But for the last decade, Dr. Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield
have been giving classical music a contemporary makeover, right here in mid-Missouri.
Better known for their political activism and mutual fund fortune, the Sinquefields are as passionate about the advancement of classical music in their home state. They designed the Mizzou New Music Initiative
(MNMI) to "position the University of Missouri School of Music
as a leader in composition and new music."
The Sinquefields gave Mizzou $1 million in 2009 to establish MNMI, following that donation in 2015 with the university's largest gift ever: $10 million toward construction of a new music building
Applications for eight resident composer slots just opened for an MNMI initiative program, the Mizzou International Composers Festival
The tenth ann
ual festival features three contemporary classical music concerts, workshops, master classes, and other events. The grand finale at the Missouri Theatre -- a dream venue if there ever was one -- presents the world premieres of new works from the resident composers performed by resident ensemble Alarm Will Sound
For any kid who dreams of dazzling an orchestral audience like Amadeus or setting violin music on fire like Mendelssohn (there are more of these dreamers than you might think), the idea of a "resident composer" with his/her own resident ensemble may seem too good to believe. Add the time, money, commitment, staff, university environment, publicity, performance venues, and most of all, musician camaraderie, and Mizzou's classical music renaissance is that dream come true
The MICF even features "distinguished guest composers" -- this year Donnacha Dennehy
and Amy Beth Kirsten --
who teach and consult with the eight residents and the musicians playing their compositions.
One of Ireland's top composers and associate professor of music at Princeton University, Dennehy has seen his work performed at Carnegie Hall, The Barbican in London, and other worldwide venues. His opera The Last Hotel
premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2015. The Second Violinist
won the 2017 Fedora Prize for Opera and premiered in July 2017 at the Galway International Arts Festival.
Kirsten is a composition professor at Bard College's Longy School of Music
. Her work fuses composition, language, voice, and theatre with musicians’ instruments, bodies, and voices, which she considers "equal vehicles of expression."
Kirsten has composed concerts for her own ensemble, HOWL, and musicians from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the New World Symphony, and the American Composers Orchestra. She has received artist fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations.