Composers Festival spotlight: Ana Paola Santillán Alcocer

Resident composer Ana Paola Santillán Alcocer comes to the 2021 Mizzou International Composers Festival from Mexico City, Mexico.

She earned her doctoral degree in composition from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, where she was composer-in-residence for the McGill Contemporary Music Ensemble and also worked with electronic media at the McGill Digital Composition Studios.

Previously, she earned her Master of Music degree from Rice University and received her LTCL Licentiate in music composition from Trinity College London.

Alcocer (pictured) enjoys exploring multimedia and visual arts elements, adopting abstract and/or narrative components in order to combine electronic music with video. Her composition for the MICF is called “Spiraling Down the Rabbit Hole,” and will be performed by Alarm Will Sound as part of the “World Premieres I” online concert at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 27.

Other recent premieres include “Anemoi” for solo flute, performed by Teresa Díaz de Cossio in May at the University of California, San Diego; and “Heiligenschein” for harp and percussion, which will be performed by harpist Jane Yoo and percussionist Victor Sintchak on Thursday, July 8 at the Bowdoin International Music Festival in Brunswick, ME.

Alcocer has written for all genres of contemporary music from orchestral to chamber, chorus, solo instruments, electronic, video and installation. Her works have been performed by ensembles and soloists such as Gail Archer, The Het Trio, the Enso, Camerton and Carlos Chavez String Quartets, Duo Sonoris, Speculuum Musicae, the New York New Music Ensemble, Mexico’s National Symphony Orchestra, and many others.

Her orchestral work “Nemesis” was selected in 2010 to represent Mexico at the UNESCO 57th International Rostrum of Composers in Lisbon, Portugal, and also has been performed by the National Symphony Orchestra at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City. Her piece “Oneirophrenia” for video and electronics has been presented at events and concert series in the United States, Canada, Argentina, the UK, France, Italy, and the Czech Republic.

Alcocer’s honors include first prize in the interdisciplinary competition “Spectacle des architectes et compositeurs” in Fontainebleau, France and the Paul Cooper Prize in Composition at Rice University, as well as awards from the Josef Dorfman Memorial International Composition Prize, Mexico’s National Commission for Youth Orchestras, the UNESCO-Aschberg Bursaries for Artists Programme, and the annual Foro Internacional de Musica Nueva Manuel Enriquez in Mexico City.

She has received grants and fellowships including the Fulbright Scholarship; the Mary Ellen Hale Lovett Fellowship from Rice University; the Program for Foreign Studies Scholarship by the National Fund for Culture and Arts (FONCA, Mexico); and the Graduate Excellence Fellowship, Provost Fellowship and Herbert A. Morse Memorial Scholarship from McGill University.

Alcocer took part in the 2016 MANIFESTE festival at IRCAM in Paris, France; served as resident composer at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts; and has been a composition fellow at the Brevard Music Center in North Carolina, the Czech American Summer Music Institute, the Internationale Summer MusikaKademie in Germany, the Fontainebleau Conservatory in France, and the Canadian Contemporary Music Workshop.

You can hear samples of Alcocer’s music on her website and in the embedded videos below.

“Nemesis” – Recorded in October 2016 at the Foro de Música Nueva

“Manifesto,” performed by Natalia Pérez Turner at the Claustro de Sor Juana in Mexico City.

“Oneirophrenia” – Music, images, video and editing by Ana Paola Santillán Alcocer

Mizzou New Music Ensemble featured on new recording

The Mizzou New Music Ensemble is featured on Black Pierrot, a new album by Mizzou’s University Singers that is being released this week on the Centaur Records label.

The album (pictured) is described as “a program of great choral works, including one work from the 1500s, works from the 20th Century,” plus the title track, which is performed by the Singers and the Mizzou New Music Ensemble, directed by Stefan Freund.

It’s the world premiere recording of this new work, which was commissioned from composer William Averitt by R. Paul Crabb, director of choral activities at Mizzou, with funding from the Sinquefield Charitable Foundation.

Averitt’s “Black Pierrot” is based on seven poems by Langston Hughes, each incorporated into a movement of the work. It was premiered by the University Singers and the Mizzou New Music Ensemble in a concert in March 2017 at First Baptist Church in Columbia.

