Composers Festival Spotlight: Greg Simon

Greg Simon

We start the week with a look at another of the resident composers for the 2013 Mizzou International Composers Festival. Greg Simon holds a B.A. from the University of Puget Sound and an M.M. from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and currently is pursuing a doctorate at the University of Michigan. Before arriving in Michigan, he served on the faculty at the Metropolitan State University of Denver.

Simon has studied composition with Kristin Kuster, Carter Pann, Daniel Kellogg, and Robert Hutchinson; and with Kevin Puts and Robert Aldridge at the Brevard Music Institute, where he was awarded a fellowship. His works have been performed or commissioned by the Corvallis Youth Symphony; the Playground Ensemble of Denver; the Fifth House Ensemble of Chicago; and groups in California, Washington, Oregon, West Virginia, Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and more.

He has presented work at conferences for the American Band College, the College Band Directors’ National Association, the World Saxophone Congress, and the North American Saxophone Alliance, and has been featured in radio and digital broadcasts from Pendulum New Music and WFMT.

Simon has won the Edward Levy and George Lynn Prizes for excellence in composition from the University of Colorado, and received recognition for his works from the Pacific Chorale, CBDNA, the Fifth House Ensemble, and ASCAP. His piece Foolish Fire for wind ensemble, written for Loveland High School, has received more than 20 performances in ten different states since its Colorado premiere. His work also is featured on recordings by the California State University, Fullerton Wind Ensemble and the Fifth House Ensemble of Chicago.

Earlier this month, Simon was named the winner of the POLYPHONOS 2014 Composer Competition sponsored by the Seattle new music vocal ensemble The Esoterics. Meanwhile, his piece “Dragonfly,” for mallet trio, has been named the Grand Prize Winner of the 2013 TorQ Percussion Seminar Composition Competition, and will be premiered this week by the TorQ Percussion Quartet in a performance at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

A jazz trumpeter as well as composer, Simon has studied with Bill Lucas, Brad Goode, and Darmon Meader of the New York Voices. He has played with the Jodi-Renee Band, the Park Hill Brass, and others at jazz venues in Denver, Boulder and elsewhere. He is active as a proponent of new music for improvising musicians, and has performed as featured soloist in world premieres from composers Michael Theodore, Hunter Ewen, Liz Comninellis, and Kari Kraakevik.

You can hear samples of Greg Simon’s music on his website, and he also maintains an active presence on Twitter as @gregsimonmusic. .

In the embedded video window below, you can see and hear a performance of the first section of Three Portraits, a 2008 piece by Simon that he called “my attempt to combine my two sound-worlds, jazz and concert music.”

Each of the work’s three parts is inspired by and uses elements of a specific jazz standard. Part I, “Stella’s Dance,” is based on “Stella by Starlight” by Ned Washington and Victor Young. Part II, “In Memoriam,” is based on Joe Henderson’s “Recorda-me” and can be seen here; while part III, “Speaking of Love,” is inspired by “Secret Love” by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster, and can be seen here.

The performances were recorded at the University of Colorado by a group including Julia Barnett, flute; Kristen Denny, clarinet; Filip Lazovski, violin; Psyche Dunkhase, cello; Christopher Hatton, piano; and Adams Collins, percussion, with Michael Boone as conductor.

In keeping with the idea of spontaneous music-making, this clip shows a performance of Simon’s “Le Bateau et Le Soleil,” created in 2008 for Iron Composer. Adapting a notion from the TV cooking competition show Iron Chef, Iron Composer is a music competition held at the Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory of Music in Berea, Ohio, in which five composers are given just five hours to write a piece of music. This performance by the Monument Piano Trio helped Simon’s piece win third prize, as judged by David Gompper, James Arey & Bob Fischbach.

Simon’s “27,” as performed by Andrew Allen, tenor sax & electronics

“Kites at Seal Rock,” written by Simon as part of his 2009 Piano Quintet and used as the soundtrack to the final chapter of “Black Violet Act I: The Leagues of Despair.” “Black Violet…” is an original illustrated story/live music event with narrative and art by Ezra Claytan Daniels, produced in collaboration with the Chicago-based chamber group Fifth House Ensemble.

