MU develops new music initiative to benefit young composers

Sunday, October 11, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — A series of efforts to position MU as a center for new music is being consolidated as the Mizzou New Music Initiative.

Made possible through a $1 million donation from the Sinquefield Charitable Foundation, founded by Rex and Jeanne Sinquefield, the initiative aims to help young composers develop and explore their talent.

New Music Ensemble

What: New Music Ensemble

When: 8 p.m. Monday

Where: Whitmore Recital Hall, Fine Arts Building, Lowry Mall at Hitt Street, MU

Admission: Free, although a $5 donation is requested

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"I see the Mizzou New Music Initiative as a truly ground-breaking effort to help spur creativity among young composers," Jeanne Sinquefield said. "I couldn't be more excited about this initiative and what it means for so many talented young people. I think Missouri could be the hub for turning out world-class fine arts composers."

"You can't teach someone to hear it (a composition) in their head," Sinquefield added. "You have to find the genius people and develop them. They are out there."

The new music initiative includes existing programs as well as ones to be added. One existing program is the Creating Original Music Project, known as COMP, which is heading into its fourth year and has two branches.

The first invites young people, from kindergarten through 12th grade, to submit original composition for cash prizes. Cash prizes are also given to the winners' schools.

Sinquefield thinks composition by students should be encouraged by schools statewide, and providing cash prizes for the schools is meant to do that.

COMP's other arm is a week-long composition summer camp that brings together young students from across the state to collaborate and get creative. The program is growing, and each year there are more participants, said Thomas McKenney, professor of composition and music theory at MU.

One of the challenges faced by composition students is having their music performed and heard, Sinquefield said. So next year, the initiative will include two scholarships for graduate students to participate in the New Music Ensemble. Directed by Stefan Freund, an associate professor of composition and music theory at MU, the four-student ensemble will perform and record new music written by MU students and staff.

The group will "be dedicated to promoting new music at Mizzou through performance on and off campus," Freund said. The ensemble has already been formed and will perform for the first time on Monday evening at MU.

Also next year, the New Music Initiative will award two annual full-ride undergraduate scholarships in composition. The goal is to have eight composition students on full scholarships by 2013.

Next July, the New Music Festival will bring in eight to 10 young composers from around the world to work with "some of their heroes," Sinquefield said, referring to composers.

The week-long festival will also feature the acclaimed new-music, 20-member ensemble Alarm Will Sound, who will play and record compositions by the young composers. They will write a six- to eight-minute piece and work with the band in a rehearsal setting, with a concert of their work to be performed at the end of the week.

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Laura Sandstedt October 11, 2009 | 8:03 a.m.

This is an awesome opportunity for our young musicians and composers!!! Thanks for taking the lead to showcase this type of work! What a great way to celebrate music at MU!!

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