Tag: emerging composers

Different Cities Different Voices – Louisville

Skyline of Louisville KY with DIFFERENT CITIES DIFFERENT VOICES logo

An introduction by Teddy Abrams

Teddy Abrams sitting at a grand piano which has a globe on top of it.

Teddy Abrams (photo by Chris Wietzke, courtesy of Louisville Orchestra)

Louisville’s exceptional and dynamic music scene has always flown a bit under the radar from a national perspective. This is a microcosm of life in Louisville generally; we are deeply proud of the talent in our own backyard but somewhat baffled by the lack of positive attention to our city from outside media. Similarly, the broader Kentucky landscape contains the generative center of much quintessential American culture but doesn’t often receive commensurate recognition for the role our state has played in helping define our country’s musical history. I think this dual sense of pride and omission has had the perhaps unintended effect of inspiring Louisville and Kentucky musicians to develop an endemic, unique approach to their art. Due to limited music industry infrastructure or a lack of excessive outside influence, our local musicians have built a particularly open and creative environment for music-making; unusually porous cross-genre collaborations and consistent support for young talent may be two of my favorite Louisvillian cultural characteristics.

Thus I am honored to introduce you to these spectacularly talented musicians, all of whom are as equally committed to the health of their community as they are to the excellence of their musicianship. I chose these folks to represent Louisville (although I regret that I couldn’t extend this invitation to the dozens of other brilliant artists in town!) because they espouse what I consider to be our highest calling as artists – a desire to make music in a way that bridges divides, heals wounds, and allows us to confront our challenges as a strengthened society. Jecorey, Rachel, Tyler, Diane, and Carly exemplify this mentality and have made life far more musically inspiring for our city – and for me! I hope you will have a chance to visit our beautiful city and see these artists perform live and in person. You will leave town with a similar dual sense of pride that art is being created like this in our nation, and bemusement that the rest of the world hasn’t quite realized it yet.

Rachel Grimes

Rachel Grimes sitting in front of a grand piano with a harp in the background

Rachel Grimes at Loretto Motherhouse, Marion Co, KY, 2016 (Photo by Ted Wathen)

I was born and raised in Louisville, with multi-generational roots in central Kentucky. As a young child I learned piano by ear playing tunes, from ragtime to standards, alongside my father and grandmother. I took piano lessons to learn to read and to love Chopin, Bach, and Brahms, but it was as a teenager that I excitedly dove into the thriving Louisville underground post-punk scene. I attended the University of Louisville School of Music, earning a degree in composition with piano as my principle instrument. While there I also explored jazz combo, Renaissance harpsichord, and medieval a cappella vocal music. Over the next many years, I wove all of these musical threads together into chamber and orchestral music, scores for theater, film, and museum installations, recording and touring genre-defying albums with several bands, and pushing the boundaries of collaboration with many fellow creatives from my hometown.

Louisville, a friendly, mid-sized, midwestern/southern town has a rich and complicated cultural history and a swift current of creative people who make and support local art. It is known around the world for musical legends such as Lionel Hampton, Slint, My Morning Jacket, Jack Harlow, Valerie Coleman, and the Louisville Orchestra. It is an affordable place to live, work, eat, and create with access to beautiful natural spaces and rivers. After the spring of 2020, it is also known around the world for the murder of Breonna Taylor by the local police, and the killing of David McAtee by the National Guard. Our community experienced shattering pain during these events and subsequent protests, which was compounded by the intense fear, loss, and grief brought on by the pandemic, economic destruction, and tragic loss of health and life around the world.

All of my scheduled performances in 2020 and beyond were cancelled by the pandemic, projects put on hold and into limbo. At that time I was caregiver and guardian for my father and his brother, and in light of all of the strife and chaos happening around us, I focused on managing the circumstances the best I could. My husband, along with so many educator peers, was juggling many new stressors for keeping teachers, families, and children safe while ensuring learning. As a creative musician, I wrestled with many conflicting feelings of uselessness. I played the piano for my hurting heart – that helped. For fun, I played covers with my husband playing bass. I talked with my friends and held hands over the phone. After years of not getting to it, I updated many of my older pencil and digital scores and opened up a web shop for my digital sheet music – that was satisfying. In late 2020, I encouraged my fellow composers Angélica Negrón, Shara Nova, Caroline Shaw, and Sarah Kirkland Snider to salvage our hopes of recording our co-composed work for mezzo-soprano and strings The Blue Hour and co-produced that album with Shara Nova throughout 2021. The album, performed by Nova with the commissioning ensemble A Far Cry, was released by New Amsterdam/Nonesuch Records in late 2022, and was included in the Top Ten Albums of 2022 by NPR, The Nation, WNYC’s New Sounds and more.

Music heals, music unites, music is essential to our lives and our hearts – now more than ever.

Rachel’s Music Picks…

Rachel Grimes: “The name” from The Blue Hour

Harry Pickens: Meditation Music

Jecorey Arthur

Jecorey Arthur standing in front of a microphone

Jecorey Arthur (Photo by Savannah Philpot)

Louisville is the city of Muhammad Ali—the greatest human example of using gifts for good. He used his boxing platform to call for change while I’ve used my music platform to call for change. All artists, but especially Louisville artists, have that hometown responsibility. This led me to run for city council, win, and become the youngest legislator in city history. So I’m not just here for my artistry but for my ancestry—continuing our fight for freedom, and music has been the main medium throughout my career.

Our music scene is so eclectic you can hear live jazz, hip hop, classical, soul, rock, bluegrass, and more all in a single weekend. Louisville composer, Mildred Hill, used to send transcribed “Black street cries” to Antonín Dvořák, who later influenced American culture by composing with Black music and claiming it was the future of our country. When you hear popular American music today, it was all influenced by Black Americans, likely from right here in Louisville. So our eclectic music scene today is tradition. Since the pandemic I’ve been overwhelmed with technology—virtual concerts, virtual meetings, virtual everything. Being back in school with my music students and concerts to hear live music has been healing.

Jecorey’s Music Picks…

Note: Kanye West is not from Louisville, KY. The featured artist on this song is—Vory

Carly Johnson

Carly Johnson

Carly Johnson (Photo by Mickie Winters of Winters Photography)

I’ve lived in Louisville since I was 8 years old and it has absolutely become home to me. After living in Philadelphia (which I also loved) while getting my jazz degree at The University of the Arts, I was lured back home after graduation due to feeling a little homesick…and truth-be-told missing a boy…who–thankfully–was worth the move back, as he eventually became my husband. I was still battling a bit of stage fright and it was such a comfort to get my footing and my jazz chops up in my hometown. As it turns out, I’ve stayed here because I am in complete awe of the love that people of Louisville have for music. Louisville cultivates such a wide range of musicians and actually shows up to support them. As a full time musician, I am forever grateful for this city’s love and passion for music and the arts and I’m truly grateful to the Louisville audience.

Other than the complete love and support of live music, Louisville has a real quirky small town feel, while still maintaining the highest caliber of the arts–our orchestra, our ballet, our jazz and indie rock scene, our art museums–and of course our food and drink. Our farm-to-table, modern, down-home and outside-of-the-box-creative bars and restaurants can absolutely stand-up to the best well known foodie cities and then some.

I found out I was pregnant less than a month before the pandemic came down in Louisville, and it quickly became very apparent that me and my husband would be going through a lot of these first-time experiences alone, instead of being surrounded by our amazing community. On one hand, having the time to be more in the moment and without the daily distraction of the grind that we all endure, was a gift. On the other hand, as a musician, I don’t think I fully understood the sense of self and sense of emotive expression I experience through making music with an audience on such a regular basis, until it was taken away. I was so grateful for any online streaming or outdoor performance opportunity that our community made happen, but they were still very few and far between compared to the 5-6 weekly gigs of singing I’d been doing for years.

Thankfully, Louisville unsurprisingly didn’t disappoint, and despite so many financial challenges that all of the venues faced during the pandemic, everyone got back to live music as soon as possible. I’d venture to say my schedule is the busiest it’s ever been. During the pandemic, I also took that time to release my first solo album and make a music video (of my tune “Burn Your Fears”) about that loss of human connection that we were all feeling, to show how strong we are as people and that, though things might look different on the other side of the pandemic, we’d be able to get to a place where we could see the beauty of life where we were then and now, again.

