Posts Tagged ‘ composer

Composers Festival Spotlight: Augusta Read Thomas

Augusta Read Thomas

It is a pleasure for everyone associated with the Mizzou New Music Intiative to welcome Augusta Read Thomas as one of the guest composers for the 2013 Mizzou International Composers Festival.

Thomas, 49, is University Professor of composition at the University of Chicago, and is only the 16th person ever to hold the title of University Professor. She was composer-in-residence for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from May 1997 through June 2006, a residency that culminated in the premiere of Astral Canticle, one of two finalists for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Music. One of the most acclaimed composers of her generation, she has won praise for the dramatic, spontaneous quality of her work and her masterful use of instrumental color.

Born in Glen Cove, New York, Thomas studied composition with Jacob Druckman at Yale University, with Alan Stout and Bill Karlins at Northwestern University, and at the Royal Academy of Music in London.

From 1993 to 2001, she was an assistant professor, then associate professor of composition at the Eastman School of Music. In 2001, she became Wyatt Professor of Music at Northwestern University, serving there until 2006. In 2007-2008, Thomas was a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Music in the Division of the Humanities at the University of Chicago.

In addition to teaching in Chicago, she frequently undertakes short-term residencies in colleges, universities, and festivals across the United States and in Europe. For example, in March of this year Thomas served as guest composer for East Carolina University School of Music’s NewMusic@ECU Festival, and last month she was part of the composition faculty of June in Buffalo 2013. Both events featured masterclasses, workshops and performances of her works.

Also in March of this year, the Boston Symphony Orchestra premiered “Legend of the Phoenix,” a concerto written by Thomas on a commission from cellist Lynn Harrell and the BSO, and the third Thomas piece the BSO has premiered. For more about that work, check out the coverage from Boston’s NPR affiliate WBUR.

During her residency with the Chicago Symphony, Thomas premiered nine commissioned works, and also co-founded and curated the MusicNOW series. Her music has been championed by leading conductors including the CSO’s Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Oliver Knussen, Seiji Ozawa, Mstislav Rostropovich, Leonard Slatkin, David Robertson, Christoph Eschenbach, Ludovic Morlot, and Xian Zhang.

Thomas has had works commissioned by leading ensembles and organizations around the world, including Chanticleer, NDR [German Radio] Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony, La Jolla Chamber Music Society, National Symphony, Radio France and the BBC Orchestra, Dallas Symphony, London and Boston Symphony Orchestras, Orchestre de Paris, BBC, Utah Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the ASCAP Foundation.

In addition to the numerous commercial recordings of her music available on major record labels, Thomas has released five of her own albums independently.

In May 2009, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, considered the highest formal recognition of artistic merit in the United States. Thomas has also been on the Board of Directors of the American Music Center since 2000, as well as on the boards and advisory boards of several chamber music groups.

You can hear samples of August Read Thomas’s music on her website. In the embedded video windows below, you can see and hear Thomas talking about her music and the creative process, as well as performances of several of her works.

“Earth Echoes,” a Franke Institute for the Humanities talk by Thomas on February 13, 2013 at the University of Chicago’s Gleacher Center. Thomas discusses her creative process and topics including rhythm, counterpoint, harmony, text setting, motivic development, organic transformation, nuance, color, improvisation, spirit, and gestalt.

Thomas talks more about the creative process and the inspiration for her violin duet “Double Helix.”

Thomas’ composition “Of Paradise and Light for String Orchestra,” played by the University of Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the direction Barbara Schubert on May 26. 2012.

Thomas’ “Cathedral Waterfall,” performed in June 2011 by pianist Nicolas Horvath

The University of Illinois New Music Ensemble plays Thomas’ second violin concerto “Carillon Sky.”

Percussionist Ruud Roelofsen playing Thomas’ “Silhouettes” at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels

Rachel Barton Pine introduces and performs “Caprice” in 2006. The piece was written by Thomas in 2004 as a wedding present for Rachel Barton Pine and Gregory Pine.

