PYO Announces the Winners of National Young Composers Competition
For the second year, The Philadelphia Youth Orchestra (PYO) conducted a nationwide search to name the three winners in the PYO Young Composers Competition. There were 54 entries by composers ages 18 to 22 who submitted original orchestral scores. The winners were selected by PYO’s music director, Maestro Louis Scaglione, and the director of the Young Composers Competition, Sheridan Seyfried, who is a Philadelphia-based composer, and a PYO alumnus as well as a graduate of The Curtis Institute of Music where he studied with Richard Danielpour, Jennifer Higdon and Ned Rorem.
This year’s Grand Prize winner is Kevin Day, a composer, conductor, and multi-instrumentalist from Arlington, Texas who is a senior at Texas Christian University. His piece is titled “Manhattan Nights for Symphony Orchestra”. Day describes Manhattan Nights as the brisk, chaotic, and hectic commute of thecity, the beauty of the skyscrapers, and a depiction of the eclectic jazz musicscene. He said, “This was fun for me to write, and I hope that audience willenjoy this depiction of ‘the city that never sleeps.’” He will receive a cash prize of $2,000 and PYO will premiere his piece on June 10, 2018 at PYO’s 78th Annual Festival Concert in Verizon Hall at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia. In addition, it will be professionally recorded for a future WRTI 90.1 broadcast.
The Second Place Winner is Christopher Bell who attends Vanderbilt University and has collaborated with New Dialect Dance company and Nashville Ballet. He will receive a cash prize of $1,000.
The Third Place Winner is Quinn Mason, who studies composition at TCU School of Music. He will receive a $500 cash prize. In 2017, he was named winner in the Texas A&M University Chamber Music Symposium Composition Contest.
PYO is pleased to have had so much interest in the competition this second year. Bringing an important focus on the art of composition for symphony orchestra, Scaglione said, “By creating this nationwide competition, we demonstrate the great value we place on the ability to write original and creative compositions. With so many entries this year, it’s clear that young people are driven to express themselves through their writing. Many PYO students continue their careers as successful composers, and we hope this competition leads to more opportunities for individuals with the potential of becoming future great music composers.”
ABOUT THE WINNERS:
KEVIN DAY – GRAND PRIZE WINNER
Kevin Day is an American composer, conductor, and multi-instrumentalist from Arlington, Texas. He is a senior at Texas Christian University working on finishing his Bachelor of Music Performance degree, while also studying composition. Kevin has composed over 100 works for solos, concert band, orchestra, chamber, and choral groups. His works have been premiered and heard across the United States and receives commissions and premieres in his emerging compositional career. As a musician, Kevin is actively involved as a low brass player, jazz pianist, and in music production. Kevin is an alumnus of the 2016 Disneyland All-American College Band on tuba. His music has been featured at clinics across the U.S. such as the Western International Band Clinic, the National Association for Music Educators All-Northwest Conference, the Midwest Clinic, and the American Bandmasters Association Conference. A multi-award-winning composer, he has composed music for three short films -- A Partial Heart (2015), The Broken Man (2017), and Hello Henry (2018) that have gone on to film contests and festivals. An active conductor, he is currently is the principal conductor of the Next Gen Chamber Players.
CHRISTOPHER BELL – SECOND PLACE WINNER
Christopher Bell was born in Wilmington, Delaware. Growing up with two middle school music teachers as parents he became involved in private study, and school ensembles from an early age. Chris spent two years studying music composition at the Interlochen Arts Academy, where he explored the intersection between composing, songwriting, dance, and theatre. Currently in his third year at Vanderbilt University, Chris has collaborated with New Dialect Dance company, and Nashville Ballet. Through Intermission, an art collective which Chris, and his colleagues founded in 2016, his first one act opera "Lizenza" will be performed in Nashville this coming April.
QUINN MASON – THIRD PLACE WINNER
Quinn Mason is currently a student at the TCU School of Music where he studies composition with Dr. Blaise Ferrandino. In June 2015, Quinn was selected as a winner in the American Composers Forum Next Notes High School Competition. In 2016, Quinn was named first place in the Voices of Change 2016 Texas Young Composers project with his piece “Two Fleeting Daydreams”. Quinn was also recently commissioned by Dallas based art song organization Voces Intimae for a song cycle, "Confessions from a Dream", which was premièred in April of 2017. Also in 2017, Quinn was named winner in the Texas A&M University Chamber Music Symposium composition contest. Among his recent notable commissions is a horn sonata for David Cooper (Principal horn of the Berlin Philharmonic) and his Symphony No. 3 for the Dallas based New Texas Symphony Orchestra, as well as a commissioned full length orchestral work for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra to be premiered in 2019.
KEVIN DAY, FIRST PLACE WINNER
DIVISION 2 (AGES 21 AND UNDER)
2018 YOUNG COMPOSER COMPETITION
Kevin Day wins First Place in the 2018 Division 2 national Young Composer Competition.
