Wednesday, September 11, 2013


The American Prize  is pleased to announce 2013 ENSEMBLE winner/runners-up in the orchestra category.


To know the exact day and time when additional winners will be announced, please "like" our Facebook page, where the information will be posted. 

The judges reserve the right to award special citations and honorable mentions to any entrant at their discretion.

Please make us aware of any misprints:
The American Prize in Orchestral Performance—professional
The American Prize winner: 
Western Piedmont Symphony, John Gordon Ross, music director, Hickory, NC

In 1964, the Hickory Symphony was organized on the Lenoir-Rhyne University campus by founding conductor Albert Chafoo, a native of Iran and also the founder of the Asheville and Salisbury orchestras.  The concept of a regional orchestra, was initially explored in 1970. Following much study and preparation, the Western Piedmont Symphony Society, Inc. was legally incorporated on November 3, 1972.

Martin Bellar, the Western Piedmont Symphony's second conductor, was responsible for founding the Western Piedmont Youth Symphony.  Richard Hughey, the symphony's third conductor established the Western Piedmont String Quartet, and did much to improve the professional quality and sound of the orchestra.

In 1991, John Gordon Ross became the fourth Music Director and Conductor.  Under his leadership, the Western Piedmont Symphony has significantly expanded its outreach activities and presented premieres by Bayolo, Boone, Cionek, Crockett, Ewazen, Kaminsky, Locklair, Mumford, Peck, Tann, Warshauer,  and  Zwilich.

Among judges' comments: "Performances by the West Piedmont Symphony exhibit elegant shape and detail, with carefully executed nuance and plenty of dynamic contrast."

2nd Place:
The Michigan Philharmonic, Nan Harrison Washburn, music director, Plymouth, MI
Michigan Philharmonic
The Michigan Philharmonic is in its 67th Season, the second under the organization's new name. For 65 years, the orchestra was known as the Plymouth Symphony and also, for its smaller presentations, Orchestra Canton. The Michigan Philharmonic now plays a full season of concerts throughout the year including pops, outdoor, Bollywood and Fusion Festivals. Under the leadership of Music Director and Conductor Nan Harrison Washburn, the orchestra has garnered 4 ASCAP awards for Adventuresome Programming. By highlighting new music at each concert, our audiences have the opportunity to meet composers and gain an appreciation of the wonderful, new repertoire in the classical music genre. The Philharmonic also has an extensive music education program that includes the Michigan Philharmonic Youth Orchestra.

Among judges' comments: "musical and confident performances, featuring strong ensemble and some excellent solo contributions."

3rd Place:
Odysseus Chamber Orchestra, Jason Lim, music director, Denton, TX
Odysseus Chamber Orchestra
Founded in 2012, Odysseus Chamber Orchestra consists of  professional classical musicians from Denton and surrounding areas. In May 2012, Odysseus launched a successful inaugural performance featuring local soloists. In its short history the Odysseus Chamber Orchestra has supported local service clubs, like the Denton Breakfast Kiwanis Club, the Robson Ranch Kiwanis Club, sponsoring events such as the Eliminate Project Cruise and the Passing of the Banner Dinner. Furthermore, OCO pioneered the  Mentorship Program. The brainchild of Artistic Director; Jason Lim, this program provides high school orchestra students the opportunity to rehearse and perform side-by-side with members of OCO. In 2013, OCO commissioned a new work by local composer, Brad Robin.

Among judges comments: "fine musicians...and like their conductor, spirited and energetic..."


The American Prize in Orchestral Performance—community orchestra 
The American Prize winner:
Park Avenue Chamber Symphony   David Bernard, music director—New York, NY
Park Avenue Chamber Symphony
Since its founding in 1999, the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony has built a loyal following, both in New York City and worldwide through its extensive catalog of recordings on iTunes, Naxos/ClassicsOnline, Amazon and Spotify.  In 2011 the orchestra toured the People's Republic of China performing in 9 cities including Beijing, Qingdao, Dalian, Chaoyang, Jinzhou, Shenzhen, Shenyang and Xi'an.