The Ensemble’s members for that year were Victoria Hargrove, clarinet; Daniel Keeler, cello; Kelariz Keshavarz, flute; Renan Leme, violin; Rebecca McDaniel, percussion; Gyumi Rha, piano; and Panagiotis Skyftas, saxophone.

Founded in 1976, Centaur is one of the oldest and largest independent classical labels in the U.S. Their recordings are available as physical CDs in major markets throughout the world and from select online retailers. Digital downloads are available through iTunes and many other download sites, and streams are available through Spotify, YouTube, and other streaming services.

Mizzou International Composers Festival to return
July 26-31 with nine world premieres and more

After a year in which the COVID-19 pandemic forced last-minute changes in programming, the Mizzou International Composers Festival (MICF) is back in 2021 in a more familiar form.

Presented Monday, July 26 through Saturday, July 31 by the Mizzou New Music Initiative (MNMI) and the University of Missouri School of Music, the twelfth annual MICF will showcase the world premieres of new works from nine resident composers and more, with all four concerts streamed online for free. The schedule of performances is:

Tuesday, July 27: “World Premieres I,” featuring resident ensemble Alarm Will Sound performing new works by three of the festival’s resident composers, plus the premiere of an excerpt from distinguished guest composer David T. Little’s monodrama “What Belongs to You,” featuring singer Karim Sulayman.

Wednesday, July 28: “Mizzou New Music,” featuring the Mizzou New Music Ensemble playing music by David Little and Chen Yi, and Khemia Ensemble premiering new works by Stefan Freund, Phillip Sink, and Nina Shekhar.

Friday, July 30: “Entry Points of Empathy,” a world premiere multi-media event with music composed by inti figgis-vizueta, Carolina Heredia, Tanner Porter, Annika Socolofsky, and Nina Shekhar, performed by Mizzou faculty and guests, plus video interludes and live graphics by Xuan Zhang.

Saturday, July 31: “World Premieres II,” featuring Alarm Will Sound performing new works from six resident composers, plus the American premiere of Stefan Freund’s arrangement of “Sparkle” by distinguished guest composer Chen Yi.

All concerts will begin at 7:30 p.m. Central Daylight Time, and can be viewed on the Mizzou New Music Facebook page and on the University of Missouri School of Music YouTube channel.

The concerts on Tuesday and Saturday will feature world premieres of new works written by each of the festival’s nine resident composers. Listed with their current places of residence, they are:

(Four of the composers – Alcocer, Fitzpatrick, Mortilla and Shekar – were newly selected this year to participate in the 2021 MICF; the other five originally were chosen for the 2020 MICF, but their works could not be premiered when COVID-related restrictions forced the festival to be reconfigured. Three more composers chosen in 2020 were unable to participate this year, but will be invited to be part of a future festival.)

The MICF’s distinguished guest composers for 2021 are Chen Yi and David T. Little. Chen 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.

Little currently chairs the composition program at Mannes – The New School in New York City. He previously served as Executive Director of MATA and on the board of directors at Chamber Music America, and from 2014–2017 was composer-in-residence with Opera Philadelphia and Music-Theatre Group.

During the festival, the resident composers will receive composition lessons from Chen and Little and take part via Zoom in rehearsals with Alarm Will Sound. The resident composers also will give public presentations online about their music, and after the premiere performances, will receive professional live recordings of their new works.

For more information on the 2021 Mizzou International Composers Festival, including a complete schedule of events, times, and dates, please visit http://composersfestival.missouri.edu/.

Springfield Symphony to perform Stefan Freund’s
“Ragfare” in concerts on Saturday, May 8

The Springfield Symphony will perform “Ragfare,” a work written by University of Missouri professor of composition Stefan Freund, in a pair of concerts on Saturday, May 8 at the Juanita K. Hammons Hall for the Performing Arts in Springfield, MO.

Freund (pictured), who’s also a cellist, conductor, and the artistic director of the Mizzou New Music Initiative, originally composed “Ragfare” for the Columbia Civic Orchestra to play at the reopening in 2008 of the renovated Missouri Theatre in Columbia.

Inspired for the occasion by the music of Scott Joplin, Freund says that he “wanted to write a piece that would celebrate the rich musical heritage of Missouri.” The music that resulted offers “ragtime-style figures, like syncopated tunes and octave-leap ostinatos, in the context of a fanfare.”

