Ben Rouder wins 2020 Sinquefield Composition Prize

The University of Missouri School of Music and the Mizzou New Music Initiative have awarded the 2020 Sinquefield Composition Prize to Ben Rouder.

Rouder (pictured) is a junior working toward a bachelor’s degree in composition at Mizzou. He submitted “M.I.S.”, a work for chamber ensemble originally composed as part of last year’s “Influences Symphony” project, to the competition and was selected for the prize by independent judges.

The adjudicators for the 2020 competition were Yotam Haber, associate professor of music composition at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Nina C. Young, assistant professor at the University of Southern California.

Now in its 15th year, the Sinquefield Composition Prize is the top award for a composition student at Mizzou.

As this year’s winner, Rouder now will be commissioned to write an original work for the University Singers, conducted by Paul Crabb, who will premiere it as part of the Chancellor’s Arts Showcase on Friday, February 28, 2020 at the Missouri Theatre in Columbia. With the commission, Rouder also receives a cash prize for the production of the score and parts, and will have his work professionally recorded.

Rouder is a native of Columbia, MO who graduated from Rock Bridge High School. His music has been performed by groups including the Columbia Civic Orchestra, the University of Missouri Tuba/Euphonium Ensemble, the University of Missouri Brass Choir, and the Mizzou New Music Ensemble.

He was the winner in the Open Orchestral division of the 2019 Missouri Composers Project competition for his work “Social Justice Warrior.” Rouder also is the founder and current administrator of the Seventh Column Chamber Ensemble, a student-run chamber orchestra founded in 2019.

The other finalists for the 2020 Sinquefield Composition Prize were Daniel Fitzpatrick, Luis Hermano Bezerra, and Hans Bridger Heruth.

Mizzou New Music Ensemble to perform works by Boulez, Higdon, Martínez, and Heredia in concert Sunday, October 6 at Whitmore Recital Hall

The Mizzou New Music Ensemble will begin their 2019-20 season with a concert featuring works by two modern masters, a Mizzou alumnus, and a current Mizzou faculty member.

The Ensemble (pictured) will perform music by Pierre Boulez, Jennifer Higdon, José Martínez, and Carolina Heredia at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, October 6 at Whitmore Recital Hall on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia. The concert is free and open to the public.

As the name suggests, Boulez’s “Dérive 1” is derived from two of his other compositions, “Messagesquisse” and “Répons,” the latter of which in turn was created as a re-elaboration of musical ideas from “Éclat/Multiples.” This working method was typical of Boulez, who was known for producing new material by extending or transforming existing pieces.

Higdon’s “Zaka” has been called “an energetic and tightly focused work that uses string instruments in percussive and unorthodox ways,” and was praised by the Sacramento Bee as “a fantastic sprint full of irresistible Stravinskian energy and rhythmic drive.”

Martínez, who earned his master’s degree in composition from Mizzou in 2016, describes his piece “Illegal Cycles” as “an attempt to contaminate salsa with some noise, yet at the same time, to look for the groove in the fine-art sound of the freely improvised music” and “a natural product of our post-postmodern world, where the artistic boundaries between genres are happily long gone.”

“Ius in Bello” (Latin for “law of war”) was inspired by the socio-political confrontations in Venezuela that began in 2014. Heredia, a native of Argentina and an assistant professor of composition at Mizzou, calls the work “my response to the violent repression executed by the government against civilian protesters,” explaining that it “engages with dream-like sections in which color-saturated imagery of a perfect future is tinted with crispy dissonances.”

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, conductor, professor of composition, and artistic director of the Mizzou New Music Initiative.

The Ensemble’s members for the 2019-20 season are Daniel Fitzpatrick, piano; Stephen Landy, percussion; Ann Mozina, flute; Jordan Nielsen, percussion; Pedro Ramiro, violin; Cameron Tubbs, cello; and Andrew Wiele, clarinet. Mizzou New Music Initiative post-doctoral fellow Yoshiaki Onishi serves as the Ensemble’s assistant conductor.

