Composers Festival spotlight: DRAX

Formed in fall 2014, DRAX is the newest faculty ensemble-in-residence at the University of Missouri, and they’ll be making their Mizzou International Composers Festival debut as guest artists for the “Mizzou New Music” concert on Friday, July 24 at the Missouri Theatre.

As the latest addition to the growing new music scene at Mizzou, the duo of percussionist Megan Arns and saxophonist Leo Saguiguit intends to explore the existing repertoire for saxophone and percussion duo as well as commission new works.

They’ve already made their its international debut at the 2015 World Saxophone Congress in Strasbourg, France, and also have performed at the North American Saxophone Alliance Region 4 Conference in Norman, Oklahoma, and the Missouri Percussive Arts Society’s Day of Percussion.

Although their collaboration is relatively new, both members of DRAX have been involved in the creation and performance of new music throughout their respective careers.

Megan Arns recently joined the music faculty of the University of Missouri as an assistant teaching professor of percussion. She has performed with the contemporary chamber groups [Switch~ Ensemble] and What is Noise as well as with a number of symphony orchestras, and also has extensive experience in the field of marching percussion.

An advocate for the creation of new music, Arns has been involved in co-commissioning and premiering works by notable composers such as John Luther Adams, Alejandro Viñao, Halim El-Dahb, Steven Snowden, Adam Silverman, David Skidmore, Ivan Trevino and Brian Nozny.

She earned performance degrees from Florida State University and Truman State University; an M.A. in ethnomusicology from the Eastman School of Music, and currently is a candidate for a D.M.A. in percussion performance and literature.

Leo Saguiguit serves as associate professor of saxophone at the University of Missouri, and also enjoys a busy schedule performing as a soloist and chamber musician and presenting master classes and lectures throughout the United States and abroad.

In addition to DRAX, he performs with the Athens (Greece) Saxophone Quartet, Chicago Saxophone Quartet, Missouri Saxophone Quartet, Trio Chymera, and the Odyssey Chamber Music Series of Columbia.

Saguiguit has appeared as concerto soloist with numerous orchestras and wind ensembles, and has performed regularly as an orchestral saxophonist with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Milwaukee Symphony, Grant Park Music Festival Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony, Florida Orchestra, and Missouri Symphony.

He has earned degrees from Emory University and Northwestern University, and has recorded CDs with the Athens Quartet, Impuls Quartet, Chromos Quartet, and the wind ensemble Philharmonia à Vent.

(While DRAX has yet to be captured on video – no, not that Drax, this DRAX – you can see separate performances involving Leo Saguiguit and Megan Arns in the embedded YouTube players below.)

Leo Saguiguit plays “Attila” by Mizzou alumnus Patrick David Clark in July 2012 at the World Saxophone Congress, accompanied by pianist Rachel Aubuchon

Megan Arns performs in the St. Louis celebration of ‘A Worldwide Day of In C,” held December 21, 2014 to mark 50 years of Terry Riley’s pioneering minimalist work

Composers Festival spotlight: Andrew Norman

Along with Hans Abrahamsen, the Mizzou New Music Initiative is pleased to welcome Andrew Norman as one of our two distinguished guest composers for the 2015 Mizzou International Composers Festival.

Currently an assistant professor of composition at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, Norman (pictured) is a graduate of Yale and the University of Southern California. He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the 2006 Rome Prize and the 2009 Berlin Prize, and in 2012 was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Music for his string trio “The Companion Guide to Rome.”

Norman has served as composer-in-residence for Young Concert Artists in New York and for the Heidelberg Philharmonic, and currently is composer-in-residence for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Composer Fellowship Program.

Along with music, Norman has a notable interest in architecture – he even considered pursuing it as a career – and that interest is reflected in his use of visual patterns and textures as inspirations for his compositions, as well as in an enthusiasm for musical notation, both historic and experimental. It came out even more explicitly in his recent work “Frank’s House,” which was inspired directly by the Santa Monica residence of famed architect Frank Gehry and was premiered earlier this year by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

Norman’s music has been recognized by the New York Times for its “daring juxtapositions and dazzling colors,” the Boston Globe for its “staggering imagination,” and the Los Angeles Times for its “Chaplinesque” wit. His symphonic works have been performed by ensembles around the world, including the Los Angeles, New York, and Royal Liverpool Philharmonics, the Philadelphia and Minnesota Orchestras, the BBC, Saint Louis, and Melbourne Symphonies, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the Tonhalle Orchester Zurich, the Orchestre National de France, and many others.

For more about Andrew Norman, you can read his 2014 interview with New Music Box, and listen to him on a 2014 episode of WQXR’s “Meet the Composer.”

(You can hear some samples of Andrew Norman’s music in the YouTube players embedded below.)

The Companion Guide to Rome

Excerpt from “Frank’s House”

“Play: Level 1, Level 2, Level 3” & “Try”


Along with such familiar public TV fare as Charlie Rose and Great Performances, Missourians who tune into their local PBS affiliate over the next couple of weeks may see an ad for the Mizzou International Composers Festival. The :30 spot will run on KETC in St. Louis, KCPT in Kansas City, and KMOS in Jefferson City/Columbia, as well as on YouTube.