Follow the MICF on Facebook and Twitter

As the 2013 Mizzou International Composers Festival gets closer, you can get the latest news right up to the minute by following the Mizzou New Music Initiative on Facebook and Twitter.

The Missouri New Music Facebook page will have behind-the-scenes photos, links to media coverage of the Festival, and much more. To get updates from the page in your Facebook news feed, go to http://www.facebook.com/moNEWmusic and click the “Like” button on the right-hand side near the top.

Meanwhile, we’ll also be posting frequent updates, schedule information, and relevant links to the Mizzou New Music Twitter account. You can receive all the latest updates by following us at http://twitter.com/mizzounewmusic.

Composers Festival Spotlight: Alarm Will Sound

Continuing with our series of posts focusing on various participants in the 2013 Mizzou International Composers Festival, today we catch up with the latest from Alarm Will Sound.

As the resident ensemble for the Festival since it began in 2010, AWS plays a crucial role in bringing to life the new works created by the resident composers. Not many groups would be willing or able to take on the challenge of premiering eight new pieces in one night with limited rehearsal time, but Alarm Will Sound has accomplished the task each year of the MICF with consummate skill and flair.

Former in 2001 by former students at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, Alarm Will Sound (pictured) is a 20-member ensemble “dedicated to the creation, performance, and recording of today’s music. It is an advocate for innovative work by established and emerging composers, especially works that incorporate theatrical and multimedia elements by choreographers, visual artists, designers, and directors. It fosters the education and professional development of young musicians through residencies, master classes, readings and workshops. With the goal of cultivating a diverse and sophisticated audience, the ensemble brings intelligence and a sense of adventure to the rich variety of musical expression in the contemporary world.” You can read a detailed history of the group here.

Alarm Will Sound’s connection to the University of Missouri School of Music began with Stefan Freund, associate professor of composition and music theory at Mizzou who’s also the cellist for AWS. In addition to serving as the resident ensemble for the Mizzou International Composers Festival since its inception, AWS maintains an active schedule of touring and recording throughout the year.

Earlier this year, they presented the American premiere of Steve Reich’s Radio Rewrite in a concert at Stanford University, as well as a program of Reich’s music at the Guggenheim in New York City. Their performance at Carnegie Hall in April featured a program of works written specifically for AWS, including the world premiere of Tyondai Braxton’s Fly By Wire. (You can see a couple of videos related to the Reich premiere, and a conversation between Braxton and AWS’ Michael Clayville, in the embedded windows at the bottom of this post.)

Other recent NYC gigs have included a show for the fifth anniversary of Le Poisson Rouge, playing the music of violinist and guitarist Caleb Burhans; and a set at the annual Bang On A Can new music marathon.

AWS also spent time this past year strengthening their ties to the state of Missouri by presenting a three-concert season in St. Louis, with two performances at the Sheldon Concert Hall and a revival of their multi-media production 1969 at the Touhill Performing Arts Center.

Before the St. Louis performance, AWS took 1969 to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, the alma mater of a number of its members. (You’ll find a video made in conjunction with that concert at Eastman, plus a soundcheck rendition of the Jimi Hendrix version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” featured in the show, below.)

And if all that weren’t enough, AWS also found time in 2013 to release Canzonas Americanas, an album of music by former MICF guest composer Derek Bermel that has received an enthusiastic reception from critics.

Plans for another St. Louis season in 2013-14 already are well underway, with concerts scheduled in October and February at The Sheldon and more to be announced. In another important “first” for the group, AWS also will serve next year as artists-in-residence for 2013-14 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York

At the MICF, in addition to premiering eight new pieces at the Festival’s grand finale on Saturday, July 27, Alarm Will Sound will perform a completely different program on Thursday, July 25 at the Missouri Theatre.

That concert will feature Living Toys by Thomas Ades and Stefan Freund’s electronica-inspired Unremixed, as well as works written specifically for Alarm Will Sound by 2013 MICF guest composers Augusta Read Thomas and Daniel Kellogg.