Kevin Day’s Piano Trio No. 3: “Ecstatic Samba” has won First Place in Division 2 of the 2018 Young Composer Competition.
Kevin Day (b. 1996) is an American composer, conductor, and multi-instrumentalist from Arlington, Texas. Currently in his senior year at Texas Christian University, he will be graduating in December 2018 with a BM in Euphonium Performance and wishes to pursue his masters in music composition. Day has written over 100 compositions for solos, concert band, orchestra, chamber, film, and choral groups. His works have been premiered and heard across the United States, and he currently receives commissions in his emerging compositional career.
Kevin Day is a winner of the Dallas Winds Fanfare Contest, a finalist for the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award, and a finalist of the Novus New Music Call for Scores Contest. He has also had pieces premiered and showcased at W.I.B.C, the NAfME All-Northwest Conference, and the Midwest Clinic, and is the recipient of the 2016 W. Francis McBeth Student Musicianship Award from Kappa Kappa Psi National Honorary Band Fraternity. In addition to classical music, Day has composed music for two short films, A Partial Heart (2015) and The Broken Man (2017), which were premiered at the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth.
He has worked with renowned composers John Mackey and Dr. Frank Ticheli, is a member of BMI and Kappa Kappa Psi, and is currently the composer-in-residence and Assistant Conductor of the Next Gen Chamber Players in Mansfield, Texas, for their 2017-2018 season. He studies under Dr. Neil Anderson-Himmelspach for composition and Mr. Richard Murrow for Euphonium.
As the winner of the Tribeca New Music 2018 Young Composer Competition, Division 2, Kevin will receive a $1,000 award, and his piece Piano Trio No. 3: “Ecstatic Samba” will be performed on an upcoming Tribeca New Music 2018 Festival concert in NYC.
Honorable Mentions and Emerging Composers
Congratulations to everyone who participated in this national competition. In addition to the First Place piece, Tribeca New Music wishes to acknowledge some of the other exceptional works that were entered:
• The Honorable Mention category recognizes the top tier of compositions that were in contention to win.
• The Emerging Composers category recognizes those who have shown great promise with their entries.
Bram Fisher for his Luminopphore
Patrick Holcomb for his Tides under a Full Moon
Jonathan Hou for his Capriccio d-moll
Stephen Karukas for his I am [electric]
Benjamin Vanden Heuvel for his Eppur Si Muove
Max Vinetz for his Allemande
Justin Zeitlinger for his Contrasts
Jaren Arena for his Glass Castles as They Yield to the Blushing of the Sky
Olivia Bennett for her Nefarious (for cello and piano)
Caroline Bragg for her Melting Glaciers
Jasmine Bryant for her Duet for Flute and Piano
Robert Bui for his Little Haikus
Solomon Ge for his Spin
Stella Gitelman Willoughby for her Moirai: The Fates
Hannah Ishizaki for her Prism
Tanmay Kulkarni for his Descent to Macabre
Ian Lin for his Little Hunchback Horse Fairy Tale
Charles Meenaghan for his American Elegy
Paul Novak for his blackout poetry
Molly Turner for her reaction
Max Vinetz for his here
Benjamin Wenzelberg for his Nocturne and Fugue
Kathy Xue for her Two Fantastic Dances
Athena Zhang for her Piano Suite
Every year during the week before Christmas, thousands of music educators, student musicians, and industry professionals gather in Chicago to discuss the latest trends and techniques in music education, listen to top-level ensembles from around the world, hear newly available repertoire, and peruse the expansive exhibit hall at the Midwest Clinic. The largest international band and orchestra conference in the world, this event is truly a spectacle. The four-day conference is packed with panels, presentations, concerts, reading sessions, and promotional goodies that attract close to 20,000 attendees, including many band directors. For composers, it is an exceptional networking opportunity simply due to the sheer number of conductors present. And if you are lucky enough to have your music performed, it will be heard by thousands of band directors from throughout the country who are seeking out new pieces to program.
I had been considering attending the Midwest Clinic for a while, but I wasn’t quite sure where I would fit into the mix. I’m not a band director, and I only have two band pieces in my catalog, so I’m not sure I can even call myself a “band composer.” Was it worth going?
While still on the fence, I was pointed to a Facebook post from composer John Mackey–a veritable superstar of the band world. Due to Midwest’s policy requiring publishers to buy advertising space if two pieces of music they publish are performed in showcases there and a booth in the exhibition hall if they have three or more, Mackey had purchased a booth in the exhibit hall and was offering it up, free of charge, to self-published composers who are people of color and/or identify as women. I was shocked and delighted, and I immediately jumped at the opportunity! Not only was this offer incredibly generous (booth space is not cheap!), it recognized what I already suspected before even venturing to the festival: the Midwest Clinic has a diversity problem.