The ad presents a quick-cut look at the MICF’s resident ensemble Alarm Will Sound in performance, underscored by “Fuse,” which was written for last year’s festival by Kansas Citian and 2014 resident composer Nicholas Omiccioli.

Video footage was shot by Dale Lloyd, with production and editing by First Rule Film, and creative and production supervision by Slay & Associates.

If you’re coming to Columbia

If you’re planning on coming to Columbia for the 2015 Mizzou International Composers Festival, you can get advance tickets online for all three concerts, which will be presented again this year at the Missouri Theatre:

Thursday, July 23: Alarm Will Sound
Friday, July 24: Mizzou New Music
Saturday, July 25: Eight World Premieres

Also, you may find these links useful for planning and/or during your visit:

Visitors information
Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau
University of Missouri Visitors Guide
Columbia Regional Airport
Vox Magazine’s guide to Columbia restaurants
City of Columbia official site
2014-2015 Columbia Missouri Visitor & Area Guide

Columbia Tribune
Columbia Missourian
Inside Columbia magazine
Columbia area radio stations

National Weather Service forecast for Boone County, Missouri

Composers Festival spotlight: Hans Abrahamsen

All of us at the Mizzou New Music Initiative are pleased to welcome Hans Abrahamsen as one of our two distinguished guest composers for the 2015 Mizzou International Composers Festival.

The winner of major honors including the Carl Nielsen Prize (1989) and the Wilhelm Hansen Prize (1998), Abrahamsen (pictured) since 1995 has taught composition and orchestration at The Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. As a distinguished guest composer for the MICF, he’ll work with the festival’s eight resident composers as a group and individually, and also will give a public presentation on his music.

Born in 1952 in Copenhagen, Abrahamsen first pursued his own study of music at the Royal Danish Academy, where he was inspired by his composition teachers and mentors Per Nørgård and Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen.

His early works also reflected the influence of the “New Simplicity” movement, which had some parallels to minimalism in that it was a reaction by Danish composers of the mid-1960s to the excessive complexity of the music then being written by the European avant-garde. Noteworthy compositions from the first part of Abrahamsen’s career include his String Quartet No. 1, “10 Preludes,” and “Winternacht,” an ensemble work composed between 1976 and 1978.

In the 1980s, Abrahamsen studied with and befriended György Ligeti, and continued to develop his personal style in works such as the orchestral “Nacht und Trompeten” (1981); “Marchenbilder,” an ensemble piece from 1984, and “Lied in Fall,” written in 1987 for cello and 13 instruments.

After a hiatus from composing that lasted nearly a decade, Abrahamsen returned with more personal work, including a piano concerto written in 1999 for his wife Anne-Marie Abildskov, and the extended chamber work “Schnee”, which was premiered in 2008 by Ensemble Recherche and has received considerable critical acclaim.

Abrahamsen’s “Let me tell you,” for soprano and orchestra, was premiered in December 2013 by the Berlin Philharmonic, with Barbara Hannigan, to whom the work is dedicated, as soprano soloist and Andris Nelsons conducting. It has proven to be one of Abrahamsen’s most immediately popular works, with 15 performances since the premiere. Many additional performances and a recording are scheduled, and in May of this year, “Let me tell you” also won the Royal Philharmonic Society’s 2015 Award for Large-Scale Composition.

Abrahamsen’s current projects include work on an operatic setting of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Snow Queen,” which will get a premiere performance in the fall of 2018 from the Royal Danish Opera. “Terms like ‘magical’, ‘mysterious’ and ‘elusive’ are often used describe Abrahamsen’s music, and for good reason,” said a recent feature story about Abrahamsen in the Glasgow, Scotland newspaper The Herald. “Like a fairytale or a winter landscape, he takes what is familiar and transforms it, allowing us to experience it, and perhaps ourselves, afresh.”

(You can hear some samples of Hans Abrahamsen’s music and an interview with him via the embedded YouTube and SoundCloud players below.)

String Quartet No. 1 “10 Preludes”


Hans Abrahamsen talks about his compositions “Schnee”‘ and String Quartet No. 4

“Schnee” Canon 2B, from the US premiere performance by the Talea Ensemble, conducted by James Baker, on January 21, 2011 at Scandinavia House, New York City.

“Let me tell you”

Music from 2014 MICF now on SoundCloud

Now that tickets are on sale for the 2015 Mizzou International Composers Festival, here’s a chance to whet your musical appetite with some sounds from the 2014 MICF.

These works were written by 2014 resident composers Holly Harrison, Texu Kim, and Michael Schachter (pictured, from left) especially for the Festival’s resident ensemble Alarm Will Sound, and received their world premiere performances at the 2014 festival. To play the track, just click on the embedded SoundCloud player.