For the latest from Alarm Will Sound, you can follow them on Twitter and/or “Like” them on Facebook.

You also can hear most of the music Alarm Will Sound has premiered at past Mizzou International Composers Festivals via SoundCloud. Audio files from 2010 are here; the tracks from 2011 are here; and 2012’s files are here.

Alarm Will Sound performs Steve Reich’s Radio Rewrite, March 16, 2013 at Stanford University’s Bing Concert Hall.

Alarm Will Sound at Stanford – Steve Reich and Alan Pierson in Conversation

Tyondai Braxton and Michael Clayville discuss “Fly by Wire”

1969 at Eastman School of Music

Miles Brown and Payton MacDonald perform “The Star Spangled Banner” during a dress rehearsal for 1969 at the Touhill Performing Arts Center.

Composers Festival Spotlight: David Witter

David Witter


Today, let’s get acquainted with David Witter, another of the eight resident composers at this year’s Mizzou International Composers Festival.

A native of Holt’s Summit, MO (near Jefferson City) and current resident of Columbia, Witter has studied composition with W. Thomas McKenney and Stefan Freund, earning his bachelor’s degree in music from Mizzou in 2010 and an M.M. degree in 2012. While working this past academic year toward his K-12 teaching certification, he was awarded the 2013 Sinquefield Composition Prize, resulting in a new commission to write a work for the University Philharmonic.

Previously, he was one of three Mizzou composers selected to write a piece inspired by the 2010 Great Rivers Biennial exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. This project was documented in the short film The Sound of Art, which you can see in the embedded video window at the very end of this post.

Witter also has a strong interest in improvised music and jazz. He can be heard playing trombone on recent recordings by the University of Missouri Concert Jazz Band, and also works around Columbia with smaller jazz ensembles. He has led performances of the MU Creative Improvisation Ensemble at conferences in Ann Arbor, MI and Paterson, NJ, and is a member of the Gamma Gamma chapter of Pi Kappa Lambda.

The US Navy veteran and father of two was profiled last year in an article in the Columbia Daily Tribune, which you can read online here.

You can hear an audio recording of Witter’s composition “Missouri,” written after he won the Sinquefield Composition Prize and premiered by the University Philharmonic at the Chancellor’s Concert on March 11, 2013, in the embedded window below.

The Sound of Art

MICF on TV

This week, a TV commercial promoting the 2013 Mizzou International Composers Festival began airing in Columbia, Jefferson City, St. Louis and Kansas City. The commercial is part of an extensive campaign that also includes ads in daily newspapers and on radio in central Missouri; in Missouri Life, Inside Columbia and the St. Louis Business Journal; and online, as well as posters, social media, a direct mailing of the Festival brochure to music lovers across the state, and more.

Astute listeners may recognize the music in the :30 TV spot as an excerpt from Stephanie Berg’s “Ravish and Mayhem,” written when Berg was a resident composer for the 2012 MICF. The script was written by Jeff Goetz and voiced by L. Harvey Gold. Production was handled by Sean Treni of Pelopidas Media, using photos shot by Pure Exposure.

Composers Festival Spotlight: Elizabeth A. Kelly

Elizabeth Kelly

Today, we begin a series of posts featuring the composers who will be taking part in the 2013 Mizzou International Composers Festival.

Our first subject is Elizabeth A. Kelly, one of this year’s eight resident composers, and someone who shares with MU’s Stefan Freund and many of the members of the Festival’s resident ensemble Alarm Will Sound a connection to the Eastman School of Music.

Born in New York and raised in the Los Angeles suburb of Los Altos Hills, Kelly earned her Ph.D. in composition from Eastman with the support of a Jacob Javits fellowship from the United States Department of Education and a Robert and Mary Sproull fellowship from the University of Rochester.

Prior to that, Kelly received her B.A. in music from Yale, and an M.M. in composition from the University of Michigan School of Music. She also was awarded a Frank Beebe Fellowship for studies at The Hague Royal Conservatory, where she earned a Master’s degree.

