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The American Prize
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The American Prize is pleased to announce the WINNERS of the 2016 Chicago Oratorio Award. The following two artists will appear under Maestro David Katz's baton in concert with the Chicago Bar Association Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, the Midwest's acclaimed all-attorney ensemble, in May 2016, performing the Brahms German Requiem, at St James Episcopal Cathedral, Chicago. 
 
The WINNERS are:

PENELOPE SHUMATE, soprano
Penelope Shumate

Penelope Shumate has been described as having a “voice with power” and a “welcome fire” on stage. Her singing was described by the New York Concert Review as “the embodiment of light.” The New York Times praised her recent performance as the Soprano Soloist in Messiah for her Avery Fisher Hall debut at Lincoln Center, stating she “sang the soprano solos with appealing bell-like clarity and surpassing sweetness.” 

For her return to Avery Fisher Hall, she performed as a soloist in Carmina Burana; a work that also marked her Carnegie Hall debut and return engagements. Additional Carnegie Hall soloist appearances include performances in Messiah, St. Nicolai Mass, Coronation Mass, the Verdi and Mozart Requiem, as well as the New York City premier of Paul Mealor’s Stabat Mater. Also in New York City, she performed the title role in Naughty Marietta in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center.

Her upcoming return engagements include her appearance in Messiah at Carnegie Hall presented by Distinguished Concerts International New York, as well as performing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 with Rapides Symphony Orchestra. She also debuts with the Heartland Festival Orchestra in Carmina Burana.

She has appeared with opera companies and orchestras across America including Opera Company of Philadelphia, Opera Roanoke, Lake George Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Utah Festival Opera, Ash Lawn Opera, Annapolis Opera, Baltimore Concert Opera, Opera on the James, Duluth Festival Opera, Jacksonville Lyric Opera, Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Berkshire Choral Festival, Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Acadiana Symphony Orchestra, Oklahoma City Philharmonic, Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra, MidAmerica Productions, Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra, and Kennett Symphony Orchestra.

In 2015, Penelope was recognized by The American Prize for "Excellence in Oratorio Performance." She has been a vocal award winner with the Gerda Lissner Foundation, Marie E. Crump Vocal Arts Competition, MacAllister Awards, New Jersey Association of Verismo Opera Vocal Competition, Annapolis Opera Vocal Competition, Octave Artist Management Excellence in Arts, James Parkinson Opera Competition, Kennett Symphony Orchestra Vocal Competition, and the Altamura/Caruso International Vocal Competition. In addition to her active performance career, she serves as Assistant Professor of Voice at Western Illinois University. www.penelopeshumate.com


STEPHEN LANCASTER, baritone
Stephen Lancaster

Described as “a fine storyteller” (American Record Guide), “varied in tone and alive to feeling” (Fanfare Magazine), baritone Stephen Lancaster engages audiences through diverse repertoire in concert, recital, and opera. He has been featured in venues around the world, including Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Chicago Cultural Center, Chiang-Kai Shek Memorial Hall, Centro Cultural de Belém, Petit Palau de la Música Catalana, and Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Hall.

Recent concert credits include the Fauré & Duruflé Requiem at Carnegie Hall with Distinguished Concerts International New York, Carmina Burana with Lisbon Summer Fest, Warren Symphony, and Oakland Symphony Orchestra at the Max M. Fisher Music Center; Rachmaninoff’s The Bells and Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with Holland Symphony; Brahms’ Requiem with Chorosynthesis in Seattle and Duruflé’s Requiem with Macalester College in St. Paul. He has performed numerous roles with Eugene Opera, Arbor Opera Theater, and Opera Notre Dame, and will create the role of Jaques in As You Like It by Roger Steptoe this season.

A passionate recitalist, Lancaster has performed Lieder programs in Paris, Frankfurt, and the Eure-et-Loire Festival, and for the Brooklyn Art Song Society in New York. He recently released a recording of French art songs with pianist Martin Katz, Le Menu des Mélodies (Centaur Records), and his recital on the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert Series was broadcast live by classical radio station WFMT. Born and raised in Canada, he holds degrees in vocal performance from the University of Notre Dame and the University of Michigan. www.stephenlancaster.net

CONGRATULATIONS!

The selection process for the Chicago Oratorio Award is separate from The American Prize judging. Winning one competition does not preclude the possibility of winning the other.

