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Mrs. Ernst Bacon, who, as chairman of the Ernst Bacon Society, helps sponsor The American Prize Ernst Bacon Memorial Award for the Performance of American Music, writes about the essential conductor's role in expanding the repertoire.

"If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

Ernst Bacon as a young man.
I’d like to make an imperfect analogy between the falling trees and various categories of under-performed composers.

If a woman composes a piece of music and no one ever hears it, in effect it doesn’t exist.  The same is true of a black composer.  A third category is living composers, whose music has been receiving more performances in recent decades to balance the works of “dead Europeans” still preponderant on most concert programs.

In the past few years, many performers - including singers, chamber musicians, and conductors - have begun to champion women composers, both dead and alive, and also black composers, whether male or female, living or not living.  This new trend gives voice to whole forests of composers whose music has been too long neglected and in many cases totally unknown to the general public.  These additions enhance and enrich the repertoire to the benefit of all.  The singers, chamber musicians, and conductors who perform music in these three categories are vitally important in bringing this music alive and assuring its continued existence.

The opposite of “dead European composers” is "living American composers."  My late husband, Ernst Bacon, was a strong advocate of the latter. Now, in addition to the three categories of living, black, and women composers, there is a fourth category that mostly continues to be neglected:  the category of “forgotten dead Americans.”  As Bacon's widow, I have been trying to revive the music of this once well-known American.  But as is true of so many other things, “It takes a village,” and my personal efforts can only succeed as part of a team.

This summer I’ve been greatly encouraged by the advocacy of one of our CODA members, James Tapia of Syracuse University, who performed Bacon’s “Erie Waters” with the Syracuse Summer Festival Orchestra last night and is planning to perform his Pulitzer-winning “Symphony in D Minor” as part of his championing of “forgotten Americans.”  At last night’s performance of “Erie Waters,” I was unexpectedly asked to give a short talk about my husband and then - even more unexpectedly - given a framed certificate in appreciation for “Outstanding Advocacy of American Music.”  I felt deeply honored by this recognition - but I think that Jim deserves his own special certificate!  He believes, as I do, that there are fine works by many Americans no longer living, such as Robert Helps and Howard Hanson, that are in danger of sinking into oblivion, and he is dedicating himself to reviving this music, primarily written between the 1930s - 1970s. Ernst's “Symphony in D Minor” was written before I was born, and I will be thrilled to hear it for the first time conducted by James Tapia!

The dead Americans who have NOT been forgotten had their own personal champions - among them, of course, Copland, whose music became widely known and deservedly loved through Bernstein.  As we celebrate Bernstein in his centennial year, I think one of his greatest accomplishments is putting Copland and others on the map.  Even Copland needed a champion, and Bernstein was that vital link to his future fame.

In my case, now that Ernst is gone, I’m married to his music and am doing what I can to get it on the map before I too am gone.   He himself had a deep love of the “dead Europeans,” having been born to a Viennese mother and having studied and heard their music throughout his growing up years in Chicago.  But after returning from a period of study in Vienna, he felt the youth and vitality of our own country and realized that America should find its own musical voice, just as the transcendental authors had found a literary voice.  He took to heart the suggestions of Dvorak earlier in the century that American composers embrace our country's folk songs, including the music of native Americans and black people.  Carl Sandburg, who was a guitarist and collector of folk songs, as well as a poet, was a good friend of the Bacon family, and he too encouraged Ernst to incorporate folk materials into his own music.

Since Ernst is no longer here to advocate for American music, I myself have tried to continue his advocacy.  But I am not a performer, and I salute all of you conductors who perform the works of living composers, women composers, black composers - and forgotten American composers.  All of you are making important contributions in furthering the cause of American music; and because of you, all of the diverse trees in the forest of American music will be preserved for posterity.

Best wishes,
Ellen Bacon                                                                  


12 days ago |
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GUEST BLOGGER, The American Prize Laureate Composer and Honored Artist, Lee Actor, writes about conducting concerts of his music in Turkey.

For part one of this story, please click: https://theamericanprize.blogspot.com/2018/08/guest-blogger-american-in-ankara-part-1.html

(Are you a laureate of The American Prize with a musical story to share with our readership? Please write to us with your ideas at theamericanprize@gmail.com) 

PART TWO of "An American in Ankara"—more GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS
by Lee Actor
As the Assistant Conductor of the Palo Alto Philharmonic since 2001, I am very familiar with the rehearsal techniques and pacing needed to prepare a good amateur orchestra for performance.  However, this would be my first time conducting a professional orchestra, and I was admittedly a bit anxious.  As the sole composer on the program, I faced a double whammy: the musicians might dislike my music, my conducting, or both; and negative feelings in one area were sure to affect the other.

Fethi taught me a few words of Turkish to introduce myself to the orchestra, and as we started rehearsing “Dance Rhapsody” a comfortable relationship quickly developed between me and the musicians.  My fears about communication issues proved unfounded; most of the orchestra understood at least some English.  I learned that the concertmaster had studied for several years at the New England Conservatory, and those few times I needed to express a more complex idea, she helpfully translated for the orchestra.  But for the most part “musical Italian” and a little English worked just fine.  I quickly learned to avoid using large numbers, as in “Please begin at m. 237”; much better was “6 before letter K”.  Interestingly, the musicians in Izmir the following week specifically asked me to use absolute measure numbers when they realized I was intentionally avoiding using them.

There is a fine balance for a conductor – especially a guest conductor – between maintaining control and keeping the musicians engaged.  For example, I had been told that the mid-rehearsal break was 15 minutes long; but that first day when I returned to the stage at the appointed time, it was still largely empty.  The “real” break was closer to 25 minutes, which I didn’t make an issue of; an easy decision considering the 3-hour rehearsal length.  On purely musical issues, we worked hard but efficiently, and I made no compromises.  I was “tested” a couple of times – such as when a string principal suggested that a certain passage would be easier if not played as softly as notated – but the orchestra quickly realized that I knew what I wanted, and there was very little friction overall.  As the week passed, more and more musicians overcame their shyness or insecurity about their English to tell me how much they were enjoying the music and working with me.

The orchestra management had asked me if I was willing to give a presentation to local conservatory students, which I agreed to.  On Wednesday afternoon my talk covered the circuitous journey to my career as a full-time composer, with numerous audio examples of how my compositional style has changed over the past 40 years.  No translator was needed, and the audience seemed very appreciative.
Rehearsal in Ankara
The performance in Ankara was billed as the “Turkish-American Friendship Concert” (a bit ironic considering the recent diplomatic friction between the countries), and it wasn’t until we had been in Turkey for some time that I understood how key a player the U.S. Embassy had been as a financial promoter of the concert.  They held a very nice reception for us on Thursday evening at the ambassador’s residence, where I met the acting ambassador and much of his staff, all of whom attended the performance Friday evening.  Of course, promoting good relations between Turkey and the U.S. is a major component of their jobs, and they were very excited to learn that an American composer would be in Ankara for a week to conduct a program of his works.  I should mention that none of the orchestra management who attended the reception had ever been to the ambassador’s residence before, so it was a first for all of us.  One person I met there was a Turkish composer who wrote orchestral music but taught jazz at the conservatory; improbably, he received his doctorate in Tennessee!

The “general” rehearsal on Friday morning – what we would call a dress rehearsal – included a large contingent of elementary-age school kids in the audience.  At the break, they rushed up to the stage and seemed genuinely excited to speak to me, though honestly I’m not sure why.  I’m not a big fan of tiring out the orchestra the day of the concert, so I made sure we did what we needed during the rehearsal and let them go 30 minutes early.  You can’t overrate good will.

I arrived at the concert hall 2 hours before the performance, where the U.S. Embassy filmed a short promotional video; you can see here: http://www.leeactor.com/videos.htm#USEmbassy_videos.

The house was nearly full for the concert, which was received warmly.  I was pretty sure that Dance Rhapsody and the saxophone concerto would go over well, as they always seem to; but I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised at the enthusiastic ovation given the 3rd Symphony, much of which has a fairly dark mood.  The orchestra recorded video for the entire concert, which I’ve linked to on my website:
http://www.leeactor.com/videos.htm#DR_videos
http://www.leeactor.com/videos.htm#SC_videos
http://www.leeactor.com/videos.htm#Sym3_videos

Just outside ancient Ephesus
Following the performance in Ankara, the original plan was to fly the 325 miles to Izmir for another week of rehearsals and concert; but Fethi offered to drive us there in his van for a more up close and personal view of the country, which sounded like fun.  We spent most of the day Saturday on the road, during which it rained intermittently.  Izmir is the third largest city in Turkey and is located on the west coast of the country, on the Aegean Sea.  It is a popular tourist destination and has a relaxed, laid back feel not unlike Northern California.  Several of Fethi’s close relatives live in Izmir, including his brother Cemil, recently retired concertmaster of the Izmir State Symphony Orchestra (Izmir Devlet Senfoni Orkestrasi in Turkish).  Cemil and his wife Karen – originally from Wales – were extremely gracious and treated us like family members, hosting us at their home nearly every evening for dinner and conversation.

The rehearsal schedule in Izmir was similar to that in Ankara: rehearsals in the mornings from Tuesday through Friday, with the concert Friday evening, leaving us two full days for sightseeing.  One must-see destination, about an hour away by car, is the famous ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus, some of which is as much as 8000 years old.  There is a large Greek amphitheater there which is still used as a performing venue.
Concert in Izmir
The concert hall in Izmir is fairly new, and quite attractive.  As in Ankara, the orchestra provided a driver each day.  The musicians again were very friendly and welcoming, and as the week went on a number of them approached me during breaks to let me know they enjoyed rehearsing my music.  It was interesting to compare the two orchestras: one a little stronger in the strings, the other with stronger horns, etc.; but overall they were quite similar in their level of playing.  The concert in Izmir was also well-received, and the entire experience was very humbling and gratifying for me.
Fethi and Me
It is a great honor for any composer to have an entire program dedicated solely to his works.  It’s not unusual to see an all-Beethoven, or all-Mozart, or all-[fill in the name of another immortal composer] concert program; but such a thing is much rarer for a living composer.  It’s not something I ever expected to happen for me – let alone in Turkey!  I’m told that this was the first concert in the 192-year history of the C.S.O. that consisted of the works of a single composer, conducted by the composer.  Obviously I’m very humbled and grateful for the opportunity, and look forward to my next visit to Turkey.  My biggest debt of gratitude goes to Fethi Günçer, who took it upon himself to champion my music in Turkey, and single-handedly fought with determination to overcome every obstacle – and there were many – to bring me to his country to perform.  No composer could ask for more.

***






21 days ago |
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GUEST BLOGGER, The American Prize Laureate Composer and Honored Artist, Lee Actor, writes about conducting concerts of his music in Turkey.

(Are you a laureate of The American Prize with a musical story to share with our readership? Please write to us with your ideas at theamericanprize@gmail.com)

PART ONE: "An American in Ankara"
by Lee Actor In November of 2011, I received an unexpected and surprising email from Turkey.  It was from a musician named Fethi Günçer, who explained that he played clarinet/saxophone for the Presidential Symphony Orchestra in Ankara, had heard my alto saxophone concerto online, really liked it, and suggested that I come to Turkey to conduct it with his orchestra.  My initial reaction, frankly, was “Is this for real?”.  A quick online search revealed that this was indeed a legitimate, full-time professional orchestra – the Turkish name is Cumhurbaskanligi Senfoni Orkestrasi, or C.S.O. – and in fact one of the oldest orchestras in the world, having been founded in 1826.  Looking through their season schedule, I discovered that the orchestra presented a new program every week from September through May, with repertoire very similar to that of any major American orchestra – with the exception of a few Turkish composers who I wasn’t familiar with.

Naturally, I was intrigued, and had many questions: about the rehearsal schedule, possible language issues communicating with the orchestra (English is my only fluent language), the financial arrangements – and not least about Turkey itself, which I had never visited.  But my main concern was how programming decisions get made.  Certainly for U.S. orchestras, individual musicians have little or no say over programming, which is normally the province of orchestra management and music directors.  For historical reasons, all orchestras in Turkey are state institutions, with rotating management councils elected by the musicians, and Mr. Günçer was confident that presenting this kind of project to his friends on the management council had a high probability of being approved.  In his enthusiasm, he even suggested offering an all-Actor program, to be conducted by me, and taking it to orchestras in other Turkish cities besides Ankara.  This prompted me to ask the question, “Why would people in Turkey come to a concert of works by an American composer they’ve never heard of?”  Not to worry, he assured me; they played weekly to nearly full audiences, who no doubt would enjoy my music.  They would consider it an honor to host me, and had every reason to expect a successful concert.  No pressure!

Over the following months, as we continued to email back and forth, Fethi introduced the symphony management to my music, which apparently they liked very much.  In mid-2013, I finally received a formal invitation from the orchestra to conduct a program of my works for the 2013-14 season.  However, it was late in the planning process, and we couldn’t find a mutually agreeable time to schedule the concert.  I was invited again for the 2014-15 season, but the appointment of a new General Music Director and the usual bureaucratic red tape caused that season’s schedule to fill up before we could find a suitable date.  I got another invitation in the summer of 2015 for the 2015-16 season, and, try as we might, couldn’t find a date that worked for both of us.  Unbelievably, the same thing happened a year later for the 2016-17 season.  The stars finally aligned for the 2017-18 season and we locked in a week in mid-March 2018.  In short order, Fethi arranged for a concert the following week in Izmir with the Izmir State Symphony Orchestra (Izmir Devlet Senfoni Orkestrasi in Turkish).  A few months later I had signed contracts with both orchestras and could start planning this trip in earnest.

Then in early October 2017, Turkey and the U.S. got into a diplomatic dispute and both stopped issuing travel visas to the other country.  As the impasse continued week after week, the entire project became increasingly doubtful.  It seemed the only other option I had was to make an appointment for an interview at the nearest Turkish embassy (400 miles away) and hope they would decide to issue a visa.  But I was working on a deadline for my latest composition, and didn’t have the time to spare – especially since there was no guarantee that it would result in a travel visa.  I asked my friends at the C.S.O. if there was anything they could do, but their hands were tied.  The two countries finally kissed and made up the last week of December 2017, and I was able to quickly get our e-Visas online.

Another snag concerned getting the orchestral parts for the program to Turkey.  When the C.S.O. tried to place an order on my website, they told me they were unable to because “Turkey” was not in the list of countries offered.  This surprised me, as I use PayPal on the website.  But a little investigation revealed that in 2016 Turkey had passed new regulations that required IT systems for financial transactions be localized within the country, making it impossible for PayPal to continue doing business there (they distribute their IT across numerous global hubs).  This inspired us to forgo the shipping of physical parts entirely, opting instead for secure pdfs – much less expensive and less work, at least on my part.  I’ve since added a pdf option to my online store for all parts.

The orchestra booked our flights, and we made our final preparations.  Ok, I’ll say it – I HATE traveling.  I hate airports with their security lines and endless waiting, I hate being a captive sardine on an airplane, I hate disrupting my daily schedule, I hate not having my “stuff” around me.  It took the extraordinary opportunity offered me in Turkey to overcome my innate reluctance to spend 2 weeks in a foreign country.  We had a direct flight from San Francisco to Istanbul, which took 13 hours; from there it’s an hour or so flight to Ankara, the capital of Turkey and its 2nd largest city.  The orchestra sent a car to take us from the airport to the hotel, where we finally met in person my now good friend Fethi Günçer.  Fethi greeted us with flowers for my wife and a large supply of bottled water – “better than hotel bottled water”, he assured us.  Apparently, most people in Turkey drink bottled rather than tap water.

