Archive for December, 2012

David Witter, a resident composer for Mizzou’s International Composers Festival, is profiled by the Columbia Daily Tribune

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The Columbia Daily Tribune
by Amy Wilder

In visual art, it is often the negative space that creates interest for the viewer. In poetry and literature, the things left unsaid or unexplained can most effectively capture the reader’s imagination. In music, the pauses and silences lend gravity to stated notes. As one passage in the Tao Te Ching so aptly illustrates, “We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.”

Composer David Witter understands the necessity and value of creating space in his work and of allowing freedom for the musician in the collaborative process of performance and learning. He appreciates that simplicity is often the result of complex planning and thought.

Witter holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in composition from the University of Missouri and is working as a graduate student toward his K-12 teaching certification. “It seemed to me over the last couple of years that I could do a lot of good in elementary school environments,” he said, referring to the potential to help shape the behavior and critical thinking skills of young students. “I’m as interested in teaching how to learn as I am in teaching music … and I really like teaching kids.”

This enjoyment was discovered as an undergraduate student when Witter gave trombone lessons to middle and high school students. He realized teaching would allow him to help develop younger minds while still having freedom to compose and perform.

“I think I’ve always actually been most interested in performing,” said Witter, who spent six years as a musician in the Navy before enrolling at MU. “I thought getting my degrees in composition would get me the most exposure to music all around, because you have to concentrate on theory and history and performing and orchestrating and every aspect of music.”

Translating knowledge into a bigger picture and connecting information that on the surface appears to be only loosely related seems to be an essential part of Witter’s intellectual approach. It’s reflected in his ideas about using music as a tool in interdisciplinary education and in teaching improvisation in the classroom as a tool to help children develop listening skills while stimulating analytical and creative parts of their brains at once.

Among other things, “music is definitely one concrete way you can establish empathy in a kid,” he said. “At the elementary school level, you can also impact how they view everything.” In his field experience at Lee Elementary, “they do a lot of integration; it’s all about tying in the arts to other disciplines and other disciplines to the arts.”

A younger Witter tugged at threads connecting his musical interests to a deeper exploration of less well-known artists. As a teenager — who grew up playing piano, like his mom, and trombone, like his dad — he encountered a self-taught boogie-woogie pianist who sparked his interest in blues and jazz. Through Frank Zappa, he discovered John Zorn, a composer who became an inspiration for the young intellectual.

Music is not the only creative well from which Witter draws inspiration. He is influenced in particular by painter Andrew Wyeth and has an affinity with Haiku and Eastern forms of poetry — something he related back to favorite composer John Cage. He just as effortlessly connects the indeterminacy and minimalism of Cage’s work to the philosophy of Fluxus artists like Nam June Paik, coming full circle.

Witter often uses poetry or visual art as a “narrative vehicle” while composing. He was invited to compose a piece for the 2010 Great Rivers Biennial at the Contemporary Art Museum in St. Louis, which was based on work by one of the featured artists. Receiving the honor of composing special projects is quickly becoming a habit for Witter.

Last week, he was named one of eight resident composers for next year’s Mizzou International Composers Festival. He was selected from a pool of over 150 applicants from the United States and abroad for the honor. Recently, he also received the 2013 Sinquefield Composition Prize through the Mizzou New Music Initiative.

As this year’s honoree, he is composing an original piece to be performed by the University Philharmonic in March. He spoke of the importance of leaving space for improvisation in his compositions. Jazz professor Arthur White will be improvising with Witter in “a duet of sorts. I’ll be on trombone, and he will be on saxophone,” he said.

Witter cited Thomas Hart Benton’s mural at the Capitol in Jefferson City, “A Social History of the State of Missouri,” as his inspiration for the composition, which is still in progress. He was captivated by the storyline presented in the mural and commented, “I’m a film geek, too, and the idea of montage in film is an apt metaphor for things I enjoy listening to in music. Whenever I approach something, especially something that has some sort of linearity like the Benton painting, my first instinct is to somehow fragment it and reorder it.”