Since premiering in 2008, “Ragfare” was revisited by the Columbia Civic Orchestra in 2018, and also has been performed by the Missouri Symphony Orchestra (2009), and by members of the St. Louis and Kansas City symphonies at the Missouri River Festival of the Arts in Boonville (2015).

The upcoming performance of “Ragfare” by the Springfield Symphony will be as part of a program titled “Locally Grown” that also will feature arrangements of Joplin works including “Maple Leaf Rag” and “The Entertainer,” W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues March,” the folk song “Frankie and Johnny,” “The Missouri Waltz,” and more.

Kyle Pickett, the orchestra’s music director, will conduct, with ragtime pianist and storyteller Gary Ellison serving as featured soloist.

The program will be presented at 2:00 p.m. for the general public, and again at 7:30 p.m. for season ticket holders and as a livestream online.

For tickets to the 2:00 p.m. performance, please visit https://www.springfieldmosymphony.org/tickets. To purchase access to the livestream at 7:30 p.m., go to https://springfieldsymphony.uscreen.io/.

New documentary with score by Mizzou students to get
free screening Monday, May 3 at Missouri Theatre

A new documentary film produced at Mizzou and featuring a musical score composed and performed by students from the School of Music will get a free screening at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, May 3 at the Missouri Theatre.

“Keep the Cameras Rolling: The Pedro Zamora Way” tells the story of one of the early stars of the MTV reality show “The Real World” who became a noted advocate for people with AIDS before dying in 1994 at age 22.

The film was co-directed by MU professors William Horner and Stacey Woelfel, who first approached the School of Music’s director Julia Gaines for help in finding a Mizzou composer to score the film. Gaines enlisted the help of the composition faculty, who in turn selected master’s student Daniel Vega to write the music.

Vega’s score was performed by the Mizzou New Music Ensemble, who debuted a portion of it in a concert back in November 2019.

The film includes appearances from “Real World” alums as well as former President Bill Clinton, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and actor Taye Diggs, and also features contributions from MU faculty and students in the school’s Jonathan B. Murray Center for Documentary Journalism, which is named after MU alum and “Real World” creator, and the Harry S. Truman School of Government and Public Affairs.

[Switch~ Ensemble] virtual residency at Mizzou will include
presentations plus a free online concert on Sunday, May 2

The new music group [Switch~ Ensemble] will do a “virtual residency” this spring for the Mizzou New Music Initiative, culminating in a online concert featuring works by Mizzou student composers.

The concert at 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, May 2 will include new works by Mizzou’s Santiago Beis, Luis Bezerra, and Oswald Huynh, as well as music by Chris Chandler and Zachary James Watkins. The performance will be available to view on the University of Missouri School of Music’s YouTube channel and on the Mizzou New Music Facebook page.

The [Switch~ Ensemble] residency also will include a presentation to the School of Music’s convocation on entrepreneurship for musicians, plus presentations to the School’s composition seminar and “introduction to electronic music” class.

Founded in 2012 at the Eastman School of Music, [Switch~ Ensemble] (pictured) is a group of ten instrumentalists and composers dedicated to performing high-level chamber music integrated with cutting-edge technology and supporting emerging and early career composers.

Mizzou assistant professor Megan Arns is their percussionist, and there are two other members who have some prior experience at MU: cellist T.J. Borden, who did a residency and concert for MNMI in 2019, and Jason Thorpe Buchanan, the ensemble’s artistic director, who was a resident composer at the 2013 Mizzou International Composers Festival.

Other members of [Switch~ Ensemble] are Lauren Cauley, violin; Christopher Chandler, composer and sound engineer; Matt Evans, saxophones; Madison Greenstone, clarinets; Clay Mettens, director of development, composer and sound engineer; Zach Sheets, composer, flutes, and managing director; and Wei-Han Wu, piano..

In keeping with their mission statement, [Switch~ Ensemble] has collaborated with both emerging and established composers, performing commissions and premieres of dozens of new works. Upcoming engagements include world premieres of commissioned works by Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti, Katharina Rosenberger, Anna-Louise Walton, and Kelly Sheehan, supported by New Music USA, the Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung, Pro Helvetia, the MAP Fund, and more.

