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Classical music patron keeps genre vital

Sinquefeld Foundation

Some of the music playing in the Missouri Theatre this week will be heard publicly for the first time ever. That’s because starting Thursday, the University of Missouri School of Music’s annual Mizzou International Composers Festival takes the stage.

Nightly performances from Thursday through Saturday will feature selections from MU faculty and students as well as the 20-member-strong ensemble Alarm Will Sound. The festival will introduce new works by eight composers, works that may not have seen the light of day were it not for Dr. Jeanne Sinquefeld.

Formerly a professional statistician, Sinquefeld worked in academia before retiring and developing an investment management company with her husband Rex. Through the Sinquefeld Charitable Foundation, Jeanne and husband Rex are supporting programming for the Boy Scouts of America, autism research and advancing the creation of “new music”. For the latter goal, the MU School of Music has been the main beneficiary of the Sinquefeld’s awards. Last year, the Sinquefelds awarded the University of Missouri $1 million to further develop a culture of composition in the state. The award funds K-12 and high school composer camps as well as scholarships for collegiate composers of new music.

Credit Dr. Jeanne Sinquefeld
Jeanne Sinquefeld (center) with composer and clarinetist Stephanie Berg (seated at left) and student composer Hayley Meyer at the Sound of Art concert.

Also with the donation from the Sinquefelds the MU School of Music created the Sinquefield Composition Prize in 2006. It is an annual competition open to University of Missouri students. Winners pen an original work that is later performed by one of Mizzou's faculty and student ensembles. The winning composition is later recorded. Through this prize Sinquefeld is encouraging composition of new music that might best fall into the classical genre. We talked with Sinquefeld earlier this week.

Any composer can apply. [Winners] come for a week. They get their music performed by the professional group Alarm Will Sound. We didn’t put any constraints on age. We thought some college students would apply. We had people in their 30s and 40s from all over the world apply. The quality was overwhelming. This is our fourth year of the International Composers Festival.. Last year the St. Louis Symphony heard some of the pieces that we had performed and they have agreed to perform two of them this year as part of their regularly scheduled St. Louis Symphony program.

Sinquefeld’s overall goal with her donation to the MU School of Music? Grow Missouri’s own crop of composers. She sees the annual School of Music-led K-12 composers’ camp as the Little League of composition. Getting a piece played by the St. Louis Symphony means a composer has “entered the big league,’ according to Sinquefeld. One piece that won a previous Sinquefeld Composition Prize was a composition by MU alumni and Kansas City-native Stephanie Berg. Berg’s 2009 composition Ravish and Mayhem will be performed this winter by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. Dr. Jeanne Sinquefeld is most proud of works like this that her gift to MU helped to create. She has commissioned or supported the creation of 350 pieces of music that have been composed, performed and recorded.

It takes time to grow things. Stephanie Berg worked at our high school summer camp. She was a composition grad student. She was intimately involved in the K-12 program. And she is giving back because one of our high school winners who won the Columbia Civic High School Orchestra award, she tutored him. We are finding and growing our composers in a whole variety of ways.

Sinquefeld’s support for the arts comes from a personal passion for creating music. She plays string bass and performs in genres ranging from country & western to jazz. At their rural Osage County, Missouri home Jeanne and Rex Sinquefeld have built a performance space for Jeanne to play bass. Each summer, the Sinquefelds host the members of the ensemble Alarm Will Sound. The group rehearses pieces selected for the annual Mizzou International Composers Festival. Winning composers are also invited to do residencies at the Sinquefeld Reserve.

Asked how curious listeners might access the music she has created through her patronage Jeanne Sinquefeld admitted “we are trying to figure out how to sell and distribute new music. How do we get it played a second time?”

Hear the debut of compositions by emerging composers this week at the Mizzou International Composers Festival. Alarm Will Sound performs this Thursday and Saturday evening at the Missouri Theatre. Friday, the Mizzou New Music Ensemble takes the stage to performs works by guest ComposersAugusta Read Thomas andDaniel Kellogg along with Mizzou composersW. Thomas McKenney andPaul Seitz. Details available at http://newmusicsummerfestival.missouri.edu/.

Trevor serves as KBIA’s weekday morning host for classical music. He has been involved with local radio since 1990, when he began volunteering as a music and news programmer at KOPN, Columbia's community radio station. Before joining KBIA, Trevor studied social work at Mizzou and earned a masters degree in geography at the University of Alabama. He has worked in community development and in urban and bicycle/pedestrian planning, and recently served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Zambia with his wife, Lisa Groshong. An avid bicycle commuter and jazz fan, Trevor has cycled as far as Colorado and pawed through record bins in three continents.
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