The American Prize has selected soloists to perform with the Chicago Bar Association Symphony and Chorus the last five years, in repertoire ranging from the Bruckner Te Deum and Beethoven Choral Fantasy, to a complete evening of opera excerpts and another featuring the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein.  

To learn more about the CBASO & Chorus, please click here.

To purchase tickets, please follow this link.
3 months ago | |
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The American Prize is pleased to announce FINALISTS for the 2016 Chicago Oratorio Award.

In addition to national competitions in art song and opera, two cash prizes will be awarded as performance fees to soprano and baritone soloists selected to appear under Maestro David Katz's baton in concert with the Chicago Bar Association Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, the midwest's acclaimed all-attorney ensemble, in May 2016, performing the Brahms German Requiem, at St James Episcopal Cathedral, Chicago. 

The FINALISTS are:

BARITONES:

Ryan Bradford
Keith Brown
Stephen Lancaster
Peter W. Lightfoot
Chai-Lun Yueh
Alexander York

SOPRANOS:

Teresa Winner Blume
Rosalind Lee
Lisa Newill-Smith
Penelope Shumate
Josefien Stoppelenburg
Susan Wheeler

CONGRATULATIONS!

The selection process for the Chicago Oratorio Award is separate from The American Prize judging. Winning one competition does not preclude the possibility of winning the other.

The American Prize has selected soloists to perform with the Chicago Bar Association Symphony and Chorus the last five years, in repertoire ranging from the Bruckner Te Deum and Beethoven Choral Fantasy, to a complete evening of opera excerpts and another featuring the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein.  

To learn more about the CBASO & Chorus, please click here.
3 months ago | |
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Ernst Bacon
TUESDAY, May 17, 2016 is the extended postmark deadline for CONDUCTORS, ORCHESTRAS, CHORUSES and COMPOSERS to apply for The American Prize ERNST BACON MEMORIAL AWARD for the Performance of American Music, a new contest offered this year for the first time.

The ERNST BACON MEMORIAL AWARD for the Performance of American Music recognizes and rewards the best performances of American music by orchestras and choruses worldwide, based on submitted recordings.

Applications are accepted from professional, college/university, community and high school orchestras, competing in separate divisions, from choruses performing with orchestra, from orchestra and choral conductors, and from composers of orchestral or choral/orchestral music with excellent recordings of their works.

There is no live competition. The American Prize judges recorded performances only. There are no age limits.

The new award honors the memory and recognizes the legacy of Ernst Bacon (1898—1990) one of that pioneering generation of composers, who, along with Thomson, Copland, Harris, and others, who found a voice for American music. Winner of a Pulitzer Scholarship (for his Symphony in D minor) and no fewer than three Guggenheim Fellowships, Ernst Bacon set out to create compositions that expressed the vitality and affirmative spirit of our country.

Upon the creation of the Ernst Bacon Award, Ellen Bacon, widow of the composer, wrote, “Ernst was a strong advocate of performing the music of living American composers...and the visibility that the award would bring would be very helpful to me in my efforts of outreach, and would definitely further the EB Society's mission of promoting awareness and appreciation of Ernst's music.”

We are grateful to the Ernst Bacon Society for providing this short introduction to the composer and his music:

Ernst Bacon was born in Chicago to an Austrian mother and American father; his music - whether lively and humorous or profound and elegiac - combines the best of the old and new worlds.  Bacon's chief aim as a composer was to express the spirit of America in music, as Whitman, Hawthorne, and others did in literature.  He was deeply interested in our country's history and folklore; and the poetry, folk songs, jazz rhythms and geography of America, as well as the landscape itself, which he hiked, climbed, and also painted - all of these elements found their way into his picturesque and evocative music.

Official rules, complete information and application forms may be found here: http://www.theamericanprize.org/AmericanMusic.html


Ernst Bacon as a young man
The Ernst Bacon Memorial Award for the Performance of American Music s offered in as many as five categories, based on the membership in the ensemble, and on the number and quality of entries. Applications on behalf of orchestras (or choruses performing with orchestra) may be made by the conductor of the ensemble, its board members or other ensemble leaders, such as faculty or administrators, by the musicians themselves, by composers, or, in the case of student ensembles, by parents. In this category, multiple applications by the same ensemble are acceptable. Conductors may apply with more than one ensemble, and separately for conducting or ensemble awards (see Orchestra, Chorus and Conducting Prizes in the competition menu).?