My own music pick was a tough choice, since my record is mostly a soulful 13-piece band…but I went with “Burn Your Fears” since it ties into the pandemic experience. I originally wrote it for a dear friend of mine, Marisa, shortly after she was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of lung cancer (ROS-1), as a 30 year old non-smoker. She really beat the odds and was able to live 5 full years after being diagnosed, but she passed away last November, just a month after being honored by the American Lung Association as a Lung Force Hero. This song was an anthem for her, in the sense that it’s about facing something incredibly difficult in your life, allowing yourself to embrace and feel every emotion it brings your way and deciding to find beauty and live your life fully in a different way than you had planned. It’s always had a universal theme to it that anyone living with trauma has been able to relate to, but now more than ever, it feels immensely poignant and more relatable than before. Right now, we’re all afraid, experiencing intense emotions and we’re trying our best to navigate this new way of life; we’re learning to find joy and beauty and live our lives in a different way.

Whitney Hall is so important. It represents a longstanding beautiful mecca of the arts in Louisville, and it’s locally owned and supported by its patrons (not Live Nation!). At a time when music and the arts are really struggling, when Whitney Hall is sitting empty and the future is so uncertain, it feels like an impactful message to include the towering gorgeous hall as the background for new art being created—a new way for Whitney Hall to be showcased and seen by everyone who misses it. It’s even more personal for me…I was on stage at WH with Teddy and the LO Friday March 13th, probably the last rehearsal that took place there before the shutdown…and I’m dreaming of when we all get to be back up there again.

The vision…The video is simple in the sense that it’s mostly just myself singing and playing piano in the middle of the WH stage to a massively empty house. But as the song continues, 4 string players would gradually appear in the audience (very very spread out far apart from each other) and they’d pick up their instruments (viola, 2 violins, cello) when the strings start in my song and play from their seats. As the song builds, 2-3 ballerinas would join the stage dancing around the piano (very very far apart from each other and everyone else).

What the viewer is experiencing during the video is a reflection of feelings/emotion…the great big beautiful empty WH house–representing the loneliness we’re all experiencing (and that many people have experienced through trauma), myself playing alone on stage despite being alone– representing our strength as humans to continue and endure, the appearance of the string players and eventual ballerinas–representing humanity, hope for the future and a sense of community in our shared feelings as people.”

Carly’s music picks…

Carly Johnson: “Burn Your Fears”

Kiana & The Sun Kings: “True American”

Tyler Taylor

Tyler Taylor in an enclosed space holding a French horn

Tyler Taylor

I was born and raised in Louisville but wasn’t born into a musical family. I didn’t develop an interest in “classical music” until my older brother started playing the trombone when he was in elementary school. I took up the horn when I was in elementary school and by middle school had developed an intense curiosity about how music was put together – it seemed the only way I could get answers was to try and put it together myself. Fast-forwarding, I went to the University of Louisville as a composer and horn player, then Eastman, and finally IU. I was dumped out into the world during the pandemic with no prospects. I got a job at a coffee shop and worked until I could get my own place. 2021 was the year when things picked up – I was getting significantly more work as both a performer and composer. Even then I had a plan that I would only stay in Louisville for two years after I moved back and then figure out a way to get up to Chicago or New York. However, I realized that I could sustain myself artistically in Louisville – the city I know and love and where I want to stay.

I’ve now lived in three cities in my adult life – Louisville, Bloomington, IN., and Rochester, NY.. What makes Louisville different is its size – it’s not so big that is overwhelming but is also too small to provide the same amount of opportunity that you might associate with a bigger city. Like some other cities, Louisville has a tendency to value what comes in from the outside more than what they already have, so it might take people coming in from other places to validate your artistry or for you to leave and thrive somewhere else to prove your worth. All that said, if you can make it in the scene you can find some really amazing and talented people.

Louisville has an energy and comfort to it that I haven’t quite experienced anywhere else. I also identify with Louisville’s refusal to be easily labeled. For instance, people often argue about whether or not we are a southern or midwestern city. (Though, in my opinion, we are undeniably southern!) We are also situated in a state whose social-political ideologies, by and large, are in stark contrast to our own – we are part of Kentucky but sometimes feel like we don’t always have the most in common with the rest of our state.

During the pandemic I observed some people thrive in their isolation, in some cases creating more than they ever had in their lives. In my case, I stopped playing the horn and writing music entirely – I simply had no reason to do either. I quickly learned that those are two of the most important activities that contribute to and sustain my happiness. I was also faced with transitioning from being a semi-pro student to a professional during the “unprecedented times.” I don’t find my struggles unique but nevertheless difficult. Since then, I have established a fairly healthy freelance career and have made significant strides with many thanks to Teddy Abrams and the Louisville Orchestra. I think I’ve finally shaken the residue from my time as a student and am facing the newest challenges of my career – finding ways not to just sustain my creativity but to grow it. The circumstances have changed but the premise has more or less remained the same: how will I continue to grow as an artist and who’s coming along for the ride? I can’t do it alone no matter how hard I try!

Tyler’s Music Picks…

Tyler Taylor: Distill for 18 Players

Plus here’s a track by my fave Louisville musician, Jackie Royce.
She is a professional bassoonist and plays in this band Ut Gret. We have played together in gigs several times, went to school together, and I consider her a pillar in the Louisville music community.

Diane Downs

Diane Downs standing in front of a brick wall.

Diane Downs (Photo by Kriech Higdon)

My mother grew up in the Highlands of Louisville but upon marrying, moved with my dad to his family farm in Highview to raise me and my brothers. My grandparents bought the land in 1920 and supported their 10 children by running the Highview Dairy, growing crops, and the occasional sale of moonshine. I still live on the same land near my mom and my little brother. This is my home. I feel very connected to our land and never had the desire to move very far away. Part of my connection to my Louisville home was the music that was always present when I was young. “Boil Them Cabbage Down”, “Tom Dooley”, and “Old Joe Clark” were often sung in our kitchen by my mother as she played the banjo. I don’t ever remember not having a musical instrument close to me when I was young.

Louisville is where The Louisville Leopard Percussionists originated organically, accidentally. In 1993 was teaching 2nd & 3rd grade at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School and found a stash of small mallet instruments in a storage closet while searching for bulletin board paper. I enlisted the help of my class to carry the instruments into our room and our group was born. We incorporated the music into our classroom schedule of math, reading, social studies, and science and ended up learning enough tunes to start gigging. A PTA meeting was our first gig, then the mall, for someone’s grandma at the nursing home, then it exploded from there.

In 2003 we incorporated into a non-profit organization and our program really started to grow. Never did I imagine that accidentally stumbling on those instruments would lead to over 30 years of Leopards, over 1000 children, performances at venues all over the eastern United States, an HBO Documentary, and even a appearance on A&E’s Ozzy & Jack’s World Detour. That’s why I still choose to live in Louisville. How could I leave this all behind?

When people think of Louisville, The Kentucky Derby, Muhammad Ali, Louisville Slugger baseball bats, The University of Louisville, or Kentucky Fried Chicken may come to mind. But, there is so much more to Louisville. To me, Louisville is an easy place to live. It has a lot of quirkiness, too. Louisville is the largest producer of disco balls in the world. Benedictine spread was invented in Louisville. The Happy Birthday song was composed by 2 sisters in Louisville.

There is a 30 foot tall golden statue of Michelangelo’s David on Main Street right down the street from the Slugger Museum and Bat Factory. We have the largest annual fireworks show in the country, the world’s longest go-kart track, and the oldest operating Mississippi-style steamboat. And, we have plenty of bourbon distilleries.

I feel that Louisville is a community that values the arts. Our Louisville Orchestra, The Louisville Ballet, and Kentucky Shakespeare are out in the community making the classic arts available and accessible to all. We have numerous art and music festivals all year long so there is always somewhere to go to find great performances and great art. Whether it’s a show by Turner’s Circus, The Squallis Puppeteers, Stage One Family Theater, The River City Drum Corp, Drag Daddy Productions, or The Louisville Leopard Percussionists, people show up to support our arts community. Like many others, our community has had some pretty significant rough patches. But Louisville is my community. I have spent most of my life here. My family is here. My Leopards are here.

The Louisville Leopard Percussionists is a performing ensemble so the pandemic was rough on us. Not being able to come together to play music for an audience was hard for our kids and teachers alike. But, we made the most of it. When it was safe, our Leopard staff at the time, Wes Greer, Kent Klarer, Carly Rodman, and I focused on very small groups and made 17 videos in just a few months. The kids were very proud of their accomplishments and grew so much as young musicians. We were able to really focus in on individual kids to help push them to a different level of musicianship. Our kids were missing out on so much life, we were happy that we could provide them with music to help get them through.

Diane’s Music Picks…

This video is from an October 2022 performance as the warm up band for My Morning Jacket. Watching our little rock stars perform on the big stage reinforced why I do what I do in my city of Louisville.

