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

Composers Festival spotlight: Charles Halka

Resident composer Charles Halka comes to the 2019 Mizzou International Composers Festival having already done a good deal of world traveling in his composing and teaching career.

Originally from Tulsa, OK, Halka (pictured) currently is an assistant professor of composition and theory at Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA. He earned a doctor of musical arts degree from the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University in Houston, TX, and holds degrees in both piano and composition from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, MD.

Overseas, he also has studied at the Saint Petersburg Conservatory in Russia, the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theater, and privately with Samuel Adler through the FUBiS program in Berlin.

Halka’s works include acoustic and electronic music for concert, dance, and opera. They have been performed in North America, Europe, Asia, and South America at venues such as the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, and Foro Internacional de Música Nueva.

For the MICF, he has written a new work titled “Fever Dream,” which will be performed along with new music from the seven other resident composers by Alarm Will Sound as part of the festival’s “Eight World Premieres” grand finale on Saturday, July 27 at the Missouri Theatre.

Noteworthy ensembles that have performed his music include the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra led by Marin Alsop, Mivos Quartet, the Mexican National Symphony Orchestra, the Lviv Philharmonic, Odessa Philharmonic, counter)induction, Callithumpian Consort, Volti, ÓNIX Ensamble in Mexico, PRO ARTE eNsemble in Russia, the chamber choirs Aquarius in Belgium and Jauna Muzika in Lithuania, and more.

As a U.S. Fulbright grantee, Halka spent 2008-09 in Vilnius, Lithuania, researching Lithuanian music and writing an opera in collaboration with director and librettist Marija Simona Šimulynaitė. The opera, “Julius,” was premiered in 2010 in Vilnius, and a choral excerpt, “Dipukų Rauda,” was performed at the ISCM World Music Days 2012 in Belgium.

Other significant works include “Round and Round,” premiered in 2011 at the Library of Congress, then revised and premiered again in 2013 in Hong Kong at the Intimacy of Creativity partnership led by composer Bright Sheng; “And Jill Came Tumbling After,” a chamber opera  with a libretto by John Grimmett, written for the Baltic Chamber Opera Theater and selected for Fort Worth Opera’s 2015 Frontiers showcase; and “Imaginary Spaces,” a dance and percussion project created in collaboration with Houston’s Frame Dance Productions with support from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music.

Halka’s honors include a Barlow Endowment general commission awarded this year, the Copland House residency award in 2015, and many others. He has completed residencies at the MacDowell Colony, the M.K. Sarbievijus Cultural Center in Kražiai, Lithuania, and in Houston, with both Musiqa (2014-15) and the Foundation for Modern Music (2011-14).

For more about Charles Halka, listen to the interview he did recently for KMUC’s “Mizzou Music” program, and check out the interviews he did in 2017 with the Flute New Music Consortium and the podcast Lexical Tones. You can hear some of his music via the embedded players below.

“Scherzo,” recorded August 18, 2018 by the Lviv Philharmonic, conducted by Taras Krysa

“Por la fuerza las tierras,” recorded September 9, 2016 at National Sawdust in Brooklyn, performed by Ónix Ensamble

Composers Festival spotlight: Amy Beth Kirsten

Amy Beth Kirsten occupies a unique place in Mizzou International Composers Festival history, returning in 2019 as a distinguished guest composer after having been one of the eight resident composers at the very first MICF (then called the Mizzou New Music Summer Festival) in 2010.

Kirsten is the only composer to take part in the festival in both capacities, and to celebrate her return, the 2019 MICF will feature the world premiere of excerpts from a major new composition of hers.

Selected parts of “Jacob in Chains,” an evening-length, music-driven theatrical work commissioned by Alarm Will Sound and the Mizzou New Music Initiative, will be performed for the first time anywhere as part of AWS’ concert on Thursday, July 25 at the Missouri Theatre. In addition, the Mizzou New Music Ensemble will perform Kirsten’s “World Under Glass No. 2” at the “Mizzou New Music” concert on Friday, July 26 at the Missouri Theatre.

Recognized with artist fellowships from the John S. Guggenheim Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, Amy Beth Kirsten grew up in the suburbs of Kansas City and Chicago; was educated at Roosevelt University (MM) and the Peabody Institute (DMA); and now lives in New Haven, CT.

A member of the composition faculty at Longy School of Music of Bard College since 2017, she also teaches music composition privately and, for the past eight years, at the HighSCORE summer festival in Pavia, Italy. Kirsten previously served on the faculty of the Peabody Institute from 2015 to 2017, and she has been a guest lecturer at institutions including the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester (U.K.), Yale University, Princeton University, Curtis Institute, Cornell University, and the Royal Academy of Music in London.

The expansive nature of “Jacob in Chains” is in keeping with Kirsten’s aesthetic, which is “characterized by an abiding interest in exploring theatrical elements of creation, performance, and presentation…Her body of work fuses music, language, voice, and theatre and often considers musicians’ instruments, bodies, and voices as equal vehicles of expression.”