Our room was fairly small by American standards, but big enough for our needs, and at least we had Wi-Fi.  But as we hauled in our several large suitcases filled with 2 weeks’ worth of clothing, concert clothes and other essentials, we noticed there was no closet, no place to hang up anything, no drawers, and no shelves.  Hmm, this was going to be interesting.  We did end up changing rooms after one night, as the ventilation system wasn’t working properly, and ended up in a larger room with space to hang up and store our clothes.


We had two full days before rehearsals started on Tuesday, leaving plenty of time for sightseeing around Ankara.  Fethi was our gracious host, taking us to museums, bazaars, and the famous mausoleum of Atatürk, the founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey, which replaced the crumbling Ottoman Empire in 1923.  Call me quirky, but I always enjoy visiting supermarkets and department stores in other countries, which along with “people watching” gives me a better feel for the local population than artifacts from the Bronze Age, interesting though the latter may be.  We had several outstanding meals in Ankara; one of the most memorable was lunch at a restaurant very popular with locals, but practically unknown to tourists.  We had lamb “kebap” – seasoned meat roasted on a vertical rotisserie, sliced thinly and served on a kind of puffy bread – and the best baklava I’ve ever had, baked fresh daily at the restaurant.  And at the hotel breakfast buffet I developed a daily habit for “simit”, a popular street food which is basically a round bread covered in sesame seeds – kind of a Turkish bagel.  The food in Turkey was delightful, the only problem being to avoid overindulging.

On Tuesday morning we finally got down to business.  The orchestra sent a car to take us from the hotel to the concert hall, only a few minutes away.  The program was designed around my “Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra”, a Finalist for the 2013 American Prize in Orchestral Composition and always a big hit with audiences; it has been performed 16 times to date.  Fethi and I spent a couple of hours on Monday going over the whole concerto and aligning our concepts of the piece; I had just conducted a performance of the concerto in February with the Palo Alto Philharmonic, so it was still very fresh in my memory.  For the opener I had decided on “Dance Rhapsody”, one of my most popular pieces (14 performances) and a sure-fire audience pleaser; it won 2nd place in the 2011 American Prize in Orchestra Composition, and was the winner of the 2016 Austin Civic Orchestra Composition Competition.  I had conducted the premiere in 2010 and knew there were technical challenges for both orchestra and conductor.  The final piece on the program was my 34-minute “Symphony No. 3”, which had not been performed since its premiere in 2013; it has a definite “Shostakovich” vibe, and a couple of the movements are challenging even for professionals.  The program totaled 72 minutes of music, which I thought would be quite doable in 4 rehearsals, even though this would be all-new music for the orchestra – the Turkish premieres of all 3 pieces, in fact.

***

Tomorrow: 
PART TWO: "more GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS"


22 days ago |
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Ernst Bacon as a young man.
The American Prize, the national nonprofit competitions in the performing arts, has recognized ensembles, conductors, soloists and composers for musical excellence within their divisions in the performance of American Music as 2017-18 honorees of The Ernst Bacon Memorial Award for the Performance of American Music. The honorees include artists at professional, community, college/university, youth, and high school levels, both in this country and abroad.

The American Prize is a series of new, non-profit competitions unique in scope and structure, designed to recognize and reward the best performing artists, ensembles and composers in the United States based on submitted recordings. The American Prize has attracted hundreds of qualified contestants from all fifty states since its founding, has awarded more than $50,000 in prizes in all categories since 2010, and is presented annually in many areas of the performing arts. Additional information about the competitions may be found on the website: www.theamericanprize.org

The American Prize Ernst Bacon Memorial Award for the Performance of American Music recognizes and rewards the best performances of American music by ensembles and soloists worldwide, based on submitted recordings. There is no live competition. Applications are accepted from professional, college/university, community and high school age solo artists, chamber ensembles or conducted ensembles, competing in separate divisions, and from composers with excellent recordings of their works. Beginning in 2017, categories were expanded to encompass performances of American music in practically any instrumentation or genre, with very few repertoire restrictions.

Ernst Bacon (1898—1990) was one of that pioneering generation of composers who, along with Thomson, Copland, Harris, and others, 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. It is fitting, and with honor, that The American Prize in 2016 created an annual award in the memory of Ernst Bacon, recognizing the finest performances of American music worldwide.

The First Place winners of The American Prize ERNST BACON MEMORIAL AWARD
for the PERFORMANCE of AMERICAN MUSIC
in each division for the 2017-18 contest year are:


PROFESSIONAL ensemble division
Solaris Vocal Ensemble
Giselle Wyers, conductor
Seattle WA

COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY ensemble division
SPECIAL PRIZE: Championing the Music of Ernst Bacon
Oklahoma State University Symphony Orchestra
Thomas Dickey, conductor
Stillwater OK
COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY ensemble division
Capital University Chapel Choir and Choral Union
Lynda Hasseler, conductor
Columbus OH

COMMUNITY ensemble division
Vox Nova
Christine Jarquio Nichols, conductor
Columbia MO

YOUTH & HIGH SCHOOL ensemble division
Decatur HS Wind Ensemble
Robert Truan, conductor
Decatur GA

PROFESSIONAL solo artist division
Ann Maire Wilcox-Daehn, soprano,
and Elizabeth Avery, piano
Springfield MO

COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY solo artist division
Corinne Rydman, soprano
San Francisco CA

Photos and short biographies of each of these artists, as well as those of the runners-up in each division may be found here:

ENSEMBLE ARTISTS: http://theamericanprize.blogspot.com/2018/08/ernst-bacon-award-american-music_3.html
SOLO ARTISTS: http://theamericanprize.blogspot.com/2018/08/ernst-bacon-award-american-music.html

The first place (winning) artist in each division receives a cash award up to $500. All receive certificates, written professional adjudication, and regional, national and international recognition based on recorded performances. There is no live competition. In addition to written evaluations from a member of The American Prize's distinguished panel of judges, winners are profiled on The American Prize websites, where links will lead to video and audio excerpts of artist performances.

THE AMERICAN PRIZE—Mission, History & Judges

The American Prize National Nonprofit Competitions in the Performing Arts 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, 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 is the chief judge of The American Prize. Professional conductor, award-winning composer, playwright, actor and arts advocate, he is author 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 we hope 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 professional orchestra, band and choral musicians.

“Most artists may never win a Grammy award, or a Pulitzer, or a Tony, or perhaps ever even 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 with 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.

***

RELATED STORY: THE AMERICAN PRIZE honors Twenty-Two American Orchestras
http://theamericanprize.blogspot.com/2018/07/the-american-prize-honors-twenty-two.html

RELATED STORY: THE AMERICAN PRIZE honors Sixteen American Orchestral Conductors
http://theamericanprize.blogspot.com/2018/08/the-american-prize-honors-sixteen.html
26 days ago |
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Ernst Bacon
The American Prize is honored to announce WINNERS, runners-up, citation recipients and honorable mentions of the ERNST BACON MEMORIAL AWARD for the PERFORMANCE of AMERICAN MUSIC, 2017-18, in ensemble divisions. Congratulations! (Solo artist division winners of the Bacon Award are posted separately.)

Among the many contests of The American Prize, the Ernst Bacon Memorial Award for the Performance of American Music is unique. It recognizes and rewards the best performances of American music by ensembles and individual artists worldwide, based on submitted recordings. Applications are accepted from professional, college/university, community and high school age solo artists, chamber ensembles and conducted ensembles, competing in separate divisions, and from composers with excellent recordings of their works. Beginning in 2017-18, categories were expanded to encompass performances of American music in practically any instrumentation or genre, with very few repertoire restrictions.

Focused exclusively on works by American composers from any period and in any style, the contest not only judges performances, but in the case of new or unfamiliar works, the music itself.

Ernst Bacon (1898—1990) was one of that pioneering generation of composers who, along with Thomson, Copland, Harris, and others, 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. It is fitting, and with honor, that The American Prize created an annual award in the memory of Ernst Bacon, recognizing the finest performances of American music worldwide. To learn more about the music & legacy of Ernst Bacon, please visit the website of the Ernst Bacon Society.

Questions, or to make us aware of any misprints in the listings below, please email: theamericanprize@gmail.com


The American Prize ERNST BACON MEMORIAL AWARD for the PERFORMANCE of AMERICAN MUSIC, PROFESSIONAL ensemble division, 2017-18

The American Prize winner:
Giselle Wyers, conductor
Solaris Vocal Ensemble
Seattle WA
Floodsongs—Anne LeBaron

Solaris Vocal Ensemble
Solaris Vocal Ensemble consists of 12 professional vocalists from the Seattle area. They seek to encourage a renaissance in innovation in the field of choral music and specialize in new American works, including world premieres. Every project is unique and never repeated.  Their premiere concert featured four American world premieres which culminated in a CD recording available through Albany Records.  In 2015, they launched “Burning the Bridge,” a neo-medieval tale of love and courtship, with a narrative thread stitched between every piece, featuring expressive movement choreographed by a dancer.  Solaris is thrilled to have continued collaborations with Seattle Modern Orchestra, including last month's “Quest”, a program of works by Julia Wolfe, Ted Hearne, and Stuart Dempster, and a full concert honoring American music luminaries Stuart Dempster and Robert Erickson, entitled “Double Portrait.”

Giselle Wyers, founding conductor of Solaris, is the Donald E. Petersen Associate Endowed Professor of Choral Music at the University of Washington. She has conducted All-State and honor choirs in New York (Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center), Georgia, Connecticut, Nebraska, Texas, Washington, Alaska, Idaho, and Vancouver, Canada. She has conducted semi-professional ensembles across the United States and in Germany, the Netherlands, Estonia, and Sweden. She is series editor of the Giselle Wyers Choral Series through Santa Barbara Music Publishing, and is regularly commissioned to compose new works for high school, community, and professionally-based choirs across the United States and in Europe.


Second Place:
Reuben Blundell, conductor
Gowanus Arts Ensemble
Brooklyn NY
“American Romantics”—music by Foote, Busch, Parker, more

Reuben Blundell
The Gowanus Arts Ensemble, with conductor Reuben Blundell, released this CD in April 2016. It garnered outstanding reviews in Gramophone Magazine, American Record Guide, Australia’s Limelight Magazine and other major outlets, and continues to be featured on classical radio.  They recently recorded a second CD, with release anticipated in late 2017.  The group is named after Brooklyn’s Gowanus Arts Building, in a corner of Brooklyn rejuvenating through investment in the environment and the arts.

The Gowanus Arts Ensemble comprises some of New York’s finest musicians, who can be found playing as soloists, in Broadway shows and other major ensembles. For the 2016 CD, its members were violinists Hiroko Taguchi (concertmaster), Orlando Wells, Yuiko Kamakari, Elizabeth Nielsen, and Sarah Zun, violists Entela Barci and Carla Fabiani, cellists Julian Schwarz and Alisa Horn, and bassist Rick Ostrovsky.

Reuben Blundell is Music Director of the Lansdowne Symphony Orchestra near Philadelphia, and New York’s Riverside Orchestra. He recently completed eight transformative years with the orchestra at Hunter College (CUNY) and has served as a Chelsea Symphony conductor for five years.  Blundell has performed in his native Australia, in Austria, Chile, Holland, Iraq, Japan, and Lebanon. He conducted the New World Symphony in their 2013 John Cage festival.

After studies in Melbourne and Sydney, he was a Tanglewood Fellow (’02 & ’03) and a principal New World Symphony violinist (2003-05). He attended the Monteux School (’05 & ’06) and Eastman, earning a conducting DMA with Neil Varon and studying violin with Zvi Zeitlin.


Third Place (there was a tie):
Michael S. Horwood, composer
Sinfonia Varsovia 

Ian Hobson, conductor
Joseph Kubera, piano
Warsaw Poland
Intravariations— Horwood

Michael S. Horwood
Michael S. Horwood (b. 1947, Buffalo, NY) studied with Lejaren Hiller, Lukas Foss, and Istvan Anhalt at SUNY Buffalo (BA, MA). His composition career developed with performances, broadcasts, recordings and commissions, while securing professorship at Humber College in Toronto. His 60+ compositions constitute a kaleidoscope of directions including avant-garde, jazz, minimalism, electroacoustic and neo-romanticism. Besides the wide variety, Horwood has an acute sense of sonority and a subtle use of humor. He has composed for conventional ensembles, unusual instrumental combinations, flexible scoring, dance, theater and film. He resides in Tucson, Arizona. 
Sinfonia Varsovia
Sinfonia Varsovia began in 1984 as an expansion of the Polish Chamber Orchestra and was led by Yehudi Menuhin. Krzysztof Penderecki is the current music and artistic director. The Sinfonia Varsovia is a Warsaw cultural institution. It performs at many prestigious concert halls and festivals, working with world renowned conductors and soloists. The orchestra has recorded over 280 CDs, many of which have received impressive prizes.
Ian Hobson
Pianist, conductor, scholar, educator, adjudicator and founder of the Sinfonia da Camera, Ian Hobson is internationally recognized for his extraordinarily comprehensive repertoire new and old, consummate performances of Romantic and contemporary composers. His discography covers over 60 recordings for 10 CD labels.
Joseph Kubera
Joseph Kubera is recognized as a leading interpreter of contemporary music for over 30 years as witnessed by extensive touring, impressive reviews and recordings on 10 different prestigious new music labels. A soloist at numerous new music festivals, he has championed a diverse range of who’s who in contemporary music.


Third Place (there was a tie):
Rain Worthington, composer
Missouri State University Symphony 

Christoper Kelts, conductor
Springfield MO
Tracing a Dream—Worthington

Rain Worthington
“There is a deep interiority to this music . . . Worthington has an instantly recognizable sound, an austere sensuality not quite like anyone else . . . a composer of considerable imagination, emotional expressiveness, and poetic sensibility.” – American Record Guide

Performances of Rain Worthington’s compositions have spanned the globe from Brazil to Iceland to Armenia, with premieres in Tokyo, Oxford University, and the Delhi Music Society in India. Her work takes “. . . ideas of American musical style to a new place – like a walk in a familiar, yet very different park” – Chamber Music magazine

Her catalog includes works for orchestra, mixed chamber ensembles, violin duo, solo marimba and even a miniature for oud. When asked what inspires her music, Rain says the impulses for new pieces have ranged from the sounds of “NYC garbage trucks backing up late in the night, to the two-note expression of a sigh, to a dream of a careening bike ride through dark fog.”

In 2016 Navona Records released Worthington’s CD of orchestral works “DREAM VAPORS” to critical acclaim. That same year Missouri State University Symphony premiered her orchestral work, “Tracing a Dream.” Worthington returned to MSU 2017 as guest composer for a residency and the premiere of “In Passages” – for violin soloist and string orchestra. This work is scheduled for a PARMA Recordings session in 2017 with Croatian conductor, Miran Vaupotic. In addition to composing, Worthington serves as Artistic Administrator/Composer Advocate for the New York Women Composers.
Missouri State University Symphony
Christoper Kelts
The Missouri State University Symphony Orchestra is a full-sized symphonic orchestra that performs from the complete range of symphonic repertoire.  Its members come from all different walks of academic life.  Students performing in the University Symphony are music majors, music minors and non-majors.  The orchestra’s diverse musicians come from all parts of the State of Missouri, the greater mid-west region and as far away as China, South Korea, Malaysia, Japan and Columbia, South America.  Conductor, Christopher Kelts is in his 3rd year as Director of Orchestral Studies.  Concurrently he is Music Director and Conductor of the Kinnor Philharmonic Orchestra, Kansas City Civic Orchestra and artistic partner with Project Musica.  Rain Worthington, American composer, has had a wonderful relationship with the Missouri State University Symphony with this première of Tracing A Dream and a very recent world première of her work In Passages for solo violin & string orchestra.