This is a link to one of my favorite Louisville bands, Squeeze-Bot, performing Thelonious Monk’s Well You Needn’t. I’ve spent many summer evenings sitting at the picnic tables at NachBar listening to these great musicians.

2023 ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Awards Announced

A collage of photos of 2023 ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Award Winners

ASCAP Foundation President Paul Williams has announced the recipients of the 2023 ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, which are eligible to young creators of concert music ranging in age from 13 to 30. Established as The ASCAP Foundation Young Composer Awards in 1979 with funding from The ASCAP Foundation Jack and Amy Norworth Fund, the program grants cash prizes to composers whose works are selected through a juried national competition. These composers may be American citizens, permanent residents or students possessing U.S. student visas. Following his death in 1996, the Young Composer program was renamed to honor the memory of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Morton Gould, who served as President of ASCAP and The ASCAP Foundation from 1986 to 1994, to honor his lifelong commitment to encouraging young creators. (A child prodigy himself, Gould’s first composition was published by G. Schirmer when he was only six years of age.) In addition to the Norworth Fund, The ASCAP Foundation Irving Caesar Fund also provides financing for the Morton Gould Young Composer Awards. This year’s Morton Gould Young Composer Awards composers/judges were Lisa Bielawa, Patrick Grant, Joseph Jones, Shuying Li, Tamar Muskal, Jorge Sosa, and Kathleen Tagg.

Photos of each of the 2023 ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Award Winners and honorable mentions.

The 2023 Morton Gould Young Composer Award recipients are listed below with their place of birth and current residence followed by the title of their award-winning composition, its instrumentation, and duration. Recipients under the age of 18 are listed by state of residence:

Liam Cummins (b. 2004 in Mansfield, OH; currently in New York, NY): Essay for orchestra [14′];

Sophia Kunxu Dou (currently in NY): Dance of Unconscious Particles for string quartet [4′];

Grace Ann Lee (b. 1996 in Seoul, South Korea; currently in Ann Arbor, MI): Emerald Night Sky for orchestra [10′]:

Jacky Jiaqi Liu (b. 2002 in Beijing, China; currently in New York, NY): Crossing for orchestra [10’30”];

Reid Merzbacher (b. 1998 in Cambridge, MA; currently in Brooklyn, NY); We’ve Made It This Far for 2 pianos and two percussion [15’45”];

Marc Migó (b. 1993 in Barcelona, Spain; currently in New York, NY): Concerto Grosso No. 1 “The Seance” for baroque flute, two violins, viola, cello, violone and harpsichord [9′];

Yash Pazhianur a.k.a. Yash Paz (b. 2003 in Princeton, NJ; currently in New York, NY); On the Threshold of Inevitable Madness for solo piano [15′];

Alyssa Regent (b. 1995 in Guadeloupe; currently in New York, NY): Un Coin de Ciel Brulait (Burnt a Corner of the Sky) for string quartet [16′];

Dorian Tabb (b. 2010, currently in NY): Hymn For a Forgotten People for string quartet [6’25”];

Ziyi Tao (b. 2002 in Beijing, China; currently in Forest Hills, NY): ALL for orchestra [15′];

Alex Tedrow (b. 1999 in Shoals, IN; currently in Washington, DC): Jeat for alto saxophone duo with electronics [9′];

Isabelle Tseng (currently in Gainesville, FL): Gardyloo for solo piano [5’45”];

Benjamin Perry Wenzelberg (b. 2000, currently in Tenafly, NJ): NIGHTTOWN, an operatic reimagining of James Joyce’s Ulysses for nine singers and orchestra
[1 hr 40′];

Yiqi Xue (b. 2001 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China; currently in Kansas City, MO): Ride the wind and cleave the waves for nine traditional Chinese instruments [9′];

Christian A. Yom (currently in NY): Sansori for alto flute doubling C flute, harp, and string quartet [6′]; and

Charlie Zhong (currently in MA): Like a Single Star in the Night Sky for orchestra [5’28”].

The following composers received Honorable Mention:

Lucy Chen (b. 2005; currently in MD): Water Interludes for brass ensemble, water percussion, piano, and strings [8’50”];

Sean Danielson (b. Muscatine, IA; currently in Chicago, IL): Prelude, Elegy, and Phantasm for violin and piano, Mov. 1- Prelude [8’45”];

Yaz Lancaster (b. 1996 in Mountain View, CA; currently in New York, NY): OUROBOROS for solo soprano, two high voices, electric guitar, violin, cello, and media [22’10”];

Albert K. Lu (currently in MD): A Turbulent Festival for flute, clarinet, 2 pianos, and string quartet [4″11″];

Johnny MacMillan (b. Toronto, Canada; currently in Rochester, NY): Songs from the Seventh Floor for string quartet [10’23”];

Christopher Duong Nguyen (b. 2001 in Rome, GA; currently in Canton, GA): Adrenalize for wind ensemble [3’27”];

Cole Reyes (b. 1998 in Bartlett, IL; currently in Brooklyn, NY): Shadowstains for flute, bass clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion [11′];

Gabriel Stossel (b. 2001 in Columbus, OH; currently in Cleveland, OH): Four Fractals for unaccompanied violin [11’06”]; and

Philina Hanyi Zhang (currently in NY): Siren Meanders for flute, bassoon, and piano [6’28”].

In addition, Marc Migó was recognized by the panel with the 2023 Leo Kaplan Award, created in memory of the distinguished attorney who served as ASCAP Special Distribution Advisor. The award is funded by the Kaplan Family.

2023 BMI Composer Award Winners Announced

Deirdre Chadwick welcomes guests to the 2023 BMI Composer Awards celebration at Chelsea Table and Stage in New York City

BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.) and BMI Foundation, Inc. celebrated the honorees of the 71st annual BMI Composer Awards at a private ceremony held on May 15 at Chelsea Table and Stage in New York City. BMI Foundation President and BMI Executive Director of Classical Deirdre Chadwick, composer and chair Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, and BMI Senior Vice President of Licensing David Levin presented the awards to six emerging composers for excellence in composition as well as one honorable mention.

The BMI Composer Awards recognize superior ability in music composition by composers aged 27 or younger with annual awards totaling $20,000. As David Levin acknowledged in his remarks, this year over 500 applications were submitted to the competition from young composers around the world. As in all previous years, all works were judged anonymously by two panels of judges who are all BMI-affiliate composers. This year’s preliminary judges were David Schober, Alyssa Weinberg, and Trevor Weston. The final judges were George Lewis, Kevin Puts, and Elena Ruehr. BMI, in collaboration with the BMI Foundation, has awarded over 600 grants to young composers throughout the history of the competition.

As BMI Foundation President Deirdre Chadwick explained in her opening remarks, as part of BMI’s ongoing efforts to make these accolades more inclusive, there is no longer a requirement for applicants to be currently studying composition formally and, as a result, the word “student” has been removed from the name of these awards. In addition, one of the two special prizes given to the honorees, a prize for the composer of the work deemed by the judges to be the most outstanding in the competition, has been renamed in honor of BMI Composer Awards Chair Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. This award was formerly named in honor of the founder of these awards, William Schuman, after his death in 1992 and awards in his name were given for 30 years. It is a particularly rare honor for an award to be named after someone who is still very much with us and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s joy and honor in following William Schuman, a composer she greatly admires, was palpable. The special award for the youngest winner of the competition continues to be named after Carlos Surinach (1915-1997). Maxwell Lu, aged 21, received both the Carlos Surinach Award and the inaugural Ellen Taaffe Zwilich Award.

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich announcing the recipients of the 2023 BMI Composer Awards

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich announcing the recipients of the 2023 BMI Composer Awards

The 2023 BMI Composer Award winners and their award-winning works are as follows:

Christian-Frédéric Bloquert (b. 1997): Métropole for orchestra

Christopher John Michael Enloe (b. 1997): Frika for orchestra

Seare Ahmad Farhat (b. 1996): …ka spoojmsi shwa poh hāla ke… (Like the halo around the moon) for string quartet

Natasha Frank (b. 1998): Riven for Cello and electronics

Maxwell Lu (b. 2002): arboreal for orchestra

Sofia Jen Ouyang (b. 2001): As if sharing a joke with nothingness for Orchestra

In addition, an Honorable Mention citation was given to 16-year-old Charlie Zhong for his composition Illusions of Tranquility for orchestra

Before the awards were announced, flutist Julianna Eidle performed Sadie’s Story for multiple flutes (alto flute, flute, and piccolo) and fixed media, a 2022 BMI Composer Award winning work by Ábel M.G.E.. The piece incorporates recordings of Eidle’s Eastern European Jewish family who fled persecution in Ukraine in 1920 and emigrated to the USA.

