundation, mentored by violinist and social activist Vijay Gupta.

In addition to composing, Shekhar also works as a flutist, pianist, and saxophonist. She has performed in the Detroit International Jazz Festival and as a soloist with the USC Thornton Symphony and the Lublin Philharmonic in the Poland International Piano Festival.

You can hear samples of Nina Shekhar’s music on her SoundCloud page and in the embedded players below.

“red,” recorded February 23, 2020 at First Presbyterian Church of Santa Monica, featuring the Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra, with Robert Walker (oboe), Yasmina Spiegelberg (clarinet), Jessica Maxfield (alto sax), Benjamin Mitchell (bass clarinet), and Nick Akdag (bassoon).

Cajón,” performed in March 2021 by Barry Gold (cello).

“DEAR ABBY,” recorded in August 2020 as part of Dogs of Desire’s series “Hot w/Mustard.”

Composers Festival spotlight: ANTiCX

Founded in 2021, ANTiCX is an artist collective of composers and makers. The group’s name is an acronym of the first letters of the first names of its members. They are (pictured clockwise from upper left):

Annika Socolofsky is a composer and avant-folk vocalist who is assistant professor of composition and artistic director of Pendulum New Music at the University of Colorado Boulder

Nina Shekhar currently is pursuing her PhD in composition at Princeton University. She is a composer teaching artist fellow for Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and is on faculty at Idyllwild Arts Academy and Brightwork newmusic‘s Project Beacon initiative.

Tanner Porter is a composer-performer and songwriter. She earned her BM in composition from the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre and Dance, and an MM in composition from the Yale School of Music.

inti figgis-vizueta is a composer who maintains a private studio in New York City, with regular guest composition workshops and presentations of her practice at music programs around the country.

Carolina Heredia is a composer of acoustic and electronic music, intermedia producer, violinist, and educator. She currently is assistant professor of music composition at the University of Missouri, and the assistant director of the Mizzou New Music Initiative.

Xuan is a new media artist, filmmaker, and pianist working at the intersection of music, visual art, and technology. She currently teaches experimental filmmaking as an adjunct professor of humanities at Eastman School of Music and works as a freelance video artist.

ANTiCX will debut at the 2021 Mizzou International Composers Festival with “Entry Points of Empathy,” an online multimedia performance on Friday, July 30. The program will feature individual and collaborative works, including a live “sound sculpture,” with live performances by Mizzou faculty member Wesley Warnhoff (clarinet), Mizzou student Eve Werger (piano), and guest artists Leigh Muñoz (bassoon) and Ellen Sommer (piano).

It also will include a video art premiere by guest artist Katina Bitsicas, assistant professor in Mizzou’s School of Visual Studies, in collaboration with MU alumni Wilson Minshall.

The works to be performed are:
Nina Shekhar – “[redact]”
Tanner Porter – “Two movements for clarinet” (world premiere)
Carolina Heredia – “Tango Americano”
Xuan – “Interludes 1 and 2” (world premiere)
Annika Socolofsky – “The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows: the meantime”
inti figgis-vizueta – “a bridge between starshine and clay”
Katina Bitsicas and Wilson Minshall – “Eye Thorn Forrest” (world premiere)
ANTiCX – “Entry Points of Empathy” (world premiere)

The title work “Entry Points of Empathy” is “a piece for fixed media, live improvisation and sound sculpture that explores communication through both personal and technological lenses,” said Carolina Heredia. “The visuals draw from the sounds directly with some being generated in real-time and others interpreted through pre-made animations. Each composer’s sound is connected to a distinct visual aesthetic and then pieced together like a mosaic on the Olga 3D screens structure.”

You can hear samples of music composed by the members of ANTiCX at their individual websites, linked above, and in the embedded players below.

“Rise” by Annika Socolofsky, recorded in October 2018 at Princeton University by Jonathan Hulting-Cohen (alto sax) and Nicholas Shaneyfelt (piano) .

