Senior composer awarded Sinquefield Composition Prize

Michael Anderson’s piece is about the pursuit of wisdom.

In seventh grade, Michael Anderson realized he didn’t like the music his school band was playing and decided to create his own.

Now a senior music competition major, Anderson is continuing to make his own music. He is the winner of the 2012 Sinquefield Composition Prize.

The annual competition, which began in 2006, calls for students to submit scores to be judged by an outside panel of judges, said William Lackey, admissions and publicity coordinator for the MU School of Music. The winner then composes a piece to be performed by one of MU’s large ensembles.

Anderson is composing a piece for the University Philharmonic about the pursuit of wisdom, with inspiration taken from the Book of Proverbs in the Bible.

Anderson said he is excited to work with the University Philharmonic.

“Here I have all these people to work with who are fantastic musicians and they’re going to give their all to play what’s in front of them, and so I have to give my all to give them the opportunity to do that,” he said.

Graduate student Patrick Clark was the 2011 winner of the Sinquefield Composition Prize. He said the competition gives opportunities that composers are not often given.

“It is difficult to get an opportunity to write for an orchestra,” Clark said. “Everybody wants to play Beethoven. The idea of somebody out of the blue coming up with an orchestra piece and saying, ‘Here, play this’ — it’s too many people, it’s too much time.”

Anderson said composition has changed since the times of Bach and Beethoven, but many people still perceive it to be the same.

“Usually (people) have the stereotype of thinking of this grand, grand person who is almost larger than life and how they have these profound noises and voices in their head that they can put out a piece of paper that people love,” he said.

Anderson said the composing field now has a larger amount of people than in the past. He said the biggest challenge is being noticed among other composers.

“You have to find your voice and then you just have to put it out there,” he said. “Understand that it’s probably not going to be heard right away, but as long as it’s heard it’s going to go somewhere.”

Despite the large number of composers in the world, Anderson is part of a small group at MU. Lackey said there are nine undergraduate music composition majors and four graduate students.

Anderson said composing is a part of who he is. He said he composes by hearing something in his head, like the way artists see an image in their heads and put it on paper.

“That’s the way that I see the world,” Anderson said. “I have something that I need to put out there, so I put it out there.”

Clark also said he’s always been a composer. He could not recall what specifically got him interested in it.

“That’s the biggest question in the world,” he said. “That’s tantamount to asking, ‘Who is God?’ or something like that, the biggest of all questions, really because it’s just another aspect of music. I’ve always been a composer.”

Anderson’s piece will premiere March 5 at the Chancellor’s Concert.

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