Classical music patron keeps genre vital

Jul 24, 2013

This week's Mizzou International Composers Festival is largely sponsored by a gift to the MU School of Music from Dr. Jeanne Sinquefeld.
Credit 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.

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

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 Composers Augusta Read Thomas and Daniel Kellogg along with Mizzou composers W. Thomas McKenney and Paul Seitz. Details available at