“if these walls” by Nina Shakhar, recorded in May 2021 by Left Coast Chamber Ensemble .

“Propellers in the Sun” by Tanner Porter, performed by the University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Kenneth Kiesler.

“Openwork, knotted object”/”Trellis in bloom”/”lightning ache” by inti figgis-vizueta, recorded in June 2019 at National Sawdust in Brooklyn, NY by the National Sawdust Ensemble, featuring Allison Loggins-Hull (flute), Oran Etkin (clarinet), Sugar Vendil (piano), Ian Rosenbaum (percussion), Miranda Cuckson (violin), Jeffrey Zeigler (cello), and Charles Hagaman (technician), conducted by Lidiya Yankovskaya.

“Ausencias” by Carolina Heredia, recorded in 2016 by JACK Quartet.

“Reactions” is an experimental animation created in 2016 by Xuan in collaboration with composer Tomek Arnold.

Composers Festival spotlight: Andrew Tholl

Andrew Tholl comes to the 2021 MICF from Los Angeles, CA, where he works as a violinist, composer, drummer, and improvisor.

He holds degrees from Arizona State University, University of Michigan, and the California Institute of the Arts, and has served on the faculty at CalArts, Moorpark College, Ventura College, The Kadima Conservatory of Music, and Harmony Project.

Tholl’s performances and compositions have been heard across the United States and Europe, as he “continues to be involved with music for concert halls, art galleries, films, puppet shows, bars, garages, bedrooms, and coat closets.”

As a resident composer for the 2021 MICF, Tholl (pictured) has written a new work called “Despite the Unforeseen Circumstances; or Just Another Illusion of Explanatory Depth” that will be performed by Alarm Will Sound as part of the “World Premieres II” online concert on Saturday, July 31,

Tholl previously has created commissioned works for wild Up, the New Century Players, Machine Project, Danny Holt, and more. His music has been performed at REDCAT at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, the Dartington International Summer Festival in England, Complice in Berlin, Beyond Baroque in Los Angeles, Princeton University, Listen/Space in New York, Gridlock in Vancouver, and many other venues and festivals.

As a soloist and chamber musician, he has premiered more than 200 new works, collaborating with composers such as Sylvano Bussotti, Christian Wolff, David Rosenboom, Wadada Leo Smith, Arthur Jarvinen, Roger Reynolds, Harold Budd, and George Crumb.

Tholl also is a member and co-founder of the Formalist Quartet, known to many as the preeminent new music string quartet in Southern California. The quartet been in residence at Princeton University, Stanford University, University of California – San Diego, and Villa Aurora, and has performed for numerous festivals and concert series including sound ON in San Diego, MOSA in New York, Reykjavik Arts Festival, Unruly Music at the University of Wisconsin, and more.

The Formalist Quartet’s recordings can be heard on Innova, Lakefire, Cold Blue, and Populist Records, which Tholl co-owns and operates with fellow Formalist Quartet member Andrew McIntosh.

Aside from his work as a “classical” musician and composer, Andrew maintains a second musical life performing pop, rock, punk, noise and improvisational music. He currently plays with the ensembles TempWerks, Paper Tiger Trio, and touchy-feely. and in the past has performed with artists including Aretha Franklin, Busta Rhymes, Scott Weiland, Diana Krall, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Vinny Golia, and more. He also has worked in scoring for film, dance, and theater as both a performer and composer.

You can hear some samples of Andrew Tholl’s music on his SoundCloud page and via the embedded players below.

“hold still while the world turns” performed by Aperture Duo, with Adrianne Pope (violin) and Linnea Powell (viola), on July 11, 2017 at the Boston Court Performing Arts Center in Pasadena, CA.

“Excuse My Dust,” performed July 23, 2015 by Isaura String Quartet and Argenta Walther. (Text attributed to Dorothy Parker.)

“Memory Draws the Map We Follow” performed by Jodie Landau of Wild Up