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2020 Composition Contest Winners

By Francisco Perez

The 2020 PAS composition Contest received 108 submissions from all over the world, representing the largest number of entries for any PAS composition contest to date. With the contest category of “duet for two performers,” composers were given the opportunity to submit a duet for any instrumentation as long as at least one part was to be performed by a percussionist.


The judging panel for the 2020 contest included:

  • Dr. Jennifer Bellor: Composer and Composition Faculty (University of Nevada, Las Vegas)

  • Dr. Martin Blessinger: Composer and Composition Faculty (Texas Christian University)

  • Dr. Eric Guinivan: Composer and Composition Faculty (James Madison University)

  • Dr. Ksenija Komljenovic: Composer and Percussion Faculty (Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi)

  • Dr. Joe Moore III: Composer and Percussion Faculty (Benedict College)

  • Dr. Marco Shirripa: Composer and Percussion Faculty (University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley)


WINNER: “THE GRIGORI’ by Kyle Rieger

Kyle Rieger’s “The Grigori” is a mesmerizing duet for harp and percussion that programmatically explores The Book of Watchers, a lesser-known discovery from The Dead Sea Scrolls. Written in three movements at approximately twelve minutes in duration, Rieger guides the listener through a multitude of characters depicting various events from the historical text, showcasing both individual and synthesized timberal capabilities of the harp and an economical percussion setup (doumbek, vibraphone, and concert bass drum).

Opening with a persistent rhythmic thread from the harp, the first movement “Fall and Rebellion,” layers hauntingly beautiful melodies and coloristic timbres from the doumbek over a bed of lush, poignant harmonies to create and atmosphere that is both ethereal and enigmatic. Linked by the harp’s everpresent rhythmic ostinato, this movement traverses through a myriad of odd-time signatures, rhapsodic lines, and rhythmically expanding melodies, requiring the performers to have a deep sense of rhythmic acuity fo maintain the work’s celestial aura.


In stark contrast to the first movement, “Son of God, Daughter of Man,” the middle movement, shifts to an even more glacial and expansive atmosphere while still sharing several similarities from the opening movement. Through the use of bows and delicate lines from the vibraphone, Rieger elegantly fuses the two instruments with clever use of everchanging meter and luscious harmonies balanced against moments of forlorn stillness to create a solemn sense of despair.


The final movement, “Flood,” mutates the surreal quality of the second movement by shifting focus to the percussionist, who opens with a quasi-cadenza on concert bass drum accompanied by deep mallet strikes and coin scrapes from the harp. After a short dialogue between both instruments intensifies, the listener is taken back to a familiar place with the return of thematic material from the heroic opening movement. With the restitution of the persistent harp ostinato, the doumbek joins the rich resonance of the bass drum to juxtapose intense polyrhythmic figures against harp’s melodic lines, bringing the work to a climax before concluding with the same final chord as in the first movement.

While the spotlight mostly shines on the harpist throughout the piece, “The Grigori” is nonetheless a stunning addition to the chamber music repertoire for percussionists and harpists alike. Riddled with demanding time signatures, complex rhythms, and expansive space, this work requires exceptional dexterity, acuity, touch, and communication from the performers while providing the audience with a beautiful musical canvas, making it an excellent selection for any university or professional recital.


Kyle Rieger (b. 1996) is an American composer, conductor, and educator based out of St. Louis, Missouri. You can listen to “The Grigori” and find out more about his music by visiting

Music student gets creative for recital

By Travis Miles

Graduate student Kyle Rieger tends to be more pragmatic than positive. He likes things to go according to plan, and when they don’t – by his own admission – he might not be the most positive person in the room. 

When it was announced Truman would be suspending in-person classes for the remainder of the spring semester Rieger, who is completing a Master of Arts degree in conducting, immediately thought of all the things he would be missing, such as concerts, performances, making music with groups of friends and, most notably, his conducting recital. After the initial shock wore off, Rieger decided a global pandemic may have changed his plans, but it didn’t have to stop them. He posted on Facebook that he would host his recital live later that evening on the platform. 


“Instead of sitting around and moping, I wanted to celebrate the work that had already been done,” Rieger said. “I put on my concert tuxedo, rearranged my living room and cued up all of the music we would have played live in an attempt to make the best of the situation.”


While it was not what he had been envisioning for years, Rieger’s recital can be considered an early success story for the now altered semester. At points during the live presentation more than 60 people were watching, and the recording has been viewed hundreds of times. 

“The support I’ve received has been almost overwhelming,” he said. “I’ve received support and thoughtful comments from fellow music students, professors, alumni, administrators and family, and it has meant the absolute world to me that so many people would tune-in and share their well-wishes.”

Rieger will complete his Master of Arts degree in conducting this spring, his second Truman degree after receiving a Bachelor of Music degree in composition in 2018. Technically, he will still be a student in the fall as he is scheduled to earn his Master of Arts in Education degree with a concentration in music in December. Since he will be participating in a student teaching internship with the Lindbergh School District in the St. Louis area, his time on campus has essentially come to an end. 


Although things are not following the normal plan, Rieger is doing his part to stay positive.