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.

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

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.

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.

New music inspired by Bill Smith exhibition
to debut Saturday, May 4 at World Chess Hall of Fame

The World Chess Hall of Fame and the Mizzou New Music Initiative will present the world premieres of three new compositions inspired by the work of St. Louis visual artist Bill Smith in “The Sound of Art at the World Chess Hall of Fame” at 7:00 p.m. Saturday, May 4 at the WCHOF, 4652 Maryland Ave in St. Louis. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., with a cocktail reception following the concert.

For this most recent installment in the series of interdisciplinary events that began in 2010, University of Missouri composition students Joe Hills, Haley Myers, and Robert Strobel each have written new pieces based on Beyond the Humanities, the Hall of Fame’s current exhibition of works by Smith.

The Mizzou New Music Ensemble (pictured) will perform Hills’ “Iridescent Labyrinth,” Myers’ “Spherodendron,” and Strobel’s “Graphyne,” as well as “Dancing Helix Rituals” by Augusta Read Thomas, who will be a guest composer at this summer’s Mizzou International Composers Festival in Columbia.

The event is free and open to the public. However, because seating is limited, reservations are required. RSVPs should be made to Lauren Stewart by phone at 314-367-9243 ext 106 or by email at lauren.stewart@worldchesshof.org. The concert also will be streamed live online at http://livestream.com/uschess.

The World Chess Hall of Fame is a nonprofit organization committed to building awareness for the cultural and artistic significance of chess. It opened on September 9, 2011, in St. Louis’s Central West End after moving from previous locations in New York and Miami.

The WCHOF is housed in an historic 15,900 square-foot building that includes three floors of galleries, the U.S. and World Chess Halls of Fame, and the Q Boutique. It provides visitors with a unique opportunity to use chess as a platform for learning, exploring, and seeing their world in entirely new ways. It is the only cultural institution of its kind in the world and the only solely chess-focused collecting institution in the U.S.

C.O.M.P. winners perform on KSDK’s Show Me St. Louis

Two of the winners in the 2013 Creating Original Music Project (C.O.M.P.) competition performed this past Thursday, April 11 on Show Me St. Louis, an entertainment news program that airs on NBC affiliate KSDK at 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Menea Kefalov and Ande Siegel of Ladue Middle School were the first-place winners this year in the Middle School – Popular division for their song “This Generation.” You can see them performing it and being interviewed by Show Me St. Louis host Julie Tristan in the embedded video below.

All of this year’s this year’s winning compositions – written and performed by 21 elementary, middle school, and high school students from across Missouri – will be played at the Creating Original Music Project Festival, which will take place from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Saturday, April 20 in Mizzou’s Fine Arts Building.

In addition, this year for the first time ever, audio from the concert also will be streamed live online at http://live.missouri.edu:8000/music.m3u.

Creating Original Music Project (C.O.M.P) concert will stream
Missouri students’ winning compositions to the world

On Saturday, April 20, listen to the live audio stream at http://live.missouri.edu:8000/music.m3u

For eight years, the annual Creating Original Music Project (C.O.M.P.) competition has brought young composers to the University of Missouri campus in the spring for a concert of original music.

As in the past, this year’s winning compositions – written and performed by 21 elementary, middle school, and high school students from across Missouri – will be played at the Creating Original Music Project Festival, which will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Saturday, April 20, at the Fine Arts Building on the Mizzou campus. Admission is free and open to the public.

In addition, this year for the first time ever, audio from the concert also will be streamed live online at http://live.missouri.edu:8000/music.m3u, so that relatives, friends and neighbors who can’t attend the concert in person still can listen as it happens.

C.O.M.P. is a joint venture of the University of Missouri School of Music and the Sinquefield Charitable Foundation, which provides an annual gift of $60,000 to sponsor the competition. The program was created in 2005 to encourage K-12 students in Missouri to write original musical works and to encourage performances of those works.

