Weaving threads of sound into a musical tapestry

Music composition student Atticus Schlegel transferred to MU to push the boundaries of his craft. With help from the Mizzou New Music Initiative, he’s learning to leave audiences spellbound.

  • Portrait of Atticus Schlegel
    Atticus Schlegel didn’t realize his passion for composing music until he was in high school. At Mizzou, he’s able to pursue his music composition studies thanks to a scholarship from the Mizzou New Music Initiative.

Dec. 13, 2023
Contact: Eric Stann, 573-882-3346, StannE@missouri.edu  
Photos by Abbie Lankitus

Atticus Schlegel creates conversations without uttering a single word. By carefully selecting musical notes and rhythms, the University of Missouri student experiments with weaving each musical element into a masterpiece of sound where his voice is felt, not spoken.

Gathering from different musical styles, such as French composer Erik Satie and German composer Paul Hindemith, along with other classical, jazz and modern influences, the St. Louis native strives to express himself in a way that leaves audiences spellbound.

“As a composer, I think it’s important to not be stuck in one tradition,” Schlegel said. “You should use foundational elements from many genres and couple them with your own way of thinking to create your own music and establish your own path. I want to guide listeners through a transformative experience throughout the musical journey.”

In his father’s footsteps

Inspired by his late father, Paul, who composed his own music, Schlegel began writing music as a sophomore in high school.

“My father's music is also of great importance to me, and his style resonates with me more than any other composer,” Schlegel said. “I think about his music a lot.”

At the encouragement of his high school band director, Schlegel attended the Missouri Summer Composition Institute — a summer program for high school composers organized by the Mizzou New Music Initiative (MNMI). The aim of MNMI is to foster an environment where composers can connect with performers who can bring their written pieces to life in front of an audience.

The summer program was Schlegel’s first opportunity to have a piece of music he created performed live by a group of musicians — an experience that quickly hooked him.

“It was one of those times in my life where my mind changed and expanded in terms of how I saw things,” Schlegel said. “For a moment, it didn’t seem real that something I created was being performed. The experience also showed me how composers can build a strong connection with listeners. I wanted to do more of it.”

With limited opportunities to write and have his music performed at another college, Schlegel followed his band director’s advice and transferred to MU to continue pursuing his dream of composing music. His decision was also driven by his existing familiarity with the MNMI’s Missouri Summer Composition Institute.

The MNMI offered him a full-tuition student scholarship thanks to Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield and the Sinquefield Charitable Foundation’s generous support of the initiative, allowing Schlegel to jump head-first into honing his craft.

“Atticus has a curious mind and is multitalented, which are both important traits for a composer to have,” said Stefan Freund, artistic director of the MNMI and professor in the MU School of Music. “I’ve greatly enjoyed hearing the music he has written in the past, and I look forward to what he will create in the future.”

A quintet of musicians from the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra performs Schlegel’s “Forgotten Fantasy” during a concert Oct. 25 at the Sheldon in St. Louis. The concert was part of a partnership between the Mizzou New Music Initiative and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. | Photo courtesy Jon Gitchoff

Since arriving at MU, the senior has had multiple opportunities to have his music performed by talented musicians, including earlier this year when a quintet from the world-renowned St. Louis Symphony Orchestra played his piece “Forgotten Fantasy” at the Sheldon in St. Louis as part of a partnership between MNMI and the orchestra.

“The MNMI has brought together a wonderful group of musicians, and it’s an honor to be a part of it and have talented musicians interpret my music and execute what I’ve written on paper,” Schlegel said. “The MNMI faculty push us to grow and expand our musical horizons in the pursuit of being better musicians while also allowing us to be true to ourselves and who we are. This experience of fostering artistic innovation will provide a strong foundation for my future career in composing music.”  

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