Mizzou International Composers Festival set for July 27 – August 1, 2020; applications for resident composers now open

The Mizzou New Music Initiative is accepting applications for resident composers to take part in the 11th annual Mizzou International Composers Festival (MICF), which will take place starting Monday, July 27 through Saturday, August 1, 2020 on the campus of the University of Missouri in Columbia.

Chen Yi and David T. Little (pictured) will serve as the festival’s two distinguished guest composers for 2020, teaching and consulting with the resident composers and ensembles. Little also will write a new commissioned work specifically for the festival.

The week-long MICF features concerts of music from contemporary composers, along with workshops, master classes, and other events. Saturday night’s grand finale at the Missouri Theatre will present the world premieres of new works from each of the festival’s eight resident composers, with Alarm Will Sound, conducted by artistic director Alan Pierson, serving as resident ensemble.

The resident composers are selected for the MICF each year through an online portfolio application process. During the festival, they’ll get composition lessons from the distinguished guest composers and take part in rehearsals with Alarm Will Sound. Each composer also will receive a professional live recording of their work.

The deadline to apply to become a resident composer for the 2020 Mizzou International Composers Festival is 11:59 p.m. Central time, Friday, November 15, 2019. For more information or to submit an application, please visit

Chen Yi 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.

Along with many orchestral works, Chen has written numerous choral works and pieces of chamber music, including works written for traditional Chinese instruments. A violinist as well as a composer, Chen Yi earned bachelor and masters degrees in music composition from the Central Conservatory in Beijing, and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Columbia University.

Chen received the prestigious Charles Ives Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2001 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2005. Ensembles and soloists commissioning her work have included the Cleveland Orchestra, Mira Wang and the Sachsische Staatskapelle Dresden, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the Seattle Symphony, Yo-Yo Ma and the Pacific Symphony, Evelyn Glennie and the Singapore Symphony, the Women’s Philharmonic, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and more.

Chen’s music has been recorded and released on more than 20 different labels, including New Albion, CRI, Angel, Koch International Classics, Delos, New World and Naxos.

David T. 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.

Little’s music has been presented by the LA Philharmonic, Carnegie Hall, LA Opera, Park Avenue Armory, Lincoln Center Festival, Kennedy Center, Holland Festival, and Opéra de Montréal, with upcoming engagements at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chicago Opera Theater. He is the founding artistic director of the ensemble Newspeak, and recordings of his music can be heard on labels including New Amsterdam, Innova, Sono Luminus, Centaur, and National Sawdust Tracks.

A complete schedule of events, times, dates, and venues for the 2020 Mizzou International Composers Festival will be made available at a later date. For more information, please visit

St. Louis Symphony Orchestra to read works by Mizzou composers
Hans Bridger Heruth, Ethan Forte, and Daniel Vega

From left: Heruth, Forte, Vega

Three University of Missouri student composers will have their works played by musicians with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra this year as part of a joint educational venture between the orchestra and the Mizzou New Music Initiative.

Student composers Hans Bridger Heruth, Ethan Forte, and Daniel Vega (pictured) were selected by SLSO Resident Conductor Gemma New to write new works for a 40-piece chamber orchestra drawn from the musicians of the St. Louis Symphony.

The three works will be read, played, and critiqued in a private session on Tuesday, October 1 in St. Louis. The composers then will get a chance to revise their music for a second, public reading by the same musicians at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, March 29 at Powell Hall.

Heruth, a senior, and Forte, a junior, are working toward their undergraduate degrees in composition at Mizzou, while Vega is in his second year of study for a master’s degree. They are the third group of Mizzou composers to take part in the program, which began in 2017. They will deliver the first versions of their works to the Symphony in early September.