The Park Avenue Chamber Symphony’s performances have been acclaimed by critics nationwide.
·         “Highly polished and highly disciplined performances. These readings are interpretively probing and emotionally satisfying….unconditionally recommended.” – Fanfare Magazine
·         “The dynamic range and attention to detail surpass any performance of these works. The Park Avenue Chamber Symphony is a World-Class Orchestra” – Lucid Culture
·         “David Bernard brought raw, dramatic intensity to the urgent sections, while conducting the noble transfiguration theme with utmost tenderness and lovely, sustained pacing. Balances were unusually clear, bringing out woodwind details, while the brass shined with solid, blended playing…the orchestra plays with a strong sense of style and commitment…with the depth and fervor of the old school European orchestras…. a real triumph!” – New York Concert Review

The ensemble regularly features important soloists including Carter Brey (principal cellist, New York Philharmonic), David Chan (concertmaster, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra), Jon Manasse (clarinet soloist) and Whoopi Goldberg (Oscar Winning Actor and Entertainer), as well as emerging artists from Juilliard, Manhattan School of Music and Mannes. The Park Avenue Chamber Symphony performs at All Saints Church on the Upper East Side of NYC, with additional performances at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall and Avery Fisher Hall.

Through its fundraising efforts, the Park Avenue Chamber Symphony has helped establish a new Scholarship Fund for students at the Juilliard School’s Pre-College Division, as well as support  The Harmony Program—a New York City organization that provides music lessons to economically disadvantaged children and is modeled after Venezuela's world-famous model of music education, "El Sistema".

Among judges' comments: "The Park Avenue Chamber Symphony exemplifies the epitome of the best of the current community orchestra scene: professional level performance of incredibly difficult repertoire."

2nd Place:
Seattle Collaborative Orchestra   Anna Edwards, music director—Seattle, WA
Seattle Collaborative Orchestra
The Seattle Collaborative Orchestra is a dynamic, multigenerational fusion of musicians from Seattle's classical music scene, including Seattle Symphony, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Northwest Sinfonietta, Auburn Symphony, University of Washington, and local high schools.

Seattle Collaborative Orchestra Mission Statement: Seattle Collaborative Orchestra is an intergenerational, semi-professional community orchestra with a strong educational component based in collaboration. Musicians of the Seattle Collaborative Orchestra largely consist of members or alumni of Seattle high schools and University of Washington music students, in addition to members of professional music ensembles in the Seattle area (i.e. Seattle Symphony and Pacific Northwest Ballet). It is our aspiration to spread musical enjoyment to our Seattle metropolitan community.

Among judges comments: "Prodigious achievement of style, rhythm, and articulation throughout. Bravo on your excellent, crisp rhythm."

3rd Place:
Clark College Orchestra   Donald L. Appert, music director—Vancouver, WA
Clark College Orchestra
Donald Appert has 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 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 Artistic Director and Conductor 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 and an Honorable Mention in 2012. He has received the  ASCAPLUS Award numerous times. Videos of his conducting and his original compostions may be seen and heard via the internet on his web site at

Among judges comments: "The group really shines on the Fandango to the end: effective clean strings, great balance, wonderful dynamic contrasts, technique, and articulation."


The American Prize in Orchestral Performance—college/university orchestra
The American Prize winner: 
St Olaf Orchestra, Steven Amundson, music director, Northfield, MN

The 92-member St. Olaf Orchestra is one of the premier ensembles at St. Olaf College, a four-year liberal arts college known for its excellence in music, math, and the sciences.   The St. Olaf Orchestra has a 100-year plus history, and has been touring annually since 1949.  For the past three decades, Professor of Music Steven Amundson has led the Orchestra on tours throughout the U.S. and in a dozen countries, most recently in China. The ensemble has been featured on NPR, PBS, at regional and national MENC (NAfME) conventions, and on Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion.   Recognized for its passionate and engaging performances, the St. Olaf Orchestra strives for the highest professional standards. The orchestra program at St. Olaf features two full symphonies and over 120 string students that take weekly private lessons.  65% of the students in St. Olaf Orchestra major in music. All members of this orchestra are full-time undergraduates, and they represent 25 of the 50 United States.

Among judges' comments: "Technically brilliant, exciting performances, full of life...Revueltas especially tight, with exceptional brass contributions."