The American Prize ERNST BACON MEMORIAL AWARD for the PERFORMANCE of AMERICAN MUSIC, COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY ensemble division, 2017-18

SPECIAL PRIZE: Championing the Music of Ernst Bacon: 
Thomas Dickey, conductor
Oklahoma State University Symphony Orchestra
Stillwater OK  

music by Bacon (Nantucket Fling), Copland (Our Town), Hanson (Symphony No. 2)

Oklahoma State University Symphony Orchestra
The OSU Symphony Orchestra is one of the School of Visual & Performing Arts’ premier performing ensembles, showcasing some of the university’s finest players performing traditional orchestral repertoire in a series of dynamic concerts.  In addition to approximately five annual performances, the OSUSO also provides music for the Opera Theater’s fully staged productions and serves as the lab orchestra for various academic classes, from composition to orchestral conducting.  The OSUSO is dedicated to the study and performance of significant orchestral music, and to that end often collaborates with faculty and guest soloists in performances of major concerto literature.  In 2013, the OSUSO was a finalist in The American Prize in Orchestral Performance Competition and performed at the College Orchestra Directors Association National Conference in Cleveland, Ohio and the Oklahoma Music Education Association Conference in Tulsa.
Thomas Dickey
Dr. Thomas Dickey is the Director of Orchestral Studies at Oklahoma State University, where he conducts the OSU Symphony Orchestra and guides all aspects of the orchestra and orchestral conducting programs.  He concurrently serves as Music Director & Conductor of the OSU Youth Orchestra and the Stillwater Community Orchestra.  Prior to his appointments in Oklahoma, he was the Director of Orchestral Activities at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and Music Director & Conductor of the Dubuque Symphony Youth Orchestra (IA).

He holds doctoral and master's degrees in orchestral conducting from the University of Georgia and Louisiana State University, respectively, and graduated with highest honors from Eastern Illinois University. He has worked with conductors such as Carl Topilow, Christopher Zimmerman, Daniel Lewis, Gustav Meier, and Diane Wittry, and further studied conducting at the Cleveland Institute of Music, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, and numerous workshops and master classes.
  

The American Prize winner:
Lynda Hasseler, conductor
Capital University Chapel Choir and Choral Union
Columbus OH
the music of Jake Runestad

Capital University Chapel Choir and Choral Union
Since 1929, the Capital University Chapel Choir has upheld the rich Lutheran heritage of fine choral singing and enjoys national and international acclaim as a premier collegiate choral ensemble.The Capital University Choral Union is one of the premier volunteer choirs in central Ohio, distinguished by its keen musicianship and challenging repertoire.
Lynda Hasseler
Lynda Hasseler, D.M.A. is Professor of Music, Director of Choral Activities, and acting Head of the Voice Area in the Conservatory of Music at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, where she directs the Chapel Choir, Choral Union, and vocal chamber ensemble, Philomel; and teaches choral methods and conducting. Nurturing Capital University’s rich choral legacy, the choirs under her direction have received numerous invitations to perform for multiple music regional and national conferences and festivals, have been awarded gold medals in world choral competitions and have toured nationally and internationally.
Jake Runestad
Jake Runestad is an award-winning and frequently-performed composer of “highly imaginative” (Baltimore Sun) and “stirring and uplifting” (Miami Herald) musical works. He has received commissions and performances from leading ensembles around the world. Jake’s visceral music and charismatic personality have fostered a busy schedule of commissions, residencies, workshops, and speaking engagements, enabling him to be one of the youngest full-time composers in the world. Jake Runestad holds a Master’s degree in composition from the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University where he studied with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts. Has has also studied extensively with acclaimed composer Libby Larsen. A native of Rockford, IL, Mr. Runestad is currently based in Minneapolis, MN and his music is published by JR Music.

Second Place (there was a tie):
Stephen Heyde, conductor 
Baylor Symphony Orchestra
Waco TX
Barber—Tocatta Festiva, op. 36
Stucky—Son et Lumiere

Baylor Symphony Orchestra
The Baylor Symphony has an extensive performance schedule, annually presenting six concerts of standard orchestral repertoire, a full opera production, concerto accompaniments, new music readings, choral/orchestral collaborations and a series of children's concerts reaching an audience of over 6000 area schoolchildren.

The featured piece in this application is Son et lumièr by Pulitzer award winning composer Steven Stucky, a Baylor alumnus who passed away February 14, 2016. Other pieces submitted include 2016-17 performances of the Kevin Puts Symphony #2 and the Samuel Barber Tocatta festiva and an earlier Baylor Symphony performance of Christopher Theofanidis’ Rainbow Body.

The Symphony has appeared at the Texas Music Educators Convention eight times,  performed a 2003 PBS Special, “Christmas at Baylor” seen by six million viewers, performed at Piccolo Spoleto Festival and at a national convention of the American String Teachers Association. The Baylor Symphony has collaborated with many distinguished American performers including Van Cliburn, Joseph Gingold, Robert Shaw, Corey Cerovsek, Jacob Druckman, Lorin Hollander, Roberto Diaz, Andrew Balio and Peter Schickele among others. The BSO has taken international tours of Costa Rica (2004) and Belgium (2010) and has won the prestigious American Prize for four consecutive years since 2015. Former members of the BSO have won positions in many professional orchestras including New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Cincinnati and Fort Worth among others.


Second Place (there was a tie):
Chris Younghoon Kim, conductor
Cornell Orchestra 

Richard Faria, clarinet
Ithaca NY
Clarinet Concerto—Joan Tower   

Chris Younghoon Kim
Cornell Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Chris Younghoon Kim, present multiple concerts during each academic school year.  The membership of the orchestra is formed from students of all colleges and departments across the university-wide community.  It is the only non-music major orchestra to win first place among collegiate orchestras the ASCAP award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary music during the 2008-2009 season. It has won the Adventurous awards for 6 years in a row from 2008-2014. For the last seven seasons Cornell Orchestras have been jointly producing the Ithaca International conducting masterclasses with Ithaca College Symphony Orchestra.
Joan Tower  
Joan Tower is widely regarded as one of the most important American composers living today. During a career spanning more than fifty years, she has made lasting contributions to musical life in the United States as composer, performer, conductor, and educator. Her works have been commissioned by major ensembles, soloists, and orchestras, including the Emerson, Tokyo, and Muir quartets; soloists Evelyn Glennie, Carol Wincenc, David Shifrin, and John Browning; and the orchestras of Chicago, New York, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Washington DC among others. Tower was the first composer chosen for a Ford Made in America consortium commission of sixty-five orchestras. Leonard Slatkin and the Nashville Symphony recorded Made in America in 2008 (along with Tambor and Concerto for Orchestra). The album collected three Grammy awards: Best Contemporary Classical Composition, Best Classical Album, and Best Orchestral Performance. Nashville’s latest all-Tower recording includes Stroke, which received a 2016 Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Classical Composition. In 1990 she became the first woman to win the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for Silver Ladders, a piece she wrote for the St. Louis Symphony where she was Composer-in-Residence from 1985-88. Other residencies with orchestras include a 10-year residency with the Orchestra of St. Luke's (1997-2007) and the Pittsburgh Symphony (2010-2011). She was the Albany Symphony’s Mentor Composer partner in the 2013-14 season. Tower was cofounder and pianist for the Naumburg Award winning Da Capo Chamber Players from 1970-1985.
Richard Faria
Clarinetist Richard Faria pursues an active career as soloist, chamber musician, and educator. He has been a participant in numerous festivals such as the Bennington Chamber Music Conference, Bard Music Festival of the Hamptons, Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music, Skaneateles Festival, Garth Newel Music Festival, and Klasik Keyifler in Cappadocia, Turkey. His chamber music experience includes collaborations with such diverse groups as the Zephyros and Sylvan Wind Quintets, Atlantic, Tetraktys, and Arianna String Quartets, Composers Concordance, Guild Trio, Mother Mallard, and the Young Composer’s Collective in Seattle. He has performed in Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie Hall, Merkin Hall, The Kitchen, Miller Theater, Spivey Hall, the Smithsonian Institution, as well as at the American Academies in Rome and Berlin, Netherlands' De Lakenhal, and the Temple of Apollo in Turkey. http://faculty.ithaca.edu/rfaria/


Third Place:
David Hahn, conductor
Eastman Repertory Singers
Rochester NY   ?Fern Hill—John Corigliano

Eastman Repertory Singers
The Eastman Repertory Singers is a mixed 60-voice chorus of Eastman students presenting frequent performances under the direction of graduate students in conducting, in styles ranging from Renaissance madrigals and motets to premieres of contemporary choral works. Recent concerts have included the Haydn Lord Nelson Mass, the Duruflé Requiem, and works of Rachmaninoff, Mozart and Bach. This chorus includes students in vocal performance, conducting, piano, organ, composition, and music education.


Finalist—Honorable Mention:
Catherine Sailer, conductor
University of Denver Lamont Chorale
Denver CO
music by Averitt, Takach, Lampi, more

University of Denver Lamont Chorale
The University of Denver Lamont Chorale is the premier choir at the University of Denver, and includes music majors and non-music majors from across the school.  The choir passionately pursues artistic excellence in choral performance and sings diverse repertoire.  Through the Chorale's dedication to performing music of living composers, it has enjoyed collaborations with Tan Dun, Morten Lauridsen, Eric Whitacre, Tim Takach, Ken Lampl,  and many more established and emerging composers and conductors.  The Lamont Chorale has performed for the Colorado Music Educator's Association Conference, and the Regional conference of the American Choral Director's Association.


Finalist—Honorable Mention:
Chris David Westover, conductor
Denison University New Music Ensemble
Granville OH  
Bassoon Concertino—Augusta Read Thomas

Denison University New Music Ensemble
Chris David Westover, D.M.A., is Assistant Professor of Music and conductor of the Wind Ensemble at Denison University in Granville, Ohio. Prior to this appointment, Dr. Westover led wind ensembles, orchestras and operatic performances at Bethel College, the University of Oklahoma and the Meadows School of the Arts at SMU. He is in constant demand as a conductor and has led bands and orchestras in the US and China. His research focuses on the historical sources of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Most recently he presented his scholarship as a guest speaker at the 2016 International Conference on Creativity and Performance at Hong Kong Baptist University.
Chris David Westover
His career spans operatic performances including Falstaff, Don Giovanni, and Iphigenie en Tauride, as well as educational work with young singers and orchestras. Westover commands a broad and diverse repertoire including the core symphonic repertoire and the contemporary repertoire of the symphony orchestra and wind ensemble. He has served as a staff conductor for the TUTTI Festival and the 4x4 Prizes. He has commissioned and premiered works by Brad Baumgardner, Andrew McManus, Michael Kallstrom, David Sterrett and Dan Lazerescou.

In February 2010, Westover led the critically acclaimed Dallas premiere of Daniel Roumain’s “Darwin’s Meditation for the People of Lincoln” during the inaugural season of the renowned Winspear Opera House. The Dallas Morning News said the performance “often shift[ed] between majesty and melancholy, [and] was as powerful an emotional exploration as a historical one.” Westover’s conducting mentors include Jonathan Shames, John Carmichael, Jack Delaney, and Eric Smedley.



The American Prize ERNST BACON MEMORIAL AWARD for the PERFORMANCE of AMERICAN MUSIC, COMMUNITY ensemble division, 2017-18

The American Prize winner:
Christine Jarquio Nichols, conductor
Vox Nova
Columbia MO
music by Lowell Liebermann, William Billings, Moira Smiley, more

Vox Nova
Vox Nova (founded 2014), a vocal chamber group based in Columbia, Missouri, brings friendship and teamwork to its sound. The musicians in the ensemble are established music educators, conductors, and professional vocalists. The members currently come from Columbia, MO, Kansas City, Lawrence, KS, Chicago, Baton Rouge, Colorado, New York City, and Seattle. Many of the members perform with other professional choirs, prominent music festivals, and chamber opera companies, both locally and across the United States. Vox Nova is committed to choral excellence and to spreading choral music to listening audiences. Vox Nova regularly collaborates with native Columbia chamber ensembles and composers. They have been guest artists for the Odyssey Chamber Music Series, the Idaho International Choral Festival, the True/False Film Festival, and MMEA. In 2015, they were selected as national semifinalists in the professional division of The American Prize in Choral Performance, and were 2016 semifinalists in the professional division of The American Prize in Chamber Ensemble Performance. They are the 2017-2018 Ensemble-in-Residence for the Odyssey Chamber Music Series.


Second Place (there was a tie):
Libi Lebel, conductor
Texas Medical Center Orchestra
Houston TX
Appalachian Spring—Copland  

Libi Lebel
Established in November 2000, Texas Medical Center Orchestra (TMCO) is one of very few community orchestras in the United States and the world with its origin in the health professions. It includes physicians, dentists, nurses, medical students, biomedical scientists, social workers and other allied health professionals who are dedicated to making music. Part of the orchestra’s mission is to provide health care professionals a creative outlet; offer a?ordable concerts to a diverse public audience; and bring public attention and support for, medically related and/or educational charities.

Russian-born conductor Libi Lebel, founder and artistic director of TMCO, has a strong and growing reputation in the music world. Ms. Lebel has been listed as one of the 50 most influential women in Houston, (population over 2 million). She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Julliard School of Music and Westminster Choir College, in piano performance and conducting. Conducting appearances in New Jersey, New York, Texas, Russia and Romania have been met with high praise. In 2013, conductor Lebel led the TMCO in a well-received program at Carnegie Hall. As to her passion about music, Ms. Lebel says: “What inspires me is to make music come alive. To feel the love, pride, joy, sadness. To help it unfold in the most convincing and compelling way. With it, we connect to the very essence of our humanity, we then come into contact with that part of ourselves that expresses our most profound creativity. I am so lucky to have music in my life.”  


Second Place (there was a tie):
Walter Morales, conductor
Edgewood Symphony Orchestra
Pittsburgh PA  
Porgy & Bess Symphonic Picture— Gershwin/Bennett
Barber—Adagio for Strings
Copland—Lincoln Portrait

Walter Morales
Walter Morales is the Music Director of the Edgewood Symphony Orchestra. His previous positions include Music Director of Undercroft Opera, Music Director of the Carnegie Mellon University Contemporary Ensemble, Head of Music of Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, Principal Guest Conductor of the Pittsburgh Philharmonic, Assistant Director of Orchestral Studies at Carnegie Mellon University and Assistant Conductor of the Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic. He has been a guest conductor with the National Symphony Orchestra of Costa Rica, Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra, Butler County Symphony Orchestra, McKeesport Symphony Orchestra, University of Costa Rica Symphony Orchestra, University of Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Duquesne University Opera & Orchestra, Pittsburgh Youth Chamber Orchestra and Rutgers Chamber Orchestra.  He has also served as cover conductor for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. For more information please visit: www.waltermoralesmusic.com
Edgewood Symphony Orchestra
The Edgewood Symphony Orchestra, a not-for-profit organization, strives to be the best volunteer symphony orchestra in the region while providing cultural experiences to our members and community through challenging symphonic music. The ESO is committed to valuing its members and providing them with the opportunity to improve their technical and musical skills and share their passion through high quality performances and educational outreach.


