Three student composers in the MU School of Music recently had an opportunity to have their compositions performed by an ensemble of world-class musicians. The performance at Powell Hall in St. Louis marked the culmination of a year-long collaboration between the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (SLSO) and the Mizzou New Music Initiative (MNMI), funded by Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield and the Sinquefield Charitable Foundation.

Three new works for the 40-piece orchestra were commissioned for the April 29 event: Aaron Mencher’s “Antrios,” Dustin Dunn’s “Don’t Let the Fire Go Out,” and Douglas Osmun’s “ghost.recending. (unto a shaded landscape).” Mencher, a senior, is the 2018 winner of the Sinquefield Composition Prize, Mizzou’s highest award for a student composer. He and Dunn, also a senior, are working toward their undergraduate degrees in composition. Osmun, the 2017 Sinquefield Composition Prize winner, is in his second year of study for a master’s degree.

“This is one of the best examples of experiential learning that the college provides to students,” says College of Arts and Science Dean Patricia Okker. “The Mizzou New Music Initiative gives our student composers an opportunity to collaborate with one of the premier orchestras in the country in front of a live audience.”

St. Louis symphony practicing on stage.

Student composers from the MU School of Music joined the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra at Powell Hall in St. Louis.

Practice Makes Perfect

The student composers had the opportunity to fine-tune their works with the help of the professional musicians. In November, the students had their compositions performed by the SLSO, and members of the orchestra critiqued the works and suggested revisions. The revised compositions were then performed a second time at the public concert at Powell Hall in April.

“Working with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra on this project was a dream come true,” Mencher says. “Everyone involved was incredibly supportive, from the faculty spending extra hours with me helping me get the music prepared, to the conductor, administrators, and musicians at the symphony going out of their way to make sure that we learn as much as possible. One thing that I took away from the experience is exactly how many people are required to make music with an orchestra. By meeting all of these people, it gave me a whole new appreciation for the orchestra.”

In 2009, the Sinquefields gave $1 million to the MU School of Music to establish the MNMI, which funds a variety of programs including student scholarships, assistantships for members of the New Music Ensemble, guest performer and composer residencies, and the Mizzou International Composers Festival.