You can read more about the 2023 BMI Composer Award-winning compositions here.

A group photo of the 2023 BMI Composer Award winners (pictured left to right): Christian-Frédéric Bloquert; Natasha Frank; Seare Ahmad Farhat; Chair of the Composer Awards Ellen Taaffe Zwilich; Christopher John Michael Enloe; and Maxwell Lu. (Sofia Jen Ouyang, who was unable to attend the ceremony, is not pictured.) Photo courtesy BMI

2022 ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Awards Announced

ASCAP Foundation Logo with Morton Gould Awards header

The ASCAP Foundation has announced the 23 recipients of its 2022 Morton Gould Young Composer Awards as well as 15 additional composers who received honorable mentions. The awards, which encourage talented young creators of concert music ranging in age from 13 to 30, are selected through a juried national competition. These composers may be American citizens, permanent residents or students possessing U.S. student visas. The 38 compositions of the composers recognized in 2022 were among the more than 500 scores that were seen by this year’s judges (who are all ASCAP-member composers): Svjetlana Bukvich, Daniel Felsenfeld, Yotam Haber, Felipe Lara, Fang Man, Jessica Mays, Shawn Okpebholo, and Jorge Sosa.

Below is a complete alphabetical list of the 2022 Morton Gould Young Composer Award recipients and their award-winning works (with links to audio recordings of them and additional information where available):

Benjamin Thoreau Baker (b. 1998 in Pleasant Plain, OH; currently based in Kansas City, MO): Primordial (2019) for saxophone and live electronics [ca. 9′];

Alex Berko (b. 1995 in Cleveland, OH; currently based in Houston, TX): Oh Me! Oh Life! (2021) for unaccompanied chorus [ca. 11′];

Paul Berlinsky (b. 1994 in Miami Beach, FL; currently based in Kansas City, MO): Book of Birds (2021) for flute and electronics [ca. 27′];

Anuj Bhutani (b. 1993 in Houston, TX; current based in Austin, TX): On Letting Go (2020-21) for solo cello and live electronics [ca. 16′];

Aiyana Braun (b. 1997 in Ardmore, PA; currently based in Philadelphia, PA): Refractions (2019 rev. 2022) for orchestra [ca. 6′];

Cao Shengnan (b. 1992 in Beijing, China; currently based in Kansas City, MO): Fantasia Nirvana (2021) for full orchestra [ca. 11′];

Bryn Davis (b. 1992 in Richmond, VA; currently based in St. Paul, MN):
☞︎□︎❒︎ ❄︎□︎❍︎ 👍︎◆︎❒︎❒︎⍓︎ (2019) for tuba septet [ca. 10′];

Baldwin Giang (b. 1992 in Malvern, PA; currently based in Chicago, IL): roses (2021) for sinfonietta [ca. 15′];

Soomin Kim (b. 1995 in Uijeongbu, South Korea; currently based in Minneapolis, MN): star / ghost / mouth /sea (2021) for full orchestra [ca. 9′];

Joel Kirk (b. 1996 in Manchester, United Kingdom; currently based in Buffalo, NY): update status, always (2021) for solo violin [ca. 7′];

Cheng Jin Koh (b. 1996 in Singapore; currently based in New York, NY): Luciola singapura (Singapore Firefly) (2021) for sinfonietta with blended yang qin [ca. 6′];

Sam Kohler (b. 1996 in Eugene, OR; currently based in New Orleans, LA): sun-splash color-room (2021) for flute, clarinet, violin, piano, and percussion [ca. 10′];

Daniel Leibovic (b. 1995 in Richmond, VA; currently based in Houston, TX): Padamu Jua (2020) for 16 voices and small gongs [ca. 9′];

Maxwell Lu (b. 2002 in Dayton, MD; currently based in New York, NY): shatter (2021) for full orchestra [ca. 6′];

JP Merz (b. 1992 in Janesville, WI; currently based in Los Angeles, CA): gun, fire (2021) for full orchestra [ca. 15′];

Celka Ojakangas (b. 1992 in Springfield, MO; currently based in Pasadena, CA): Bantam Winds (2021) for oboe, bass clarinet, and French horn [ca. 10′];

Siddharth Pant (b. 2004 in California): Dodecahedron (2021) for string quartet [ca. 5′];

Marco-Adrián Ramos Rodríguez (b. 1995 in Betonville, AR; currently based in New Haven, CT): Five O’Hara Songs (2020) for soprano and piano [ca. 13′];

Lucy Shirley (b. 1997 in Indianapolis, IN; currently based in Kansas City, MO): Stretch Marks (2021) for soprano voice, clarinet, and piano [ca. 7′];

Sage Shurman (b. 2005; based in Los Angeles, CA): what’s left behind (2021) for string orchestra [ca. 9′];

Tian Songfeng (b. Daqing City, Heilongjiang Province, China; currently based in Kansas City, MO): Winter Solstice for string quartet [ca. 6′];

Meilina Tsui (b. 1993 in Almaty, Kazakhstan; currently based in Orlando, FL) Nomadic Trails (2021) for chamber orchestra [ca. 14′];

Casey Weisman (b. California): Beasts of the Seven Seas for full orchestra and instruments from Asia and Africa [ca. 15′].

Baldwin Giang was further recognized by the panel with the 2022 Leo Kaplan Award, created in memory of the distinguished attorney who served as ASCAP Special Distribution Advisor. The award is funded by the Kaplan Family.

Below is a list of the additional composers who received Honorable Mention and their works:

Orkun Akyol (b. 1992 in Istanbul, Türkiye; current based in Davis, CA): uneasy in my easy chair (2021) for oboe, harp, percussion and electronics [ca. 6′];

KiMani Bridges (b. 2002 in Louisville, KY; currently based in Bloomington, IN): Healer (2021) for 2 voices, spoons, and cardboard box [ca. 6′];

Victor Cui (b. 1998 in Beijing, China; currently based in Baltimore, MD): Onyx is the Color during the Silence of Järvenpää for flute and electronics [ca. 10′];

Matthieu Foresi (b. 2005 in Geneva, Switzerland; currently based in Washington): The Monster in the Closet (2019) for full orchestra [ca. 6′];

Aidan Gold (b. 1997 in Seattle, WA; currently based in New York, NY): Ripple the Ocean of Eyes (2022) for full orchestra [ca. 15′];

Camilo Gonzalez-Sol (b. 1999 in Takoma Park, MD; currently based in Austin, TX): Four Brainscapes (2021) for fixed media in stereo [ca. 9′];

Liu Yizhang (b. 1995 in Hunan, China; currently based in Kansas City, MO): Phanstasmal (2021) for string quartet [ca. 5′];

Chuyi Luo (from New York): In The Conversation… for full orchestra [ca. 6′];

Quinn Mason (b. 1996; based in Dallas, TX): Symphony No. 4 ‘Strange Time’ (2019-21) for expanded wind ensemble [ca. 20′];

Jordan Millar (b. 2006; based in New York City): Masquerade (2021) for flute, violin, viola, and classical guitar [ca. 7′];

Chris Neiner (b. 1994 in Burnsville, MN; currently based in Cleveland Heights, OH): Many Universes (2019) for chamber orchestra [ca. 14′];

Luca Pasquini (b. 2004; based in Denver, CO): Where am I in the Sublime? for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion [ca. 7′];

Grant Shueh (from New Jersey): Arrival for string quartet [ca. 6′];

Eunike Tanzil (b. 1998 in Medan, Indonesia; currently based in New York, NY): Veni Vidi Vici (2020) for clarinet and orchestra [ca. 8′];

Isabelle Tseng (from Florida): Ringlorn for violin and cello [ca. 10′].

Established as The ASCAP Foundation Young Composer Awards in 1979 with funding from The ASCAP Foundation Jack and Amy Norworth Fund, the program was dedicated to Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Morton Gould’s memory following his death in 1996 to honor his lifelong commitment to encouraging young creators. A child prodigy himself, Gould’s first composition was published by G. Schirmer when he was only six years of age. Gould served as President of ASCAP and The ASCAP Foundation from 1986 to 1994. Founded in 1975, The ASCAP Foundation is a charitable organization dedicated to supporting American music creators and encouraging their development through music education and talent development programs. Included in these are songwriting workshops, grants, scholarships, awards, recognition and community outreach programs, and public service projects for senior composers and lyricists. The ASCAP Foundation is supported by contributions from ASCAP members and from music lovers around the world.