Third Place:
William P. Gorton, conductor and composer
Members of Philadelphia Orchestra & friends
NJ Master Chorale, Philadelphia Boys Choir
Haddonfield NJ  
Gorton—Te Deum

William P. Gorton
William Gorton is Assistant Professor of Voice and Opera at Millikin University in Decatur, IL, where he teaches studio voice, and serves as coach and conductor for the opera program. Dr. Gorton has had a diverse career as singer, voice teacher, composer, and conductor. The Founding Artistic Director of the Central Virginia Masterworks Chorale, he has also served as Assistant Chorus Master for the Phoenix Symphony Chorus. Dr. Gorton acquired his DMA in Choral Conducting at Arizona State University, where he directed the Early Music Chamber Choir, Women’s Chorus, and served as Assistant Conductor of the Symphonic Chorale, Choral Union, and Concert Choir. His hymn, “O God in Whom We Live,” can be found in Worship and Song, a United Methodist hymnal, and his anthem, “The Lord is My Shepherd,” can be found at World Library Publications. William also serves as Director of Music Ministries at FCC in Bloomington, IL.


Finalist—Honorable Mention:
Donald L. Appert, conductor and composer
Oregon Sinfonietta
Vancouver WA
Concerto for Viola and Orchestra—Appert

Oregon Sinfonietta
Donald L. Appert
Donald Appert been Music Director/Conductor of the Clark College Orchestra since 1990. He has guest-conducted orchestras in Europe, Central America, Japan and Australia. Currently he is a Full Professor of Music and Head of the Music Department at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington. In addition, he is the Music Director/Conductor of the Oregon Sinfonietta and of the Jewish Community Orchestra, both in Portland, Oregon.  He received The American Prize in Orchestral Programming—Vytautas Marijosius  Memorial Award in 2011 for his work with the Oregon Sinfonietta, an Honorable Mention in 2012, 3rd Place in 2014, and 2nd Place in 2015. He was also Honored Artist of the American Prize in 2015. In 2014, he received the Clark County (WA) Arts Commission Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award.  He has received the ASCAPLUS Award numerous times and orchestras in Europe, Central America, Japan, Australia, and the United States have performed his works.  Jeffrey Butler of the Houston Symphony (who commissioned the work) will premiere his latest composition, Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, with the Clark College Orchestra in June of 2018. Videos of his conducting and his original compositions may be seen and heard via the Internet on his web site at www.maestrodonappert.com.


Finalist—Honorable Mention:
Thomas Rainey, conductor
Williamson County Symphony Orchestra
Round Rock TX
Gershwin & All That Jazz    


Williamson County Symphony Orchestra
The Williamson County Symphony Orchestra is completing its 15th season.  The 100-member Orchestra is staffed entirely by volunteer musicians and run by volunteer administrators. Most of the musicians are adults working in other professions but who have a great love of music and have performed at high levels earlier in their life.  The musicians consider their efforts as a ministry to the community.

The Orchestra performs FREE "pops-styled" concerts often highlighting American composers in the classical, movie/TV, and contemporary genre and new compositions from our Composer-in-Resident, Dr ML Daniels.  The FREE concerts are pitched toward families, seniors, and people who do not yet know they like great music.  The Orchestra, directed by Dr Thomas Rainey, performs a two-concert series four times a year - Fall, Christmas, Spring, & Outdoor - at venues across Williamson County plus one FREE concert for the troops and their families at Ft Hood.

The Orchestra's March 2016 concert series was devoted to that most American form of music - jazz. The theme Gershwin and All That Jazz  had numerous samples of George Gershwin's "classical" music along with the great music of Duke Ellington and some of Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong's top hits.  One could hear the influence of Jazz in the selection of movie music by Henry Mancini.  The Orchestra's focus was to demonstrate how "classical" the jazz idiom has become.


Finalist—Honorable Mention:
Douglas Anderson, conductor
The Putnam Chorale
Carmel NY
Casey at the Bat—William Schuman


The Putnam Chorale
The Putnam Chorale, under the artistic direction of composer/conductor Dr. Douglas Anderson, is the sole community chorus in Putnam County, NY. Founded 1984, the Chorale has been providing high quality choral and orchestral music and academic commentary ever since. The two-fold mission of the Chorale is to provide amateur and aspiring professional singers an opportunity to enrich their lives through choral singing and to provide the community with compelling performance experiences unrivaled outside of major city venues. Chorale choristers come from Putnam, Westchester, and Dutchess counties and nearby Connecticut.  Music Director Douglas Anderson, currently a Professor of Music on the faculty of Borough of Manhattan Community College, is a conductor, composer, educator, and producer who has been active in the New York music scene for over 40 years.  He founded the American Chamber Opera Company in 1984 and conducts the Downtown Symphony in New York City.



The American Prize ERNST BACON MEMORIAL AWARD for the PERFORMANCE of AMERICAN MUSIC, YOUTH & HIGH SCHOOL ensemble division, 2017-18

The American Prize winner:
Robert Truan, conductor
Decatur HS Wind Ensemble
Decatur GA  
American Salute—Gould
Requiem—Maslanka

Decatur HS Wind Ensemble
This is Robert Truan’s third year as Director of Bands for Decatur High School where he teaches Symphonic Band, Wind Ensemble, Percussion Ensemble, IB Music, and other chamber ensembles.  While at Decatur, his ensembles have won a Grand Championship at the Southern Invitational Music Festival, have performed at the Georgia Music Educator’s Association Convention twice, and have performed at the Cork School of Music in Ireland.  His ensembles have also received straight superior ratings at Large Group Performance Evaluation.  This is the second year Decatur has differentiated its band classes in two groups: Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band.  After Wind Ensemble’s inaugural year, our recorded submission was selected to headline Music for All’s Southeastern Regional Concert Band Festival. Robert Truan is heavily influenced by his wonderful mentors throughout the years: Reid Hall, Richard Brasco, Dr. Tony McCutchen, John Culvahouse, Dr. John P. Lynch, Dr. Laura Moates Stanley, and Jack Jean.  Mr. Truan graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Georgia and has a Master’s degree in Music Education.


Second Place:
Michael Isadore, conductor
Dulles HS Honors Orchestra  
Sugar Land TX
Visions and Miracles—Theofanidis
Autumn Rhapsody—Jalbert

Dulles HS Honors Orchestra 
Located in Sugar Land, TX, The John Foster Dulles Orchestra program is one of the largest orchestra programs in Fort Bend ISD and one of the premiere orchestra programs in the state of Texas.  Located in Sugar Land, a southwest suburb of Houston, Fort Bend County and Dulles High School are among the most diverse schools in America. The orchestra program in Fort Bend ISD began in 1990 and Dulles High School has only had two orchestra directors.  Michael Isadore became the director of orchestras in 1999 and today the program boasts over 170 members.  The Dulles Orchestra has been consistently awarded the Mark of Excellence National Honor Orchestra Award and Commended Award in the string and full orchestra categories, been runner up for TMEA Honor Orchestra and has performed at the Midwest Clinic in 2004 and 2016.


Third Place:
Carolyn Watson, conductor
Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra
Interlochen MI
The Improvised Violin Concerto—Mark Williams 

Carolyn Watson
A major prizewinner at the 2012 Emmerich Kálmán International Operetta Conducting Competition in Budapest, Carolyn Watson was also a Fellow of the American Academy of Conducting at the Aspen Music Festival where she studied with David Zinman. She has conducted throughout Europe with orchestras including Staatsoper Berlin, Brandenburger Symphonkier, BBC Concert Orchestra, North Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Kodály Philharmonic, Savaria Symphony Orchestra (Hungary), Budapest Operetta Theatre, and Bulgarian State Opera Bourgas. In 2016 Carolyn was one of ten conductors selected for the elite Dallas Opera Institute for Women Conductors and has participated in master classes with Marin Alsop, Peter Eötvös, Yoel Levi, Martyn Brabbins and Alex Polishchuk.

Carolyn conducted musicians of the Berlin Philharmonic in Interaktion 2010, was resident assistant at the Israeli National Opera in 2009 and has worked with conductors including Sir Charles Mackerras, Simone Young and Karen Kamensek. She is the recipient of the Brian Stacey Award for Emerging Australian Conductors, Charles Mackerras Conducting Prize awarded by the Australian Music Foundation in London, Nelly Apt Scholarship and Opera Foundation Australia’s Bayreuth Opera Award and Berlin New Music Opera Award. Carolyn holds a PhD in Performance (Conducting) from the University of Sydney where the subject of her doctoral thesis was Gesture as Communication: The Art of Carlos Kleiber.

An enthusiastic music educator, Carolyn is currently Director of Orchestral Studies at Texas State University and enjoys an active freelance career throughout the US, Europe and Australia. From 2013-15 she held the prestigious position of Conductor of the Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra, having also conducted the World Youth Symphony Orchestra and Detroit Symphony Civic Orchestra since moving to the US in 2013. www.carolyn-watson.com

***

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Ernst Bacon
The American Prize is honored to announce WINNERS, runners-up, citation recipients and honorable mentions of the ERNST BACON MEMORIAL AWARD for the PERFORMANCE of AMERICAN MUSIC, 2017-18, in solo artist divisions. Congratulations!

(Ensemble division winners of the Bacon Award are posted separately.)

Among the many contests of The American Prize, the Ernst Bacon Memorial Award for the Performance of American Music is unique. It recognizes and rewards the best performances of American music by ensembles and individual artists worldwide, based on submitted recordings. Applications are accepted from professional, college/university, community and high school age solo artists, chamber ensembles and conducted ensembles, competing in separate divisions, and from composers with excellent recordings of their works. Beginning in 2017-18, categories were expanded to encompass performances of American music in practically any instrumentation or genre, with very few repertoire restrictions.

Focused exclusively on works by American composers from any period and in any style, the contest not only judges performances, but in the case of new or unfamiliar works, the music itself.

Ernst Bacon (1898—1990) was one of that pioneering generation of composers who, along with Thomson, Copland, Harris, and others, 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. It is fitting, and with honor, that The American Prize created an annual award in the memory of Ernst Bacon, recognizing the finest performances of American music worldwide. To learn more about the music & legacy of Ernst Bacon, please visit the website of the Ernst Bacon Society.

Questions, or to make us aware of any misprints in the listings below, please email: theamericanprize@gmail.com


The American Prize ERNST BACON MEMORIAL AWARD for the PERFORMANCE of AMERICAN MUSIC, PROFESSIONAL solo artist division, 2017-18

The American Prize winner:
Ann Marie Wilcox-Daehn, soprano, 
and Elizabeth Avery, piano
Springfield MO
The Forgotten Songs of Sergius Kagen 

Ann Maire Wilcox-Daehn
Mezzo soprano Ann Marie Wilcox-Daehn thrives on a performing career that includes oratorio, opera, art song, and musical theater. A frequent oratorio soloist, she has appeared at Carnegie Hall in the Mozart Requiem, Haydn’s Creation Mass, and Vivaldi’s Gloria. Of the over 35 roles to her credit, favorites include Carmen; Dorabella in Cosí fan Tutte; Isabella in The Italian Girl from Algiers; Angelina/Cinderella in La Cenerentola; Aldonza in Man of la Mancha; Petra in A Little Night Music; and she created the role of Rosemary for the world premiere of Libby Larsen’s jazz opera, Picnic. Ann Marie can be heard on the Albany Record label as Adah in Naughty Marietta, Bertha in The Red Mill, and singing “You’ll Never Walk Alone” on Gold & Silver: Celebrating 25 Years of Ohio Light Opera. She is passionate about the music of living composers and performs recitals regionally and around the world; most recently in Italy and China. Dr. Daehn hold degrees from Miami University (BME, Oxford), UNC-Greensboro (MM), and a doctorate in voice performance and literature from the Eastman School of Music. Dr. Wilcox-Daehn is currently an Assistant Professor of Voice and directs the award-winning opera program at Missouri State University. She is also an active member of NOA, NATS, AGMA, and Actor’s Equity and a frequent lecturer on the operas and song of living composers. This research also coincides with another interest; the life, teaching, and voice of legendary mezzo soprano, Jan DeGaetani, about whom she is writing a book.  
Elizabeth Avery
Pianist Elizabeth Avery is increasingly in demand as both vocal coach and collaborative artist, and has been heard in performances throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe. Dr. Avery currently serves on the opera faculty of the University of Oklahoma School of Music, coaching opera productions, teaching courses in lyric diction and coaching recital repertoire.

An advocate of the music of living composers, Avery has given world premiere performances on stages such as New York City’s Steinway Hall and Weill Recital Hall, and has premiered Italian operas with the International Opera Theater in Umbria and Piemonte. Other notable engagements have included the Eastman Opera Theater, Nashville Opera, and several summers as an official coach/pianist for the “Deutsch für Sänger” program at Middlebury College’s prestigious German Language School.  During recent summers, Dr. Avery has become established as a faculty coach at the Up North Vocal Institute, a unique young artist program that focuses not only on training the voice, but the mind and body as well.


Second Place (there was a tie):
Luke Cissell, composer and performer
New York NY
String Quintet—Luke Cissell 
 
Luke Cissell
Luke Cissell (b. Louisville, Kentucky) writes and records music in a distinctive style that is by turns arrestingly melodic, beguilingly layered, and eminently human, developed out of his roots as a young musician immersed in classical violin repertoire and the Appalachian mountain music of his native bluegrass. Cissell began playing music at a young age—he was a fiddling champion at the age of eight and performed Mozart’s third violin concerto on his first honors recital soon thereafter. His output includes five albums of original music, a chamber opera, a feature length film score, and assorted works for solo and mixed ensemble. He earned a degree in history from Princeton University before establishing himself as a professional musician and composer in New York City, cutting his teeth as a session musician for a wide variety of artists from Ingrid Michaelson to Philip Glass while performing at many of the city’s most revered cultural institutions including Carnegie Hall, CBGB, Radio City Music Hall, and Lincoln Center. Cissell is a 2016-17 Very Young Composers Teaching Artist with the New York Philharmonic. He produced a first recording of his recent String Quintet by performing each of the parts himself, carefully layering them one by one at the studio microphone.

