The excerpts below derive from a series of evaluations written for The American Prize by the distinguished American composer and TAP judge, JUDITH LANG ZAIMONT. Ms. Zaimont helped adjudicate student orchestral works in 2013.
To read about Ms. Zaimont's extraordinary career, please click here to reach the judges' biography page on our website.
Although judges have a great deal of leeway about the structure and length of the evaluations they provide, the excerpts below represent a sample of the quality of evaluative thought we aspire to provide to every contestant who reaches Finalist status or higher in the competitions of The American Prize.
“In reviewing student works, skillful handling of the orchestral medium is considered baseline competence. Beyond that one looks for imagination, inventiveness, an abundant musicality, fresh ideas, and especially, if the composer is capable of going beyond replicating familiar models. Another sign of true maturity is having developed a distinct take on harmony and rhythm, plus mastery in innovating forms – but these more often manifest later on.”
“(The work displays) coherent and skillful use of the orchestra as an entire inflected instrument in itself. Exciting music, due largely to an active carving across the flow of beat, displaying a sophisticated and personal command of rhythm.”
“The instruments are used appropriately and effectively, both as individual colors and in terms of sectional strengths. The final third of the piece is excellent – both in its character and its distinct point. The flow of music across time is well-personalized. “
“This work is utterly original in its formal structure. It uses minimal materials, almost insubstantial, but fitting. (It is) intimate, contained, ritual music that moves in a very human progress – almost as if strands of thought come forward, linger in examination and then dissipate.”
“Without the spine of a distinctive anchoring harmony, the musical capture of inhales – exhales seems overly long in getting to letter L (which is placed actually just shy of the golden mean).”
“Really novel the idea behind this piece, requiring an adventurous mind-set for all members of the orchestra...Structurally, the opening bars and the closing effect are striking. However, the overall orchestration -- while precise on a chamber-ensemble scale -- falls short in gauging relative tone-weight for the several dramatic interjections. Singleton winds cannot compete in defined pronunciation with singleton brass. And the delicate string ostinato – which is most of the piece – would be most effective if it is not interrupted, continuing palely, even while the trio’s main music is being played.”
(Please note that judges' assignments are rotated regularly, based on their qualifications, areas of interest, years of service, and availability at any particular stage of the evaluation process.)