Karim Al-Zand wins Sackler Music Competition Prize

Composer Karim Al-Zand has won the second annual Raymond and Beverly Sackler Music Competition Prize. His proposal to write a concertino for trumpet earned him a $20,000 cash prize and a premiere performance next spring.


Karim
Karim Al-Zand

Al-Zand received his bachelor of music degree from McGill University in 1993 and his PhD from Harvard University in 2000. In 1998 he won the Salvatore Martirano Composition Competition for his string quartet. His most recent commissions have been from ALEA III, the New England Conservatory Camerata and Houston’s OrchestraX. As a pianist, Al-Zand has performed in jazz settings and has directed and composed for an 18-piece ensemble he formed in 1995. He currently pursues several areas of music theoretical work, including research on jazz and improvisation related topics.

Currently an assistant professor of composition and theory at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, Al-Zand says that the honor and the “very generous” cash award are welcome at this point in his career. “It’s nice to know that the work you do is being valued,” he says. “I feel the award presents an enormous artistic opportunity for me, and it’s a gratifying shot in the arm career-wise as well. Not to mention the chance to write for [James Ackley], such a talented and accomplished performer.”

The international award is sponsored by the School of Fine Arts at the University of Connecticut. The competition, which this year was geared specifically to works for solo trumpet and chamber ensemble, seeks to support and promote aspiring composers and encourage the performance of their works. Al-Zand’s submission was one of 50 entries received.

Though Al-Zand says he is still in the very early stages of the piece, his yet untitled work will be “somewhat programmatic, making reference to symbolic and metaphorical associations which the instrument has taken on—martial, jazz, and religious.”

Al-Zand’s piece will premiere next spring at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. A second performance will follow at the university’s Stamford campus.

Established through a gift of Raymond and Beverly Sackler (frequent University of Connecticut donors), “the Prize is part of a broader structure promoting innovation, inventiveness and the creative spirit within the School of Fine Arts,” explains David G. Woods, dean of the School of Fine Arts. “It provides the opportunity for cutting-edge creative exploration and productivity, and will provide the essence of creativity in the artistic program of the School.”

This year’s jurors were Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Joseph Schwantner; Raymond Leppard, conductor laureate and former music director of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra; and composerJoan Tower, winner of the 1990 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition.

Composer and pianist Gabriela Lena Frank was the first recipient of the first Raymond and Beverly Sackler Music Composition Prize in 2002.