Since earning that degree, Kelly continues to make her home in The Hague – thus adding to the 2013 MICF’s international flavor – but has had her work performed at venues throughout the U.S. and Europe including Carnegie Hall and the Aspen, Bang on a Can Banglewood, Bowdoin, Brevard, Cabrillo, CCM Music03, Huddersfield, and Ostrava Days Festivals.

For example, earlier this year her piece “Addicted to Wah” received its world premiere performance from the Liverpool Philharmonic’s contemporary music ensemble, 10/10. You can read Kelly’s thoughts about creating the work in a blog entry she wrote for the website of the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.

Other works of hers have been commissioned and performed by ensembles including the Ann Arbor Symphony, Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra, New York Youth Symphony, Netherlands Youth Orchestra, Albany Symphony Dogs of Desire, ASKO Schoenberg, Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, and California EAR Unit.

Kelly has been recognized with numerous honors, including two ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, honorable mentions in the ASCAP Frederick Fennell and Rudolf Nissim competitions, second prize at the 2009 Apeldoorn Young Composers Meeting Final Competition and first prize at the 2011 Young Masters XXI competition in the Netherlands.

You can hear samples of Elizabeth A. Kelly’s music on her website, and you can hear an audio interview she did in 2010 with the podcast “No Extra Notes” here.

In the embedded video windows below, you can hear two pieces Kelly created recently for the duo SonoLab, which brings together instrument builders and composers to create cutting edge percussion works.

“SOS”

“Losing Touch” was composed by Kelly for PriZm, a new music instrument developed by Neon & Landa, aka Nanda Milbreta and Léon Spek, a sound-artist duo who make new acoustic instruments, sound sculptures and sound installations.

If you’re coming to Columbia…

If you’re coming to Columbia for the 2013 Mizzou International Composers Festival, you can still take advantage of a festival discount at one of our participating hotels.

You must book online, but rooms at the Comfort Suites still are available at the discounted rate of $79.99 per night (plus tax) for a standard king room.

To get the discount, go to this website to reserve your room, and use the promotional code “international composers festival.”

The Comfort Suites hotel is located at 1010 Business Loop 70 W, Columbia, MO 65202, and their phone number is 573-443-0055.

Free shuttle service from St. Louis and Kansas City

With a grant from the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Festival also is sponsoring a FREE shuttle bus service on Friday, July 26 and Saturday, July 27 from St. Louis and Kansas City to Columbia.

Shuttle riders will be delivered to the Missouri Theatre, picked up there after Saturday night’s concert, and returned to the pickup points in St. Louis and Kansas City. For more details on the free shuttle service or to reserve a spot, please visit http://composersfestival.missouri.edu/shuttle.html

Some other links you may find useful during your visit:

Visitor information

Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau
University of Missouri Visitors Guide
Columbia Regional Airport
I Heart Columbia
Vox Magazine’s guide to Columbia restaurants

Media
Columbia Tribune
Columbia Missourian
Columbia area radio stations
KOMU-TV (NBC)
KMIZ-TV (ABC)
KRCG-TV (CBS)

National Weather Service forecast for Boone County, Missouri

Mizzou International Composers Festival offering
FREE shuttle service from Kansas City and St. Louis

Thanks to a grant from the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Mizzou International Composers Festival this year will offer FREE transportation to Columbia via MO-X shuttles for a limited number of patrons from the St. Louis and Kansas City areas on Friday, July 26 and Saturday, July 27.

There will be one shuttle per day from each city, with a limit of 20 passengers per shuttle. Reservations will be accepted a first-come, first-serve basis until 5:00 p.m. on Friday, July 12.

The offer is open to anyone who buys a ticket to Friday’s “Mizzou New Music” concert or Saturday’s grand finale concert featuring eight world premieres performed by Alarm Will Sound. The shuttle service is free, but patrons must purchase their own tickets and, if staying overnight, book their own hotel rooms.

To encourage music lovers to spend the weekend, those who buy a ticket for Friday’s concert and take the shuttle to Columbia also will receive a free ticket to Saturday’s performance (while supplies last).