“In situations like this, where the plan gets completely thrown out the window, you’re almost forced to turn to positive thinking for risk of driving yourself crazy,” Rieger said. “I remind myself a lot about why Truman and other institutions across the country made the right call in suspending in-person meetings and events, while trying to find as many silver linings and hidden opportunities as I can. Plus, I don’t think there’s ever been a better time than right now to be thankful for what you have.”

COVID-19 Cancelations test Graduate Musician's Creativity 

By Siobhan Neely

“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” 

– Leonard Bernstein

On March 16, 2020, every in-person Truman State University class or activity was suspended for the rest of the semester because of the COVID-19 virus. Despite missing their final days at Truman, some graduate students and seniors are making the best of the situation.

Graduate student Kyle Rieger, who graduated from Truman with his undergraduate degree in 2018, is set to complete his Master of Arts in Conducting this May. For Rieger, these past two years of studying have led to a culminating moment: a graduate conducting recital featuring one of his original works. Unfortunately, Rieger’s recital was canceled because of the pandemic.


“When it started to set in, I cried,” Rieger said, “It’s devastating … but I can either sit around and be sad about it, or I can be proactive.”

Rieger discussed how Bernstein’s quote inspired him to perform his recital another way— over Facebook Live — using pre-recordings of the pieces he was going to conduct.

At 8:30 p.m. that same day, three hours after the news broke, he went live on Facebook, conducting the pieces he had worked so hard to prepare. Since his original composition, “Of Oblivion,” was supposed to be a world premiere, he used a Musical Instrument Digital Interface file recording of the piece to supplement his conducting.

“I was trying to make the best of it, not only for myself but for others who had to face this disappointment,” Rieger said. “It’s not at all how I envisioned my graduate conducting recital would be, but given that it was a makeshift Facebook event … it went as well as it could go.”

Rieger’s endeavor did not go unnoticed. Over 200 people tuned in to watch his video, either live or after the fact. 

Fellow graduate student Emily Zuber was one of the people who tuned in. 

“I’m so heartbroken for you and everyone who had recitals and performances, but what a beautiful way to still display your talent and hard work while also bringing people together and increasing morale in this difficult time,” Zuber commented. 

Other comments left included how well he was conducting the pieces and how proud everyone was of him.

Rieger said he was impressed with how many tuned in to watch his livestream and all the supportive comments.

“The response has been really heartwarming,” Rieger said. “I cannot thank the people who tuned in at home enough.”

Clarinet Choir Performs at Conference

By Travis Miles

The Truman Clarinet Choir recently had the honor of performing a concert at the 2016 International Clarinet Association’s ClarinetFest Conference in Lawrence, Kan., as one of 10 invited university ensembles.

Eleven hundred clarinetists from around the world attended the conference, which took place Aug. 4-7 on the campus of the University of Kansas. Truman students were able to hear world-class recitals, learn from the best pedagogues in master classes and visit six different rooms of equipment and music vendors.

Their performance, which took place on the final day of the conference, included Shostakovich’s Polka from “The Golden Age,” Teng’s “Hymn of Acxiom” (arranged by Truman student Kyle Rieger) and Ciesla’s “Klezmer Suite.”

The participating students included: Michaela Anderson, Joelle Beusterien, Timothy Clasby, Laura Cleaver, Christina Daud, Katie Davis, Meranda Dooley, Zoe Frantom, Thomas Goodman, Destiny Herndon, Cory Hogan, Carolyn Jennings, Taeyeong Jung, JB Kroeger, 

Alexander Lynn, Brianna Mann, Andrea Otte, Kyle Rieger, Abby Sherman, Kelle Sutton, Josh Van Norman, Andrew Wolf and percussionist Victoria Hosler.

Future ClarinetFest conferences will take place in Orlando, Fla., in 2017 and Ostend, Belgium, in 2018.

ClarinetFest® 2016, Day 5: Truman State University Clarinet Choir

By Lisa Kachouee

Sponsored by Truman State University, the Truman Clarinet Choir presented a recital at 12:00 p.m. in Crafton-Preyer Theatre, Sunday, August 7. Directed by Truman State’s Associate Professor of Clarinet, Jesse Krebs, the ensemble set the tone for their thoughtful, sensitive performance by completing their tuning sequence with a Bach chorale (performed without conductor). The opening selection was an arrangement of the polka from The Golden Age, Op. 22, by Dimitri Shostakovich. Arranged by Lyle Merriman, this demented yet charming polka highlighted the ensemble’s attention to detail in articulation and style.

Arranged by the ensemble’s contra-bass clarinet player Kyle Rieger, The Hymn of Acxiom was written in 2013 by singer/ songwriter and pianist Vienna Teng. Rieger, struck by the beauty of the original work, arranged the song and successfully acquired performance rights for TSU’s ClarinetFest® performance. The ensemble communicated the soaring melodic material and harmony with remarkable sustain, constant care to balance, and excellent intonation.

The Truman Clarinet Choir completed their recital with “Itmar Freilach” from Alexis Ciesla’s Klezmer Suite.

Four students performed improvised solos on E-flat, B-flat, and E-flat alto clarinets. Each performer brought unique ornamentation and inflection to the solos creating a diverse, colorful range of expression. The polished ensemble performance featured twenty-two TSU students.

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