Archive for February, 2017

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/.

Mizzou New Music Ensemble to present works
by Freund, Haas, Visconti, McKenney, and Heruth
on Monday, February 27 at Whitmore Recital Hall

The Mizzou New Music Ensemble’s first performance of 2017 will include music from a visiting guest composer, new works written by a longtime faculty member and a Mizzou student, and a sneak preview of this summer’s Mizzou International Composers Festival.

The concert is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday, February 27 at Whitmore Recital Hall on the University of Missouri campus. General admission is $5 for the public, free for Mizzou faculty, students and staff.

Visiting the Mizzou campus for a guest composer residency that weekend will be Don Freund, professor of composition at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music and the father of University of Missouri professor and Mizzou New Music Initiative artistic director Stefan Freund. The Ensemble will perform the elder Freund’s 2013 work “Mixed Blood,” which combines Latin rhythms and a tango tune with sounds and structures of American contemporary art music.

The program also will feature “Their Rest Too is Related to Motion,” a new composition from W. Thomas “Tom” McKenney, professor emeritus and co-artistic director of the Mizzou New Music Initiative. Inspired by a piece of music that his daughter wrote for him while she was in grade school, McKenney adapted and expanded the tune’s basic musical elements into three movements, evoking the motions of ladybugs, whirligigs, and fireflies.

Mizzou’s student composers will be represented by Hans Heruth, a sophomore composition major and Sinquefield Scholar whose new work “To Decipher the Art” is a musical setting of a poem by Lee K. Acton. The piece was written especially for baritone Patrick Graham, who will perform it as a guest with the Ensemble.

Music from the two distinguished guest composers for this summer’s Mizzou International Composers Festival will complete the program.

Georg Friedrich Haas’ composition “aus freier Lust…verbunden” (“Bound … of free will”) is one of a series of works from 1996 in which each of the seven instrumental parts is simultaneously a solo piece, so that it can be played by any combination from solo performer to full ensemble. (The Ensemble will perform it as a quintet, using bass flute, bass clarinet, cello, and two percussionists.) Haas is a native of Austria and a professor of composition at Columbia University who is considered to be one of the major European composers of his generation.

Dan Visconti’s “Fractured Jams” is a “high modernist” work for violin, cello, clarinet, and percussion that was composed in 2007 and features the use of extended techniques. Visconti is a Chicago-based composer and concert programmer who also is known as an advocate for the arts as a form of cultural and civic service.

The seven-member Mizzou New Music Ensemble is made up of University of Missouri graduate students under the direction of Stefan Freund, a cellist, composer, professor of composition, and artistic director of the Mizzou New Music Initiative. The Ensemble’s members for the 2016-17 season are Victoria Hargrove, clarinet; Daniel Keeler, cello; Kelariz Keshavarz, flute; Renan Leme, violin; Rebecca McDaniel, percussion; Gyumi Rha, piano; and Panagiotis Skyftas, saxophone.