The 2013 competition had a total of 101 students entered in seven different categories, with winners ranging in age from seven years old to 18. Both the composers and their schools will receive cash prizes. High school winners also receive a scholarship to attend Mizzou’s high school summer music composition camp.

“Six of this year’s composers are multiple winners, and it’s been a pleasure to hear their work grow and develop from year to year,” said Jeanne Sinquefield of the Sinquefield Charitable Foundation. “At the same time, every year we also see promising new entrants taking advantage of this opportunity to express themselves, develop their skills, and be recognized for their talents. The continuing growth of C.O.M.P. is another indication of how far we’ve come toward making Missouri a center for the composition of new music.”

The 2012 Creating Original Music Project (C.O.M.P.) competition categories and winners include:

Elementary School – Songs with Words
1) Sadie Tanner of Maplewood-Richmond Heights Elementary School, Richmond Heights, for “Snow.” Music teacher: John Israel
2) Elizabeth Hess of Morean Heights Elementary School, Jefferson City, for “Susanna’s Story.” Music teacher: Sharon Shackelford
3) Savannah Slater & McKenzie Blakey of The Summit Preparatory School of Southwest Missouri, Springfield, for “It’s a Snow Day.” Music teacher: Shawn Keech

Elementary School – Instrumental
1) HyunJun (John) Yoo of Fairview Elementary School, Columbia, for “The Unknown World.” Music teacher: Sara Dexheimer
2) Emily Chevalier of The Country Schoolhouse, Amazonia, for “My Heart’s Song.” Music teacher: Rebecca Quimby
3) Zoe Goddard, a home-schooled student from Lexington, for “Seascape Rhapsody.” Music teacher: O. Wayne Smith

Middle School – Popular
1) Menea Kefalov and Ande Siegel of Ladue Middle School, Ladue, for “This Generation.” Music teachers: Elizabeth Bressler and Brandon Williams.
2) Samuel Luetkemeyer of Immanuel Lutheran at Honey Creek, Jefferson City, for “Dressing for Dinner.” Music teacher: Deb Leech
3) Emma Reinagel of Oakville Middle School, Mehlville, for “Soar and Fly.” Music teacher: Lacey Cupp

Middle School – Fine Art
1) Amanda Bradshaw, a home-schooled student from Columbia, for “Suite for Horn and Bassoon in F Major.” Music teacher: Grant Bradshaw
2) Brandon Thibodeau of Kearney Middle School, Kearney, for “Ambiguous.” Music teacher: Narong Prangcharoen
3) Nicole Shah of Pattonville Heights Middle School, Maryland Heights, for “March for Unaccompanied Violin.” Music teacher: Anna C. Allen

High School – Jazz
1) Gus Knobbe of Webster Groves High School, Webster Groves, for “Back to the Board.” Music teacher: Kevin Cole

High School – Popular
1) Justin Cline of Lee’s Summit West High School, Greenwood, for “Deliver Me.” Music teacher: Kirt Mosier
2) Erin Hoerchler of Jefferson City High School, Jefferson City, for “3 A.M. (So Let Me Be).” Music teacher: Kiesha Daulton
3) Tanner Qualls, a home-schooled student from Lee’s Summit for “Tides.” Music teacher: Becky Qualls

High School – Fine Art
1) Edward Crouse of Jefferson City High School, Jefferson City, for “The Sonata That Rained.” Music teacher: Aimee Fine
2) Hans Heruth of Liberty High School, Liberty, for “Into the Storm.” Music teacher: Ian Coleman
3) Joseph Misterovich of The Summit Preparatory School of Southwest Missouri, Springfield, for “you weren’t there for the beginning.” Music teacher: Shawn Keech

Each student who enters the competition must have the signature and sponsorship of his or her school’s music teacher. Community agencies, churches, after-school programs, private teachers, and other musical mentors also may sponsor their young musicians in partnership with the student’s school music teacher.