Several hotels in Columbia are offering discounts on overnight stays (while availability lasts) for the evening of Friday, July 26. For a list of participating hotel partners, please go to http://composersfestival.missouri.edu/hotels.html. (Note that not all hotels are within walking distance of the Missouri Theatre.)

Pickup points for the shuttles will be the Kauffman Center, 1601 Broadway, in Kansas City and Mid-Rivers Mall in St. Peters. The shuttles will transport concertgoers to Columbia in time for the performances, and return them to St. Louis and Kansas City after Saturday night’s concert.

For more information or to make a reservation, please go to http://composersfestival.missouri.edu/shuttle.html.

Mizzou New Music Initiative in the news

In addition to the outstanding feature article about the Mizzou New Music Initiative in the May issue of St. Louis magazine linked here a few days ago, the MNMI and affiliated composers and musicians also have been the subjects of various other recent items in the media.

* Composer, clarinetist and Mizzou alumna Stephanie Berg was profiled in the Columbia Missourian after the announcement that the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra would play her work Ravish and Mayhem during their 2013-14 season.

Patrick Harlin, who attends the University of Michigan and, like Berg, was a resident composer at the 2012 Mizzou International Composers Festival, also will have a work played next season by the SLSO.

* The recent awarding of prizes in this year’s Creating Original Music Project (C.O.M.P.) and the culminating C.O.M.P. Festival also got some media attention, including photo coverage from the Columbia Daily Tribune and stories about individual winners from local editions of Patch.com, the Suburban Journals in St. Louis, and the Ladue School District, home to three-time C.O.M.P. winners Ande Siegel and Menea Kefalov.

* And in more C.O.M.P. related news, the singing-songwriting sisters and former C.O.M.P. winners Bella and Lily Ibur have just successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to record their first CD of original music, which they hope to release later this year.

Tickets now on sale for 2013 Mizzou International Composers Festival

Tickets are now on sale for the 2013 Mizzou International Composers Festival’s concerts on Thursday, July 25; Friday, July 26; and Saturday, July 27.

Now in its fourth year, the Mizzou International Composers Festival will take place starting Monday, July 22 through Saturday, July 27 in Columbia, MO. The MICF already is established as one of the most noteworthy contemporary music events in the Midwest, attracting attention from composers, musicians, music educators and media around the world.

This year’s grand finale will feature the world premieres of eight new works written by the festival’s resident composers and performed by the acclaimed new music ensemble Alarm Will Sound. That concert will take place at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, July 27 at the Missouri Theatre, 203 S. Ninth St. in downtown Columbia.

The festival’s other two public performances are:

* Alarm Will Sound at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 26 at the Missouri Theatre; and

* Mizzou New Music, featuring music by MICF guest composers Daniel Kellogg and Augusta Read Thomas and by MU faculty members, performed by the Mizzou New Music Ensemble at 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 26 at the Missouri Theatre.

Festival passes good for admission to all three concerts are on sale for $80 for the VIP package, which includes reserved premium seating; $40 for adults; and $20 for students.

Single tickets are priced at $18 for adults, $10 for students. 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 http://composersfestival.missouri.edu/.

(A $2.00 service fee and Missouri sales tax of 7.35% already are included in the price of each ticket. An additional fee of $2.50 per ticket will be charged for online purchases. For these fees, a three-concert festival pass is considered one ticket.)

Three local hotels – the Wingate by Wyndham, the Tiger Hotel, and the Hampton Inn & Suites Columbia – are offering discounts on rooms to festival attendees for the nights of July 25, 26 & 27. Rates range from $78 to $116 per night, plus tax. For details, visit http://composersfestival.missouri.edu/hotels.html.

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

The programs of the Mizzou New Music Initiative are made possible through the generous support of the Sinquefield Charitable Foundation, led by Dr. Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield. The City of Columbia Office of Cultural Affairs, the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau and the MU Chancellor’s Distinguished Visitors Program also provided financial assistance for the 2013 Mizzou International Composers Festival.