Archive for June, 2011

News of Mizzou New Music Summer Festival Composer Steven Snowden Makes its Way Around the State

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Branson grad composing musical career

Posted: Tuesday, June 21, 2011

By Tyler Francke |

Steven Snowden, far right, leads a coaching session with the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble in San Francisco, Calif., as they prepare a piece written by Snowden for a West Coast tour.

Growing up in Hollister, and later near Walnut Shade, young Steven Snowden had no college aspirations and expected he would find his career in construction, like his father and many other men in his family had before him.

Then, his sophomore year, he joined the Branson High School Concert Band, where he started learning the French horn.

“I was really terrible,” Snowden said with a laugh. “But I kept practicing, and I got better and better.”

He said his improvement was due in no small part to the dedication of then-band director Eric Matzat and choir director Bob Abbott, who recently retired.

“They were very supportive, encouraging and also very good at what they do,” Snowden said. “It proves how influential your teachers can be. I became so excited about music that I wanted to do something with it.”

What he did was enroll in Missouri State University in the Music Department, graduating in 2005 with a Bachelor of Music in composition. He said he began his education in performance, but changed his mind when he tried writing music for the first time.

“When I started composing, it was like a light bulb for me,” he said. “It was really exciting. I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

Snowden continued his education, earning his Master’s in composition at the University of Colorado and beginning the Doctor of Musical Arts program at the University of Texas at Austin, which he hopes to complete in three more semesters.

At the same time, however, Snowden also embarked on his career in musical composition. He said he is a bit of a late bloomer in a field where many composers begin at the age of 7 or 8, which has been both a difficulty and a blessing.

“Because I got started kind of late, every time I write music, it’s really different,” he said. “I feel like I’m reinventing the wheel to a certain extent.”

But he’s also found that he  likes “being all over the place.”

“Music can express such a wide variety of things, and I want to explore a lot of those,” Snowden said. “I like writing all different kinds of music for different ensembles.”

While Snowden has received awards and fellowships from across the country, one of the most prestigious honors will be at the Mizzou New Music Summer Festival, which is being held in Columbia, just a few hours north of the town his family still calls home.

Snowden is one of eight composers selected in a nationwide search to produce a new work that will be played by Alarm Will Sound, a highly acclaimed music ensemble.

“It’s a pretty amazing opportunity. They’re one of the best-known concert music groups out there,” Snowden said. “They’re all top-of-the-line musicians.”

Snowden’s composition for the festival will be as unique as his background is in the composing world. His inspiration for the piece is the 1969 Led Zeppelin hit, “Dazed and Confused.”

“I didn’t grow up listening to classical music,” Snowden said. “I grew up listening to classic rock when I was helping my dad out at construction sites.”

Wherever Snowden’s career takes him, he said he will bring the Ozarks with him.

“When I started composing, I realized more and more that where I come from is a major part of the music I write,” he said. “There is a rich musical heritage in the Ozarks that I’m really trying to embrace. And being from that area is something I’m really proud of.”

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June 2011
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MIZZOU Alumni Magazine Recognizes Sinquefield Composition Prize and Talks with 2011 Winner Patrick Clark

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Conducting and composing

For Patrick Clark, winning the 2011 Sinquefield Composition Prize led to two big boosts for his musical career: the chance to compose an original score for the University Philharmonic and to conduct the orchestral performance.

Since 2006, the Sinquefield Composition Prize has selected an MU student to write a piece that is performed at the annual Chancellor’s Concert. Typically, the winner, who receives a scholarship and cash prize, works with the ensemble’s conductor. But because Clark, BM ’91, is a graduate student in orchestral conducting, he was asked to lead the ensemble’s performance. The dual roles led to unique experiences and challenges for Clark.

“I found out it might be easier to conduct someone else’s piece rather than your own,” Clark says. “During rehearsal, I was much less likely to address the orchestra if they needed to play with more accuracy. Instead, I went home and looked at the score to make sure I had written it correctly.”