“The process of writing is where I connect emotionally to a story,” Witter said. “I want to know everything about what’s happening in the painting. … It’s important really in being able to make an educated improvisational sketch, and then I go from there. If the musical material suggests to me that things need to be reformulated or veer off whatever concrete pattern the painting is setting up, then the music is what decides that.”
Reach Amy Wilder at 573-815-1714 or e-mail

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December 2012
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Mizzou International Composers Festival announces resident composers for 2013

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Columbia, MO – After considering the largest number of applicants yet in the event’s four-year history, the University of Missouri School of Music and the Mizzou New Music Initiative today announced the eight resident composers selected for next year’s Mizzou International Composers Festival (

Formerly known as the Mizzou New Music Summer Festival, the 2013 Mizzou International Composers Festival (MICF) will take place Monday, July 22 through Saturday, July 27 in Columbia. The resident composers were chosen through a portfolio application process that this year attracted 158 entries from across the USA and around the world, a new record for the event. Listed with their current places of residence, the selected composers are:

*Jason Thorpe Buchanan – Rochester, NY (

* Ryan Chase – Bloomington, IN (

* Andrew Davis – Austin, TX (

* Eric Guinivan – Los Angeles, CA (

* Elizabeth Kelly – Rochester, NY (

* Wei-Chieh Lin – New York, NY (

* Greg Simon – Ann Arbor, MI (

* David Witter – Columbia, MO

As another indicator of its growing prestige and recognition both here and abroad, the 2013 MICF also attracted an event-record number of applications from outside the United States, including Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, Finland, Greece, Israel, Italy, Republic of Korea, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Three of the eight composers selected have significant international ties. Wei-Chieh Lin was born in Taiwan; Elizabeth Kelly studied at the The Hague Royal Conservatory in The Netherlands; and Jason Thorpe Buchanan spent 2010-2011 living in Hamburg, Germany as a visiting scholar with a Fulbright Fellowship at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater.

The University of Missouri is represented by David Witter, who recently earned a master’s degree in composition from Mizzou and is the winner of the 2013 Sinquefield Composition Prize.

The 2013 Mizzou International Composers Festival will include a series of public concerts featuring music from the resident composers and other contemporary creators, as well as workshops, master classes, and other events.

The Festival’s guest composers for 2013 will be Augusta Read Thomas (, University Professor of composition at the University of Chicago and past composer-in-residence for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; and Daniel Kellogg (, an assistant professor of composition at the University of Colorado who has been called “one of the most exciting composers around” by the Washington Post.

The acclaimed new music group Alarm Will Sound (, conducted by artistic director Alan Pierson, once again will serve as resident ensemble, as they have since the Festival began in 2010.

During the festival, the eight resident composers will receive composition lessons from Thomas and Kellogg; take part in rehearsals with Alarm Will Sound; give public presentations on their music; and receive a premiere performance and professional live recording of a new work created specifically for the Festival and Alarm Will Sound.

A complete schedule of events, times, dates and venues for the 2013 Mizzou International Composers Festival will be announced at a later date. For more information, please visit

The Mizzou International Composers Festival is part of the Mizzou New Music Initiative, a diverse array of programs at the University of Missouri’s School of Music co-directed by Dr. Stefan Freund, Dr. W. Thomas McKenney, and Dr. William J. Lackey.

Intended to position the school as a leading center for music composition and new music and to showcase Missouri as a center for the music of tomorrow, the Initiative is a direct result of a $1 million donation by the Sinquefield Charitable Foundation ( led by Dr. Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield. The City of Columbia Office of Cultural Affairs, the Missouri Arts Council and the University of Missouri Chancellor’s Distinguished Visitors Fund also have provided financial assistance for the Mizzou International Composers Festival.