2nd Place:
Ithaca College Symphony Orchestra, Jeffery Meyer, music director, Ithaca, NY 
Ithaca College Symphony Orchestra
Comprised of approximately 90 to 100 musicians, ICSO is dedicated to performing symphonic repertoire from the baroque through the twentieth century, as well as contemporary works of our time. The Symphony Orchestra is directed by Jeffery Meyer and presents 6 to 10 concerts per year.   The orchestra has collaborated with many of today's most prominent composers including Jennifer Higdon, Michael Gandofli, Steven Mackey, Steven Stucky, Joan Tower, and Chen Yi. Guest soloists who have appeared with the ICSO in recent seasons include Xak Bjerken (piano), Gilbert Kalish (piano) and Steven Mackey (electric guitar).   The ICSO has been distinguished with two consecutive ASCAP prizes for Adventurous Programming by the League of American Orchestras.  The ensemble has performed to high acclaim in Avery Fisher Hall and Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in New York, the Ithaca "Light in Winter" Festival, the Troy Savings Bank Hall and New York University.

Among judges' comments: "Stunning Sacre, suave Daphnis, performed at a very high level of accomplishment."

3rd Place:
Mannes Orchestra, Taeyoung Lee, conductor, New York, NY

Mannes Orchestra
Praised by the New York Times for its “Youthful exuberance,” the Mannes Orchestra performs a comprehensive symphonic repertoire each year ranging from classical to modern, and collaborates with the Mannes Opera in two productions at the Kaye Playhouse. Guest conductors who have led concerts or readings in recent years include Kurt Masur, Philippe Entremont, Paul Nadler, Leonard Slatkin, and Mannes graduates Yves Abel and JoAnn Falletta. The Mannes Orchestra makes nine public performances every season with David Hayes, Director of Orchestral and Conducting Studies, appearing at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Salvation Army’s Centennial Memorial Temple, Symphony Space, the Kaye Playhouse, and at Mannes College Concert Hall.

Among judges' comments: "Prokofiev 7 full of fire and wit, excellently played."


The field in the College/University Orchestra category was so strong this year that the judges have awarded Special Citations for Technical & Musical Excellence to the following three ensembles and their directors. In alphabetical order they are:

Special Judges' Citation for Technical & Musical Excellence, 2013
Baylor Symphony, Stephen Heyde, music director, Waco, TX

Baylor Symphony
Founded in 1946, the Baylor Symphony has been led by only two conductors, Daniel Sternberg and, since 1984, Stephen Heyde. In a typical year, 105 students from two dozen states and several foreign countries are selected by audition to perform in the ensemble. The orchestra has performed multiple times at the Texas Music Educators Convention and by invitation at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival and a national convention of the American String Teachers Association, among others.  In 2003, the Symphony was featured in a PBS Special that aired nationally to an estimated audience of six million viewers.  The orchestra has performed with many distinguished performers and composers including Josef Gingold and Robert Shaw among others and taken international tours of Costa Rica in 2004 and Belgium in 2010. The Baylor Symphony also presents annual children's concerts for 6000 Waco area school children, an unbroken tradition for 67 years.

Among judges' comments: "Remarkable Don Juan and La Mer, fluent, and confidently performed."

Special Judges' Citation for Technical & Musical Excellence, 2013
Kennesaw State University Symphony Orchestra, Michael Alexander, music director, Kennesaw, GA
Kennesaw State University Symphony Orchestra
The Kennesaw State University Symphony Orchestra began in the Fall of 2004. In its short history the orchestra has already performed with a long list of prestigious guest artists, conductors, and composers. In 2009 the KSU Orchestra was invited to perform at the Georgia Music Educators Association In-Service Conference and hosted and performed at the 2010 College Orchestra Directors Association National Conference. In January 2011, the KSU Orchestra completed a three-concert tour of Beijing and Xian, China. Recently the orchestra performed with the legendary rock band KANSAS and gave the first university orchestra performance of Peter Gabriel’s New Blood.  2012-2013 included the premiere of a new Tuba Concerto for Alan Baer, principal tuba of the New York Philharmonic, and a visit by renowned composer David Lang.  The 2013-2014 Season will feature the premiere of a new Violin Concerto by composer Chen Yi and a performance with pianist, Jeremy Denk.

