Can Missouri produce another Mozart? A Unterrified Democrat Article

By Ralph Voss
Unterrified Democrat

Can Missouri produce another Mozart?  Can Missouri produce a series of great composers?  Can Columbia, Mo., become another Austria, which produced such great composers at Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven?

Those are questions that frequently pass through the mind of Jeanne Sinquefield and invariably the answer she comes up with is, “Yes, it can happen,” and then she tries to make it happen.

Sinquefield is a lady with an abiding interest in music that goes back to her childhood.  She currently plays in three symphonies – Columbia Civic, 9th Street Symphony and the Jeff City Orchestra.  And since 2005 when she and her husband Rex retired to their farm in western Osage County along the Osage River after an extraordinarily successful career in the mutual fund industry, Sinquefield has been devoting more and more time to helping young composers.

In 2005 Sinquefield launched the first of her efforts to support young would-be Mozarts when she came up with COMP – the Creating Original Music Program.  This is a music composition competition for children in kindergarten through high school that offers cash to the winning composer and additional cash to the winner’s music program, which is normally a school.
COMP has been very successful.  In 2006 the second-place Sinquefield Prize winner of the competition here in Missouri went on to take first place in national competition sponsored by the Music Teachers National Association.  The following year the first-place winner in COMP later captured second in the nation.

In 2007 Sinquefield was instrumental in the launch of a high school summer camp for young composers.  That first year there were six students, 10 the second year and 12 this year. Sinquefield’s son Randy, a film-maker who recently moved to Columbia from the state of California, shadowed the students attending the 2008 summer camp and filmed the award-winning documentary “Genius Among Us: Young Composers in Missouri.”

Sinquefield feels both COMP and camp (which is now referred to as “Summer COMP”) have exceeded her expectations and she is greatly impressed with the quality of the students.  “They all say ‘I can hear it in my head,’” she says in amazement at the talent these young people demonstrate.

In addition to encouraging the younger students, at the college level Sinquefield sponsored the $3,000 Sinquefield Prize where the winner is commissioned to write a new symphony for any of Mizzou’s large ensembles – the Philharmonic Orchestra, the Symphonic Wind Ensemble and the University Singers.  Past Sinquefield winners have written for all three ensembles over the years.

Spending a lot of time at the university brings Sinquefield into contact with many college students.  Noting what Sinquefield had done for K-12 students, in 2008 some students from Mizzou said, “What about us?”  Her answer was to give UMC $1 million to be used in part to set up eight full scholarships for undergraduate students, a graduate level new music ensemble, support for faculty and plans for expanding concerts and a college-level summer camp.   That program starts next summer, with an extension course in composition being offered this fall.

“There are very few full rides given anywhere,” Sinquefield said of the college scholarship program.  “This will attract the best and even those who do not receive scholarships will want to go to Columbia to study with the best.”

From 2005 when Sinquefield initially made her interests known and offered financial support, the university has been cooperative and responsive, Sinquefield says.  The music department tapped two of their faculty members to help implement Sinquefield’s ideas.  Dr. Stefan Freund and Dr. Tom McKenney were chosen to run COMP, and later to conduct the summer camp.  Freund and McKenney, both of whom are award-winning composers, have taught the high school summer camp and will teach next year’s summer camp for college students.

To make the summer camp more meaningful for the young composers, at the end of the camp their compositions are played at a concert.  This year the 12 high school composers had their works performed on July 18 at MU’s Whitmore Recital Hall.
To showcase the talent of the composers and also to help with next summer’s high school and college summer camps, Sinquefield has enlisted the help of 20 of the country’s most talented musicians, most of whom are graduates of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., and who perform and record together under the name Alarm Will Sound.  Freund is one of the founders of the group.

Six members of the group performed the high school composers’ works at the July 18 performance.  The others in the group assembled at Sinquefield’s house at Folk July 17 through 19 for a performance at her home and also to prepare for a concert in New York on July 22.

Next summer Alarm Will Sound will be in Columbia for 10 days.  The first few days will be spent performing the high school composers’ works, while the remainder of the time will be spent working with those attending the college summer camp.  Sinquefield is delighted Alarm will be in Columbia to help with the summer camps.  “The college kids can get a lot of good advice from Alarm,” she said.

What is Sinquefield’s ultimate goal?  “Wherever in the world there is a great young composer, I want that person to want to come to Columbia, Mo., because he or she feels that is the Mecca for composers,” Sinquefield said.  “I want Columbia and the University of Missouri at Columbia to be where young would-be-composers from all over the world come to write their great music.

“We have great teachers in Dr. Freund and Dr. McKenney and with the Alarm group we have great musicians to help those great teachers.  This is a personal dream that I hope to see become a reality.”

The above story appeared in the Sept. 2, 2009, issue of the Unterrified Democrat, a weekly newspaper published since 1866 at Linn, Mo.

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January 2010