Archive for the “Competitions” Category

Judith Sainte Croix presenting as part of Con Ed's Composer Residency Program

Exploring the Metropolis administers the Con Edison Composer Residency Program, a response to the challenges musicians face finding space to work in the ever more pricey environs of New York. The organization has just announced that it is expanding the program for its Spring 2011 residencies. They’ll be finding eight composers three month residencies at four different locations throughout the city (including the boroughs of Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn). This will allow them a space to work, an opportunity to present their music in a public program at the completion of their appointment, and a small stipend (This year it was $1000).

Thus far, Flushing Town Hall in Queens and Turtle Bay Music School in Midtown East Manhattan have been announced as spaces for next year’s residencies. Exploring the Metropolis suggests that interested composers sign up for their email list to get further details about the 2011 program as they are announced

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We’re pleased to announce that Hayes Biggs has agreed to be our third jury member for the Sequenza 21/MNMP Call for Scores. Hayes is currently a faculty member at the Manhattan School of Music. A composer, vocalist, writer, copyist, and former Associate Editor at Peters, he brings a wealth of experience to our judges’ table. We’re thrilled he’ll be a part of planning the program.

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Call for Scores:

Deadline: January 31, 2011

The contemporary classical music website Sequenza 21 (, in partnership with Manhattan New Music Project (, is pleased to issue a call for scores. Composers of any age may submit a single work with the following instrumentation: violins (2), viola, cello, piano, and percussion. Works for smaller groupings (solos, duos, trios, etc.) that employ the above instruments are especially welcome.  In the interest of performing as many entries as possible, pieces that are shorter in duration may be preferred.

Several pieces will be selected from these entries for our 2011 concert in New York City (date/location TBA), performed by the American Contemporary Music Ensemble – ACME ( The program committee will include Christian Carey (Sequenza 21), Clarice Jensen (ACME), and Hayes Biggs (Manhattan School of Music).

There is no entry fee. There is also no remuneration apart from the performance. Those composers selected for the concert will be responsible for their own travel and accommodations should they wish to attend the event.

Scores with CD recordings (if available) will be accepted at the address below until 5 PM on Monday, January 31, 2011. Please do not send parts at this time. Materials will be returned if accompanied by an SASE with appropriate postage.

Sequenza 21/MNMP 2011 concert



243 West 30th Street,

Suite 500,

New York, NY 10001


Deadline: 5 PM on January 31, 2011 (receipt of materials; not postmark deadline)

Age limit: none

Entry fee: none

Limitations: only one (1) work per entrant will be considered.

Instrumentation: vlns (2), vla, clo, pno, perc

Prize: a New York performance by ACME, sponsored by Sequenza 21 and MNMP.

Return of materials: With SASE

Submitted works that do not conform to the above guidelines cannot be considered for inclusion on the program.

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Orpheus Chamber Orchestra announced the winners of the Project 440 competition tonight. The four winners will create new works for Orpheus to be premiered in 2012. 

They are (clockwise from top left) Alex Mincek, Clint Needham, Andrew Norman, and Cynthia Wong:

 It was quite  a rigorous vetting process with some very talented competition. Congratulations to all!

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By now, you’ve surely heard about Project 440 at Orpheus/WQXR, and the next round of cuts will take the composers to just a dozen (to be announced September 9th on WQXR). So I thought it would be interesting to talk to the remaining 30 before the cut about this process.

Q: “You all have probably been involved in a group lesson or masterclass at some point – some sort of public forum – with a teacher, composer or perhaps an ensemble and conductor. Project 440, however, involves not only a selection committee, but comments on the internet. How do you view the critiques and praise, both positive and negative – and how does it differ from a masterclass/learning situation?”

David T. Little:
As always, comments on one’s music should be understood for what they are: opinions. While a composer certainly can (and should) learn something by considering other people’s thoughts on their work–especially, say, in the case of a master class–they ultimately, for better or worse, answer only to themselves. When the time comes to sit down to write, I try put all of this aside and just create the best and most honest music possible.

