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Symphony Showcases Fast-Rising Composer, Stephanie Berg

photo of David Robertson, Stephanie Berg and Jeanne Sinquefield
Courtesy of the St. Louis Symphony

Composer and musician Stephanie Berg will achieve a rare distinction when the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra performs her composition, “Ravish and Mayhem” at Powell Hall performances on Jan. 10 and 11. Berg, who is in her 20s, appears to be the youngest composer from St. Louis to have a work played by the SLSO during its subscription series.

In a Jan. 3 interview on “Cityscape,” Berg discussed growing up and beginning to play music in Parksville, Mo., in the Kansas City area, the encouragement she found through the Missouri New Music Initiative to become a composer, and the excitement of having the SLSO perform “Ravish and Mayhem” – sharing a program with Beethoven’s Symphony #7 and Carl Nielsen’s Violin Concerto. Berg, who now lives in St. Louis, holds an undergraduate degree in clarinet performance and master’s degrees in both clarinet performance and composition from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

In a recent phone conversation, Berg discussed other compositions that have been performed in St. Louis, her on-going work as a composer and her desire to continue her career as both a musician and a teacher.

Question: Your first composition, “A Piece With No Name,” won the 2009 Sinquefield Composition Prize. As a requirement for that award, you were commissioned to write a full orchestral piece for the Missouri University Philharmonic. So you jumped right into composing!

Berg: I was definitely there at Mizzou at the right time and in the right place! I decided that since I was staying to get my master’s in clarinet performance, I should work on a master’s degree in composition, too.

What other pieces of yours have been performed in St. Louis – and where?

Berg: My 2010 composition “Paper Guns” written for the Mizzou New Music Ensemble was premiered at the Missouri Botanical Garden. And later that summer, my piece “Of Air Sweet and Water Deep” was performed at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Last year, I played my “Gateway” at the Sheldon Concert hall for its 100th anniversary celebration. “Gateway” was written in a very quick turnaround. I basically had two weeks to write the piece. But I was very happy with the way it turned out.

With all your work as a composer, are you still interested in playing music as well?

Berg: Definitely. I love to play! This past year I’ve been a sub for the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra. I actually got to play the clarinet part on Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring,” which was on my bucket list. And I’ll be playing with the St. Louis Philharmonic this coming November.

You were also part of the Mizzou New Music Initiative’s Creating Original Music Program (C.O.M.P.) as a teacher and coordinator. What other music related activities and projects are ongoing for you?

Berg: I was a graduate assistant for four years at C.O.M.P., and helped run it. We worked with elementary school children to students in high school, and I loved teaching. I’m still doing private teaching here in St. Louis. And I’ll also be working with the Arkansas Symphony’s Children’s Concerts this year.

I’m also working with the music group, Alarm Will Sound as an administrative and artistic assistant. I’ve become their music librarian as one of my duties. It’s been a great experience. I also recently wrote a commission for the oboe trio, DDG, who are all members of the Arkansas Symphony. I’m hoping that will be performed this spring.

Will you be attending and/or playing on “Ravish and Mayhem” with the SLSO?

Berg: I’ll be attending, but not playing. I’ll be there for the rehearsals and the performances. It’s an amazing thing to get my piece played at all. But having it played by the symphony is a dream come true.

For more information about, Stephanie Berg, visit her web page: http://sjbvc7.wix.com/stephanieberg.


What: St. Louis Symphony premiere of “Ravish and Mayhem”

When: 8 p.m. Friday Jan. 10 and Saturday Jan. 11

Where: Powell Hall

How much: $30-$109. Go to www.slso.org to buy advance tickets.

From Cityscape:

Terry Perkins is a freelance writer based in St. Louis. He has written for the St. Louis Beacon since 2009. Terry's other writing credits in St. Louis include: the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the St. Louis American, the Riverfront Times, and St. Louis magazine. Nationally, Terry writes for DownBeat magazine, OxfordAmerican.org and RollingStone.com, among others.