Susan LaBarr, a Missouri State University music department alumna, has been named the 2012 Missouri Composer Laureate. She is composing music for the Verses and Voices Festival on March 6, 2012 at the Capitol Rotunda in Jefferson City. Choirs from across the state will combine to sing LaBarr’s piece “The Dream Ship,” a setting to music of Missouri poet Eugene Field’s classic poem. LaBarr is also setting to music a poem from Storm Country, an anthology of literary works published to benefit Joplin school libraries; the Joplin High School choir will perform this piece at the festival.
“The Missouri Composer Laureate appointment is the biggest honor that I have received thus far as a composer,” LaBarr says. “It is just the beginning of my career, and I’m excited to see where it goes next!”
LaBarr received her Bachelor of Arts in Music and Master of Music in Music Theory from Missouri State University. She studied under Dr. Peter Collins in piano and Dr. John Prescott in music theory and credits both with helping her establish her career in music. She also cites dance teacher Ruth Barnes and choral director Dr. Guy Webb as inspirations.
LaBarr performed with the Concert Chorale from 2000 to 2007, taking part in several European tours, and also wrote music for the group. LaBarr was also a member of A Cub Bella, the University’s female a cappella group, from 2002 to 2007, and is working on an arrangement for the group’s ten-year reunion. She explains that her student organization involvement enhanced her school experience.
“Finding a student organization that relates to one’s major field of study is extremely important and creates an overall school experience that is much more rich,” LaBarr says.
LaBarr and her husband currently live in Tennessee, where she is the Composer in Residence for the Chattanooga Girls Chorus. In July 2011, she received the Missouri Choral Director’s Association Opus Award for her composition Songs of Love Lost, commissioned by the Chamber Choir of Parkway South High School in St. Louis County. Six of her compositions have been published by the Santa Barbara Music Company. In addition, she served as a resident assistant for the Missouri Fine Arts Academy for three years and RA director for one year.
“I owe so much of my success to the education that I received at Missouri State University,” LaBarr says. “For the past few years my husband, Cameron, and I have chosen to skip giving each other Christmas presents and give back to the University instead. We have chosen to support the Missouri Fine Arts Academy and the Missouri State University Concert Chorale in the hopes that we can give some students the same incredible opportunities that we were given during our time there.”
“I hope that others will find the groups, departments, or activities that shaped them and find a way to give back,” she adds.
Verses and Voices is an initiative to expand creative activity in the state of Missouri. Its goals include involving Missouri citizens in the state’s creative voice and encouraging creative collaboration between composers, poets, artists and choirs. LaBarr is the third Composer Laureate selected by the Verses and Voices program.