Photos of all the winners and honorable mentions in the 2022 ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Awards

Winners of the 2022 BMI Student Composer Awards Announced

BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.), in collaboration with the BMI Foundation (BMIF) has announced the seven winners and three honorable mentions in the 70th Annual BMI Student Composer Awards. Each year these awards recognize superior musical compositional ability with educational scholarships totaling $20,000. For the first time in three years (due to the pandemic), the awards were once again announced in person in a live ceremony yesterday evening at Tribeca 360. The ceremony was presided over by Deirdre Chadwick, BMI Executive Director for Classical Music and BMI Foundation President, along with composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, the permanent Chair of the Competition, who announced each of the winners.

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich announcing the winners of the 2022 BMI Student Composer Awards

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich announcing the winners of the 2022 BMI Student Composer Awards (photo by FJO)

The seven winning composers and their works are:
Ábel Esbenshade a.k.a. Ábel M.G.E. (b. 1994): Sadie’s Story for flute and fixed media (2021)

Cheng Jin Koh (b. 1996): Luciola singapura for sinfonietta and yang qin (Chinese dulcimer) (2021)
(Ms. Koh was also the recipient of the William Schuman prize which is annually awarded for the score deemed most accomplished in the competition.)

Oliver Kwapis (b. 1997): Dreams of Flight for full orchestra (2021) [10′]

Alan Mackwell (b. 1998): Remains of a Permian Gas Station for string trio (2021) [c. 20′]

Sehyeok (Joseph) Park (b. 2003): String Quartet no. 1 (2021)
(Mr. Park also received the Carlos Surinach Prize which is annually awarded to the youngest winner in the competition.)

Nina Shekhar (b. 1995): Hate The Sin, Love The Sinner for orchestra and fixed media (2021) [20′]

Kari Watson (b. 1998): of desire for voice and percussion (2021)

Group photos of the 7 winners in the 2022 BMI Student Composer Awards with BMI Foundation President Deirdre Chadwick

(L-R) BMI’s Student Composer Award winners Alan W. Mackwell, Ábel M.G.E., Sehyeok (Joseph) Park, Nina Shekhar, Kari Watson, Cheng Jin Koh and Oliver Kwapis pose with BMI Foundation President & BMI’s Executive Director- Classical Deirdre Chadwick at Tribeca 360 on May 17, 2022, in New York, NY. (Photo by Jennifer Taylor for BMI; courtesy BMI)

The three composers who received an honorable mention were:

Lucy Chen (b. 2005): Muse for orchestra (2021) [10′]

Apoorva Krishna (b. 1996): Merging Parallels voice and ensemble (2020) [3′]

Malcolm Xiellie (b. 2007): The Voyage for solo piano (2021)

During the ceremony there were also presentations of two of the 2021 winning works: Elizabeth Gartman‘s [Weight] for soprano and fixed media in a live performance by Shannyn Rinker (which was its world premiere in front of a physical audience) and Elliot Roman‘s orchestral work Tzirklshpitz which was shown on video. In a poignant speech during the ceremony, Chadwick acknowledged previous recipients of the award who were present at the event as well as this year’s winners, but also pointed out that “there are excellent composers who’ve never won a competition.”

Deirdre Chadwick congratulates all the composers in the room.

Deirdre Chadwick congratulates all the composers in the room. (Photo by FJO)

The ten composers who were honored in the 2022 BMI Student Composer Awards were among 450 applicants in this year’s competition which are all judged anonymously through a rigorous two-panel process. The preliminary judges were BMI member composers Alexandra DuBois, Carlos Carrillo, and Jeremy Gill. The final judges were BMI member composers Oscar Bettison, Hannah Lash, Jose Serebrier, and Matthew Evan Taylor. Further details about the awards, including individual photos of each of the 10 composers who received awards and honorable mentions, are available on the BMI website.

2022 ASCAP Foundation Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award Winners Announced

ASCAP Foundation Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composers Awards Logo

The ASCAP Foundation has announced the recipients of the 2022 Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Awards. The recipients, who receive cash awards, are selected through a juried national competition. All in all, 21 composers were awarded and an additional 6 received honorable mention. Through a partnership with the Newport Festivals Foundation, one of this year’s Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Awards recipients will be featured by the Newport Jazz Festival.

A montage of photos of all the winners and honorable mentions in the 2022 ASCAP Foundation Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composers Awards

Photos of all the 2022 ASCAP Foundation Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award Recipients and Honorable Mentions. Top row pictured from left to right: Evan Abounassar, Ben Beckman, Sonya Belaya, Max Bessesen, Gabriel Chakarji, Jessica Curran, Sebastian de Urquiza;
Second row pictured from left to right: Michael R. Dudley Jr., Joseph Durben, Quinn Dymalski, Conner Eisenmenger, Eliana Fishbeyn, Kira Daglio Fine, Brandon Goldberg;
Third row pictured from left to right: Vicente Hansen, Ennis Suavengco Harris, Daiki Nakajima, Yu Nishiyama, Robert Perez, Gary (Kaiji) Wang, and Griffin Woodard;
Last row pictured from left to right: Claire Dickson, Michael Echaniz, Amanda Ekery, Chase Elodia, Peyton Nelesen, and Malcolm Xiellie.

Below is a complete list of the 2022 Recipients along with information about their award-winning compositions which, where possible, are linked to sites where you can hear them.

Evan Abounassar (b. 1999 in Yorba Linda, CA and currently still based there):
Nischala (Unwavering) for trumpet, tenor saxophone, piano, synthesizer, bass, and drum set [4’10”];

Benjamin Beckman (b. 2000 in Los Angeles CA; now based in New Haven CT): Voyage for jazz combo [46′];

Sonya Belaya (b. 1994 in Russia; now based in Brooklyn, NY):
sympathetic, nervous, ladder for piano, string quartet, drums/percussion, tenor saxophone, and guitar [8’52”];

Max Bessesen (b. 1994 in Denver, CO; now based in NYC):
Bakkam for alto saxophone, piano, acoustic bass, and drum set [7’20];

Gabriel Chakarji (b. 1993 in Caracas, Venezuela; now based in Brooklyn, NY):
Voices for full orchestra [4’31”];

Jessica Curran (b. 1993 in Sandwich, MA; now based in Boston, MA):
Returning for voice, guitar, piano, bass, and drums [5’25”];

Kira Daglio Fine (b. 1996 in Boston, MA and still based there):
The Towers for big band [6’19”];

Michael R. Dudley Jr. (b. 1994 in Cincinnati, OH; now based in Potsdam, NY):
Overture to The Before And After Times (“Tendrils”) for big band [8’11”];

Joseph Durben (b. 2004 in Buffalo, MN and still based there):
Tachyon for jazz big band with 2 flutes [10’27”];

Quinn Dymalski (b. 1998 in Park City, UT; currently based in Los Angeles, CA):
Buried for big band [5’43”];

Conner Eisenmenger (b. 1992 in Louisville, KY; currently in Seattle, WA):
Choice Paralysis for trombone, tenor saxophone, piano, acoustic bass, and drum set [4’26”];

Eliana Fishbeyn (b. 1996 Chapel Hill, NC; now based in NYC):
Unknown Knowns for big band [7’12”];

Brandon Goldberg (b. 2006 in Florida and still based there):
Authority for trumpet, saxophone, piano, bass, and drums [7’04”];

Vicente Hansen (b. 1992 in Santiago, Chile; now in Brooklyn, NY):
Reptilian for piano, bass, and drums [6’32”];

Ennis Suavengco Harris (b. 1998 in Exeter, CA; now in Los Angeles, CA):
Portrait Poem for chamber orchestra plus jazz septet [8’06”];

Daiki Nakajima (b. 2002 in Tokyo, Japan; now based in San Jose, CA):
Nostalgic Already for big band [7’54”];

Yu Nishiyama (b. 1994 in Yokohama, Japan; now based in Hawthorne, NJ):
Retrospections for 17-piece big band [10′];

Robert A. Perez (b. 1993 in Chino Hills, CA; now in Los Angeles, CA):
The Flowers Bloom for organ and piano [10’46”];

Sebastián de Urquiza (b. 1992 in Boston, MA; now in NYC):
The Ordeal (Suite) for trumpet, alto and tenor sax, trombone, guitar, piano, piano synth, double bass, drums, and vocals [40’20”];

Gary (Kaiji) Wang (b. 1996 in Miami, FL and still based there):
Souvenir for 13-piece big band [11’26”];

Griffin Woodard (b. 1998 in Bethlehem, PA; now based in Boston, MA):
Kyrie for big band [6’43”].