Second Place (there was a tie):
Judith Lang Zaimont, composer,
and Elizabeth Moak, pianist
Hattiesburg MS
Sonata for Piano: Nocturne—La fin de siecle—Zaimont

Judith Lang Zaimont
The music of Judith Lang Zaimont (b. 1945) is internationally acclaimed for its immediacy, dynamism and emotion and is performed world-wide.   Her style is distinguished by its spirit of rhapsody featuring sudden shifts in texture, instrumental coloring, and atmosphere.  Her 123 works include many prize-winning pieces covering every genre:  Four symphonies, chamber opera, music for wind ensemble, for chorus and solo voice, and works for individual instruments plus a wide variety of chamber music. ? ? Zaimont’s music is widely performed throughout the U.S. and Europe: Philadelphia Orchestra, Baltimore and Mississippi symphonies, Berlin and Czech Radio symphonies, Slovak National Philharmonic and the Kremlin Chamber Orchestra.  Two dozen CDs are currently available on Naxos, MSR Classics, Harmonia Mundi, Parma/Navona, Koch International Classics, Arkiv Music, Albany, Jeanné, Inc., and Leonarda. Recent all-Zaimont recordings include a 2010 CD of orchestra music (Kirk Trevor: Slovak National Philharmonic – Naxos. three world premieres), 2011 chamber music CD (Eternal Evolution. The Harlem Quartet and Awadagin Pratt – Navona.  three world premieres );  2012  piano solo CD  (Christopher Atzinger – Naxos);  a 2012  2-CD album surveying her solo piano music (Elizabeth Moak:  MSR Classics - Fifteen works, including three world premieres); and 2016 CD featuring Janacek Philharmonic's performance of PURE, COOL (Water) - Symphony No. 4 .? Her numerous prizes and honors include the 2015 The American Prize for Chamber Music Composition, a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, awards from both  National Endowments (NEA: composition  / NEH: scholarship), a 2005 Bush Foundation Fellowship and earlier American Pen Women Fellowship,  IAWM, CBDNA, Maryland,  and New York State arts fellowships, the Andrew G. Mellon Foundation (2007), and an Aaron Copland Award  (2003).
Elizabeth Moak
Noted for her “sensitivity” and “generous imagination” (La Suisse, Geneva, Switzerland), pianist Elizabeth Moak’s recent performances include Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Québec. Winner of the Mu Phi Epsilon International Competition and several national competitions including the National Federation of Music Clubs Biennial Auditions, Elizabeth has performed extensively in the United States and Europe. As soloist, she has also appeared on national television, radio, and with orchestras including the Orchestre de Chambre de Neuchâtel, the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, and the Gulf Coast Symphony Orchestra. In addition to honors for her solo playing, she has received awards for her collaborative work from the Music Academy of the West and Peabody Conservatory of Music of Johns Hopkins University (piano studies with Leon Fleisher, Ann Schein, and Julian Martin). Dr. Moak holds degrees from Peabody Conservatory and the Neuchâtel Conservatory ( Switzerland). For eight years Elizabeth served on the faculty of Millsaps College, where she was honored with the “Outstanding Young Faculty Award.” In 2004, Elizabeth joined the faculty of The University of Southern Mississippi.

Third Place:
William Popp, composer and accordion
Denver CO
music by Kleinsinger, Gart, Antonio

William Popp
William Popp began his studies on the piano at the age of six and on the accordion at the age of 11. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in performance from the University of Denver where he studied with Robert Davine. He earned his doctoral degree in composition from The Catholic University of America, in Washington, DC. His composition teachers include David Diamond (New York), Normand Lockwood (Denver), and Helmut Braunlich (Washington, DC). Many of his chamber ensemble and string orchestra works have been performed throughout the United States and Europe. For twenty years he was an arranger and composer with the United States Air Force Band in Washington, DC. More than 35 of his arrangements have been recorded by the USAF Strings and many more have been heard in numerous White House performances and around the world. As an accordionist he has performed extensively with the USAF Strings throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia; and as a soloist in Beijing, China. He has also performed with Young Audiences, Inc., members of the National Symphony, and members of the Colorado Symphony. William Popp is now working independently as a composer, performer, and teacher in Northern Colorado.


Finalist—Special Judges' Citation: 
"Championing American Piano Music"
Peter Seivewright, piano
Glasgow Scotland
Piano Sonatas  by Carter, Rozsa and MacDowell

Peter Seivewright
Peter Seivewright was born in Skipton, England, in 1954. He studied music at Oxford and spent three years as a post-graduate student at the Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester, studying piano with Ryszard Bakst. As a student he was a frequent soloist with RNCM Orchestras, receiving particular Press  attention for his performance of Richard Rodney Bennett's Piano Concerto.

Peter Seivewright has appeared as Piano Concerto soloist with leading Orchestras and given recitals in major  Festivals and concert venues throughout the United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway, Austria, Italy, Belgium, Denmark (eight recital tours), Latvia, Estonia, Vietnam, Kazakhstan, Australia (four recital tours), China, India, Kuwait, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States of America, Russia, and the Donetsk People's Republic. Orchestras he has appeared as Piano Concerto soloist with include the Hallé Orchestra, the Orchestra of Scottish Opera, the Scottish Baroque Soloists, Camerata Scotland, the Scottish Sinfonietta, the Beijing Symphony Orchestra, the Ho Chi Minh City Symphony Orchestra, the State Academic Symphony Orchestra of the Republic of Kazakhstan, and the S.S.Prokofiev State Academic Symphony Orchestra in Donetsk. In March 2017 the S.S.Prokofiev State Academic Symphony Orchestra awarded Peter Seivewright the Distinguished Artist Citation, the highest award the Orchestra can bestow.

Peter Seivewright's CD discography is extensive, and includes the Complete Piano Music by Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) issued by Naxos, CDs for Merlin Classics and Rondo Records (Copenhagen), and numerous CDs issued by The Divine Art Recordings Group, for whom he now records exclusively. From 2008 to 2011 Peter Seivewright was the inaugural Professor of Music (Full Professor) at the Academy for the Performing Arts at the University of Trinidad and Tobago. He will spend the academic year 2017-2018 as Professor of Pianoforte Performance at the Phnom Penh International Institute of the Arts, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. His home is near Glasgow, Scotland.


Finalist—Honorable Mention
Christopher Nichols, clarinet
Newark DE  

Christopher Nichols
Christopher Nichols joined the faculty of the University of Delaware as Assistant Professor of Clarinet in 2013 where he instructs undergraduate and graduate applied clarinet, clarinet ensemble, chamber music, pedagogy and literature, and annually hosts Delaware Clarinet Day.

Dr. Nichols is a versatile clarinetist with performances as a soloist and in ensembles across the United States and abroad. He regularly performs with orchestras such as the Philharmonia of Greater Kansas City, the Pennsylvania Philharmonic, the Kennett Symphony and the Allentown Symphony Orchestra. He is a member of Christiana Winds and has recently collaborated with the acclaimed Serafin String Quartet, the Taggart-Grycky Duo, and members of the Philadelphia Orchestra and Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He has served for over a decade in the Army Music Career program with performances throughout the United States, Germany, France and Austria.

Dr. Nichols has appeared as a featured soloist at conferences of the International Clarinet Association, European Clarinet Association, and College Music Society. His live performances have been selected for inclusion in the Audio Performance Archive of College Music Symposium and broadcast on Kansas and Michigan Public Radio. In 2015, Dr. Nichols work as a solo recitalist was recognized with an Established Artist Fellowship from the Delaware Division of the Arts.

As a Légère Reeds Endorsing Artist and a Buffet Artist Clinician, Dr. Nichols performs exclusively on Légère Signature Series reeds and Buffet clarinets. Additional information is available at his personal website www.christophernicholsclarinet.com.


Finalist—Honorable Mention
Soprani Compagni 
Lisa Dawson and Tammie Huntington, sopranos, 
Phoenix Park-Kim, pianist
Marion IN  
“Portraits of Women”

—music by David Horace Davies, Robert Denham, Lenna Kirchoff
Lisa Dawson and Tammie Huntington, sopranos, Phoenix Park-Kim, pianist
Lisa Dawson and Tammie Huntington, Sopranos, first began collaborating on the opera stage of Ball State University when they were cast as Suor Angelica and Suor Genovieffa in the opera by Puccini during their graduate studies.  After working together as graduate assistants in the Ball State University Opera Theatre, they each joined the faculty of Indiana Wesleyan University in different years, becoming colleagues in voice and opera in the School of Arts and Humanities, Division of Music.  Delighted with the way their differing personalities and voices complement and highlight each other, Dawson and Huntington, together with pianist Phoenix Park-Kim, formed the group Soprani Compagni for the express purpose of researching, compiling and performing soprano art song duets, oratorio and opera scenes; modeling soprano collaboration; and commissioning new works for soprano duet.  Phoenix Park-Kim has performed throughout the U.S., South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Italy, Switzerland, Argentina and Russia in solo, orchestral, and chamber music settings.  Soprani Compagni had their Carnegie Hall debut at Weill Recital Hall in March of 2012.  Through a generous grant from the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities in 2015, Soprani Compagni has commissioned twelve new works, themed around Portraits of Women which they recently presented in a tour of South Korea, Hong Kong, and inland China.  Soprani Compagni will be touring various venues around the United States during 2016-2017 with their newly released recording and anthology.  Follow us at:  http://sopranicompagni.com; and on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/sopranicompagni/



The American Prize ERNST BACON MEMORIAL AWARD for the PERFORMANCE of AMERICAN MUSIC, COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY solo artist division, 2017-18

The American Prize winner:
Corinne Rydman, soprano
San Francisco CA  
The Art Songs by Florence Price

Corinne Rydman
A singer “with polish and charm,” Corinne Rydman appeared as Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni) with the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 2016 under Director of Opera, Jose Maria Condemi. Other roles include Nerone (L’incoronazione di Poppea), Dido (Dido and Aeneas), Lucilla (La scala di seta), and Haydn’s Volpino (Lo speziale). She was featured as a soloist by the Smithsonian Chamber Music Society in their 2015 symposium on historical performance and made her orchestral debut singing arrangements of Lutoslawski’s Twenty Polish Carols with Utah Chamber Artists.

Through her devotion to social justice, Corinne fell in musical love with the forgotten African-American pioneer Florence Price, premiering some of her songs never before previously published. Corinne also performs musical theater such as the roles of Liliane La Fleur (Nine), Woman 2 (Closer Than Ever), Weathergirl (As Thousands Cheer), and Mrs. Prysselius (Pippi Longstocking). Her next projects are two productions with the Bay Area’s Opera Theater Unlimited — the 48-Hour Festival and a world-premiere composed by Joseph M. Colombo with libretto by Caitlin Mullan.


Second Place:
Jennifer Bellor, composer
UNLV Wind Orchestra
Las Vegas NV
Bordello Nights—Jennifer Bellor  

Jennifer Bellor
Jennifer Bellor is a versatile composer whose works have been presented by Washington National Opera at the Kennedy Center, American Composers Orchestra JCOI Readings, Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra, Las Vegas Philharmonic, UNLV Wind Orchestra, ShoutHouse, Florida State University Festival of New Music, Eastman New Jazz Ensemble, Ritsos Project, Elevate Ensemble, HOCKET, and many others in the US and abroad. Bellor’s music draws on a variety of influences, evidenced in her debut album “Stay,” which is a melting pot of different music styles largely based on poetry. Stay was featured on NewMusicBox’s 2016 Staff picks, and was praised as having the ability to “maintain a highly individual identity without needing to take refuge in pre-post-genre musical silos.” In addition to Stay, Bellor’s self-released EP Songs in the Dark, jazz single Midnight Swim and most recent single O Soothest Sleep have been digitally released and available on iTunes, Amazon Spotify, among others. Bellor also has received awards for her jazz/cross genre compositions Midnight Swim (DownBeat) Noir (SWOJO), and Chase the Stars (The American Prize). Bellor holds a PhD in music composition at Eastman School of Music, a Master of Music degree in composition at Syracuse University, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in music at Cornell University. Her primary composition teachers included David Liptak, Bob Morris, Andrew Waggoner, Sally Lamb-McCune, and Steven Stucky. For more information, please visit www.jenniferbellor.com.
UNLV Wind Orchestra
Bordello Nights features the UNLV Wind Orchestra under the direction of Thomas Leslie featuring jazz guest performers: Eric Marienthal, Colin Gordon, Mitch Forman, Kevin Axt, and Bernie Dresel. The UNLV Wind Orchestra has received international acclaim for its fresh and creative approach to music making. Performing contemporary repertoire in addition to classical masterworks, the Wind Orchestra at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas has been responsible for commissioning and premiering numerous significant new works by America’s finest young contemporary composers including: Eric Whitacre, Wendell Yuponce, Jonathon Newman, Steven Bryant, Jim Bonney, Corey Hirsch, Paul Seitz, Nathan Tanouye, Jennifer Bellor, Kenneth Froelich and Wataru Hokoyama. In addition, the Wind Orchestra has recently commissioned and premiered new compositions by landmark American contemporary composers: Bruce Broughton, Roger Nixon and James Barnes.


Third Place (there was a tie):
Natalie Dietterich, composer
Yale Camerata
New Haven CT
conversations with strangers—Natalie Dietterich   

Natalie Dietterich
Natalie is an American composer and vocalist from Harleysville, Pennsylvania. Her music has been performed by wild Up as part of the LA Philharmonic’s National Composers Intensive, at the So Percussion Summer Institute, the 21st Annual Young Composers Meeting (Apeldoorn, the Netherlands), Spectrum, on Q2 music, the highSCORE Festival (Pavia, Italy), and most recently as a fellow at the Bang on a Can Summer Institute. She is the recipient of the 2016 Leo Kaplan prize of the Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, and has been a finalist for the Minnesota Composer Orchestra and New York Youth Symphony First Music Awards, and awards from BMI, ASCAP, and The American Prize, as well as a nominee for the Academy of Arts and Letters. She has recently been commissioned by flute/cello duo Martha Cargo and Ben Larsen, Echo Chamber, and the Shanghai Symphony. Natalie is a graduate of the Yale School of Music, with both an M.M. and M.M.A. in composition. She holds a dual degree in composition and violin performance from West Chester University, where she ran the NOW Music Society new music concert series, coordinated Danza Symbiotica (a composer/choreographer collaboration), and was a member of the West Chester Laptop Ensemble. Her previous composition teachers include David Lang, Chris Theofanidis, Martin Bresnick, Robert Maggio, Larry Nelson, Mark Rimple, Adam Silverman, and Van Stiefel.

Third Place (there was a tie):
Vaibhav Mohanty, composer, 
and Jake Tilton, saxophone
Cambridge MA
Rhapsody No. 1 for Alto Saxophone and Piano

—Vaibhav Mohanty   
Vaibhav Mohanty
Vaibhav Mohanty (b. 1998) is a composer, arranger, and pianist from Charleston, South Carolina currently studying at Harvard University. His compositions span classical, world, and jazz domains and are performed across the United States and internationally. Vaibhav’s works have have received many awards and accolades, including the Grand Prize from the Sul Ross State University Wind Ensemble Composition Competition, an international contest, and second place in The American Prize for Concert Band Composition. In 2014, Vaibhav was named a winner of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) Student Composers Competition, meriting his piece a performance at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tennessee by the NAfME All-National Honor Band. In the 2015 National YoungArts Foundation competition, he was named a Finalist, an award given only to the top two composers that year. Vaibhav is also a four-time awardee in the National Parent Teachers Association Reflections Contest, a finalist in the Music Teachers National Association Composition Competition, and honorable mention recipient from the Morton Gould Young Composer Awards. Vaibhav has been a member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) since 2013 and the Society of Composers, Inc. (SCI) since 2014. His works are published by JPM Music Publications (Missouri) and Lighthouse Music Publications (Ontario, Canada). In the past, Vaibhav has taught music at the Charleston County School District summer arts program and at a private music studio in Charleston. He is currently Co-President of the Harvard Composers Association.
Jake Tilton
Jake Tilton is a saxophonist/clarinetist, teacher, and composer from Connecticut, currently in the class of 2019 at Harvard College. Jake has studied with a wide variety of teachers for saxophone and composition, and currently studies saxophone with Ken Radnofsky. Jake has been active in many Harvard groups, including a saxophone quartet, Wind Ensemble, Hasty Pudding Band, and Monday Jazz Band (led by Yosvany Terry). Jake has been featured in masterclasses and onstage at Harvard with Esperanza Spalding, Rufus Reid, George Cables, Dena DeRose, Tia Fuller, Noah Preminger, and Cassandra Wilson. Jake is also active as a composer/arranger, orchestrating the Harvard Freshman Musical and composing for the Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club’s production of Peer Gynt. Jake also gave the Boston-area premiere of John Adams’s Saxophone Concerto in February 2017 with the HRO, as the youngest saxophonist to play this piece with orchestra. This performance was described as "...awe-inspiring in musicality and endurance" by The Harvard Crimson. He also recently performed John Williams’s “Escapades” with the Harvard Pops Orchestra. Before Harvard, Jake was lead alto sax in the Canton High School Jazz Ensemble, which opened for the United States Air Force Academy Falconaires, Ernie Watts, Dave Samuels, Eddie Palmieri, and the West Point Jazz Knights. He also performed with the Army Field Band Jazz Ambassadors, and has substantial experience performing in pit ensembles. He also performed in state and national-level ensembles, including the 2014 NAfME All-National Honor Concert Band.