The five categories are:
  • professional orchestra—(or chorus performing with orchestra)—all musicians are paid
  • community or faith-based orchestra—(or chorus performing with orchestra)—some musicians may be paid/some may be students
  • college or university orchestra—(or chorus performing with orchestra)—mostly students/no paid players except "ringers"/faculty participation ok
  • youth orchestra—(or chorus performing with orchestra)—musicians from more than one secondary or high school, or an ensemble from an arts magnet school
  • secondary school orchestra—(or chorus performing with orchestra)—strings or full ensemble
ELIGIBILITY:

The contests of The American Prize are open to all U.S. citizens, whether living in this country or abroad, and to others currently living, working and/or studying in the United States of America, its protectorates and territories. For the ERNST BACON AWARD only, applications from non-U.S. orchestras and their conductors are accepted, provided the Requirements for the Recorded Audition have been met and application fees are remitted in U.S. Funds.

REQUIREMENTS for the RECORDED AUDITION:

The American Prize: Ernst Bacon Memorial Award for the Performance of American Music??You need not prepare a special tape for The American Prize. A previous recording, whether of a concert made in front of an audience or one created in a recording session without an audience, is perfectly acceptable. Neither the location nor the repertoire of any qualified individual limits eligibility, provided the general guidelines listed below have been met. Excellence within categories is the primary criteria for the selection of finalists and winners.

MAIL recordings of, or email ONLINE links to, the performance of any work (or works) of American orchestral (or orchestral/choral) music from any period, including "new" music, recorded within the last five years. Up to thirty minutes of music may be submitted, unless a work is of longer duration, in which case the entire piece may be sent. There is no minimum time limit for the audition. The judges prefer complete works, but complete movements—not excerpts—may be submitted if the full work is not available. Recordings may be audio or video, as is the applicant's preference. Works for orchestra alone, those with soloist(s), or with chorus, may be submitted.??

"AMERICAN MUSIC"—For the purposes of the Bacon Award competition, "American music" is defined as any work composed in this country, at any time, in any period or style, by persons of any nationality, or works by American citizens composed anywhere in the world. ??

"ORCHESTRA WORK"—For the purposes of the Bacon Award competition, an “orchestra work” is defined as any composition that is designed to be conducted which requires at least 9 musicians and includes among its membership bowed string instruments, including works for orchestra and chorus and/or instrumental or vocal soloists, or those that may feature electronic elements, either prerecorded or performed live.

These definitions are purposely broad to allow the largest number of potential contestants to be eligible. We seek to welcome the greatest variety of performances of American orchestral (or choral/orchestral) works from throughout the country and abroad.

THE AMERICAN PRIZE sponsors of UNIQUE CONTESTS in the PERFORMING ARTS

The American Prize is unique—the only national nonprofit competitions in the performing arts to provide evaluation, recognition and reward to America’s finest performing artists, ensembles and composers based on recorded performances. The American Prize is proud to have awarded more than $40,000 in cash prizes in all categories since 2010.

The American Prize sponsors annual competitions for classical vocalists, pianists, composers, chamber musicians, conductors, ensembles and arts administrators and has welcomed applications from 49 U.S. states and from American citizens living throughout the world.

There is no live competition. The American Prize judges recorded performances only. Most contests feature separate divisions for professional musicians, pre-professionals (college and university), community musicians and high school age artists. There are no age limits.

Complete information on the website: www.theamericanprize.org

The American Prize: HISTORY and JUDGES

The American Prize grew from the belief that a great deal of excellent music being made in this country goes unrecognized and unheralded, not only in our major cities, but all across the country: in schools and churches, in colleges and universities, and by community and professional musicians.

With the performing arts in America marginalized like never before and media coverage harder than ever to get, The American Prize seeks to fill the gap that leaves excellent artists and ensembles struggling for visibility and viability. The American Prize recognizes and rewards the best America produces, without bias against small city versus large, or unknown artist versus well-known.

David Katz, chief judge of The American Prize, was recently honored by MUSICAL AMERICA as one of its Top Professionals of the Year for his work on behalf of The American Prize contests. Professional conductor, award-winning composer, playwright, actor and arts advocate, he is author and performer of MUSE of FIRE, the acclaimed one-man play about the art of conducting.