Composers receiving Honorable Mention this year are:

Claire Dickson (b. 1997 Medford, MA; now in Brooklyn, NY):
Thrill of Still for voice, trumpet, electronic drums, synths, bells and other found percussion [2’47”];

Michael Echaniz (b. 1994 in Oakland, CA; now in Los Angeles, CA):
Clockwork (Un Carillon De Musique, Dans La Fumeé Poétique) for tubular bells, 2 violins, 4 female vocal layers (soprano), electric piano, B3 organ, piano, double bass, and drum set [12’25”];

Amanda Ekery (b. 1994 in El Paso, TX; now in NYC):
Three Days for voice, viola, alto sax, oud, piano, bass, and percussion [4’13”];

Chase Elodia (b. 1994 in Norwalk, CT; now in Brooklyn, NY):
Portrait Imperfect for voice, EWI, keyboard, electric bass, and drums [5’46”];

Peyton Nelesen (b. 2007 in Chicago IL; currently based in California):
Wouldn’t You Like to Know? for big band with a second piano and a guitar [8’44”];

Malcolm Xiellie (b. 2007 in California and still based there):
Tribute to George for solo piano [8’18”].

The ASCAP composer/judges for the 2022 competition were: Fabian Almazan, Chuck Owen and Camille Thurman. Established in 2002, the program recognizes gifted young jazz composers up to the age of 30. It carries the name of composer, trumpeter, arranger, and bandleader Herb Alpert in recognition of The Herb Alpert Foundation’s multi-year financial commitment to the program. Additional funding for the program is provided by The ASCAP Foundation Bart Howard Fund.


2021 ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Awards Announced

The ASCAP Foundation has announced the 21 recipients and 17 honorable mentions of the 2021 ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, which encourage talented young creators of concert music ranging in age from 13 to 30.

Established as The ASCAP Foundation Young Composer Awards in 1979 with funding from The ASCAP Foundation Jack and Amy Norworth Fund, the program grants cash prizes to concert music composers up to 30 years of age whose works are selected through a juried national competition. These composers may be American citizens, permanent residents or students possessing U.S. student visas. The annual ASCAP Foundation Young Composer program was renamed to honor the memory of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Morton Gould, who served as President of ASCAP and The ASCAP Foundation from 1986 to 1994, following his death in 1996 to honor his lifelong commitment to encouraging young creators and his own start as a child prodigy. The 2021 Morton Gould Young Composer Awards composers/judges were: Chen Yi, Anthony Cheung, Jonathan Bailey Holland, Caroline Mallonee, James Matheson, Matt Van Brink, and Dalit Warshaw.

The 21 recipients of the 2021 Morton Gould Young Composer Awards and their award-winning works are listed below with the composers’ place of origin and current residence. Recipients under the age of 18 are listed by state of residence:

Alex Berko (b. 1995 in Solon, OH) of Houston, TX: Among Waves for full orchestra [12′]
Paul Berlinsky (b. 1994 in North Miami Beach, FL) of Kansas City, MO: The Inner Light for wind quintet [9′]
Alistair Coleman (b. 1998 in Washington, D.C.) of Philadelphia, PA: Sonata for trombone and piano [16′]
Julián Fueyo (b. 1996 in Tampico, Mexico) of New Haven, CT: Serpiente de Turquesas for violin and orchestra [12′]
Brittany J. Green (b. 1991 in Raleigh, NC) of Durham, NC: Rencontres for string quartet [8′]
Moni Guo (b. 1993 in Taiyuan, Shanxi, China) of Los Angeles, CA: Rays of the After-rain Evening Sun for full orchestra [8′]
Patrick Holcomb (b. 1996 in Fairfax, VA) of Ocean View, DE: The Harvest of the Amulet of the Deer for mezzo-soprano and sinfonietta [11′]
Soomin Kim (b. 1995 in Uijeongbu, South Korea) of New Haven, CT: THE EIGHTH SONG for three violas [13′]
Chelsea Komschlies (b. 1991 in Appleton, WI) of Montreal, Canada: Hexactinellida for chamber orchestra [8′]
Piyawat Louilarpprasert (b. 1993 in Bangkok, Thailand) of Ithaca, NY: scattered bones for full orchestra [13′]
Wenbin Lyu (b. 1994 in Liaoning, China) of Cincinnati, OH: Germination for chamber orchestra [10′]
Jorge Machain (b. 1993 in Lazaro Cardenas, Mexico) of Henderson, NV: The Espresso Express, a drum set concerto with wind orchestra [17′]
Christopher O’Brien (b. 2002 in Los Angeles, CA) of Pacific Palisades, CA: LETHE for full orchestra [17′]
Marco-Adrián Ramos (b. 1995 in Springdale, AR) of Gravette, AR: Guadalupe o Retablo for chamber orchestra [18′]
Ben Robichaux (b. 1991 in Thibodaux, LA) of Thibodaux, LA: As the Lights Go Out for wind ensemble and quadrophonic electronics [15′]
Ari Sussman (b. 1993 Elkins Park, PA) of Ann Arbor, MI: Higaleh Nah for solo soprano, solo viola, SATB chorus, and piano [8′]
Siqi Wang (from Henan Province, China) of Kansas City, MO: Three Bagatelles for wind quintet [11′]
Emily Webster-Zuber of Los Angeles, CA: Ocean Waves for string quartet [9′]
Brady Wolff (from Kansas City, MO) of Lake Winnebago, MO: String Quartet [32′]
Elizabeth Younan (b. 1994 in Sydney, Australia) formerly from Philadelphia, PA and currently in Australia: Woodwind Quintet No. 2 ‘Kismet’ [6′]
Hao Zou (from Huaibei, Anhui, China) of Kansas City, MO: Song on the Wind for full orchestra [6′]

Photos of all the composers who have either won or received an honorable mention in the 2021 ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Awards.

The following 16 composers received Honorable Mention (recipients under the age of 18 are listed by state of residence):

Hannah A. Barnes (b. 1997 in Geneva, IL) of Chicago, IL: five images for clarinet/bass clarinet, violin/viola, harp, and percussion [9′]
Olivia Bennett (b. 2002 in Springfield, MO) of Houston, TX: Mass for string quartet [7′]
Luke Blackburn (b. 1992 in Ocala, FL) of Seattle, WA: Menagerie of Spectacular Creatures: Insecta for flute (doubling piccolo and alto flute), clarinet (doubling bass clarinet), violin, violoncello, and harp [25′]
Lucy Chen of MD: The Magic Forest at Night for 14 musicians [8′]
Emily DeNucci (from Springfield, MA) of Somers, CT: The Evolution of Climate Change for trombone, tuba, and piano [12′]
Joe Jaxson (b. 2000 in New York, NY) of Staunton, VA: Perservering for flute, clarinet, violin, violoncello, piano, and percussion [10′]
Marco Jiminez (from Miami, FL) of St. Petersburg, FL: Requiem Mass “de Angelis” for large mixed ensemble [28′]
Quinn Mason (b. 1996 in Dallas, TX) of Dallas, TX: A Joyous Trilogy for full orchestra [17′]
Sophie Mathieu (from Bedford, TX) of Austin, TX: moons for full orchestra [12′]
Celka Ojakangas (b. 1992 in Springfield, MO) of Los Angeles, CA: Sploopy for sinfonietta [29′]
Luca Pasquini (b. 2004) of CO: Danse Orphique for string quartet [16′]
Yash Pazhianur (b. 2003; based in NJ): Impulses for orchestra [17′]
Aaron S. Ricucci-Hill (b. 1992 in Troy, MO) of Kansas City, MO: Colors of Pride for wind quintet [10′]
Daniel Sabzghabei (b. 1992 in Denton, TX) of Ithaca, NY: At any rate II. “what remains” for singing string quartet and record player [9′]
Winston Schneider of NE: Expiculating Quintet for clarinet, bassoon, violin, viola, and violoncello [8′]
Sami Seif (b. 1998 in Keserwan, Lebanon) of Cleveland, OH: Orientalism for string quartet [14′]
Danae Venson (from Austin, TX) of Houston, TX: Riot! I. Peace for 2 pianos, contrabass, Drums, Congas, Rainstick, Shaker, Tambourine, Den-Den, Daiko, and drums [4′]

Additionally, Paul Berlinsky was recognized by the panel with the 2021 Leo Kaplan Award created in memory of the distinguished attorney who served as ASCAP Special Distribution Advisor. The award is funded by the Kaplan Family.