***

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The American Prize, the national nonprofit competitions in the performing arts, has honored sixteen American orchestral conductors nationwide for musical excellence within their divisions, for community outreach, and educational enrichment. The honorees include conductors of professional, community, college/university, youth, and high school ensembles, representing twelve U.S. states.

The first place (winning) conductor in each division receives a cash award up to $500. All conductors receive certificates, written professional adjudication, and regional, national and international recognition based on recorded performances. There is no live competition. In addition to written evaluations from a member of The American Prize's distinguished panel of judges, winners are profiled on The American Prize websites, where links will lead to video and audio excerpts of artist performances.

The American Prize is a series of new, non-profit competitions unique in scope and structure, designed to recognize and reward the best performing artists, ensembles and composers in the United States based on submitted recordings. The American Prize has attracted hundreds of qualified contestants from all fifty states since its founding, has awarded more than $50,000 in prizes in all categories since 2010, and is presented annually in many areas of the performing arts.

The First Place orchestral conductors in each division for the 2017-18 contest year are:

Professional Orchestra: Dean Whiteside
New World Symphony
Miami Beach FL

University Orchestra: Mathias Elmer
University of Memphis Symphony
Memphis TN

Community Orchestra:
Anna Edwards
Seattle Collaborative Orchestra
Seattle WA

Youth Orchestra: Michael Webster
Houston Youth Symphony
Houston TX

High School Orchestra: Michael Isadore
Dulles HS Honors Orchestra
Sugar Land TX

Photos and short biographies of each of these conductors, as well as those of the runners-up in each division, making up the total sixteen, may be found here: http://theamericanprize.blogspot.com/2018/07/winning-conductors-orchestra-divisions.html

A larger list of conductors, advanced to the finals earlier this season, may be found here: http://theamericanprize.blogspot.com/2018/05/finalists-orchestra-conductors-2017-18.html

Additional information about the competitions may be found on the website: www.theamericanprize.org


THE AMERICAN PRIZE—History & Judges

The American Prize National Nonprofit Competitions in the Performing Arts 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, 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 is the chief judge of The American Prize. Professional conductor, award-winning composer, playwright, actor and arts advocate, he is author 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 we hope 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 professional orchestra, band and choral musicians.

“Most artists may never win a Grammy award, or a Pulitzer, or a Tony, or perhaps ever even 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 with 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.

—end—

RELATED STORY: THE AMERICAN PRIZE honors Twenty-Two American Orchestras
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The American Prize is honored to announce the winners, runners-up and citation recipients of The American Prize in Conducting, Orchestra Divisions, 2017-18. Congratulations!

Complete listings of finalists and semi-finalists in The American Prize competitions may be found elsewhere on this blog. Please use the chronological tool in the right-hand column to find specific results.

QUICKNOTES: Although The American Prize does not usually provide written evaluations to semi-finalists, some semi-finalists will receive in their certificate packets short comments, suggestions or overall impressions made during the judging. We hope they will prove valuable. All finalists receive written evaluations from a member of The American Prize judging panel.

Please make us aware of any misprints: theamericanprize@gmail.com

The American Prize in Conducting,  Professional Orchestra Division, 2017-18

The American Prize winner:
Dean Whiteside
New World Symphony
Miami Beach FL

Dean Whiteside
Dean Whiteside, a native of New York City, trained at the famed University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, where he graduated with distinction. He is currently the Conducting Fellow and assistant to Michael Tilson Thomas at the New World Symphony.

Mr. Whiteside is founder and director of the Nashville Sinfonietta, hailed by John Pitcher of NPR as “a virtuoso band.” His performances have been hailed as “innovative” by The Tennessean and “deeply meditative and satisfyingly original” by ArtsNash.

Mr. Whiteside was mentored by Lorin Maazel at the Castleton Festival. He received 2nd Prize in the 2015 International Matacic Conducting Competition as well as the 2017 Mahler Conducting Fellowship (Colorado MahlerFest) and the 2015 David Effron Conducting Fellowship (Chautauqua Institution Music Festival). He has led orchestras including the Danish National Symphony, Juilliard Orchestra, Orlando Philharmonic, Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich, Vienna Chamber Orchestra, and Zagreb Philharmonic. He led the Vanderbilt Orchestra on a five-city tour of China.

2nd Place:
Paul Mauffray
Hradec Kralove Philharmonic
Hradec Kralove Czech Republic

Paul Mauffray
Paul Mauffray is currently reconstructing and conducting the 1894 opera "Tabasco" by George W. Chadwick. He has conducted performances of “Rusalka” at the Mariinsky Theatre in Russia and recorded excerpts from the opera “The Scarlet Letter” with the Brno Philharmonic.  He has conducted at the Bucharest National Opera, Slovak National Opera, Schleswig-Holstein Landestheater, Opéra Louisiane, and Mobile Opera.  He won 2nd Prize in the Bartok Opera Conducting Competition and has 20 years professional conducting experience with European orchestras and operas in Prague, Brno, Bratislava, Lyon, Salzburg, St. Petersburg, and Vienna. After studies in Germany and the Czech Republic, he earned his master's degree in conducting at Indiana University where he was engaged as Associate Instructor. He has been a frequent guest conductor with the Hradec Kralove Philharmonic, Janacek Philharmonic, Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic, Schoenbrunn Palace Orchestra in Vienna, and has often performed as conductor with soloists from the Vienna Philharmonic.
www.paulmauffray.com


3rd Place:
Chris Younghoon Kim
Ensemble X
Ithaca NY

Chris Younghoon Kim
Chris Younghoon Kim has been at Cornell University as the director of orchestras and associate professor of music, since 2004. The League of American Orchestras and ASCAP have awarded the first place award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music to the Cornell Orchestras among all collegiate orchestras in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014. He has premiered over 200 works by contemporary composers worldwide. Cornell Symphony Orchestra has hosted two Meet the Composer New Partnership residencies. At Cornell University he directs the Cornell Chamber Orchestra, the Cornell Symphony Orchestra, teaches conducting and works closely with the DMA composers in presenting their work in concert. With the Cornell Orchestras he has led international tours and joint collaborations with the Royal Irish Academy of Music, and Conservatorio de Música de Puerto Rico and most recently to Neuquén, Argentina for a collaborative project to perform Gustav Mahler’s 6th Symphony with the combined forces of the Sinfónica del Neuquén and the Cornell Symphony. He has appeared with orchestras in the United States and abroad, including ensembles such as the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Delta Festival Ballet, Symphoria based in Syracuse, NY, Divertimento Ensemble of Milan, Italy. He has also appeared in music festivals such as, Kinhaven Music Center, Skaneateles Music Festival, and International Bartók Festival in Szombathely, Hungary among others.



The American Prize in Conducting,  College/University Orchestra Division, 2017-18

The American Prize winner:
Mathias Elmer
University of Memphis Symphony
Memphis TN

Mathias Elmer
Dr. Mathias Elmer (Switzerland) served as Visiting Assistant Professor and Director of Orchestral Activities at the University of Memphis—Rudi E. Scheidt School of Music for the academic year 2017-18. In Zurich, he undertook his undergraduate studies in trumpet performance with Prof. Claude Rippas between 2000 and 2004. He continued his studies in orchestral conducting and graduated in 2007 from Zurich University of the Arts with two certificates in advanced studies. In 2011, he received his master’s degree in orchestra and opera conducting at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts—School of Music under Maestro Ralf Weikert. Elmer was Music Director of the orchestra con brio, a post he held for eight years. Elmer is sought after throughout Switzerland as a wind band festival adjudicator. Since 2009 he has been teaching for the Zurich Music Association as part of the conducting faculty. In 2017, he completed his DMA degree in orchestral conducting at the University of Memphis under Maestro Pu-Qi Jiang. Further studies in Conducting have led him to Michael Stern (USA), Karl-Anton Rickenbacher (CH), and Mark Ensley (USA), amongst others. In May 2015, Elmer followed invitations to teach masterclasses based on Max Rudolf’s “The Grammar of Conducting” at Sichuan Conservatory of Music in China together with Dr. Pu-Qi Jiang and Dr. Kevin Sütterlin. In the fall season 2016 Elmer was appointed Acting Music Director of the opera orchestra and gave his debut with the production of Johan Strauss’s operetta, Die Fledermaus. Besides his duties as Assistant Conductor for the University of Memphis Symphony Orchestra, and has also been Associate Conductor of the GPAC Youth Symphony in Germantown, Tennessee from 2014-16. Together with his colleague Kevin Sütterlin, Mathias Elmer is Co-Music Director and founder of Sinfonietta Memphis, a Tennessee-based chamber orchestra mainly focusing on the historically informed performance of Viennese Classical composers in innovative and non-traditional settings. He was just recently invited as Guest Artist-in-Residence at the Concordia College in Moorhead Minnesota to work with the Concordia Orchestra on Haydn’s Symphony No. 104 “London,” held a conducting masterclass and a lecture on “The History of Conducting and Ensemble Direction before 1800: Informed Performance Practice."

2nd Place:
Chad Hutchinson
University Symphony Orchestra of Minnesota
Minneapolis MN

Chad Hutchinson
Chad Hutchinson is the Interim Director of Orchestras, Assistant Professor of Conducting and Conductor of University Opera at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He conducts the Symphony Orchestra in 5 concerts annually, leads University Opera productions and teaches undergraduate and graduate conducting courses. 

Prior to his time in Madison, Dr. Hutchinson was the Assistant Conductor for the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra and Music Director of the South Dakota Symphony Youth Orchestras.  As comfortable in the pit as on the stage, he has recently led productions at the University of Minnesota, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Morningside College.

Committed to education, Dr. Hutchinson taught orchestra in the public schools for nine years in Sioux Falls, SD and Williamsville, NY.  He later taught collegiately at Northwestern College(IA) and was the Coordinator/Music Director of the Siouxland Youth Orchestras in Sioux City, Iowa.  He holds conducting degrees from the University of Minnesota and Bowling Green State University and a Bachelor's Degree in Music Education from Morningside College (IA).



3rd Place & Special Judges' Citation: Exceptional Improvement in Ensemble Performance
Tara Villa Keith
Davidson College Symphony Orchestra
Davidson NC

Tara Villa Keith
Tara Villa Keith is in her fifteenth season as music director of the Davidson College Symphony Orchestra (DCSO) in Davidson, North Carolina and in her ninth season as music director of the Lee County Community Orchestra (LCCO) in Sanford, North Carolina.  Tara has won local and national awards for her work with both orchestras, and has enjoyed conducting orchestras, running clinics, and serving as a guest speaker throughout the south, northeast, and abroad.  For the past four seasons, Tara has served as a cover conductor and pre-concert speaker for the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra, and enjoys introducing audiences to orchestral music through their new Symphony 101 adult education program. Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Tara studied percussion and piano at the Preparatory of the Peabody Conservatory. Tara holds degrees from Franklin & Marshall College, Pennsylvania State University, and the University of South Carolina.  Please feel free to visit her website at taravillakeith.com.


Finalist: Special Judges' Citation: Artistic Success in Exceptional Repertoire
James A. Holleman
Hillsdale College Symphony Orchestra
Hillsdale MI

James A. Holleman
James A. Holleman is Music Department Chairman and Music Director of Orchestras and Choirs for the John E.N. & Dede Howard Department of Music at Hillsdale College. Professor Holleman is a graduate of Michigan State University: B.M., French Horn Performance (1986); M.M., Orchestral Conducting (1989). After graduate school he studied at the Conductors’ Institute, Columbia, SC (1989), the Oregon Bach Festival Eugene, OR (1993, 1994), and at numerous workshops with the American Symphony Orchestra League and The Conductors Guild. Prior to his appointment at Hillsdale College, he was the Assistant Conductor of the Jackson Symphony Orchestra, Music Director of the Jackson Youth Symphony Orchestra, and Music Director of the Jackson Chorale (MI). He is an active member of both ACDA and CODA. He currently serves on the CODA executive committee of the National Board of Directors as the National Chair of Membership.



The American Prize in Conducting,  Community Orchestra Division, 2017-18

The American Prize winner:
Anna Edwards
Seattle Collaborative Orchestra
Seattle WA

Anna Edwards
Anna Edwards, conductor, founder and music director of the Seattle Collaborative Orchestra, holds many positions as an artist/teacher in the Seattle area. After performing as a professional violinist and music educator for over 25 years, Anna shifted her focus from instrumentalist to conductor, training with Michael Jinbo at the renowned Pierre Monteux School for three seasons, and receiving a Doctor of Musical Arts Degree in Orchestral Conducting from the University of Washington. She currently balances her time between conducting in the Pacific Northwest, serving as a guest conductor/clinician across the country, and developing young musicians through instruction and collaboration with professionals in concert settings. 

As music director of the Seattle Collaborative Orchestra (SCO), Anna's enthusiasm for promoting talented youth, creating community engagement, and nurturing musicality have been described as “… a win, win, win venture on so many levels…(Dave Beck, KING FM). As an enthusiastic advocate of women composers and composers from the Pacific Northwest, Edwards has commissioned and premiered numerous works, including major compositions by Victoria Bond, Tim Huling, Angelique Poteat, Sarah Bassingthwaighte, Brendan McMullen, and Andy Clausen.
2nd Place:
Reuben Blundell
Chelsea Symphony / Lansdowne Symphony Orchestra
New York NY / Lansdowne PA

Reuben Blundell
Reuben Blundell is Music Director of the Lansdowne Symphony Orchestra near Philadelphia, and New York’s Riverside Orchestra. From Fall 2009 he transformed Hunter Symphony from a small group into a symphony orchestra: recent performances included major symphonies and the Ewazen Flute Concerto with Mindy Kaufman of the NY Philharmonic. He recently completed his fifth season as a Chelsea Symphony conductor. His Gowanus Arts Ensemble CD, American Romantics, garnered outstanding reviews, including Gramophone Magazine.