Past performances and residencies include Cornell, Bard College, University of Chicago, Ithaca College, Harvard University Group for New Music, UC Berkeley, the VIPA Festival (Spain), Eastman School of Music, Frost School of Music at University of Miami, and Avaloch Farms Music Institute, as well as concerts at the Image/Sound Festival, San Francisco Center for New Music, MATA Interval Series, NYCEMF, Vanguard New Music Series at Kent State University, the Queens New Music Festival, and more.

Sheldon commissions to be available for online viewing

New works written on commission by Mizzou student composers for premiere at the Sheldon Concert Hall in St. Louis soon will be available for everyone to view via The Sheldon’s YouTube channel.

The first three pieces that will go online at 8:00 p.m. Thursday, March 25 are The Grace of Falling” by Santiago Beis, “Aubade with Ashen Clouds, Scarlet Sky by Oswald Huynh, and “Poem of the Phantom Queen” by Daniel Fitzpatrick.

All three works were written as the result of a partnership between The Sheldon (pictured) and the Mizzou New Music Initiative that since 2012 has commissioned new music to premiere live as part of the long-running Sheldon Classics series at the hall.

Performed variously by members of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Mizzou faculty or fellow students and funded by Dr. Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield and the Sinquefield Charitable Foundation, the commissions are intended to “offer emerging composers the opportunity to premiere their works in a professional setting, and classical-music lovers the chance to experience some of today’s most adventurous new music.”

Additional world premieres will be added as The Sheldon’s season continues into mid-June.


George Lewis’ virtual residency at Mizzou
to include public panel discussion and more

The renowned composer, musician, educator, and author George Lewis will take part in a “virtual residency” for the Mizzou New Music Initiative next month.

Lewis (pictured) will coach the Mizzou New Music Ensemble in preparation for their performance of his composition “Les exercises spirituels” in an online concert at 7:00 p.m. Wednesday, April 14. The performance will be available to view on the University of Missouri School of Music’s YouTube channel and on the Mizzou New Music Facebook page.

Then on Thursday, April 15, Lewis will be one of the panelists for a School of Music convocation to discuss “Decolonizing Contemporary Music.” The presentation, which will be open to the public for online viewing via Zoom, also will feature Mizzou faculty members including Stefan Freund, Yoshiaki Onishi, Sam Griffith, and Stephanie Shonekan.

Lewis’ residency will conclude on Friday, April 16 with a presentation to the School of Music’s composition seminar.

Currently the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University in New York City, Lewis has been a distinctive and prominent figure in American music for the past half-century. He has been a member of Chicago’s Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) since 1971, and holds doctoral degrees from the University of Edinburgh, New College of Florida, and Harvard University.

Lewis’ work in electronic and computer music, computer-based multimedia installations, and notated and improvisational forms has been documented on more than 150 recordings, and his music has been presented by ensembles around the world, including the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonia Orchestra, Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, London Sinfonietta, Spektral Quartet, and many others.

His book “A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM and American Experimental Music” (University of Chicago Press, 2008) received the American Book Award and the American Musicological Society’s Music in American Culture Award. He also is the co-editor of the two-volume “Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies” (2016), and his opera “Afterword” (2015), commissioned by the Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry at the University of Chicago, has been performed in the United States, United Kingdom, and the Czech Republic.

Lewis also has received numerous other commissions from ensembles such as the American Composers Orchestra, International Contemporary Ensemble, Harvestworks, Ensemble Either/Or, Orkestra Futura, Turning Point Ensemble, IRCAM, and more.

He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy. His other honors include a MacArthur Fellowship (2002) and a Guggenheim Fellowship (2015); a Doris Duke Artist Award (2019); a United States Artists Walker Fellowship (2011); an Alpert Award in the Arts (1999); and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.

He has been on the faculty of Columbia University since 2004, having previously taught at the University of California, San Diego; Mills College; the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; the Koninklijke Conservatorium Den Haag; and Simon Fraser University’s Contemporary Arts Summer Institute.

Lewis also has served as visiting professor at Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley; as composer in residence for the American Academy in Rome; as resident scholar for the University of Chicago’s Center for Disciplinary Innovation; and as artist in residence at Brown University.