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).

“Herstory” website features original music from Mizzou composer Haley Myers

Senior composition major Haley Myers talks about creating the soundtrack for "Herstory"

Haley Myers, a senior composition major at Mizzou, has written and performed original music for The Herstory: JAWS Oral History Project, a new website created by the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the University of Missouri.

“Herstory,” which went online last week, documents the professional careers, work experiences and associational life of senior women journalists who have participated in the Journalism and Women Symposium (JAWS), an organization of female journalists that grew out of a 1984 panel discussion at the Missouri School of Journalism. The site features in-depth interviews with 34 JAWS members, as well as profiles of the interviewees; audio and video clips; pictures of early JAWS gatherings; and newsletters and documents from the organization’s first few years, provided by the State Historical Society of Missouri Manuscript Collection.

Myers wrote the music and played piano for the site’s soundtrack, which also features fellow student Grant Bradshaw performing on viola. The music editing was done by Mizzou New Music Initiative managing director Billy Lackey.

The site was unveiled in a presentation on Friday, May 1 at the School of Journalism. You can read more about “Herstory” and the students and faculty members who worked on the project here.

Pictured, from left: Young Volz, associate professor, School of Journalism; A.J. Million, web developer; Dean Mills, professor and Dean of the School of Journalism; William Lackey; Haley Myers; Ying Wu, website creative director & assistant professor, School of Journalism.

A ‘behind-the-scenes” look at the Mizzou New Music Ensemble

In conjunction with their concert last Sunday, April 26 at Whitmore Recital Hall, the Mizzou New Music Ensemble staged a “Twitter takeover,” offering followers a behind-the-scenes look at their preparations for the show. You can see what happened in the slideshow below…

Mizzou New Music Ensemble to perform new works
inspired by St. Louis Zoo in concert on Friday, May 8

The Living World at the St. Louis Zoo

In the latest in an ongoing series of concerts featuring newly commissioned, site-specific works, the Mizzou New Music Ensemble will perform at 2:00 p.m. Friday, May 8 in The Living World at the St. Louis Zoo. The concert is free and open to the public.

The program will include three new compositions from University of Missouri students inspired by the Zoo and commissioned specifically for the occasion by the Sinquefield Charitable Foundation.

“Predators” is by Kaylene Cypret, a graduate student working on a master’s in composition and orchestral conducting, and “evokes the spirit of birds of prey by imitating moments of hunting, flight, communication and curiosity.”

“Colors of Nature,” composed by Grant Bradshaw, a senior studying composition and viola, develops musical representations of the hues of various types of plant life found on the Zoo grounds, and then combines them into new sonic colors.

“Rhapsody in Zoo,” by sophomore composition major Erin Hoerchler, starts with rock beats and jazz harmonies and develops a theme through several reprises to showcase the individual musicians in turn, as well as the entire group.

The concert will be the latest in a series that began in 2010 and has included performances of new works written by Mizzou students specifically for the Contemporary Art Museum of St. Louis, Missouri Botanical Garden, Sheldon Concert Hall, Forest Park Forever, and the World Chess Hall of Fame.

Mizzou New Music Ensemble

As an opening number, the Ensemble also will play “Djole” by Jeremiah Rittel, the group’s clarinetist. Based on a rhythm from Sierra Leone, the work re-imagines music originally played by indigenous drummers and combines it with new material for an ensemble of Western “classical” instruments.

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 and associate professor. The Ensemble’s members for the 2014-15 season are Taylor Burkhardt, piano; Rachel Czech, cello; Jose Martínez, percussion; Jeremiah Rittel, clarinets; Erin Spencer, flute; Britney Stutz, violin; and Korin Wahl, viola.

Tom McKenney featured in Columbia Daily Tribune, on KBIA

W. Thomas “Tom” McKenney, who has taught composition and music theory at Mizzou for 47 years and has served as co-artistic director of the Mizzou New Music Initiative since it began in 2010,  is retiring from full-time teaching after the Spring 2015 semester.

Although Professor McKenney (pictured) will still be around Columbia, teaching some classes, composing, and no doubt offering wise counsel to all who seek it (while being freed from those pesky meetings and administrative duties), it nevertheless seems very appropriate that the Columbia Daily Tribune paid tribute to him last week with an short feature about his teaching career, composing, and impending retirement, which you can read online here.

Noting that “What has been, and what will be, at MU bear the marks of McKenney’s hand and his measured, wise musical manner,” the article concludes, “These gains are, and will continue to be, gradual, but it is clear McKenney leaves the program on a high note.”

McKenney also talked about some of his recent compositions with KBIA host Trevor Harris last week for a feature story, which you can check out here.

$10 million donation kicks off campaign for new music building at Mizzou


Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield have given a $10 million gift to the University of Missouri to help fund the proposed new School of Music building. The gift, the largest ever in support of the arts at MU, was announced in a news conference on Friday April 10 at the Reynolds Alumni Center on the Mizzou campus.