Zibuokle Martinaityte:
Orpheus Project 440 offers young composers three main ingredients, which solidify the recipe of becoming a successful composer in the world and make it complete: exposure, the opinion of a larger audience and the critical judgment of a highly competent selection committee. The integration of these three things distinguishes it from other projects and learning environments such as master classes or public forums for composers. These usually incorporate one or two of the above-mentioned components, but have a non-worldly aspect used for isolated learning where only professionals of the field contribute their qualified opinions or honest advice. This is very useful for analysis and explanations of complex music and perhaps even improving compositional skills, but has little to do with the important relationship of composer to audience.

Due to its presence on the Internet, Project 440 is a unique and useful “reality check” with listeners who are in fact the audience whether one realizes it or not. This framework creates more vulnerability for the composer who becomes completely exposed to others not only through the sounds they create which would be typical for a composer, but also through the verbal interpretations of the listener. People have the freedom to speak candidly about the music and regardless of how we feel, it is posted and available for others to read. Furthermore, it is going to influence other listeners as well. It is my first time participating in a web-based public project and I’ve been very curious and stimulated by reading all the comments. Both positive and negative feedback is equally valuable for me, giving me a glimpse of what the listener is actually experiencing when encountering my music.

Chen Yao:
I am open to different critiques and praise, as these comments are based on the listeners’ different listening experiences on my music. I can tell that the critiques and praise I have received for my Glowing Autumn come from the listeners who are from all kinds of backgrounds. They take my music to various perspectives and levels. I deeply appreciate their individual thoughts and comments. I am very happy that my music can offer the listeners a little sound pleasure as well as an angle by which they can get to see and think what today’s young composers are creating.

It definitely differs from what you can hear and learn from a masterclass. The internet offers a no-personal interaction inviting listeners from a broader level of society, and mostly the comments you receive on line present a wide range of aesthetic levels and unfold what your music means to others. A masterclass provides a situation in which a composer can share his/her music ideas with other professional and experienced colleagues, and often the comments you receive at a masterclass deal with the composers’ understandings of what music composition is, and what might improve your composition.

Clint Needham:
I applaud the idea and effort behind Project 440 and I am honored to be selected to the next round of the competition. However, the major issue is that most comments for each composer come from friends of the composer (myself included). In an open forum where anyone can comment there is really no way of being “fair” and totally objective. That being said, I am fine with the way things are being run and I am happy the final decision comes from the committee. I would also add that I don’t think most of us would get such glowing reviews (or overly harsh ones) in a room where people, who were asked to be objective, spoke to us directly.

Christopher Lee:
I view comments I receive from the Internet not at all like those I would get at a masterclass, or even from a newspaper review, though that’s closer. Comments from online listeners represent feedback one would get from a concert audience, made up of people with very diverse backgrounds and degrees of experience with music. As such, I think this is important feedback to have, and represents “the last stop” our music makes on its journey into the world, but I would expect composers to take the same attitude towards it as they do to reviews: some will care, and others will not. This seems to be an interesting new direction for the reception of concert music however, and puts the music back into the public arena in a way reminiscent of the 1930’s and early 40’s with Copland and other populist composers.

Alex Mincek:
The comments have been fun and interesting to read. However, because many of the people who have commented perhaps feel as though they are in some way directly voting, there has been some amusing hyperbole. This project has been a unique experience and so I don’t really find it has much in common with a masterclass situation. While it is certainly informative to hear feedback, I don’t think the dynamic between myself and an anonymous commenter has much in common with any teacher/student relationship I have encountered. I think the project has more in common with a post-concert situation, where, after hearing my work people sometimes share their reactions and opinions without necessarily intending to be pedagogical in any way.

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I just got off the phone with a reporter from the Chicago Reader, who read our February 12th coverage of Eighth Blackbird’s Composition Competition (on Twitter, this came to be known as the “8Bb boo-boo” post).

In the initial post, I’d expressed my disappointment at finding out that Eighth Blackbird, an ensemble for whom I had a great deal of respect as new music performers, was charging a $50 entry fee for their competition. As the post’s title indicated, it seemed apparent that the competition’s prize would easily be self-funded by application fees, with plenty left over.

