More than a decade ago, Jeanne Sinquefield “made the mistake of giving a little money” to now-Chancellor Emeritus Brady Deaton. He asked her what she’d like the university to do with the gift, and Sinquefield, who has played the double bass for 50 years, suggested a music-composition competition for K–12 students.
It could have ended there.
But Sinquefield attended the first Creating Original Music Project competition. She sat and watched schoolchildren — 7-year-olds with feet dangling above the foot pedals — sound out the melodies in their heads at the piano.
“This is genius out there,” Sinquefield, of Westphalia, Missouri, remembers thinking.
In other areas, children with talent get nurturing. Youth sports leagues for the athletically gifted abound. But there was no such farm system in place for gifted composers.
So Sinquefield went about creating one — with Mizzou as the destination point.
Friday, April 10, Sinquefield announced her biggest gift toward that effort to date, a $10 million donation from her and husband, Rex Sinquefield, toward construction of a new School of Music building and renovation of the Fine Arts Building.
The Sinquefields also have supported a composition summer camp for high school students, a New Music Initiative for student composers, an ensemble to perform the new compositions and an international composers festival — all at Mizzou. They also support a full-ride scholarship for undergraduate composers — something no other university offers, she says.
“We are making [MU] a Mecca for musical composition,” she said during the gift announcement at the Reynolds Alumni Center.
But composers need musicians, musicians need audiences, and audiences need concert halls. That’s where a new School of Music building comes in.
To be located on the northeast corner of Hitt Street and University Avenue, the building will offer dedicated rehearsal rooms for jazz, percussion, band, choral and opera students; classroom and office space; and a 410-seat recital hall.
"You can’t go a day without music." - Jeanne Sinquefield
Whereas parts of the music school currently are housed in five buildings across campus, all segments will share one roof when the new building has been completed. Construction is projected to start in 2016.
The music building is the first phase of a larger $74 million project that includes the renovation of the Fine Arts Building, including the Rhynsburger Theatre. The rehabbed building will contain studio space for fiber, ceramics, 2-D design, dance, photography, theater and graphic-design students, as well as classrooms and offices.
The project is a special one for Sinquefield. She has played the double bass since the seventh grade; she had the biggest hands, which aided in managing the huge, body-size instrument. Its deep chords also had the benefit of being audible to her father, who was mostly deaf and could hear only low notes.
“You can’t go a day without music,” she says. “Can you imagine a life without music, or music that was all written before you were born?”
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