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A winning score

Missouri composers find a voice in competition

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  • Story by Lisa Bruce
  • Photos by Shane Epping
  • Published: March 19, 2008
Mark Woodward

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Mark Woodward performs music from one of his original compositions at the Creating Original Music Project Senior Division Honors Concert on March 15. A transcript of the audio is available.

Two young men walked onto the stage of Whitmore Recital Hall with no fanfare or introduction. They wore sweaters over untucked dress shirts. One had a set of keys dangling from his belt loop and an electric guitar in his hands. The other climbed behind a drum set. They proceeded to rock out. 

Much later, four singers walked onstage. With leather music portfolios held at chest level, they launched into a piece of a cappella choral music.

What brought these strange bedfellows together? The Creating Original Music Project (COMP) Senior Division Honors Concert on March 15.

Dylan Rucker and Josh Higgins, Westran High School students, performed the rock piece "Driving With Your Eyes Wide Open." It won second prize in the “music with words” category in the high school division of the COMP K-12 Competition. Mark Woodward won another component of COMP, the Sinquefield Composition Prize for MU Students. Woodward, a master’s candidate in music, composed the piece that he sang with Lindsey Lang, soprano; Kyle Stegall, tenor; and Trent Rash, tenor.

Creation on a schedule

Woodward learned in November that he had won the competition. He received a scholarship and a commission to compose a piece for the Chancellor’s Concert on March 3. That gave him short time frame for a new creation.

“It’s one thing to sit down at your computer and write out some notes and say, ‘Yeah, I like the way that sounds,’” Woodward says. “It’s something completely different to write a piece on a timeline, get to work with professors and your peers, and really create a piece of music that’s not just a piece of paper.”

“Birds of Paradise” took about three weeks and 30-40 hours to complete. For Woodward, who is a vocalist, the text comes first and often represents a challenge. The music responds to the words.

“The trickiest part about poetry is actually finding some that I like and that is useable,”  Woodward says.

Hearing his composition sung by a full chorus and the emotional force that the music created startled Woodward. He says he simply couldn’t have heard it playing in his head.

Dylan Rucker and Josh Higgins perform

Drummer Josh Higgins and guitarist and lead vocalist Dylan Rucker perform the original composition "Driving With Your Eyes Wide Open" at the COMP recital on March 15. 

Woodward and his colleagues performed excerpts from his composition "50 Poems" — using poetry by e.e. cummings — at the COMP performance. "German Rhymes for Two Sopranos," the piece that won Woodward a commission for the Chancellor’s Concert, used the words of Friedrich Nietzsche.

Show me musicians

COMP was established in 2005 to encourage young Missouri composers. Jeanne Sinquefield, mother of two graduates and one current Mizzou student, and a member of the For All We Call Mizzou Steering Committee, funds the program through the Sinquefield Family Foundation. COMP also sponsors the only summer camp for high school composers in the U.S.

Sinquefield, a music lover and string bass player, wanted to do something that actively engaged students’ creativity.

“Any time a kid is successful at one thing, they become successful at others. I learned that in scouts,” Sinquefield says.

Read more in:  Arts & CultureOn CampusBeyond Campus

Reader feedback

  • There was also a successful entrance by a local junior high school student.  Shaun Gladney, a student at Oakland Junior High School here in Columbia, won second place with a percussion ensemble he wrote.  He is an exceptional talent and a very very mature musician for only being in 8th grade.

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Last updated: Feb. 22, 2012