Joining Katz in selecting winners of The American Prize is a panel of judges as varied in background and experience as the organization hopes the winners of The American Prize will be. Made up of distinguished musicians representing virtually every region of the country, the group includes professional vocalists, conductors, composers and pianists, tenured professors and orchestra, band and choral musicians.

“Most artists may never win a Grammy award, or a Pulitzer, or a Tony, or perhaps ever be nominated,” Katz said, “but that does not mean that they are not worthy of recognition and reward. Quality in the arts is not limited to the coasts, or to the familiar names, or only to graduates of a few schools. It is on view all over the United States, if you take the time to look for it. The American Prize exists to encourage and herald that excellence.”

By shining a light on nationally recognized achievement, winners of The American Prize receive world-class bragging rights to use in promotion right at home. “If The American Prize helps build careers, or contributes to local pride, or assists in increasing the audience for an artist or ensemble, builds the donor base, or stimulates opportunities or recruitment for winning artists and ensembles, then we have fulfilled our mission,” Katz said.

The American Prize is administered by Hat City Music Theater, Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit performing arts organization based in Danbury, Connecticut.

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3 months ago | |
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You have recordings. The American Prize wants to hear them.

WHAT CAN THE AMERICAN PRIZE DO FOR YOU?
The American Prize is unique—the only national, nonprofit competitions in the performing arts based solely on the evaluation of commercial and noncommercial CDs, DVDs and online links of performing artists.
  • No live competition.
  • No age limits.
  • Few repertoire restrictions.
  • 1 page application form.
  • Multiple divisions for professional, college/university, community, high school musicians.
Complete information, application forms, biographies of judges and winners: www.theamericanprize.org

2016 Competitions for:
  • National: Pianists (solo, concerto)
  • National: Classical Vocalists (opera/operetta, art song/oratorio)
  • Chicago Oratorio Award (additional opportunity—selecting soloist for the Brahms Requiem)
  • National: Composers (choral, orchestral, band, chamber music, theater music)
  • National: Chamber Ensembles
  • NEW in 2016—National: Instrumental Soloists
Postmark Deadline Approaching Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Winners of The American Prize receive:
  • cash awards
  • award certificates (to all semi-finalists, finalists and winners)
  • unbiased written evaluations from our national panel of distinguished judges (to all contestants who place as a finalist or higher)
but more important, laureates of The American Prize derive local, regional and national recognition to help them generate opportunities, build audiences and sustain careers.

In a world where the performing arts are more marginalized than ever before and media coverage harder than ever to get, The American Prize provides its contestants with the visibility and recognition they need to stand out from the rest.

EASY:
  • 1-page application form.
  • Send bio and photo by email.
  • Send CD, DVD or VHS tape by mail or provide onlink links
  • All applications are acknowledged upon receipt.
You need not prepare a special tape for The American Prize. A previous recording, whether of a concert made in front of an audience or one created in a recording session without an audience, is perfectly acceptable. Neither the location nor the repertoire of any qualified individual limits eligibility, provided the general guidelines have been met. Excellence within categories is the primary criteria for the selection of finalists and winners.

The American Prize is non-profit and is proud to have awarded more than $40,000 in cash prizes in all categories since 2010.

Other 2016 Competitions:
  • Orchestras
  • Choruses
  • Bands/Wind Ensembles
  • Opera and Musical Theater companies
  • Conductors
  • Arts Administrators 
  • Stage Directors
Postmark Deadline Tueday, May 10, 2016

***

UNIQUE:
  • No live competition. Contestants are judged solely through their recorded performances.
  • No age limits.
  • Separate categories for professional, college/university, community and high school musicians.
  • Few repertoire restrictions.
  • Written evaluations provided to all finalists, runners-up and winners from our distinguished panel of judges.
  • Personal communication and published timelines for the announcement of semi-finalists, finalists and winners.
  • Minimal application fee.
Complete information: www.theamericanprize.org

For the most up-to-date information, including questions and answers from contestants, please "like" our FACEBOOK page.
4 months ago | |
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THE AMERICAN PRIZE:
 an additional opportunity for vocalists:

CHICAGO ORATORIO AWARD: selecting soloists for the Brahms Requiem

Deadline to apply: March 15, 2016

Complete information about the Chicago Oratorio Award may be found on the website: http://www.theamericanprize.org/vocalperf.html

In 2016, in addition to national competitions in art song and opera, two $750 prizes will be awarded as performance fees to soloists selected to appear under Maestro David Katz's baton in concert with the Chicago Bar Association Symphony Orchestra & Chorus, in May 2016, performing the Brahms German Requiem, at St James Episcopal Cathedral, Chicago. 