In addition to The ASCAP Foundation Jack and Amy Norworth Fund, The ASCAP Foundation Irving Caesar Fund also provides financing for the Morton Gould Young Composer Awards. Caesar was best known as the lyricist of “Tea for Two” and “Swanee,” while Jack Norworth wrote such standards as “Shine On Harvest Moon” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

“Calls for Scores” – The Teenage Years of a Composing Career

A road with two designated lanes, labelled 1 and 2, for racing with the words "100m Sprint"

I will be the first one to admit that I pay attention and regularly submit to calls for scores. I check pages like TheComposersSite and the American Composers Forum “Opportunities” pages every week, and I would guess that I submit between 20-30 calls for scores on average per year and have been doing so for a few years. I am used to the email that arrives in my inbox saying, “We received more submissions that ever before.” Or “The panel was overwhelmed and inspired by the music they were able to experience.” Or some other sugar-coated line before stating my music wasn’t accepted. I keep telling myself, “If I want to have a successful career as a composer, I need to make a name for myself, and one of these days the right call will come at the right time or the right person will be on the right panel to commission me for something else down the road…”. There must be some sort of synchronicity in the works! These thoughts devolve into the absolute need to submit to as many opportunities as possible; otherwise how else will I ever build my career as a composer and artist?

How do we tilt the scales in our favor and go from a “young” or “emerging” composer to an “established” composer? (I still have many questions about what an “emerging” composer is, but we can save that for another article.) What is the role of submitting to calls for scores and competitions in the grand scheme of building a career? Are there wholesome and compassionate ways that calls for scores and/or composition competitions can support artists even if they don’t win the “big prize”? Are there other paths by which composers can earn name recognition and build their careers without having to rely on luck of winning these calls?

In short, how do we develop from this seemingly “teenage” part of our career and move on to becoming fully-fledged professionals?

Some of these calls have been very successful for me as well as having been positive and fruitful interactions. For example, I was recently selected to compose a new work for Ensemble 20/21 in conjunction with the Curtis Institute of Music and We the Purple Project for Democracy. I also have an upcoming commission from the C4 Choral/Composer/Conductor Collective for their IGNITE Commissioning Competition. In both of these cases, the communication has so far been constant throughout the process, and all parties have shown excitement and support for the upcoming projects.

But other times, these positive responses to calls can initially seem like a success, but they can slowly start turning down a much darker path.

In spring 2020, I received a notification of a successful application for a 10-to-20-minute opera. Having never written for opera, I jumped at the chance to get some experience writing for this medium while having an organization/ensemble who was willing to support my exploration. I had even paid a $10 application fee to submit to the initial call because of how much I wanted to write for the opera medium. I was a bit surprised when I saw how many other composers received a similar notice and were involved on the same email, but I continued to be optimistic and excited to write this work. I was also able to work with a libretto created by a dear friend of mine who has a lot of experience in opera and theatre, so it seemed like everything was lining up for this to be the perfect chance to have guidance and mentorship along this journey.

Fast-forward to COVID-19 times in May 2020, when the score was supposed to be due. We received a few emails mentioning that due to the pandemic, the deadline had been extended to June 5. I was also working on an orchestra piece, a solo percussion piece, graduating from my Master’s degree, getting married, and had one or two other projects along the way in May. Needless to say, I was grateful for the extension. I submitted my completed, 18-minute opera on June 5, 2020.

Fast-forward again, now to mid-August of 2020, and I still hadn’t received any type of response from the opera organization. I sent an email checking in only to realize that I accidentally submitted my materials to one of the other composers on the email chain back in May instead of to the submissions’ address, which was absolutely my mistake. (Side note: please use the “BCC” option for emails when addressing other composers in big calls such as this —I was in such a frenzy to submit the piece on time, and things happened due to another person using the “reply-all” feature). But what I cannot understand is why they had not reached out to me prior to this. They were so adamant about deadlines in the spring, but there was never any follow-up as to whether or not I had completed or submitted anything. Furthermore, when I sent my materials to the right address, their response was vague and mentioned that they never would have noticed my missing work if I had not reached out first. Initially, they said they were going to pay me a “small stipend” for the work. In this most recent email, the “small stipend” ended up being $25 USD. However, I also paid a $10 application fee, which I only decided to do because of how much I wanted to find an opportunity to write for opera and fortunately had the means to do so. That basically means I was paid $15 total, which equates to $0.83 per minute of music that I wrote, and that does not include any funding for the librettist who contributed her work as well. I found out later that this was a small organization just getting started and run by passionate musicians, but having that knowledge up front as well as the stipend amount would have given me a chance to reconsider my application.

I wish I could say this is my only call for scores nightmare, but unfortunately, there is another that comes to mind. A few years ago, I was informed that my music was going to be performed for a percussion festival at a university in my home state. This was again exciting for me because my family would be able to attend the concert in person, including an uncle of mine who wasn’t able to travel to any of my shows previously due to his health. They asked for the music months in advance of the festival. I planned to fly out for the concert to visit family and enjoy the weekend of music, and luckily, I was able to save some money by staying with my brother who lived in that town at the time. In any case, the stipend they provided me didn’t even cover my flight, but it was worth it for me to spend time with my family and have them experience my music in person. As it turned out, the festival was disorganized from the moment I arrived. Many details on planning were made at the last minute, and it took months to receive my stipend after the fact. The worst part, though, was that they apparently lost my music along the way of preparing for the festival. Nobody asked me for the music again, and I was not told of this incident until the dress rehearsal the day before. The musicians were essentially sight-reading my music. Of all concerts to have this happen, of course it had to be the one where family members were actually in attendance.

Although this may have up to this point seemed like an anecdotal rant, these experiences (as well as countless conversations with another dear friend about the financial inequities within our music-making systems) are bringing more and more doubt into my mind concerning these unnecessary “steps” that seem to be invisible prerequisites in order to be accepted as a “serious” or “professional” composer. There is no one method, and I have learned that nothing is a linear path in knowledge, but why do we feel such a need to have these calls for scores on our CVs and resumés?

I have decided the best comparison I can think of for submitting to calls for scores is like being a teenager who has a driver’s license and car but still lives at home and is not financially independent. They feel independent enough to drive themselves around, but they are also still relying on family income, housing, and general support to keep afloat. How can we grow out of these teenage years of wanting to build a career as a composer and develop meaningful collaborations that will sustain us as creative artists as well as nurture our communities?

The larger question at hand: How can calls for scores be more equitable and worthwhile for all parties involved? How can we transform this process of gatekeeping into a holistic and compassionate way of building community and lifting up those wanting to work in these artistic fields?

While this is certainly not nearly a comprehensive list of suggestions, I have a few that I would like to offer. These ideas allow other career-building skills and connections to occur and start to critically evaluate and continually revise the system with equity in mind, even if an individual’s call for scores submission is not accepted:

1. Make all calls for scores or proposals free, without application fees, or include (and publicize!) waivers for artists who are unable to afford the fee (I highly recommend the fabulous NewMusicBox article, “Dissing the Competition,” by Alex Shapiro from 2018, where she shares a deeper insight and analysis to fees for calls and competitions). If you require composers to attend in person or participate in workshops, etc. but are unwilling to support their trips or time financially, this is also exclusionary.

If you are planning to pay a separate panel to review the works in the call, please anticipate this into your own working budget instead of passing the buck onto the composers. There are too many voices who need to be heard and may not be able to afford either your fee or to take time away from their paying jobs to attend a rehearsal/workshop/performance without compensation.

2. All details of commissioning fees, anticipated number of performances, rehearsals, workshops, etc. need to be established in advance to the best of your ability. Providing a written contract is also necessary to avoid any issues throughout the project.

Nobody would have been able to anticipate the devastation that COVID-19 has brought upon the artist community with cancellations, financial losses, and shutdowns of venues, but please do your best to be honest and forthright with composers from the start.

3. Please follow through with your statements if you tell composers that you will offer them feedback on their submissions. (This has also happened: I didn’t receive feedback even though it was offered and I requested it.) I understand that there is no way to truly anticipate a high volume of submissions for a call, but even a short sentiment from the ensemble can be helpful feedback for a composer and can leave them with reassurance that their work matters.

4. Feature a playlist of composers whose music you appreciated from the call for scores and want to share with your larger community. Even a recognition such as this could be meaningful from a well-known ensemble. (This was a collaborative idea created by a colleague and friend, Louis Raymond-Kolker, and myself in a conversation about a particular call for scores.) For example, discovering an artist via a playlist from a major string quartet could lead others to want to collaborate with said artist in the future.