The 2015 MICF takes place July 20 – 25 in Columbia. To get your tickets to hear this year’s exciting world premieres and more, please visit

“Radishes and Strings,” by Holly Harrison

“Bounce” by Texu Kim

“Five – Six – Seven – Eight” by Michael Schachter

Tickets for 2015 Mizzou International Composers Festival
go on sale Monday, June 8

New Muse Piano Duo

Tickets for the 2015 Mizzou International Composers Festival (MICF) will go on sale at 10:00 a.m. CDT next Monday, June 8.

Heralded as one of the premier contemporary music events in the Midwest, the MICF has been called “a vibrant inferno of creative energy” by the internationally syndicated radio program “Relevant Tones,” and praised for offering “kinetic excitement” by the hometown Columbia Daily Tribune.


The 2015 MICF will take place from Monday, July 20 through Saturday, July 25 in Columbia. The grand finale of the week will feature the world premieres of eight new works written by the festival’s resident composers and performed by Alarm Will Sound, who return for their sixth year as resident ensemble.

That concert will take place at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, July 25 at the Missouri Theatre, 203 S. Ninth St. in downtown Columbia.

In addition to their grand finale performance, Alarm Will Sound also will play music from their recent repertoire in a concert at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 23 at the Missouri Theatre.

Alarm Will Sound

This year’s “Mizzou New Music” concert at 7:30 p.m., Friday, July 24 at the Missouri Theatre will feature performances by the Mizzou New Music Ensemble and guest artists New Muse Piano Duo, with pianists Jonathan Kuuskoski and Paola Savvidou, and DRAX, with percussionist Megan Arns and saxophonist Leo Saguiguit.

They will showcase music from MU faculty and student composers, as well as works by this year’s MICF guest composers, Hans Abrahamsen and Andrew Norman.

Festival passes good for admission to all three concerts are on sale for $80 for the VIP package, which includes a champagne and hors d’oeuvres reception with Alarm Will Sound members; $40 for an adult general admission pass; and $20 for a student general admission pass.

Single tickets are priced at $18 for adults, $10 for students, and are all general admission. Tickets can be charged by phone using Visa, MasterCard or Discover by calling 1-573-882-3781. To buy tickets online, or to see a complete listing of Mizzou International Composers Festival events, visit

(Missouri sales tax of 7.975% already is included in the price of each ticket. An additional fee of $2.00 per ticket will be charged for online purchases. For these fees, a three-concert festival pass is considered one ticket.)

In addition to these three concerts, the MICF also will feature several free events, including open rehearsals and presentations by the participating composers. A complete schedule of those events will be released at a later date.

The eight resident composers were selected from more than 230 applicants from the USA and overseas to participate in the festival and create a new work for Alarm Will Sound. They are:

* Thomas Dougherty, Houston, TX
* Emily Koh, Waltham, MA
* Andrew McManus, Chicago, IL
* Justin Pounds, Columbia, MO
* Alessandro Ratoci, Lausanne, Switzerland
* Christopher Stark, St. Louis, MO
* Anthony Vine, Brooklyn, NY
* Conrad Winslow, Brooklyn, NY

During the festival, the resident composers will receive composition lessons from guest composers Hans Abrahamsen, a Danish composer whose spare yet lyrical works reflect his involvement in the “New Simplicity” movement of the 1960s; and Andrew Norman, a Los Angeles-based composer and teacher at the USC Thornton School of Music.

The resident composers also will take part in rehearsals with Alarm Will Sound; give presentations on their music; and receive a premiere performance and professional live recording of their work.

José Martínez selected for LA Phil composers workshop

Mizzou student José Martínez is headed to California this week to take part in a workshop for young composers sponsored by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.

The Next on Grand: National Composers Intensive is a three-day program that lets selected American composition students create new works for the Los Angeles-based “experimental classical ensemble” wild Up, while also working side-by-side with esteemed composers such as Steven Mackey, Julia Wolfe, Michael Gordon, Caroline Shaw, and Steve Reich.

Martinez (pictured) is one of ten composers selected for this year’s intensive program, which will take place May 28 – 30 in Los Angeles in conjunction with the LA Phil’s “Next on Grand: Contemporary Americans” festival.

Originally from Cali, Valle del Cauca, Colombia, José earned his diploma at the Conservatory of Music at the National University of Colombia in Bogotá, and currently is completing work on a master’s degree in composition at Mizzou.

He was the winner of the 2014 Sinquefield Composition Prize, Mizzou’s top honor for composers, and represented the university that year as a resident composer at the 2014 Mizzou International Composers Festival.

Before coming to Mizzou, José’s honors included winning the National Cultural Prize for “Mutaciones I” from the Universidad de Antioquia in Medellín; receiving Colombia’s national composition prize for young composers from the National Ministry of Culture in 2009; and winning a Colombian national composition contest in 2011.

A percussionist as well as a composer, José was co-founder of the Bogotá Conservatory’s Contemporary Music Ensemble and is music director for the percussion ensemble Ictu5. As a percussionist, he also won a national performance contest in 2004; has been a member of the percussion ensembles Contempo, Sinergia Ensemble, and Octopus; and for five years was timpanist for the Bogotá Symphonic Orchestra Foundation (FOSBO).