Among judges' comments: "Beethoven's 9 a significant achievement. Scherzo is tight and full of drive; adagio lovingly shaped, finale has great forward motion."

Special Judges' Citation for Technical & Musical Excellence, 2013
West Virginia University Symphony Orchestra, Mitchell Arnold, music director,  Morgantown, WV
West Virginia University Symphony Orchestra
The WVUSO has been a major performing ensemble at WVU for many decades.  The orchestra not only serves the talented students of the WVU School of Music, but provides Morgantown with an important cultural treasure.  In 2012, WVUSO gave the US premiere of Sofia Gubaidulina's Flute Concerto and traveled on a 3-state tour.

Among judges' comments: "Daphnis stylish and well-wrought—impressively played by the full ensemble—soloists shine throughout."

The American Prize in Orchestral Performance—youth orchestra 
The American Prize winner:
Vivace   Jonathan Handman, music director—Poughkeepsie, NY
In 2001 Jon Handman and Emily Schaad launched Stringendo Orchestra School of the Hudson Valley as a year-round extension of their Summer Strings music camp. Today, over 200 students between second and twelfth grades participate in classes in orchestra and fiddling. These musical groups provide a community where students from all over the Hudson Valley can further develop their musical talents. Stringendo both supplements and enhances string education, and musicians in Stringendo are members of their school orchestra programs wherever possible.

Stringendo’s most advanced orchestra, Vivace, this year includes 25 high school students. Over the years the orchestra has performed a broad repertoire, including Serenades by Dvorak, Elgar, Suk and Tchaikovsky, Diamond’s Rounds,  Shostakovich’s Eighth Chamber Symphony, and Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence. Vivace participated in the ASTA National String Orchestra Festival, a competition for school and youth orchestras throughout the United States, and was named Grand Champion in 2009.

Among judges' comments: "Obvious trust, confidence and capability were coupled to stylistic assurance. The emotional content was always made clear to the audience who responded with highly merited applause."

2nd Place:
Houston Youth Symphony   Michael Webster, music director—Houston, TX
Houston Youth Symphony
Houston Youth Symphony was founded in 1946 and now serves more than 300 students in four orchestras.  Michael Webster has been Artistic Director since 1997 and has led the Symphony, its most advanced orchestra, at the inauguration of Houston Mayor Lee Brown, the 2002 National Youth Orchestra Festival at Carnegie Hall, and in 2012 on National Public Radio’s "From the Top." HYS is the national first prize winner of the Foundation for Music Education's Mark of Excellence competition for five consecutive years (2008-2012) and The American Prize in 2010 and 2011.  Our “Melody” program offers free private lessons to gifted students from disadvantaged districts and our chamber music program serves members of our two most advanced orchestras, the Philharmonia and the Symphony.

Among judges comments: "The performance of the chosen literature demonstrated the thrill of playing large orchestral repertory...the orchestra played with zest. It is good to perform major works that have moments of challenge and is an important aspect of development. Congratulations on undertaking those challenges. "

3rd Place:
Saratoga Springs Youth Orchestra   Gioacchino Longobardi, music director—Saratoga Springs, NY
Saratoga Springs Youth Orchestra
The Saratoga Springs Youth Orchestra is small string ensemble dedicated to fostering excellence in musical arts through structured rehearsal and community performances throughout the Saratoga region of upstate NY.  Founded in 1999, SSYO began with the single vision of developing a world-class youth orchestra.  SSYO works to expand the artistic and cultural horizons of young musicians, ages 13 to 25 years, through advanced training, peer collaboration and mentorship.

Conductor, Maestro Gioacchino Longobardi, with diplomas in Piano, Conducting and Composition from the Conservatorio San Pietro a Majella, in Naples, Italy, brings a European perspective to a new world endeavor. He has introduced SSYO to a unique and challenging repertoire comprised primarily of Early Baroque and Romantic period pieces.  The SSYO program offers young musicians the opportunity to perform orchestral masterworks directed by a professional musician/conductor, while pursuing their own personal aspirations and a lifelong love for music.

Among judges comments: "The playing was most compelling in the Fantasia as the melody of the hymn tune was passed around. The Piazzolla had some very warm moments...This is a program that should continue to build in the future."

