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IU Jacobs student composer honored with prestigious 2009 ASCAP Foundation Award

Composer Clint Needham finds endless inspiration in the world around him. Needham's award-winning classical compositions have come to him as the result of everything from last year's Presidential election to his experience of nature.

Needham, Clint
Clint Needham

A doctoral fellow in composition at Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music, Needham was recently the recipient of a 2009 American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Foundation Morton Gould Young Concert Music Composer Award, his second honor from ASCAP. In addition, he was twice nominated for honorable mentions by the organization.

The ASCAP annually presents awards in this national competition for gifted composers under the age of 30. More than 700 entries were received for the 2009 competition, and just 39 composers from around the world received awards.

Needham, a Texas native who received a bachelor's degree from Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory and a master's from IU, has studied with David Dzubay, Claude Baker, Don Freund, Per Mårtensson, P.Q. Phan, Sven-David Sandström, Richard Wernick and Loris Chobanian, as well as with Robert Beaser, Sydney Hodkinson and Christopher Rouse. He also studied with George Tsontakis at the Aspen Music Festival as a Susan and Ford Schumann Composition Fellow. He will complete his doctoral studies at Jacobs in May 2010.

For his ASCAP award-winning work "Chamber Symphony" -- a commission from the American Composers Orchestra that premiered at Carnegie Hall in 2008 -- Needham submitted a piece that he said was inspired by last year's "heated presidential election and the media circus that ensued."

"The first part is sort of a take on the past administration and what had gone wrong," he said. "The middle movement is one collective elegy for how things had gone -- and the hopes that we would make the right choice to make things better. The last part is a kitschy take on Obama and his popularity, and how that was shaking out."

Needham said he completed the piece long before President Obama was elected. "I thought it was neat to write a piece based on the election that was currently progressing rather than reflecting on the election later."

In 2006, IU's Kuttner String Quartet performed Needham's String Quartet No. 1 "Shades of Green," which received second prize in the 2006 Washington International Competition for Composers and was awarded the 2006 Indiana University Kuttner String Quartet Composition Competition.

In the program notes for that performance, Needham described his inspiration for the piece.

"While lying under a tree, listening to Vivaldi's Four Seasons at the Aspen Music Festival in the summer of 2005, I sketched three poems about nature," he said. "Sometime later, I came back to these poems and decided to try to capture the essence floating in the air that day."

In "Shades of Green," he described the breeze gently blowing across a field, then blowing harder causing the Aspen trees to glimmer in the sunlight, the icy winds that blow down from the mountain tops and the way the sunlight streams through the trees, creating a halo at the top of the forest canopy. "The work itself is about cycles," he wrote. "The work is an homage to nature and to the affective spirit found in the music of Vivaldi."

Needham's recent awards include the 2008 Jacob Druckman Prize from the Aspen Music Festival, 2007 Underwood New Music Commission from the American Composers Orchestra, a New York Youth Symphony First Music Commission, 2007 William Schuman Prize/BMI Student Composer Award, ASCAP/Morton Gould Young Composer Award, Washington International Competition for Composers Award, Brass Chamber Music Forum Award and an International Trumpet Guild composition award. He was recently awarded first prize in the International Frank Ticheli Composition Contest, and along with the award came a publishing contract with Manhattan Beach Music, a leading publisher of wind ensemble literature.

His music has been performed by the American Brass Quintet, American Composers Orchestra, Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, Cleveland Chamber Symphony, New York Youth Symphony, Symphony in C and the Oberon Trio, among others. Needham's work has been performed at venues including Carnegie Hall, the Aspen Music Festival, Indiana State University Contemporary Music Festival, Meadowlark Music Festival, Midwest Composers Symposium, the Music Educators National Conference in Salt Lake City and the Wellesley College Composers Conference. His music is published by the Theodore Presser Company, Brass Chamber Music Press and Triplo Press. A CD released by the American Brass Quintet titled Jewels includes Needham's Brass Quintet No. 1 "Circus."

"The Jacobs School of Music composition department attracts many talented composers from around the world to Bloomington," said Needham of his Jacobs experience. "The fact that numerous students have been recognized by ASCAP over the years speaks volumes for the strength of this department, and I am honored to have been one of the recipients of this award."