We had a lot of comments on the post. This discussion revealed a wide range of viewpoints on the subject, both pro and con. Some posters pointed out that instrumentalists are routinely required to pay robust fees for auditions; why should composers? Others suggested that the ensemble was right in charging a fee, as they would be spending time adjudicating the contest and deserved compensation for that time. But others agreed with me that self-funded commissions are a problematic aspect of far too many composition competitions.

The variance of opinion didn’t hew to a composer vs. performer divide; one of Sequenza 21’s regular contributors, composer Lawrence Dillon, mounted a vigorous defense for the competition’s guidelines. Dennis Bathory-Kitsz, on the other hand, went even further than I did in strenuously rebutting the idea of high application fees and self-funded commissions.

Shortly after our post, and commentary elsewhere on the web, Eighth Blackbird announced that they were postponing the competition to rethink and revise its guidelines. They have recently announced a new competition. Partnering with the American Composers Forum and MakeMusic, Eighth Blackbird will undertake the Finale® National Composition Contest. You can read the competition’s guidelines here.

As I pointed out in my interview with the Reader (the article will run next Thursday, if you’d like to see what they make of it), the Finale competition improves on the previous contest in several ways. Some highlights:

-Each contestant may send up to three works, composed in the last five years, that demonstrate how they would write for Eighth Blackbird. One may include CDs, DVDs, and scores.

– There’s no more application fee; composers may pay a nominal amount ($5) if they’d like for their materials to be returned. Like all good competitions, it remains anonymous. There are no age restrictions.

– Three finalists will each receive $1000 and a $500 travel stipend. They will workshop the piece for a weekend with Eighth Blackbird. The winner will receive $2000 and a performance by 8Bb.

-None of the prizes is a king’s ransom; but paying finalists a travel stipend and giving them the opportunity to workshop their piece with the ensemble are significant opportunities not afforded by many competitions.

I think that this competition will better serve both emerging composers and the ensemble. By partnering with Finale and ACF, 8Bb has high-profile sponsors who are helping to offset some of the administrative costs that were previously passed along to composers. The affiliation with Finale will doubtless garner more attention and publicity for the competition. I’d imagine it will also help to get the word out to a wider and more diverse pool of emerging composers.

I, for one, am pleased that our discussion about composition competitions on Sequenza 21 seems to have made a positive impact. I’m also glad to be able to thank Eighth Blackbird publicly for being receptive to criticism and open to discussion. Their willingness to listen to what composers have to say – and then act on it- is another brand of advocacy that’s all too rare and greatly appreciated.

The deadline is September 15th, so get writing!

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Spring has definitely sprung down here in Houston; everything that looked dead just a few weeks ago is sprouting all kinds of new growth. And that goes for opera as well, seeing that this year’s iteration of  Opera Vista begins this Saturday, March 20th, and runs through March 27th.

Opera Vista focuses on bringing contemporary opera to Houston and the Vista Competition is an international search for ground-breaking new works by modern composers.

“The Vista Competition is unique in that it gives composers the opportunity to have their works performed by professional singers and instrumentalists,” says Viswa Subbaraman, OV‘s Artistic Director. “They have a wonderful opportunity to interact with many well-known people from the world of opera and classical music, but I think more importantly, they get an insight into how their work is perceived by the audience.”

In October, six semi-finalists (Lembit Beecher, Katarzyna Brochocka, Alberto García Demestres, Joseph Eidson, Jonathan N. Kupper, Catherine Reid) from three countries were selected, ranging from adaptations of a Japanese folk tale to a horror opera.  Excerpts from each work will be performed on March 24th & 26th at the Czech Center Museum Houston (4920 San Jacinto, at Wichita), each night beginning at 7:30pm.  A panel of judges, including world-renowned composer Daron Hagen (There will be an evening of chamber music composed by Hagen at 7:30pm on March 25th at the Czech Center) and Leslie Dunner of the Joffrey Ballet, will critique each excerpt, and the audience will vote to select which operas will advance. In the final round the winning excerpts will be performed again with a longer critique from the judges, but then the audience will get to directly question the composers. The audience then votes to determine the winner of the competition, which will be announced March 27th at the festival’s closing performance. The winner receives $1,500 and a full production of their opera at the next festival.