Blundell has performed in his native Australia, in Austria, Chile, Holland, Iraq, Japan, and Lebanon. He conducted the New World Symphony in their 2013 John Cage festival. After studies in Melbourne and Sydney, he was a Tanglewood Fellow (’02 & ’03) and a principal New World Symphony violinist (2003-05). He attended the Monteux School (’05 & ’06) and Eastman, earning a DMA in conducting with Neil Varon and studying violin with Zvi Zeitlin. Website: www.reubenblundell.com


3rd Place & Special Judges' Citation: 
Career Encouragement Citation
Chris David Westover 
Bethel College Philharmonia Orchestra
North Newton KS

Chris David Westover
Chris David Westover, D.M.A., is Assistant Professor of Music and conducts the Wind Ensemble at Denison University. Previously, he led wind ensembles, orchestras, and operatic performances at Bethel College, University of Oklahoma, and SMU. He is in demand as a conductor, having led ensembles in the US and China. His research focuses on the sources of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Recently, he presented his research at Hong Kong Baptist University.

Dr. Westover commands a diverse repertoire including the core and contemporary repertoire of the orchestra and wind ensemble. An advocate for new music, he was a staff conductor for the TUTTI Festival and 4x4 Prizes and has commissioned and premiered many works. In 2010, Westover led the critically acclaimed Dallas premiere of Daniel Roumain’s “Darwin’s Meditation for the People of Lincoln” during the inaugural season of the Winspear Opera House. The Dallas Morning News said the performance “often shift[ed] between majesty and melancholy.”   



The American Prize in Conducting,  Youth Orchestra Division, 2017-18

The American Prize winner:
Michael Webster
Houston Youth Symphony
Houston TX

Michael Webster
A multifaceted musician, Dr. Michael Webster is known as clarinetist, conductor, composer, arranger and educator. Professor of music at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, he has been artistic director of Houston Youth Symphony since 1997. He led the Symphony at the inauguration of Houston Mayor Lee Brown, at Carnegie Hall, and at the 2002 National Youth Orchestra Festival in Sarasota, Florida, as one of six orchestras selected from applicants nationwide. Rarely featuring an orchestra, NPR’s national radio show “From the Top” invited HYS to perform in September 2012.

Dr. Webster served as assistant conductor of the Asian Youth Orchestra under Yehudi Menuhin, music director of the Wellesley Symphony Orchestra, and director of the Michigan Youth Symphony Orchestra. He has held faculty positions in clarinet and conducting at the University of Michigan, New England Conservatory, Boston University, and Eastman School of Music, where he had earned his three degrees. (www.MichaelWebsterClarinet.com)


2nd Place:
Brad Smith
The HS for the Performing and Visual Arts
Houston TX

Brad Smith
Brad Smith teaches at The High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, where he coordinates all aspects of the string program, coaches chamber ensembles and teaches conducting. Dr. Smith also serves as a conductor on the Artistic Staff of the Houston Youth Symphony. Before coming to Houston, he and his family lived in Philadelphia where he taught at the University of Pennsylvania. For nine of the eleven years that he lived in Philadelphia, Dr. Smith was the Music Director of the Delaware County Youth Orchestra (dcyo.org) in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Brad Smith holds Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in Conducting from the University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Smith’s formal music study began at Stephen F. Austin State University with a Bachelor of Music. When not immersed in music, he enjoys spending time with his beautiful wife Becki and two girls.


3rd Place:
Ryan Murray
Modesto Symphony Youth Orchestra
Modesto CA

Ryan Murray
The newly appointed Artistic Director of Townsend Opera, Ryan Murray’s dynamic conducting, engaging persona and deeply held passion for the arts have allowed him to steadily build a robust career since his professional debut at the age of just 22. Ryan is the 2016/17 winner of the American Prize in Opera/Theater Conducting (Professional Division), a past winner of the Vienna Philharmonic’s Ansbacher Fellowship for Young Conductors and previously studied at the Eastman School of Music's Summer Conducting Institute featuring the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra; he has attended the Aurora Conducting Seminar with Kurt Masur, as well as the Lucerne Festival Academy Conducting Masterclass. Ryan is currently the Associate Conductor for the Modesto Symphony Orchestra, Music Director for the Modesto Symphony Youth Orchestra and Resident Conductor of the Music in the Mountains Summer Festival. As part of a unique artistic partnership, Ryan has served as the Music Director of Fresno Grand Opera's main stage productions of contemporary American operatic works for the past two seasons. Ryan also previously served as a conductor for BASOTI, and the Opera Academy of California. Visit www.ryanjmurray.com for news and upcoming engagements.


Finalist Special Judges' Citation: 
Exceptional String Educator 
Ulli Reiner
California Music Educators Association Honor Orchestra
San Diego CA

Ulli Reiner
ULLI REINER, a Grammy Education Finalist for 2017 and a four time Grammy nominee is the epitome of music.  Music is her life as an educator, conductor and violinist. She is the Orchestra Director for the Poway Unified School District since 1983 located in San Diego, California. Ms. Reiner is an adjunct faculty member of Palomar College, Concertmaster of the Palomar College Symphony Orchestra, founder, Orchestra Manager and Concertmaster of the PUSD Adult School Poway Community Symphony Orchestra and Artistic Director of the PUSD Adult School Poway Community Symphonette.  Ms. Reiner is also Artistic Director and co-founder of the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra of San Diego-Intermediate Symphony, Suzuki School and formerly conductor and co-founder of the Civic Youth Orchestra-Intermediate String Orchestra and Chamber String ensembles.  She was the founder and Orchestra Director of the Poway High School Symphony and has taught orchestra at Mt. Carmel High School, Black Mountain Middle School, Mesa Verde Middle School, and Meadowbrook Middle School.  She is currently the Orchestra Director at Bernardo Heights Middle School, Twin Peaks Middle School, and also is the instructor for the Music Appreciation classes offered to non-music students.

A graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music, as a full scholarship recipient, she received a Bachelor of Music Education degree with emphasis in violin and viola performance and went on to graduate study at San Diego State University as first violinist with the Graduate String Quartet in residence, the University of Southern California, and the University of San Diego, having worked towards three masters degrees in music education, Suzuki violin and violin performance. She is a direct descendant of the great conductor, Fritz Reiner.


The American Prize in Conducting,  High School Orchestra Division, 2017-18

The American Prize winner:
Michael Isadore
Dulles HS Honors Orchestra
Sugar Land TX

Michael Isadore
Michael Isadore has been the Director of Orchestras at Dulles High School since 1999.  He also serves as Associate Conductor of the Houston Civic Symphony and the Philharmonia Conductor with the Houston Youth Symphony. Under his direction, the Dulles High School orchestra symphony and string orchestras have been consistent “commended winners” in the Mark of Excellence competition and recognized as the 2012 National Winner. Other honors include performances at the Midwest Clinic in 2016 and 2004 and runner up for TMEA Honor Orchestra in 2005. In 2010 Mr. Isadore was recognized with the Spec’s Charitable Foundation Award for Excellence in Music Education presented by the Houston Symphony. Mr. Isadore received his BME degree from Baylor University and Master’s degrees in clarinet performance and conducting from the University of Missouri—Kansas City, Conservatory of Music.


2nd Place:
Katharine Hafner
'Iolani Orchestra
Honolulu HI

Katharine Hafner
Katharine Hafner is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music and Indiana University.  Before moving to Hawai‘i in 1980 to join the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra, she taught in the Eastman Preparatory Department and Music Center of the North Shore (Chicago) and built an award-winning high school orchestra in Williamsville, New York.? Now in her twelfth year as orchestra director at ‘Iolani School, she is committed to the growth of the entire orchestra program.  Her student orchestras have won six national awards and competitions in the past seven years. ? ?While continuing to play professionally in the first violin section of the Hawaii Symphony, she maintains a full studio of private students.  She has been the Director of the Hawai‘i Suzuki Institute since 1986, President of the Hawai‘i Chapter of the American String Teachers Association, and a Board Member of the Hawai‘i Music Teachers Association.




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The American Prize, the national nonprofit competitions in the performing arts, has honored twenty-two American orchestras nationwide for musical excellence within their divisions, for community outreach, and educational enrichment. The honorees include ensembles in professional, community, college, university, youth, and high school divisions, representing ten U.S. states.

The First Place orchestras in each division for the 2017-18 contest year are:

Professional Orchestra:
Allentown Symphony, Allentown PA, Diane Wittry, music director

University Orchestra: Baylor Symphony Orchestra, Waco TX, Stephen Heyde, music director

College Orchestra: Davidson College Symphony Orchestra, Davidson NC, Tara Villa Keith, music director

Community Orchestra:
Seattle Collaborative Orchestra, Seattle WA, Anna Edwards, music director

Youth Orchestra: Denver Young Artists Orchestra, Denver CO, Wes Kenney, conductor

Public Magnet School Orchestra:
Denver School of the Arts Symphony, Denver CO, Enrique Lasansky, music director

High School Orchestra:
Seven Lakes HS Symphony Orchestra, Katy TX, Desiree Overree & John Mays, conductors

Photos and short biographies of each of these orchestras, as well as those of the runners-up in each division may be found here: http://theamericanprize.blogspot.com/2018/07/winning-ensembles-orchestras-2017-18.html

A larger list of orchestras, advanced to the finals earlier this season, may be found here: http://theamericanprize.blogspot.com/2018/05/finalist-orchestras-2017-18.html

Additional information about the competitions may be found on the website: www.theamericanprize.org

The first place (winning) orchestra in each division receives a cash award up to $500, depending on the year, the division and the number of applicants. All orchestras receive certificates, written professional adjudication, and regional, national and international recognition based on recorded performances. There is no live competition. In addition to written evaluations from judges, winners are profiled on The American Prize websites, where links will lead to video and audio excerpts of artist performances. The American Prize has awarded more than $50,000 in prizes in all divisions since 2009 and is presented annually in many areas of the performing arts.


THE AMERICAN PRIZE—History & Judges

The American Prize National Nonprofit Competitions in the Performing Arts 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, 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
David Katz is the chief judge of The American Prize. Professional conductor, award-winning composer, playwright, actor and arts advocate, he is author 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 we hope 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 professional orchestra, band and choral musicians.

“Most artists may never win a Grammy award, or a Pulitzer, or a Tony, or perhaps ever even 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 with 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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The American Prize is honored to announce the winners, runners-up, and honorable mentions of The American Prize in Orchestral Performance, 2017-18. Congratulations!

NEW PRIZES: Because of the quality and depth of the orchestral field in the college/university division this year, we are presenting University Division and College Division awards separately. (See below.) Also, a special award, for Public Magnet School Orchestra, is being awarded in the 2017-18 contest year.

Complete listings of finalists and semi-finalists in The American Prize competitions may be found elsewhere on this blog. Please use the chronological tool in the right-hand column to find specific results.

QUICKNOTES: Although The American Prize does not usually provide written evaluations to semi-finalists, some semi-finalists will receive in their certificate packets short comments, suggestions or overall impressions made during the judging. We hope they will prove valuable. All finalists receive written evaluations from a member of The American Prize judging panel.

Please make us aware of any misprints: theamericanprize@gmail.com

The American Prize in Orchestral Performance, 2017-18—professional division

The American Prize winner:
Allentown Symphony
Allentown PA
Diane Wittry, music director

Allentown Symphony
Now in its 67th season of bringing great orchestra music to the Lehigh Valley, the Allentown Symphony with Music Director & Conductor, Diane Wittry, plays time-honored masterworks, newly commissioned world premieres, and other intriguing repertoire, including new works by prominent composers.  Each year, the ASO (www.allentownsymphony.org) performs more than 20 classical, pops, and family concerts.

World-class artists that have performed with ASO include Midori, Emanuel Ax, Richard Stoltzman, Garrick Ohlsson, Angela Meade, and Peter Serkin, as well as jazz trumpeter Byron Stripling, saxophonist Branford Marsalis, and Broadway vocalist Christiane Noll.  Its musicians include players from the urban centers of New York, Baltimore-D.C., and Philadelphia.

The ASO has received grants from National Endowment of the Arts, and the League of American Orchestras in support of its El Sistema-inspired program for at-risk youth.  The Symphony also annually hosts the National Schadt String Competition, which attracts top young performers from over the world.


2nd Place:
Sinfonietta of Riverdale
Bronx NY

Mark Mandarano, music director
Sinfonietta of Riverdale
Founded in 2008 by Artistic Director and conductor Mark Mandarano, the Sinfonietta of Riverdale is a distinctive ensemble—large enough to perform chamber symphonies and small enough that each of its world class musicians is a featured soloist. It has been deemed “Off-the-hook fabulous” by Time Out New York, while The New Yorker declared that “High culture has flowed northward into the Bronx.” The ensemble has performed the music of world-renowned composers, notably Esa-Pekka Salonen, John Corigliano and Ellen Zwillich, who have attended its concerts. It has commissioned works from leading young composers, including Roger Zare, David Bruce, Alan Fletcher, Byron Adams and Oliver Caplan. The Sinfonietta has two recordings on the Arabesque label. Its first CD on Albany Records, New World Serenade, features music by several generations of American composers and has received critical praise: “The Sinfonietta of Riverdale under the direction of Mandarano brings all of [the music] off exceedingly well, with stellar playing—Exquisitely beautiful—highly recommended all around.” Fanfare. The Sinfonietta is now in its 9th season.


3rd Place:
Distinguished Concerts Orchestra
New York NY 

Jonathan Griffith, music director
Distinguished Concerts Orchestra
Founded in 2008 by esteemed choral and orchestral conductor, Jonathan Griffith, Distinguished Concerts Orchestra (DCO) is the resident orchestra for Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY), the city’s preeminent producer of choral and orchestral concerts in New York’s most prestigious concert venues. The DCO is comprised of some of the top orchestral musicians in the area, including numerous graduates of Juilliard, The Manhattan School of Music, The New England Conservatory, and Boston Conservatory. While the vast majority of these players have performed in every DCINY production since its inception, those players who have left the New York area have gone on to permanent posts in orchestras such as the Boston Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the London Philharmonic. Under the direction of Jonathan Griffith and DCINY’s roster of notable guest conductors, the DCO performs at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center



The American Prize in Orchestral Performance, 2017-18—university division (the college division is separate this contest season (please see below)

The American Prize winner:
Baylor Symphony Orchestra
Waco TX 

Stephen Heyde, music director
Baylor Symphony Orchestra
The Baylor Symphony annually presents six concerts of standard repertoire, a full opera production, concerto accompaniments, new music readings, choral collaborations and children's concerts reaching an audience of 6000 area schoolchildren.

The Symphony has appeared at the T.M.E.A. Convention eight times, at Piccolo Spoleto and at a national convention of A.S.T.A and recorded a PBS Special seen by six million viewers. The Baylor Symphony has collaborated with many distinguished American performers including Van Cliburn, Joseph Gingold, Robert Shaw, Corey Cerovsek, Jacob Druckman, Lorin Hollander, Roberto Diaz, Andrew Balio and Peter Schickele among others. The BSO has taken international tours of Costa Rica (2004) and Belgium (2010) and has won the prestigious American Prize for three consecutive times (2015, 2016 and 2017).

Former members of the BSO have won positions in many professional orchestras including New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Cincinnati and Fort Worth among others.


2nd Place:
Cornell Symphony Orchestra
Ithaca NY 

Chris Younghoon Kim, music director
Cornell Symphony Orchestra
Cornell Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Chris Younghoon Kim, present multiple concerts during each academic school year.  The membership of the orchestra is formed from students of all colleges and departments across the university-wide community.  It is the only non-music major orchestra to win first place among collegiate orchestras the ASCAP award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary music during the 2008-2009 season. It has won the Adventurous awards for 6 years in a row from 2008-2014. For the last seven seasons Cornell Orchestras have been jointly producing the Ithaca International conducting masterclasses with Ithaca College Symphony Orchestra.