The American Prize in Orchestral Performance
—high school orchestra
The American Prize winner:

Jasper High School Legacy Orchestra, Ryan Ross, conductor, Plano, TX 
Jasper High School Legacy Orchestra
The Jasper High School Orchestra is proud to be one of the most accomplished orchestra programs in Texas. Jasper is a grade 9 and 10 campus in Plano, TX, a Dallas suburb. Their orchestra currently serves over 200 students in five orchestras. Since its inception in 1996, Jasper’s top ensemble, Legacy Orchestra, has repeatedly ranked as one of the top five string orchestras in Texas, competing alongside high schools that fill their orchestras with 9th through 12th graders.  Jasper’s orchestras have also repeatedly earned top commendation at UIL competition and festival competitions across Texas. Jasper feeds Plano West Senior High School and pulls from Rice and Robinson Middle Schools. Today, the Jasper Orchestra program is led by Ryan Ross and Assistant Director Amy Gross. The program was opened by Deborah Perkins, passed on to Mary Havenstrite, and developed to maturity by Julianne Booth.

Among judges comments: "an exceptional ensemble playing at a high level of accomplishment..."

2nd Place
Arlington High School Philharmonia, Jonathan Handman, conductor, LaGrangeville, NY 
Arlington High School Philharmonia
Arlington High School is located in LaGrangeville, NY and Philharmonia is the most advanced of the four orchestras in the school and was the Grand Champion of the ASTA National Orchestra Festival in March 2012.  The program consists of one ninth grade string orchestra and three symphonic orchestras for students in grades 10-12, of which Ms. Elizabeth Handman and Mr. Jonathan Handman are the directors.  In total, the program has over 250 string students and 75 wind/percussion members that join the strings every other day as their second ensemble in addition to the band program that they are members of.  Arlington Central School District’s High School Principal is Mr. Paul Fanuele and Music Coordinator is Mr. Richard Guillen.

Among judges comments: "well balanced sound, with good solo contributions and especially strong string sections."

3rd Place:
Interlake High School Chamber Orchestra, Shira Katsman, director, Bellevue, WA

The Interlake High School Chamber Orchestra, an advanced string orchestra from Bellevue, Washington under the direction of Dr. Shira Katsman, consists of 50 students in grades ten through twelve.  The group consistently receives superior ratings at the Eastshore Orchestra I Festival, and many orchestra members have placed at the State level in the Solo & Ensemble Festival, participated in the All-Northwest and All-State Orchestras, and performed at the NSO Summer Music Institute.  The orchestra has worked with the Lafayette String Quartet, Ani Kavafian, Dr. Chin Kim, Nicholas Canellakis, David Becker, Ron Patterson, and Eric Wilson and collaborated with the Academy of Music Northwest and violist Paul Colletti to premier Colletti’s transcription of  the long lost J.S. Bach Viola Concerto.  In 2013 the orchestra performed in the final round of the ASTA National Orchestra Festival competition in Providence, Rhode Island and received an excellent rating for their expressive and dynamic performance.

Among judges comments: "generous depth of tone, good intonation...performances with a sense of direction and considerable expression."

Special Judges' Citation: Exceptional Accomplishment in String Education and Performance
Bridle Path/Montgomery Select String Ensemble,  Ralph T. Jackson, director, Lansdale, PA
Bridle Path/Montgomery Select String Ensemble
The Bridle Path/Montgomery Elementary Select String Ensemble is comprised of students in grades 3-6 who are auditioned from among the 120 members of the orchestra. The ensemble rehearses after school for one hour each week and has consistently earned Superior ratings at music festivals and invitations to perform at prestigious music conferences, including performances at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the Midwest Clinic International Band & Orchestra Conference, 5 performances for the National Association for Music, and 4 performances at the Pennsylvania Music Educators Annual Conference. The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City has commended the Select String Ensemble for "demonstrating a level of technical proficiency and musical sophistication that is most impressive" and has featured the ensemble on the "Live from Lincoln Center" website under "Outstanding Student Performances".

Among judges' comments: "a bell-weather group—showing what is possible when community, school and musical leadership are in apparent harmony."

Congratulations to all!


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