This year’s festival will also include the world premiere of the winning opera from the 2009 Opera Vista Festival, Anorexia Sacra by Line Tjørnhøj. Line couples the plight of a young woman suffering from anorexia with the writings of the 13th century nun Claire of Assisi. Anorexia Sacra will be performed at 7:30pm on March 20th and 27th at the Live Oak Friends Meetinghouse (1318 West 26th Street).

There’s also a bit of meet-and-greet with all the composers on March 23rd, 6-8pm, at Momentum Audi (2315 Richmond Avenue).

Whew! Tickets and more information can be found at the OV website, which also contains sketches of each of the composers, operas and judges.

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I have the utmost respect for Eighth Blackbird as musicians and new music advocates. In fact one of my fondest dreams as a composer would be to have them perform my chamber Sextet. But I was very disappointed to learn that the ensemble’s new Call for Scores requires composers to pay a $50 application fee to have their scores considered. While, as one of my colleagues put it, this may convince composers to be ‘a bit self-selective’ in their submissions, it’s also a handy way to self-fund the commission of a new work for the ensemble.

As much as I’d like to have Eighth Blackbird consider my work, I don’t want to participate in a process that feels exploitative.

Thoughts on application fees? The comments section is open!

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Bit of a streak for American composers: this time last year we were congratulating Huck Hodge for winning the Netherland’s Gaudeamus Composition Prize. Now it’s Ted Hearne‘s turn, for his Katrina Ballads. From the press release:

This prize is € 4,550 and is meant for writing a new composition to be performed in the Gaudeamus Music Week 2010.

The Gaudeamus Prize and the honorable mention were awarded by jury members Huba de Graaff (Netherlands), Anne La Berge (Netherlands), and Akira Nishimura (Japan). For this year’s International Gaudeamus Music Week, which was open to composers under 31, the Gaudeamus Foundation received almost 400 scores from all over the world; the jury subsequently selected fifteen works to compete for the Gaudeamus Prize 2009.

Ted Hearne received the prize for a selection from Katrina Ballads, performed on September 10, 2009 at the Conservatory of Amsterdam by `the ereprijs with Wim Boerman conducting. Hearne himself was vocal soloist in this piece.

Hearne’s own website (linked above) has audio of some of the Ballads and a number of other works. We talked about these pieces here at s21, back in September last year; good to see this recognition as well.

This year’s honorable mention went to young Japanese composer/performer Toru Nakatani, who sounds like he’s persuing some interesting work:

In 1996 Nakatani built a microtonal guitar with movable frets. Two years later he began to play with rock groups, jazz orchestras and improvisation groups. He subsequently went to both northern and southern India and Sri Lanka in 2000 and during his stay in New Delhi studied dilruba, a classical bowed Indian instrument. He has built original instruments such as a 19-stringed guitar with jawari, an instrument consisting of resonating strings only, and a guitar based on just intonation. He has had solo performances with these instruments since 2001. In 2008 his piece (16_1/32_1) was awarded the third prize at the Toru Takemitsu Composition competition.

Nakatani’s website is more placeholder than anything else; still a name to watch for in the coming years.

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The 2009 Opera Vista Festival and competition just finished up down here in Houston. Line Tørnhøj of Aarhus, Denmark was voted by the audience as the winner with her opera Anorexia Sacra. Second place went to Camilo Santostefano of Buenos Aries, Argentina, and his opera El Fin de Narciso. Tørnhøj received a check for $1,500 and will have her opera fully staged at the 2010 Opera Vista Festival, while Santostefano received $1,000.

The festival also also featured performances of the two winning operas from the 2007 Vista Competition: Edalat Square by R. Timothy Brady and Soldier Songs by David T. Little.

And before you can even catch your breath, here comes the deadline for submitting that score you’ve been slaving away on night and day: July 5th is the date you need it in for next year’s fest. Obviously the cash prize is not going to let you retire to the Riviera; but it’s a chance for a real staging & performance with excellent musicians, with a good and enthusiastic crowd, and recognition for your next step down that road. Viswa Subbaraman and crew really work their butts off to put this on; kudos for providing so much encouragement to the new, amid all the grand fossilization paraded everywhere else. All the info on the who, what, where and why can be found at Opera Vista’s website. Get cracking! (you, that is, not the voice…)

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