Ten young composers received cash prizes totaling $20,000 during the 61st Annual BMI Student Composer Awards, an invitation-only event held in the Grand Salon of the JW Marriott Essex House Hotel in New York City on Monday, May 20, 2013. As per the guidelines on the BMI website, the prizes, which range from $500 to $5,000, are “awarded to student composers under the age of 28 who are citizens of the Western Hemisphere (North, South, and Central America, the Caribbean Island Nations, and the Hawaiian Islands).” Awards are determined by panels consisting of BMI composers and are judged from scores which are submitted under pseudonyms. There are no limitations as to instrumentation, style, or length of work submitted, and the 2013 award winning works range from a string quartet and a composition for piano four-hands to music for SATB chorus, orchestra, and wind ensemble plus fixed media.
Composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, who serves as chair of the Student Composer Awards, announced each of the winners after introductory speeches by BMI’s President and CEO Del Bryant and Deirdre Chadwick, BMI’s executive director for classical music. During the course of her remarks, Chadwick announced that BMI has established the Ralph N. Jackson Fund for New Music, in honor of retired BMI Foundation President Ralph Jackson, who served for many years as director of these awards.
Twenty-five-year-old Mexican-born composer Juan Pablo Contreras, who recently completed a master’s degree in composition at the Manhattan School of Music, was awarded the 2013 William Schuman Prize (for the score judged the best in the competition) for his orchestral composition El Laberinto de la Soledad. The work will be performed next season by three different orchestras in Latin America.
Seventeen-year-old Michael D. Parsons received his second consecutive Carlos Surinach Prize, awarded each year to the youngest winner in the competition, for his Trio for flute, bass clarinet, and piano. The same composition earned him the 2013 Charlotte V. Bergen Scholarship, given to the top ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Award winner aged 18 or younger.
Another 2013 BMI Student Composer Award winner Michael Gilbertson, whose BMI award-winning work is Concerto for guitar and strings, was also a recipient of a 2013 ASCAP Young Composer Award for his Who Remembers Day for amplified soprano and chamber orchestra. Gilbertson, who originally hails from Dubuque, Iowa, just graduated from the Yale School of Music and already has had compositions published by Boosey & Hawkes, G. Schirmer, and the Theodore Presser Company.
The other seven 2013 award-winning composers and their works are:
Christopher Chandler (b. 1986 in Savannah, GA): deep in liquid indigo for chamber ensemble
Stefan Cwik (b. 1987 in Chicago, IL): Acrobats – Etude Variations for piano four-hands
William Dougherty (b. 1988 in Philadelphia, PA): Winded for wind ensemble and fixed media
Michael-Thomas Foumai (b. 1987 in Honolulu, HI): Scat for chamber ensemble
Kurt Isaacson (b. 1986, Batavia, IL): on an internal structure of the hemispherical body for string quartet
Chris Rogerson (b. 1988 in Buffalo, NY): Summer Night Music for piano quartet
Michael Schachter (b. 1987 in Boston, MA): Three Wallace Stevens Songs for SATB chorus
The BMI Student Composer Awards competition is co-sponsored by BMI and the BMI Foundation, Inc. The preliminary judges for the 2013 BMI Student Composer Awards were Alexandra du Bois, Shafer Mahoney, David Schober, and Sean Shepherd. The final jury, which determines the award winners from the scores submitted for consideration by the preliminary judges, were Margaret Brouwer, Richard Danielpour, Mario Davidovsky, Aaron Jay Kernis, and Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez with Ellen Taaffe Zwilich overseeing the proceedings.