Kirsten’s major works in recent years include “Savior,” a collaboration between her own ensemble, HOWL, and musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, that was premiered in 2018 for the 20th anniversary of the CSO’s MusicNOW series; “QUIXOTE,” a 90-minute theatrical work inspired by Cervantes’ epic novel, created with director/designer Mark DeChiazza and HOWL and staged in 2017 at Montclair State University in New Jersey; and “Colombine’s Paradise Theatre,” an evening-length work commissioned and produced by the multi-Grammy-winning eighth blackbird that opened the 2014-15 seasons of Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art and New York’s Miller Theatre, selling out both venues.

She also has written and composed fully-staged theatrical works and traditional concert works for HOWL, the New World Symphony, Peak Performances, American Composers Orchestra, and many others. Most recently, over the past year she has composed solo and chamber works for Mike Compitello (percussion), the Dutch singer/composer Bec Plexus (voice and percussion), New Thread Quartet (saxophones), and Don Berman (piano).

For more about Amy Beth Kirsten, read the Chicago Tribune‘s story from 2018 about the premiere of “Savior”, and the interview with her published around that same time on the CSO’s “Songs and Stories” website. You can hear some samples of her music in the embedded players below.

“World Under Glass No. 2,” performed by Equilibrium, featuring Nicole Parks (violin), Mike Avitabile (flute), Stephen Marotto (cello), and Mike Williams (percussion), conducted by Matt Sharrock

“Pirouette On A Moon Sliver,” recorded October 31, 2017, performed by Emma Resmini

“the crowd examines QUIXOTE to find a cause of his madness,” recorded in March 2017 at Montclair State University,  performed by HOWL, featuring Jonny Allen, Victor Caccese, Ian Rosenbaum and Terry Sweeney ( percussion), with Lindsay Kesselman (soprano), Hai-Ting Chinn (mezzo-soprano) and Kirsten Sollek (contralto)

“Drink Me,” performed by Alarm Will Sound on July 18, 2010 at the Missouri Theatre

Composers Festival spotlight: inti figgis-vizueta

Resident composer inti figgis-vizueta this year will achieve an historic trifecta of sorts in the annals of the Mizzou International Composers Festival, as they will be the first resident composer to have three of their works played by three different ensembles in a single year at the MICF.

Like the seven other resident composers, figgis-vizueta (pictured) has written a new piece for Alarm Will Sound, who will perform their “braiding on golden stoops” as one of the eight world premieres presented in the grand finale concert on Saturday, July 27 at the Missouri Theatre.

In addition, Mizzou Percussion will play figgis-vizueta’s “To give you form and breath” as part of the “Mizzou New Music” concert on Friday, July 26 at the Missouri Theatre; and Khemia Ensemble will perform their “Openwork, knotted object // Trellis in bloom // Recipe for lightning” at the matinee concert on Saturday, July 27 at Whitmore Recital Hall.

inti figgis-vizueta  – they use the lower case and non-gendered pronouns – was born in Dublin, Ireland; raised in Washington, DC; and now is based in Brooklyn, NY. When not composing, they work as a curator for Score Follower.​

figgis-vizueta writes music that “focuses on combinations of various notational schemata, disparate and overlaid sonic plans, and collaborative unlearning of dominant vernaculars. She/they often write magically real musics through the lens of personal identities, braiding a childhood of overlapping immigrant communities and Black-founded Freedom schools—in Chocolate City (DC)—with Andean heritage and a deep connection to land(s).”

They have received numerous awards, most recently winning National Sawdust’s 2019 Hildegard Competition, and getting a chance to participate in the the American Composers Orchestra’s 2019 Underwood New Music Readings.  They also have won calls for scores from organizations and festivals such as West Cork Chamber Music Festival, Verdant Vibes, N/A Ensemble, UnTwelve, Baltimore Choral Arts Society, and 113 Collective.

figgis-vizuata’s music has been played by ensembles including loadbang, PUBLIQuartet, Hypercube, RTE Contempo String Quartet, Balance Campaign, the Shenandoah Valley Youth Symphony, the SJSU Wind Ensemble, and more. They also actively freelance as a composer, with recent commissions including new works for clarinetist Gleb Kanasevich, trumpeter Kate Amrine, countertenor Luke Paulino, and the duo Mazumal.

They were featured at the New Music Gathering as a panelist in 2017 and as a composer in 2018, as well as at the New Latin Wave Festival 2018.

For more about inti figgis-vizueta, listen to their interview recorded a few weeks ago for KMUC’s “Mizzou Music” program, and read their interview from earlier this year published by (conducted by 2014 MICF distinguished guest composer Nico Muhly) and their “5 Questions” interview on I Care If You Listen (answering queries posed by 2018 MICF resident composer Gemma Peacocke).

“Symphony for the Body,” performed October 29, 2017 by Boston Conservatory Composer’s Orchestra

“Placemaking,” performed in 2018 by Boston Conservatory Composer’s Wind Ensemble, conducted by Mark Powell