Better yet, take this idea and share the playlist directly with other local ensembles, organizations, and institutions. You could even include these composers in educational outreach programs by teaming the composers up with schools in the area for teaching sessions with the classes. These are all additional professional opportunities that you are offering to the composer to further their own careers as well as the ensembles’ educational goals (if applicable). This in turn will also build the composer’s network of professional contacts that they may be able to interact with down the road.

5. If you are asking a composer to write a new piece for your call that has never been performed (which I am strongly against), please make a point of sharing their work in some way after the fact, even if it is not selected. For example, readings of each of the pieces would be an excellent way to turn it into a collaboration and learning opportunity for the composer and ensemble, and again you can team up with other similar ensembles or creative artists in the area to help with the readings and further cultivate a community. Writing a piece specifically for a call is a LOT of free work that you are asking the composer to gamble with, and if they decide to apply to the call, they at least deserve recognition for writing something brand new for you.

I believe there is a silver lining to every opportunity that I apply for; however, my faith in this particular system is quickly fading. These calls lead us to believe that they are just part of the path towards a professional career, but instead the gatekeeping can be more detrimental to a composers’ financial and emotional well-being. I do believe that we can change the system to become a more collaborative process where artists at any point in their careers can grow and benefit.

I look forward to finally being able to not only drive my composition career on my own, but also to move past those teenage years and allow genuine collaborations to happen in order to move my own career towards independence from this system. As I have the privilege to be able to begin this transition, it is my responsibility to continue to engage in conversations and create pathways in order to make this a more accessible career; if we can create pathways for composers from all walks of life we will all certainly benefit from a new structure and, most importantly, the music, individuals, opportunities, and communities that flourish in this reconstructed system.

Emerge, Bridge, Connect


The task of “emerging” artists is to slowly grow into their industry. To create their community, one conversation at a time.

This process relies upon human hugs, handshakes, and the, “Oh! I’ve heard so much about you and how amazing that we’ve just run into each other at the same tuba and microtonal keyboard concert!” But during quarantine, this spontaneous growth of our root networks has slacked for some and completely stalled for others.

Throughout 10 weeks of quarantine, I’ve felt the urge to isolate myself completely, definitely more than “being safe” necessitates. Some of it comes from fear, or from lack of confidence.

By shutting out my friends and connections, I put off the psychological work of believing in myself, promoting myself, and sometimes even writing music.

I am isolated in Los Angeles, where I daily write morning pages, grow tomatoes, and sprout lettuce from a severed romaine stem. The tomato plants are stalling at about 3 inches high, and the romaine has shot up 8 or 9 inches, almost defiantly.

I started therapy. I exuberantly shaved half of my head.

I cook complicated as well as simple dishes, and voraciously type into a document called “Ak’s growing cookbook.” I first opened it in 2016 when I began my masters in composition and started trying to remember the dishes I would create.

I still write music, but quarantine gave me the motivation to hit the gas on my side job. I’m seizing my new path with passion. After months of silence, I’m listening to music again (at hilariously low volumes) while I organize my to-do lists.

It’s a relief to be a beginner again. I am energized by the fact that I can develop new skills over the course of a few weeks. We (all of us), truly, no longer have to be disheartened, thinking that every worthwhile skill must be taken up at age 3 or 5.

I sometimes doubt if I can call myself a composer when I’m spending more than 50% of my time on my side-hustle as a freelance writer / virtual assistant. But as more emerging artists turn to other forms of employment, we will challenge our own notions about what artists are supposed to do. We will redefine how we spend our time and intellectual resources.

And having a double-barreled profession title doesn’t make us any less creative. We will still call ourselves what we know we are.

In fact, bridging professional worlds may force us to confront the shortcomings of existing arts institutions. We may actually gather wisdom from people working outside the arts.

As I learn more about the small businesses who are my clients, I fantasize about bringing what I’ve learned back to the arts. Someday, I tell myself, the skills I’m gathering will coalesce into purpose and benefit the artistic community.

In the meantime, they are helping me survive.


While grieving human-to-human music-making, don’t lose touch with those who inspire you.

We are grieving together. Performers are grieving lost performances, composers are grieving lost premieres and commissions. And although the next concert series won’t be able to hire us, we can still send a friendly note checking in on staff members and performers.

In the end, we need to remember that we create community. Your “new music” community might just be a handful of friends. They might not even listen to new music. They’re probably the people who make you feel safe and supported. We shouldn’t wait for a group of (possibly intimidating) people to find and accept us. Right now we just need people, not “important” people.

When you have energy to spare, offer it up to your friends.

Most of them will say, “Oh, thank you for reaching out!” with a genuine sigh of relief. The relief is gratitude for that one thing you did: you gathered the materials — which you can both use, now, to build bridges between each other. When you return to that pit of loneliness, craving people, or just craving — your friends will walk back towards you along the bridge.

Maybe performers, composers, and commissioners can pick up the emotional pieces from projects that have fallen through. Maybe we can focus on getting to know one another. Maybe we actually can still make something together, even if it’s two different batches of odd, dry-looking bread. If we can spare the time for each other, our relationships will be that much deeper. Our community will thrive.

In our subsection of Los Angeles, we are making a return to the hyper-local. We are bartering homemade lemon cake for toilet-paper, a haircut for homemade pierogies, or a Zoom weight-training session for original “relaxation” music. The personality of it all feels delicious. Money never left me feeling this way.

Our hyper-local sound-making leaves me with a newfound curiosity about the lives of the people living in my neighborhood.

At exactly 8:00 pm every night, a steam vent opens and my neighborhood explodes with shouting, bells, and the banging of pots and pans. It’s cathartic. (A Ph.D. student could write about the importance of our exuberant yowls: a post-verbal communication style.)

Even without a (musical) performance, here is an audience.

Yes, we’re buffered by a bit more space. But sound forms a transient bridge between us.

“Thank you, health-care workers!” my neighbor shouts at the top of her lungs. Sometimes her toddler shouts the phrase after her, a tiny yet powerful voice breaking through the dusk.

This is the kind of sound-making I want to be a part of.

It requires us only to be where we are.

Support for the writing of this article was provided by the ASCAP Foundation Irving Caesar Fund.

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2020 ASCAP Foundation Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Awards Announced

The ASCAP Foundation has announced the 20 recipients and 3 honorable mentions of the 2020 ASCAP Foundation Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Awards. The recipients, who receive cash awards, range in age from 17 to 28 and hail from five continents. They were selected through a juried national competition; the ASCAP member composer/judges for the 2020 competition were Keyon Harrold, Hilary Kole, and Oscar Perez.

“Jazz is one of our most vital art forms and the recipients of the Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Awards carry its innovative spirit into the future,” said ASCAP Foundation President, Paul Williams. “We are grateful to the Herb Alpert Foundation for helping us to recognize and encourage these young music creators and congratulate them on their success.”

Headshots of the 20 winners of the 2020 ASCAP Foundation Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Awards

The 20 winners of the 2020 ASCAP Foundation Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Awards (pictured left to right):
(Row 1) David Bernot, Eri Chichibu, Eddie Codrington, Grace Corsi, Angelo Di Loreto;
(Row 2) Eliana Fishbeyn, Shimon Gambourg, Giveton Gelin, Bryce Hayashi;
(Row 3) Jisu Jung, Takumi Kakimoto, Dave Meder, Zachary Rich, Rin Seo, Jueun Seok;
(Row 4) Matthew Thomson, Elliott Turner, Gary (Kaiji) Wang, Matthew Whitaker, and Drew Zaremba.
(All photos courtesy of the ASCAP Foundation.)

The 2020 Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award recipients are listed with their age and the titles of their award winning compositions. Audio recordings of performances of the composers are linked from the titles.)

Composers and their works receiving Honorable Mention this year are:

Michael Echaniz, Chase Kuesel, and Martina Liviero

2020 ASCAP Foundation Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Awards Honorable Mentions (pictured left to right):
Michael Echaniz, Chase Kuesel, and Martina Liviero. (Photos courtesy ASCAP Foundation)

The Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Awards program was established in 2002 to encourage young gifted jazz composers up to the age of 30. It carries the name of the great trumpeter and ASCAP member Herb Alpert in recognition of The Herb Alpert Foundation’s multi-year financial commitment to support this program. Additional funding for this program is provided by The ASCAP Foundation Bart Howard Fund. Through a partnership with the Newport Festival Foundation, one of this year’s Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Awards recipients will be featured on stage at the 2020 Newport Jazz Festival, slated for August 7-9 in Newport, Rhode Island.