For more information:

Mizzou International Composers Festival:

Jason Thorpe Buchanan:

Ryan Chase:

Andrew Davis:

Eric Guinivan:

Elizabeth Kelly:

Wei-Chieh Lin:

Greg Simon:

Augusta Read Thomas & Daniel Kellogg:

Alarm Will Sound:

December 2012
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Students should look online for math, science help

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The St. Louis Beacon

by Jeanne Sinquefield & Kelley Sandhu, December 3, 2012

Today’s working parents do not have a lot of time to help their children with their studies. At the same time, they want to ensure that their children are doing well with academics and gaining an adequate understanding of the subjects studied in the classroom.

The competitive world outside requires more than an average level of knowledge to succeed; tutoring can help students attain this above-average level of understanding. Tutoring helps clarify concepts and reinforces learning that takes place in the classroom. Extra help outside of the classroom can build a student’s confidence and consequently lead to an improved educational experience for them.

The Internet has made living much easier these days. From shopping to building social networks, everything can be done. Learning is no exception.

Many students struggle in math and science but are unaware of available resources that are free and easily accessible to them. Using the internet, students can learn on their own. The list below consists of the top eight free tutoring services that I found. Again, these are available for free. (Article continues after the table.)

Khan Academy

Math: arithmetic, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, probability, statistics, calculus, differential equations

Science: computer science, finance & economics, humanities, standardized test prep

K-12 & college math. High school & college science

Pros: High quality education for anyone, anywhere. Easily accessible YouTube videos. Coaches, parents, teachers can monitor student’s progress. Available in multiple languages. Award base for children; constant recognition for student success

Cons: No downloadable documents

Patrick JMT

Algebra, arithmetic, calculus, differential equations, discrete math, linear algebra, probability and statistics, trigonometry

High school and college

Pros: Hardest math concepts simplified. Explained in way that is easy to understand for anyone.

Cons: All video tutorials, no downloadable documents

S.O.S. Mathematics

Algebra, calculus, trigonometry, differential equations, complex variables, matrix algebra and mathematical tables

High school, college, adult learners

Pros: Practice exams and question board available to post questions

Cons: No video tutorials, all written notes

The Physics Classroom


High school and college

Pros: Summaries and videos, practice exams available for review

Cons: None

Paul’s Online Math Notes

Algebra; calculus I, II and III; linear algebra; differential equations


Pros: Video tutorials and downloadable notes. Cheat sheets and tables available.

Cons: None

Math: algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, statistics

Sciences: anatomy & physiology, astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology, physics

High school and college

Pros: Covers main points in all areas

Cons: No video tutorials, basic summaries, not a lot of worked-out problems

Algebra Help

Basic algebra

Elementary, middle and high school

Pros: Written lessons, calculators and worksheets

Cons: No video tutorials

Algebra & Geometry

Geometry and algebra

High school and college

Pros: Math homework solutions, lessons and free tutors. Can ask questions on a question board and receive solutions.

Cons: No video tutorials, limited to algebra and geometry

Online learning is not just about finding study material on the Web. It’s a form of self-motivated learning that is delivered to learners at their fingertips. The flexibility of online learning makes it a great option for both children and parents. With online learning, the craziness of running your child to a tutoring session while needing to be somewhere else at the same time is gone; dinner can be cooked while your child is learning in the other room.

Some students use tutoring to help them with homework assignments they are having trouble with or to help them gain a better understanding of what their teacher is trying to teach them. They may do absolutely fine in the classroom, but homework can cause them to struggle. Online learning resources may explain topics in a language that is easier to understand.

As a student at Saint Louis University, I (Kelley Sandhu) have found myself struggling with chemistry and in need of assistance. While SLU has some of the greatest professors in the country, there are times when I find lectures confusing. Khan Academy has allowed me to do better in my chemistry courses, and I swear by Patrick JMT for everything calculus. Both organizations simplified the material for me and put it in human terms; they also provided multiple examples that helped me even more.

I believe that education is the most important thing a person can have; it is the one thing that no one can ever take away from you. At the same time, I think it is unfortunate that a lot of children are unable to access tutoring due to the expense.

There are so many great online tutoring resources out there that I encourage every student to try. So don’t wait for the teacher – see what you can do as a parent to help your child.


December 2012
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