Through the generous gift, the Sinquefields will help begin the fundraising efforts for the new School of Music building, which will be located at the northeast corner of Hitt Street and University Avenue on the MU campus. The new School of Music building (pictured, in an artist’s conception) is a part of a larger project that will include the renovation of the Fine Arts Building in order also to improve facilities for the MU theater and art departments.

Overall project highlights include a new recital hall for the School of Music, renovations to the Rhynsburger Theatre, and an expansion of the Bingham Gallery. Julia Gaines, the director of the MU School of Music, says this gift and the fine arts renovation project will not only raise MU’s stature in music composition, but also across the board in fine arts.

“The idea of having the entire School of Music in one building is a dream come true–a dream that has been talked about for decades,” Gaines said. “I can’t even begin to express how exciting this is for the MU music faculty, staff, and students. We’ve had a glass ceiling over us for many years because of our facility limitations. This gift will allow us to grow in so many ways, and we are more than ready for the opportunity.”

The Sinquefields’ support for composition began a decade ago with the Creating Original Music Project, a statewide competition for Missouri students in grades K-12, and an affiliated high school summer camp. In 2009, they gave MU $1 million to create the Mizzou New Music Initiative, an array of programs including the Sinquefield Composition Prize, MU’s highest honor for a student composer.

You can read the full text of the University’s announcement here, and see Jeanne Sinquefield talking about the $10 million gift and her interest in composition in the video below.

Mizzou New Music Ensemble to highlight works
by Hans Abrahamsen, Andrew Norman in concert
on Sunday, April 26 at Whitmore Recital Hall

The Mizzou New Music Ensemble will highlight works from the two guest composers for this summer’s Mizzou International Composers Festival (MICF) in a concert at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, April 26 in Whitmore Recital Hall, 135 Fine Arts Building on the University of Missouri campus. Admission is free for Mizzou students, $5 suggested donation for the general public.

The concert will feature performances of “Zwei Schneetänze,” two works by Dutch composer Hans Abrahamsen from 1985 that foreshadow his extended tour-de-force “Schnee,” and four movements of “The Companion Guide to Rome,” written by Andrew Norman in 2010 as a musical evocation of Roman landmarks.

Abrahamsen is one of Europe’s leading composers and a member of the “New Simplicity” movement. His major awards include the Carl Nielsen Prize and the Wilhelm Hansen Composer Prize, and his works been performed by European orchestras including the Berlin Philharmonic. Norman is an assistant professor of composition at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, and currently is composer in residence with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and Opera Philadelphia.

Both men will be guest composers at the 2015 MICF, which will take place from Monday, July 20 through Saturday July 25 in Columbia.

The April 26 concert also will include a 2012 piece written by a former resident composer for the MICF, as well as two brand new, poetically inspired works from Mizzou composition students.

David Biedenbender’s “Grit” is described as “an aggressive work dedicated to the composer’s sister-in-law’s battle with cancer.” Biedenbender, who was a resident composer at the 2012 Mizzou International Composers Festival and now teaches composition at Boise State University, will be in the audience for this performance.

“The Year 1861” by Mizzou freshman Dustin Dunn was inspired by Walt Whitman’s poem of the same name about the Civil War, while junior Trey Makler’s “Sonette an Orpheus” is a “colorful and vibrant” setting of a Ranier Maria Rilke sonnet. Makler’s composition will be conducted by Mizzou junior Travis Herd, and features a guest performance by baritone Sam Wright.

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 and associate professor. The Ensemble’s members for the 2014-15 season are Taylor Burkhardt, piano; Rachel Czech, cello; Jose Martínez, percussion; Jeremiah Rittel, clarinets; Erin Spencer, flute; Britney Stutz, violin; and Korin Wahl, viola.

MNMI, COMP featured on St. Louis Public Radio

Mizzou New Music Initiative managing director William Lackey, junior composition major Ben Colagiovanni and composer, clarinetist and Mizzou alum Stephanie Berg were guests this past Friday, April 3 on St. Louis Public Radio’s program “CityScape.”

In the segment, they talked with host Steve Potter about the Creating Original Music Project, the annual statewide competition for Missouri student composers in grades K-12. The annual COMP Festival showcasing the original compositions of this year’s winners will take place on Saturday, April 18 at Whitmore Recital Hall on the Mizzou campus.

Colagiovanni was a two-time COMP winner while a student at Clayton High School, before enrolling at Mizzou with a full Sinquefield Scholarship to study composition, and Berg helped administer COMP as one of her many MNMI-related activities while a graduate student. They discussed their personal experiences with the program, while Lackey provided background and context about the competition, the COMP Festival, and the entire Mizzou New Music Initiative. You can listen to the segment online here.