Montana native Christopher Stark has won American Composers Orchestra’s 2010 Underwood Commission, earning him a $15,000 purse for a work to be premiered by ACO in a future season. Chosen from seven finalists during ACO’s 19th annual Underwood New Music Readings on May 21 and 22, Stark won the top prize with his work Ignatian Exercises.

Born in 1980, Christopher Stark spent his formative years in rural western Montana. His music is deeply rooted in the American West, always seeking to capture the expansive energy of Montana’s quintessential American landscape. In addition to ACO, he has worked with ensembles such as Brave New Works, the Momenta Quartet, the Israeli Chamber Project, Janus Trio, NeXT Ens, the Tipping Point Saxophone Quartet, and Juventas. The Underwood Commission is Stark’s first from a professional orchestra.

Stark is currently a doctoral student in composition at Cornell University, studying with Roberto Sierra and Steven Stucky. He previously studied at the Freie Universität Berlin, the Cincinnati Conservatory, and the University of Montana. At these institutions and abroad in Vienna, he studied with notable composers Samuel Adler, Michael Fiday, Joel Hoffman, David Maslanka, Charles Nichols, Wolfram Wagner, and Patrick Williams.

For the first time this year, audience members at the New Music Readings had a chance to make their voices heard through a new Audience Choice Award. On both May 21 and 22, audience members voted for their favorite pieces. The winner of the Audience Choice Award was composer Ricardo Romaneiro, for his piece Sombras. As the winner, Romaneiro was commissioned to compose an original mobile phone ringtone, available to everyone who voted, free of charge.