“Given that the mission of the Mizzou New Music Initiative is to make Missouri a center for composition, we’re very pleased to be able to collaborate with one of the state’s most prestigious musical organizations,” said Stefan Freund, professor of composition at the University of Missouri School of Music and artistic director of the Mizzou New Music Initiative. “We’re grateful to the St. Louis Symphony and Gemma New for these opportunities to give our students some practical experience working with an ensemble of world-class musicians.”

The two-session format makes this program particularly valuable, Freund said. “Our composers are able to hear their music played, get immediate feedback directly from the conductor and musicians, and make revisions. Then they can hear the results of the changes they’ve made in the second session, which makes for a learning experience that can’t be duplicated in a classroom.”

Acclaimed as one of today’s most exciting and enduring orchestras, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra is the second-oldest orchestra in the country, celebrating its 140th year in the 2019/2020 season. Widely considered one of the world’s finest, the SLSO maintains its commitment to artistic excellence, educational impact, and community connection – all in service to its mission of enriching lives through the power of music. Today, the SLSO builds on the institution’s current momentum on all fronts, including artistic, financial, audience growth, and community impact, and looks toward the future with new Music Director Stéphane Denève.

MADSM 2019 Collegiate Composition Competition
looking for new works for chamber ensemble

The Missouri Association of Departments and Schools of Music (MADSM) and the Mizzou New Music Initiative are looking for new chamber music written by college students in Missouri for the second annual MADSM Collegiate Composition Competition.

Founded in 2018 to encourage the creation of original chamber music that can be played by high-school level musicians, the MADSM Collegiate Composition Competition is open to all students currently enrolled in any MADSM member institution, with separate categories for undergraduate and graduate students.

Composers are asked to write a new work from five to seven minutes in length for a group of three to five musicians, consisting of some combination of flute, clarinet, piano, violin, cello, and percussion. Scores and recordings must be submitted online by Friday, October 4, and winners will be announced in mid-October.

Winning composers then will be invited to the University of Missouri, where their pieces will be workshopped and recorded by the Mizzou New Music Ensemble on Sunday, November 17. The Ensemble will premiere this year’s winning works in January 2020 at the Missouri Music Educators Association conference in Osage Beach, with the goal of attracting future opportunities on concert programs around the state.

For more information or to submit an entry, go to

The Missouri Association of Departments and Schools of Music (MADSM) includes all institutions in the state of Missouri that offer post-secondary music study. MADSM offers a regular forum for leaders from these institutions to discuss issues pertaining to music study; to provide mutual support for each other; and to advocate for music education at the collegiate level, presenting a strong and unified voice for music education in Missouri.

A look back at the 2019 Mizzou International Composers Festival

Composers Festival spotlight: Donnacha Dennehy

Donnacha Dennehy returns to the Mizzou International Composers Festival in 2019 as a distinguished guest composer, having previously served in the same capacity in 2012, and thereby making MICF history by becoming the only composer to play that role twice.

Considered one of Ireland’s top living composers, Dennehy (pictured) is a founder of the new music group Crash Ensemble and an associate professor of music at Princeton University. His music has been featured at major festivals and venues around the world, including the Edinburgh International Festival; Carnegie Hall; the Tanglewood Festival; the Kennedy Center; The Barbican, Wigmore Hall, and the Royal Opera House in London, and many others.

In recent years, Dennehy has concentrated especially on large-scale musico-dramatic works, including his first opera “The Last Hotel,” which premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival in August 2015 and was released on an album earlier this year by Cantaloupe Music; and “The Second Violinist,” which won the 2017 Fedora Prize for Opera, premiered in July 2017 at the Galway International Arts Festival, and was presented in September 2018 at the Barbican in London.

Then there’s “The Hunger,” which was performed first as a work-in-progress at the 2012 MICF, subsequently co-produced in completed form by Alarm Will Sound and Opera Theatre St. Louis, and presented in 2016 at Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York.