For more information about this additional opportunity, which is limited to applicants in the professional and college/university divisions, please download the opera/operetta or art song/oratorio application. The selection process for the Chicago Oratorio Award is separate from The American Prize judging. Winning one competition does not preclude the possibility of winning the other.

The American Prize has selected soloists to perform with the Chicago Bar Association Symphony and Chorus the last five years, in repertoire ranging from the Bruckner Te Deum and Beethoven Choral Fantasy, to a complete evening of opera excerpts and another featuring the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein.  

There is no live competition. The American Prize judges recorded performances only.


4 months ago | |
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"The American Prize in Instrumental Performance" is a new contest being offered for the first time in 2016 specifically designed for solo artists who are not pianists or singers.
The "Instrumental Soloist" category is open without restriction to any classically trained solo instrumentalist, including guitarists, organists, percussionists and all "orchestral" instrumentalists.

There are separate categories for professionals, college/university musicians, community and high school artists. Applications on behalf of instrumental soloists may be made by a coach, teacher, manager or other person so authorized, or, in the case of students, by a parent. Only one application per soloist per year may be submitted.

The "Instrumental Performance" contest details and application form may be found with information about "The American Prize in Chamber Music" here: http://www.theamericanprize.org/ChamberPerformance.html

The postmark deadline for applications is Tuesday, March 15, 2016. There is no live competition. The American Prize evaluates recorded performances only. See the website for details.
Questions? theamericanprize@gmail.com
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How valuable is The American Prize in Piano Performance to those who participate? We have received unsolicited emails from several laureates we are proud to share.

In the welter of media "noise" every day,  it is sometimes difficult for artists to get the recognition they so clearly deserve: we are pleased that The American Prize is helping to change that.

From Sarah Chan, winner of The American Prize in Piano Performance, professional division—concerto, and now a member of our distinguished panel of judges:

"I thank you for the objectives of your organization in encouraging many fine artists in their development. I am very thankful for the honor of The American Prize and am grateful for your continued support of excellence in music across this nation....Through The American Prize, your...efforts to encourage excellence in the arts at all levels nationally remain inspirational as a model of generosity, expressing the very soul of art."
—Sarah Chan, Assistant Professor of Music (Keyboard Studies and Music Theory) and Coordinator of Keyboard Studies at California State University, Stanislaus.

From Catharine Dornin, The American Prize in Piano Performance
3rd place, professional division, concerto

"I am so thrilled to have been a part of this competition and all the wonderful opportunities it offers to its finalists and winners. I'm delighted to have my picture on your website and to have won third place in the Concerto Performance Category in the Professional Division. I definitely saw the press release that the Concord Monitor, our local newspaper, ran in August concerning my award and I appreciate this recognition so very much. It is wonderfully helpful to me both as a performer and music teacher. 

I've received so many congratulations from friends and acquaintances. I've tried to explain to them how The American Prize is a new and wonderful award opportunity for artists who've been laboring in relative obscurity for years to have their performances listened to and adjudicated by highly qualified judges and to give those performers professional recognition that is just invaluable and is so very affirming.
It's so helpful to my musical career to have all this great support and recognition. It is just a wonderful idea! We are all so very grateful."

—Catharine Dornin, faculty
St Paul's School and Concord Community Music School, Concord, NH

And this, from another distinguished member of the national judging panel for The American Prize in Piano Performance:

"you've created a new type of art music competition.  Fantastic!"

Michael Benson
Michael Benson is Assistant Professor of Music and Coordinator of Keyboard Studies at Malone University in Canton, Ohio.

*****

The American Prize is unique. A non-profit organization that focuses on recognizing and rewarding artists solely based on their recorded performances, contestants avoid the hassle and expense of traveling to competitions. Our distinguished panel of nationally recognized judges provides every contestant, from finalist to winner, with unbiased written evaluations. With no age limits and few repertoire restrictions and separate divisions for professional, college/university, high school and amateur artists, we assist artists in building careers, audiences and visibility.

