Philadelphia Orchestra To Decide Centennial Competition Winner With Audience Vote

A Colombian-born American currently working in Amsterdam, an Indiana native teaching in New York, and a Chinese-born American college senior are the finalists in The Philadelphia Orchestra‘s Centennial Composition Competition. Chosen from among 330 applications are Sinfonia by Kevin Beavers of West Virginia, Totem by Keith Fitch of Indiana and New York City, and Three Pieces for Orchestra by Huang Ruo of Ohio.


Kevin Beavers
Kevin Beavers
photo by Lorin Burgess

The three works will be performed by Music Director Wolfgang Sawallisch and the Orchestra during the first half of a special concert on October 5, 2000. At intermission, audience members and Orchestra musicians will vote for the winner. The winning work will be announced at the end of the concert and will receive further performances at subscription concerts in Philadelphia on October 6 and 7, and at Carnegie Hall on October 10. The winning composer will be awarded a cash prize of $10,000; the two other finalists will each receive $2,500.


Keith Fitch
Keith Fitch
photo by Deborah Lopez

The competition was run in administrative partnership with Minneapolis-based American Composers Forum (ACF). Applications were sent directly to the Forum, which sorted and assessed the huge number of submitted scores, with the help of the expertise of composers Aaron Jay Kernis and Libby Larsen. A short list of finalist recommendations was sent to the Orchestra, and Maestro Sawallisch selected the three pieces to be performed.


Huang Ruo
Huang Ruo
photo by Nuiko Wadden

The selection of the prize-winning work by audience vote is supposed to help the orchestra meet one of their long-term goals, which is to identify and support new works that will have appeal across the musical spectrum. “With new music, one of the biggest issues is how to get the audience to better connect to it,” explained the Orchestra’s artistic administrator, Simon Woods. Asking for the audience to vote, he feels, is a “way to get [them] to engage with the music, even [if it is only] to the degree that [they] dislike [one piece] less than the other.” Woods also claims that the competition “makes a big philosophical statement: that it’s not just the experts who matter, [that anyone] who listens can make esthetic judgments.”