As you enter Chicago’s massive McCormick Place convention center and ascend the escalator to register for the conference, you are greeted by larger-than-life banners honoring current and former festival award winners, and a giant, cylindrical “wall of fame” covered in photos of even more award winners and board members from throughout the conference’s 71-year history–all but a small handful of whom are white men. Such a display can feel a bit unwelcoming for those who do not look like the men in the photos, and it is disappointing to consider that the movers and shakers of the Midwest Clinic, with their impact on music education nationwide, do not reflect the diversity of the students in our schools.
Beyond the leadership, Midwest Clinic’s programming is equally in need of modernization. After my second day at the conference, I realized that not a single one of the concerts I had attended included a female composer. Now, it would be impossible to see every concert at Midwest, and I had experienced just a handful of the performances. Was it a fluke that I had missed the pieces by women? To be certain, I pored through the festival program and found that of the 500 pieces performed at the Midwest Clinic by 51 different ensembles (including bands, orchestras, jazz bands, and chamber groups), only 23 pieces (4.6%) were composed by women, and just 71 (14.2%) were written by composers of color.
But what about the band concerts on their own? With such enthusiasm for new music, surely the wind ensemble programming would be more diverse than that of the orchestras, right? Alas, of the 212 pieces performed by bands during the Midwest Clinic, only seven (a measly 3.3%) were written by women, and 26 (12.3%) by people of color.
OF THE 500 PIECES PERFORMED AT THE MIDWEST CLINIC, ONLY 23 PIECES (4.6%) WERE COMPOSED BY WOMEN, AND JUST 71 (14.2%) WERE WRITTEN BY COMPOSERS OF COLOR.
Sadly, none of this came as much of a surprise to me. I’ve been performing in winds bands since the fifth grade, and I continue to do so today. Through the years I’ve become keenly aware of the white male dominance both on the podium and in the repertoire. In fact, the performance of one of my works by a wind ensemble last year marked the first time in more than five years that this particular group had played a piece by a woman. This dilemma is not unique to the Midwest Clinic, but a festival of its magnitude and influence has the potential to create meaningful change in the diversity represented in music education settings throughout the nation.
Luckily, members of the music education community are stepping forward to do just that, and it seems that things are slowly changing. For the first time, this year the conference included three clinics pertaining to diversity and inclusion. Tremon Kizer, associate director of bands at the University of Central Florida, offered an overview of various wind band repertoire by minority composers; Minneapolis-based music educator Adrian Davis gave a presentation on the underrepresentation of African-American males in music education, examining recruitment and retention from K-12 to professional levels; and a discussion on equity and inclusion in the music classroom was led by a diverse and illustrious panel of music educators. And of course there was John Mackey’s booth in the exhibit hall, taken over by underrepresented composers and generating quite a buzz throughout the convention center.
Thanks to Mackey’s offer, nine of us showed up to exhibit our music together at a shared booth sponsored by Mackey’s publishing company, Osti Music. The participants were Erin Paton Pierce, Kevin Day, Evan Williams, Nicole Piunno, Haley Woodrow, Denzel Washington, Jennifer Rose, Omar Thomas, and myself. We took shifts working the booth, during which time we could display our scores, share recordings, and chat with conference attendees. The reaction from visitors was overwhelmingly positive; band directors are eager for new, high-quality repertoire to perform with their bands. While some people were initially confused that there was no music by John Mackey at the booth, they were almost always content to discover something unexpected from the composers who were present. Other visitors claimed they simply had to stop by to see what all the fuss was about. Apparently, this kind of booth-sharing has never been done at Midwest before, and there was even some confusion over whether it was within Midwest Clinic’s exhibit hall regulations. In the end, all the rules had been followed and we forged ahead.
Away from the exhibit hall, our participation at the Osti Music booth was an easy conversation starter when networking with band directors, and it provided an extra layer of legitimacy for those of us mired in impostor syndrome. Between my shifts at the booth and networking throughout the conference, I made numerous new contacts with potential collaborators and fellow composers, sold a few scores, and even recruited some new members to a consortium commission I’m organizing. On top of that, I heard impressive performances by ensembles ranging in age from middle school to professional, learned about current trends and needs in music education, and discovered a thrilling assortment of music from my new composer friends.
All in all, attending the Midwest Clinic is an outstanding experience for composers of music for wind band. And while an air of exclusivity remains intact throughout the conference culture and programming, the tides are slowly turning. The messages of clinicians addressing issues of diversity and inclusion are now being heard, and John Mackey’s generosity in sharing the Osti Music booth set an incredible example of what it means to be an ally to underrepresented composers. I hope that this shift will continue, and I’m eager to see what kind of impact these efforts will have over the next few years at the Midwest Clinic and in instrumental music programs throughout the country.