3rd Place:
UNCG Symphony Orchestra and Choirs
Greensboro NC 

Kevin M. Geraldi, music director
UNCG Symphony Orchestra and Choirs
The UNCG Orchestra program is recognized for performance excellence, adventurous programming, and high artistic standards.  The mission of the UNCG Orchestras is dedicated to the teaching, performance, study and cultivation of orchestral music of the highest quality. The UNCG Symphony Orchestra is a highly select ensemble of approximately ninety performers majoring in music. Performers include undergraduates through masters and doctoral candidates in music. Many members perform regularly with professional orchestras around the region, including the North Carolina Symphony, Charlotte Symphony, Greensboro Symphony, Winston-Salem Symphony, and others. Recent reviews described performances by the UNCG Symphony Orchestra under the leadership of Kevin M. Geraldi as, "dramatic and incisive," "beautifully done," “with a wide palette of color and dynamics and vigorous rhythms,” and “at a professional level.”



The American Prize in Orchestral Performance, 2017-18—college division
(the university division is separate this contest season (please see above)

The American Prize winner:
Davidson College Symphony Orchestra
Davidson NC 

Tara Villa Keith, music director
Davidson College Symphony Orchestra
The Davidson College Symphony Orchestra (DCSO), directed by Tara Villa Keith, is an active undergraduate ensemble in a top ten liberal arts setting.  The DCSO is composed of approximately fifty musicians, including students, faculty, and community members. Every January, the orchestra goes on a regional tour, performing concerts and giving clinics at various schools and churches. In addition to its regular four-concert season, the DCSO gives two outdoor concerts and performs during Family Weekend and in an annual Holiday Gala.  In addition, the DCSO features winners of the concerto competition and serves as a workshop orchestra for student conductors.  The DCSO is also in its ninth season of Concerts for a Cause, in which donations are accepted at the door at each of its main concerts.  One-hundred percent of the donations are given to various charitable organizations chosen by the Davidson students and community.  Please visit us at www.davidson.edu/academics/music/ensembles/symphony-orchestra.


2nd Place:
Hillsdale College Symphony Orchestra
Hillsdale MI

James A. Holleman, music director
Hillsdale College Symphony Orchestra
Professor Edwyn Hames founded the Hillsdale College/Community Orchestra in 1951 and served as Music Director through 1966. Professor James A. Holleman was named Music Director in the fall of 1997. The name of the ensemble was changed to The Hillsdale College Symphony Orchestra in the fall of 2010 to reflect the growth in personnel and rehearsal schedule of an ensemble primarily consisting of full-time Hillsdale College students, mostly non-music majors. Music department faculty members serve as coaches for each section of the orchestra. The orchestra typically performs four concert cycles per academic year, each with two performances. Annually students compete in the Concerto/Aria Competition with winners selected to perform as soloists with the orchestra during the March and May concerts. The orchestra was selected and performed at the 2017 CODA National Conference on the campus of George Mason University.


3rd Place:
College of William & Mary Symphony Orchestra
Williamsburg VA 

David Grandis, music director
College of William & Mary Symphony Orchestra
Now entering its 84th season, the William & Mary Symphony Orchestra is comprised of Non-Music Major students of the College of William & Mary; mostly undergraduates but also a few graduate students and community members. Its mission is to grow through performances of great orchestral literature and to contribute to the artistic community of the College and beyond. WMSO has performed major works by Beethoven, Berlioz, Brahms, Dvorak, Mahler, Bartok, Ravel, Strauss and Tchaikovsky and offers additional opportunities such as guest artist collaborations, premieres, and tours. In 2002, WMSO took its first international tour to Italy and Sicily. The orchestra's domestic tours include performances at the Lang Recital Hall at Swarthmore College, PA (2012), the Harold J. Kaplan Concert Hall at Towson University, MD (2013), and most recently at Bellefield Hall at University of Pittsburgh, PA (2014) and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC (2015).



The American Prize in Orchestral Performance, 2017-18—community division

The American Prize winner:
Seattle Collaborative Orchestra
Seattle WA 

Anna Edwards, music director
Seattle Collaborative Orchestra
The Seattle Collaborative Orchestra (SCO) is a diverse, multigenerational performing arts organization representative of the greater Seattle community. SCO is devoted to bringing classical and new symphonic works into local schools and communities. SCO musicians include students, community members, and professionals who work together to create a unique and collaborative musical experience dedicated to expanding beyond traditional organizational and musical boundaries to promote a more diverse performing and listening audience. SCO programs innovative and eclectic music, features music by female composers, and provides opportunities to emerging Pacific Northwest performing artists.

Our musical goals create engaging, educational, and collaborative experience by coupling committed student and community members with experienced professionals representing premier Seattle-area ensembles. Our organization provides an avenue for professional musicians wishing to contribute to the sustainability of orchestral music through nurturing and mentoring students within a challenging performance experience. Working alongside professional musicians, students learn to reach higher levels of musicianship and develop traits of professional responsibility.


2nd Place:
Texas Medical Center Orchestra
Houston TX 

Libi Lebel, music director
Texas Medical Center Orchestra
Established in November 2000, Texas Medical Center Orchestra (TMCO) is one of very few community orchestras in the United States and the world with its origin in the health professions. It includes physicians, dentists, nurses, medical students, biomedical scientists, social workers and other allied health professionals who are dedicated to making music. Part of the orchestra’s mission is to provide health care professionals a creative outlet; offer a?ordable concerts to a diverse public audience; and bring public attention and support for, medically related and/or educational charities. Performances have been mainly in Houston, and within Texas.


3rd Place (there was a tie):
Arlington Philharmonic Orchestra
Arlington MA 

Orlando Cela, music director
Arlington Philharmonic Orchestra
Practically every Wednesday evening from September to June, members of the Arlington Philharmonic Orchestra gather to rehearse for one of the five concerts they perform in each season. The players range widely in age and experience, but all have in common the love of making music. Depending on the Orchestra’s needs, new members are welcome and no audition is necessary to join. Each new season features a sprinkling of new faces ranging from young students to seniors. Many members are loyal veterans – one violinist played with the Orchestra for 70 years, starting shortly after it was established in 1933! Under the baton of Music Director Orlando Cela, the Orchestra presents its first concert in November.  A joint concert follows in December in which the Orchestra and the Arlington-Belmont Chorale combine forces led by Chorale Music Director Barry Singer and Maestro Cela.  In February, the Orchestra performs a Family Concert designed to inspire youngsters of all ages. In May, the Orchestra and the Chorale are together again to present the Philharmonic Society’s Sponsors’ Concert. The season concludes with the POPS! Concert in June, which features both the Orchestra and the Chorale and is coupled with a delightful pre-concert Strawberry Festival. The Orchestra takes pride in presenting a broad spectrum of the traditional classical repertoire as well as modern works, including local composers. POPS, of course, predominately showcases lighter works taken from the worlds of jazz, show tunes and movie scores. In addition, the instrumental winner of the Philharmonic’s Young Artist Competition (as well as the occasional vocal winner) gets a performance as a soloist with the Orchestra.  These young instrumental soloists span the full range of instruments from piano to violin and never fail to deliver amazing performances.


3rd Place (there was a tie):
Central Jersey Symphony Orchestra
Branchburg NJ 

Michael Avagliano, music director
Central Jersey Symphony Orchestra
The Central Jersey Symphony has been providing musical experiences for the communities of Somerset County and beyond for nearly 50 years. The orchestra's performance homes reflect its regional impact, from its ancestral home at Raritan Valley Community College to recent performances at Drew University. Under the leadership of music director Michael Avagliano, the CJSO brings together musicians from six counties in New Jersey to create a vibrant musical life for our community. Recent seasons have seen collaborations with Light Opera of New Jersey to present fully staged operas, world premieres of works by New Jersey composers, and the next generation of performers being showcased through the Young Pianists Competition of New Jersey. Visit our website, www.cjso.org, to find out more about our upcoming season.


The American Prize in Orchestral Performance, 2017-18—youth orchestra division

The American Prize winner:
Denver Young Artists Orchestra
Denver CO
Wes Kenney, conductor

Denver Young Artists Orchestra
The Denver Young Artists Orchestra (DYAO) was formed in 1977 under the auspices of the Denver Symphony Orchestra, now the Colorado Symphony Orchestra (CSO).  It was started as a means for Colorado’s most talented young musicians to rehearse and perform together under demanding professional standards. ??The mission of the Denver Young Artists Orchestra Association (DYAO) is to provide the finest possible youth orchestra programs, inspiring and educating young musicians through the performance of great works of music, and offering valuable cultural opportunities to the community. For thirty-nine years, DYAO has nurtured the talents of the Rocky Mountain region’s finest young musicians. Today, the organization’s five orchestras and group strings classes train nearly 300 students ages seven to twenty-three annually. Wes Kenney has been the Music Director and Conductor for the Young Artists Orchestra since 2013.


2nd Place:
Houston Youth Symphony
Houston TX
Michael Webster, conductor

Houston Youth Symphony
Founded in 1946, Houston Youth Symphony (HYS) is the recipient of national acclaim including the 2016 first prize winner of the Mark of Excellence Award from The Foundation for Music Education and the 2016 American Prize in Orchestral Performance – Youth Orchestra Division Each season approximately 400 musicians between the ages of seven and 19 come from across the greater Houston area to perform in one of five HYS orchestras. In addition to the core orchestra program, HYS offers advanced musicians a chamber music training program and an annual concerto competition.

In the community, HYS provides free private music lessons for talented youth in select economically disadvantaged communities through the Melody Program. In January 2015, HYS launched the Coda Music Program, an after-school effort modeled after El Sistema that brings graduated, intensive string instruction to three elementary schools using classical music and group instruction to build community and social transformation. (www.HoustonYouthSymphony.com)


3rd Place:
Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra
Knoxville TN
James Fellenbaum, conductor

Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra
The mission of the Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra (KSYO) is to educate students through high-level orchestral training in a professional environment while developing new audiences for symphonic music. The KSYO strives to create connections for students and their families that inspire a life-long love of music and instill a sense of responsibility for the quality of the arts in their community. Sponsored by the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, the KSYO is an auditioned full symphonic orchestra and five string ensembles totaling over 325 student musicians. Students ages six through 18 are placed by audition in ensembles from a training string orchestra (Overture) through three beginning and intermediate string orchestras (Preludium, Philharmonia, Sinfonia), to a Youth Chamber Orchestra which performs professional level string repertoire, and a full orchestral ensemble (Youth Orchestra) which performs professional level orchestral works. Entering its 44th season, the KSYO performs four concerts annually at the Tennessee Theatre. Please visit http://www.knoxvillesymphony.com/youth-orchestra/.



The American Prize in Orchestral Performance, 2017-18—public magnet school (special award)

The American Prize winner:
Denver School of the Arts Symphony
Denver CO 

Enrique Lasansky, conductor
Denver School of the Arts Symphony
DSAO is an intensive program for string musicians seeking to develop their talent, understanding, and passion for music. As the Rocky Mountain Region’s only public 6-12 school for the arts, and a member of the Denver Public Schools, DSA welcomes promising young students who seek a challenging and inspiring environment in which to pursue their musical passion. http://dsapresents.org/dsao/

The DSAO serves talented and dedicated string musicians who play the violin, viola, cello or double bass. Our program explores a diverse spectrum of musical styles and genres with an emphasis on classical technique and repertoire. Admittance into the program is by successful audition. Auditions are open to any student living in the United States. Although most of our students come from Colorado, students from as far away as Texas, Wisconsin and Florida have recently joined our orchestras. DSAO was selected to participate  in the Midwest Clinic during 2015-2016 as well as the ASTA’s National Orchestra Festival during 2015 and 2018.


The American Prize in Orchestral Performance, 2017-18—high school division

The American Prize winner:
Seven Lakes HS Symphony Orchestra
Katy TX

Desiree Overree & John Mays, conductors
Seven Lakes HS Symphony Orchestra
The Seven Lakes Orchestras have striven to be a leader in musical performance through innovative programming and presentation. We have sought to inspire our audiences and each other through diligent study and performance of the greatest string and symphonic music composed.

With a commitment to musical excellence, the ensembles have set out to reach the goal of being among the leading ensembles in Texas. The Symphony Orchestra has regularly placed in the top ten orchestras in TMEA’s Honor Orchestra competition. In July 2015, the ensemble was named the TMEA Honor Full Orchestra, winning our equivalency of the state championship. The Foundation of Music Education named the ensemble a National Winner in the Mark of Excellence for the National Honors Project in 2015. The Symphony earned the national title again in 2016. The Symphony Orchestra is conducted by Desiree Overree and John Mays.


2nd Place:
Seven Lakes High School Sinfonia
Katy TX 

Desiree Overree, conductor
Seven Lakes High School Sinfonia
The Seven Lakes Orchestras have striven to be a leader in musical performance through innovative programming and presentation. We have sought to inspire our audiences and each other through diligent study and performance of the greatest string and symphonic music composed.

With a commitment to excellence, we have set out to reach the goal of being among the leading ensembles in Texas. Since the school’s opening in 2005, this ensemble has consistently placed as one of the top 10 string ensembles in Texas. Individuals have earned top honors including membership at the Region, Area, and State level, and medaled at various competitions. The Foundation of Music Education named the Sinfonia Orchestra a National Winner in the Mark of Excellence / National Honors Project in 2015, and a Commended Winner in 2016. This ensemble is conducted by Desiree Overree.


3rd Place:
Dulles HS Honors Orchestra
Sugar Land TX 

Michael Isadore, conductor
Dulles HS Honors Orchestra
Located in Sugar Land, TX, The John Foster Dulles Orchestra program is one of the largest orchestra programs in Fort Bend ISD and one of the premiere orchestra programs in the state of Texas.  Located in Sugar Land, a southwest suburb of Houston, Fort Bend County and Dulles High School are among the most diverse schools in America.

The orchestra program in Fort Bend ISD began in 1990 and Dulles High School has only had two orchestra directors.  Michael Isadore became the director of orchestras in 1999 and today the program boasts over 170 members.  The Dulles Orchestra has been consistently awarded the Mark of Excellence National Honor Orchestra Award and Commended Award in the string and full orchestra categories, been runner up for TMEA Honor Orchestra and has performed at the Midwest Clinic in 2004 and 2016.


FINALIST Honorable Mention:
Jasper Legacy Orchestra
Plano TX 

Matthew Moreno, conductor
Jasper Legacy Orchestra
The Jasper High School Orchestra is proud to be recognized as one of the most accomplished orchestra programs in America. Jasper is a grade 9 and 10 campus in Plano, TX, a Dallas suburb. Their orchestra currently serves over 240 students in five orchestras. Since its inception in 1996, Jasper’s Legacy Orchestra has repeatedly ranked as one of the top three string orchestras in Texas, despite competing alongside high schools that fill their orchestras with 9th through 12th graders, and in 2014, the Jasper Symphony Orchestra was named TMEA Honor Full Orchestra, or first place in Texas. Jasper’s orchestras have also repeatedly earned top commendation at UIL competition and festival competitions across the nation. The program is led by Director of Orchestras, Matt Moreno.


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