The extended postmark deadline for The American Prize in Piano Performance, 2016, which includes separate competitions in solo performance and in concerto, is Tuesday, March 15, 2016.  Visit the The American Prize website for complete information, application forms, bios and photos of past winners, and more.
4 months ago | |
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Here are some additional questions from composers. (To read the first composer Q&A, follow this LINK.)
1. Does the composer retain all rights to his/her music if he applies (or wins)? 

A: Without question. The composer relinquishes no rights whatsoever. We only ask to publish photos and bios of runners-up and winners, which may be posted to our website and blog. We do expect The American Prize channel on YouTube to go live this season and hope to post excerpts of winning compositions on the site, but only with the explicit permission of the composer. (Sometimes, union rules or other contracted limitations prevent this from being possible.) The composer makes the final call.
 2.  In the choral contest, is there any limitation to the number of choral works that may be submitted to fill 30 minutes on the tape? May the recordings be by different ensembles? 
A: There is no limit to the number of pieces represented within the 30 minutes, and no restrictions on the number or type of groups performing them, provided they are all identified. The focus in the composition contests is on the works themselves, rather on the performers, though of course, the performances that do the best justice to the music (in the opinion of the composer) are the ones to send.   
3: What about fees? Is the application $40 per piece?
A: No. Because each contest is judged completely independently of the others, the fee is $40 per category. The five categories are: orchestra music, choral music, band music, chamber music or music for opera, theater or film. Up to thirty minutes of music may be submitted in each category, even longer if an individual piece has a duration longer than thirty minutes. There is no limit to the number of categories a composer may enter. Some enter in all five.

4: Does The American Prize favor one recording format or online option over another?
 

A: No. Many composers submit CDs of their music, others DVDs of the work. Many others provide links to online recordings. Ideally, we prefer links that are "instant access" and do not require downloading or wait time: Soundcloud better than Dropbox, YouTube better than GoogleDrive, but all are acceptable. No one is disqualified because of the format of their recordings, provided, of course, that discs play properly and links work correctly. Links must remain active until the end of the year or until results in the category are officially announced. PLEASE NOTE: The responsibility for the viability of links rests with the contestant. Please double-check that they work properly. (Some contestants send links to a friend and ask them to open them and report back—it is a good fail-safe.)
5. Whose links get selected for the NEWS highlights on your Facebook page? 
A: Often during the contest year, The American Prize shares news links from competition laureates on our Facebook page, including the latest information from individual performing artists, ensembles and composers. The links help to highlight some of the many different ways contestants have shared their success in the competitions, as well as focusing on their ongoing achievements. 
To submit a link of your own, or if you have additional questions, simply email theamericanprize@gmail.com.

David Katz, chief judgeThe American Prize
4 months ago | |
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Answers by David Katz, chief judge of The American Prize.

Q: Aren't so-called "romantic" or "accessible" works more likely to win The American Prize?

A: I hate those terms as much as you probably do, and the short answer is a resounding "NO."

"Challenging" music, whatever that means, elegantly crafted, performed at a level of accomplishment where its merits are clearly discernible, is every bit as likely to win The American Prize as more conventional works. 
We have no compositional axe to grind here—other than to bring to the larger musical community information about valuable pieces with which it may not be familiar. I charge my fellow judges to favor no style over another as a matter of policy, make every effort to avoid bias and conflict of interest (the judges' guidelines are particularly clear on this last point) and try to provide well-considered evaluation at every stage of the audition process. The best music, in the opinion of the judges—the work that most closely fulfills its artistic intent, regardless of style—should win.

(It strikes me with a certain irony, as someone who has "been in the business" longer than I care to admit, that it used to be the composers of "romantic" or "accessible" music who worried about being frozen out of the running—at least in competitions sponsored by elite performing and educational institutions...Times have changed.)

Anything we at The American Prize can do to raise the profile of the art of musical composition through the winning works we select, helps regain for American composers some of the attention and respect they once had, and still deserve.

Here are answers to other questions we have received from composers about The American Prize in Composition.

Q: Why must composers send recordings? Why don't you just accept the scores?
A: The recorded component is key to the philosophy of The American Prize—central to what makes it unique. Different from many composition contests which require that only new, unperformed works be submitted, The American Prize in Composition seeks to evaluate and reward composers of works which have already been performed, or read and recorded. Here's why we think that's important: 

In an age when second hearings are sometimes more difficult to obtain than premieres, TAP provides a forum for the composer who has already accomplished thousands of hours of toil—shepherding a work from conception through to performance. By being previously performed—whether by a student, community or professional ensemble—submitted works have, to a certain extent, already been vetted. The scores (and parts) are more likely to be free of errors (and therefore more attractive to conductors interested in additional performances); the recording also helps provide the judges with more than a mind's ear conception: music being an aural art, they can hear (as well as see) the extent to which the composer seems to have satisfied his or her intended artistic aims, taking into consideration who is performing, of course.