The work follows the story of an American who went to Ireland during the Great Famine when so many were fleeing, and shows through text and music her transformation “from clerical observer to empathetic participant.” Now in its completed form, “The Hunger” will be released as an album in CD and digital formats on Friday, August 23 by Nonesuch Records.

For the MICF, Alarm Will Sound, soprano Katherine Manley, and sean nós singer Iarla O’Lionáird will perform the complete concert version of “The Hunger” as part of AWS’ concert on Thursday, July 25 at the Missouri Theatre. In addition, the Mizzou New Music Ensemble will perform Dennehy’s “The Blotting” as part of the “Mizzou New Music” concert on Friday, July 26 at the Missouri Theatre.

Other recent projects of Dennehy’s include “Surface Tension,” premiered by Third Coast Percussion in February 2016 and released last month as part of an album on the New Amsterdam label; “The Weather of it” for the Doric String Quartet, co-commissioned by Wigmore Hall and Carnegie Hall and premiered at Wigmore Hall in July 2016; a piece for the LA Philharmonic’s Green Umbrella series; and “Broken Unison” for So Percussion, co-commissioned by the Cork Opera House and Carnegie Hall.

In addition to the above, Dennehy has received commissions from Bang On A Can, Contact Contemporary Music (Toronto), Dawn Upshaw, Fidelio Trio, Joanna MacGregor, Kronos Quartet, Icebreaker, Nadia Sirota, National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, Orkest de Volharding (Amsterdam), Percussion Group of the Hague, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Ulster Orchestra, United Instruments of Lucilin (Luxembourg), Wide Open Opera (Dublin), and many others.

Along with the forthcoming album of “The Hunger,” Dennehy’s music can be heard on a number of recordings. Grá agus Bás, his 2011 release on Nonesuch featuring Crash Ensemble and singers Dawn Upshaw and Iarla O’Lionáird, was named as one of NPR’s “50 favorite albums’’ for the year.

RTE Lyric FM in 2014 issued a portrait CD of Dennehy’s orchestral music, and his works also have been heard on other releases include a number by NMC Records in London, Bedroom Community in Reykjavik, and Cantaloupe Music in New York. A recording of “Tessellatum,” a piece for Nadia Sirota and viol consort, came out on Bedroom Community in August 2017, and Surface Tension / Disposable Dissonance, with performances by Crash Ensemble and Third Coast Percussion, was released in June 2019 on New Amsterdam records.

For more about Donnacha Dennehy, listen to the interview he did recently with KMUC’s “Mizzou Music” program, and read the interview with him published last month in The Journal of Music. You can hear some of his music via the embedded players below.

Donnacha Dennehy, director Tom Creed, and singers Iarla Ó Lionáird and Katherine Manley are interviewed about the 2016 production of “The Hunger” at Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York

“Broken Unison,” performed by So Percussion on January 19, 2019 at Koerner Hall in Toronto

“Stainless Staining,” performed by Isabelle O’Connell (piano) with electronics on March 30, 2017 at SARC, Queen’s University in Belfast, Ireland

“Bulb,” recorded in 2014, featuring Vicky Chow (piano), Ashley Bathgate (cello) and Todd Reynolds (violin)

“The weather of it,” performed by Isaac Allen (violin), Bram Goldstein (violin), Angela Choong (viola) and Alex Greenbaum, (cello) on October 16, 2018 at Historic Old St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco

2019 MICF featured in Columbia Daily Tribune

On the Sunday just before the start of this year’s Mizzou International Composers Festival, the Columbia Daily Tribune published four articles by features editor Aarik Danielsen telling readers about the fest.

You can read them all at the Tribune’s website by clicking on the links below:

* Meet this year’s composers

* Come Together: MU professors lead Khemia Ensemble to musical chemistry

* Eyes and ears open: Composer converts moments of awareness into a career, about resident composer Nicole Murphy

* Hear here: Composer tunes her work to a world of sound, about resident composer Kristina Wolfe