Because the Good Book says we don’t “live by bread alone,” I’ve preempted my food blog today for a heartwarming, non-food-related story. My family just met Dustin Dunn, an award-winning music composer from southeast Missouri. His composition, “Don’t Let the Fire Go Out,” (written for a full orchestra), draws its title from my book and is dedicated to our family. It was performed last year by the St. Louis Symphony.
Creating a Composer
Growing up in Annapolis, MO, a town of less than 500 people, it was unlikely Dustin would ever pursue a career in music composition. When his father, a logger, suffered a disabling head injury, his mother earned a nursing degree at a local junior college to support the family. Sadly, in the struggle for day-to-day living, no one recognized they had a budding composer in their midst.
The Keyboard Kid
As a 10 year old, Dustin learned the piano tinkering with his grandmother’s electronic Casio keyboard, where the keys lit up that played the melody. His first music book was a church hymnal. He was devastated when the local high school abandoned the music program for lack of funding.
Eager to continue his music studies, Dustin started taking piano lessons from a relative, who recognized his talent and got him under the tutelage of Emily Parker, a trained musician at the Arcadian Academy of Music in Ironton.
A Mizzou Music Major
While still a teenager, he composed a piece called “Appalachian Rhapsody,” that evoked Aaron Copland, one of Dunn’s favorite writers. He began to enter contests and winning. Things started to look up when he was awarded the Sinquefield Scholarship, a full four years at Mizzou from the New Music Initiative.
Graduating in May, the 23-year-old musician is now off to the the University of Michigan School of Music to study composition on a full scholarship. His goal is to earn a PhD and teach music composition at the university level and, of course, compose more music himself.
Remembering His Roots
Dustin is now working on a piece dedicated to Linda Kelly (his maternal grandmother) called “Grandmother’s Hymnal,” that uses songs he rearranged from an old hymnal belonging to his great-grandmother. She had placed notes beside her favorite hymns and those were the ones he included. The work, written for the James Madison University New Music Festival, will debut in October.
Don’t Let the Fire Go Out
Dustin Dunn’s comments on his work and why he wrote it:
The piece is partially inspired by a man who I’ve never met, but also happens to be one of Missouri’s favorite sons . . . and his wife Jean. Although I am too young to remember him, I am very much aware of his legacy. Growing up in rural southeast Missouri, not far from where the Governor himself had grown up, I had always heard stories of him as he had become somewhat of a folk hero to those I knew back home.
During the midst of the senate campaign. . . incredible tragedy turned to triumph . . . a reminder that we must never stop fighting for what is right.
Thanks again, Dustin, for your incredible work that both inspires and warms the heart. All the best!