Clark began writing the piece in late October 2010, when he learned that he had won the competition. He spent winter break composing from morning to night — though he says he didn’t mind.

“As long as I could make sure my electricity bill is paid, all I’d do is write music,” he says. “I’ve written one other full orchestra piece, but it always feels like the first time. Everything you think you know seems to go away in a cloud.”

In late January 2011, Clark finished his nine-minute piece, which was inspired by Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. He picked out themes from the late Russian composer’s work and interpreted them using his own contemporary American style. Clark’s piece debuted at the Chancellor’s Concert in March 2011 and a professional recording was made in April 2011.

This summer, Clark will continue honing his dual skill set as a resident composer for the Mizzou New Music Summer Festival, July 11–16. Visit for a schedule of events.

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June 2011
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Young area composer Liza White chosen for Mizzou New Music Summer Festival

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Published: Tuesday, June 21, 2011, 8:00 AM

By Kathryn Roy

A 2002 Longmeadow High School graduate is making a name for herself in the music world.

2002 Longmeadow High School graduate Liza White has been selected as one of eight resident composers for the Mizzou New Music Summer Festival.

Liza White, who plans to complete her doctorate studies in music composition at Northwestern University in the fall, has been selected as one of eight resident composers for the Mizzou New Music Summer Festival, put on by the University of Missouri School of Music and the Mizzou New Music Initiative, in July.

White, along with the other resident composers, will travel to Columbia for the festival, which runs July 11 through July 16. There, she’ll take part in a series of public concerts featuring her own music being performed, as well as music from other contemporary creators.

She will also have the opportunity to participate in workshops, master classes and other events.

Resident composers will be able to work with guest composers Roger Reynolds, winner of the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for music composition, and Anna Clyne, who serves as the Mead Composer-in-Residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

White’s music will be performed by the music group, Alarm Will Sound.

White said she is thrilled she was selected for the festival. “It’s a really fantastic group, and I’m excited to get to work with them,” she said.

“It’s what young composers do to try to get out there and get their work performed,” she said of applying for such opportunities.

Under the application guidelines, White wrote a musical piece involving all of the 16 members of the ensemble.

The piece had to be less than eight minutes long.

White said she was also given information about where percussion instruments would be placed on the stage, so that one musician wasn’t expected to be running from one side of the stage to the other.

“I definitely took into account what I know about them (Alarm Will Sound),” she said. “I listened to their past performances and watched videos on YouTube. They’re really good about putting on a good show.” White said the ensemble also does some choreography in their performances, so she wrote some into her piece.

Alarm Will Sound plays arrangements of popular music, which is something White enjoys writing. “My music is very much influenced by pop music, and this piece is no exception,” she said.

A former trombonist who dabbles in voice and guitar, White focuses on composing these days, and hopes to eventually land a professorship in music composition.

“For me, the main reason to do things like this is to meet musicians and to work with people on a really personal level,” she said.

Jeanne Sinquefield of the Sinquefield Foundation, which funds the Mizzou New Music Initiative, said the festival attracted 120 applicants from around the globe.

She said the musicians in Alarm Will Sound are extremely talented, and it’s a wonderful opportunity for up and coming young composers to work with them. “

They have played together for so long that they’re able to play very complex new music,” Sinquefield said. “

What we offer (the resident composers) is to come for a week and actually work with the group, work with other composers and master composers and you get a recording. It’s a lot of fun.”

Sinquefield said the Initiative is one way to bring about new music, while many people are convinced that older pieces are the only thing worth listening to

. “Since our program started, there have been 100 pieces written for our program,” she said.

White said she is indebted to the music department at Longmeadow High School for giving her her start. “I was very lucky to have that,” she said.

“While I was a good student, it was music that kept me wanting to go to school. I hope they can keep the program as excellent as it’s been.”

For more information on White, visit

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June 2011
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