As for printed scores, of course many composers have their music available as PDFs, but speaking as a conductor, I like to have the score open before me: I like to easily turn the pages, turn back quickly, check a fact, confirm a hunch, observe on the printed page the geography of the work. Music is far easier to read on paper than on a computer screen, where the monitor may be too small to see the whole page, or too small to read the notes.

II. What type of composers does The American Prize attract?A: Serious ones, both professionals and students. A number of composers we have heard from generated additional performances of works directly as a result of their placement in the competitions.

We are told that The American Prize helps give its laureates a way to cut through the welter of "noise" in the marketplace, to derive local, regional and national attention for their work, while seeking to provide contestants at various stages of the selection process—whether they win or not—with visibility and feedback far beyond the modest application fee.

Click on the WINNERS button on the homepage of The American Prize website to see our composer laureates.

Q: I am an American citizen living outside the U.S. May I still apply? What about recordings by foreign ensembles?
A: Perfectly fine. The competitions of The American Prize are open to all U.S. citizens, whether living in this country or abroad, and to others currently living, working and/or studying in the United States of America, its protectorates and territories. All application fees must be remitted in U.S. funds. Recordings by student, community or professional ensembles from anywhere in the world are acceptable. 

Q: What about fees? Is the application $40 per piece?
A: No. Because each contest is judged completely independently of the others, the fee is $40 per category. The five categories are: orchestra music, choral music, band music, chamber music or music for opera, theater or film. Up to thirty minutes of music may be submitted in each category, even longer if an individual piece has a duration longer than thirty minutes. There is no limit to the number of categories a composer may enter. Some enter in all five.


Q: Does The American Prize favor one recording format or online option over another?
A: No. Many composers submit CDs of their music, others DVDs of the work. Many others provide links to online recordings. Ideally, we prefer links that are "instant access" and do not require downloading or wait time: Soundcloud better than Dropbox, YouTube better than GoogleDrive, but all are acceptable. No one is disqualified because of the format of their recordings, provided, of course, that discs play properly and links work correctly.
Links must remain active until the end of the year or until results in the category are officially announced. PLEASE NOTE: The responsibility for the viability of links rests with the contestant. Please double-check that they work properly. (Some contestants send links to a friend and ask them to open them and report back—it is a good fail-safe.)


David Katz, chief judge
The American Prize
www.theamericanprize.org
4 months ago | |
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JAY WHITE, eight-year veteran of the Grammy Award-winning vocal ensemble, CHANTICLEER, and a distinguished member of the judging panel for The American Prize, shares an evaluation he wrote for a finalist for The American Prize in Vocal Performance—Friedrich & Virginia Schorr Memorial Awards.

Although judges have a great deal of leeway about the structure and length of the evaluations they provide (some are shorter, some may be longer) the paragraphs below represent a sample of the quality of evaluation we aspire to provide to every contestant who reaches Finalist status or higher in the competitions of The American Prize.

(Please note that judges' assignments are rotated annually, based on their qualifications, areas of interest, years of service and availability for a particular stage of the process.)

Here is what Dr. White wrote about one opera contestant. (The name of the vocalist has, of course, been removed.)

A warm, resonant, and strong sound.
This is a well-produced tone! Very grounded and easy.
X has a strength to his sound that is very much based on resonance and a strong control of breath energy. There is no pushing to his tone and his upper range is well managed.

His lower range is well set within his body.
He has a good sense of textual phrasing.
His command of languages is spot on! He seems very at ease with French especially. (His strong character work here helped tremendously).
While I think his Rossini was not the strongest of his submissions, I did very much enjoy the attention he placed into his character (he seems to be having difficulty with managing his breath here).

X is a fine performer and a delight to listen to. His reverberant, warm voice is produced with such ease as to draw you in to hear every nuance. He has an intensity to his delivery that makes one want to see and hear just what he is to do next.
Dr. Jay White
Associate Professor of Voice
Hugh A. Glauser School of Music
Kent State University
4 months ago | |
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