Wednesday, September 10, 2014


The American Prize is honored to announce the winners and runners-up in the band/wind ensemble division of The American Prize in Composition, 2014. Congratulations!

All finalists receive written evaluations from a member of The American Prize judging panel.

Complete listings of finalists and semi-finalists in The American Prize competitions may be found elsewhere on this blog.  

Please make us aware of any misprints:

The American Prize in Composition—Band/Wind Ensemble (professional division)

The American Prize winner:
LAURENCE BITENSKY for "Fearsome Critters"
Lancaster  KY
Laurence Bitensky
Known for music described as "extraordinarily sensitive and beautiful" and "speaking directly to the heart,” composer and pianist Laurence Bitensky has been hailed for works that are satisfying for performers and communicative to audiences.  With their emotional intensity, directness, lyrical and sinuous melodies, and funky, polyrhythmic grooves, his works range from wistfully nostalgic, deeply sad, and evocative, to exuberant, playful and ecstatic.

Born in 1966 in New York, and educated at Skidmore College, the New England Conservatory of Music, Ithaca College, and Cornell University, Bitensky’s works have been recognized by numerous foundations and institutions.  His music has been performed by numerous ensembles and at various festivals around North America, Europe, and Asia.

Bitensky is an Associate Professor of Music at Centre College where he teaches composition, music theory, musicianship, and world music.  For more info see

Among judges' comments: "A very engaging piece, with clever orchestrations and original sonic colors."

2nd Place:
KYLE KINDRED for "Variations on a Tango"
Humble  TX

Kyle Kindred
Kyle Kindred (b.1978) is Associate Professor of Music and Director of Composition Studies at Sam Houston State University.  Kindred holds degrees in composition from Wichita State University and The University of Texas at Austin where his teachers were Walter Mays, Dean Roush, Donald Grantham and 2012 Pulitzer Prize winner Kevin Puts.  His witty, lyrical and occasionally theatrical works for winds and percussion have been performed by the North Texas Wind Symphony, the Lone Star Wind Orchestra, the Florida State University Wind Orchestra, the San Jose State University Wind Ensemble, the St. Louis Wind Symphony, the United States Navy Band, the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Wind Ensemble, the TAD Wind Symphony of Japan and the Showa University of Music Wind Ensemble in Kawasaki City, Japan.  Kindred is a contributing author for GIA Publications’ Composers on Composing for Band, Volume 4, edited by Mark Camphouse.  For more information, visit

Among judges' comments: "Very endearing tango theme...the orchestration is exemplary in all sections."

3rd Place:
DAVID AVSHALOMOV for "The Last Stand"
Santa Monica  CA

David Avshalomov
A third-generation composer and conductor based in Santa Monica, David Avshalomov is also an accomplished bass vocalist. He composes in an accessible neo-tonal, modern Romantic style that balances a lyric gift with characteristic rhythmic vitality and pungent harmonies. His influences include the great 20th-century tonal composers (plus his father Jacob and grandfather Aaron). He has written for forces ranging from solo instruments to full orchestra, band, and chorus, from songs and incidental pieces to full-length oratorio. Currently he focuses on vocal and band music, with an increasing number of regional commissions. His music has
been performed professionally across the US, in Europe, Russia, and the Far East, and recorded on Albany and Naxos. He has won prestigious grants and competitions, including a 2012 citation from the American Prize for Orchestral Composition, and a 2013 ACDA Silver Platter Award for Choral Composition.

He earned his B.A in Music at Harvard and a D.M.A. in conducting (Krachmalnick) and composition (Bergsma, Verrall, Suderberg) at the University of Washington, studied at Aspen (Morel, Blomstedt, Torkanowsky), and Tanglewood (Bernstein, Schuller, Ozawa), was music director of US orchestras and choruses on both coasts, guest conducted widely, toured in Europe and the Far East, and recorded orchestral music by his grandfather Aaron in Moscow for Naxos. His conducting work has garnered frequent listings in Who's Who in Music and Who's Who in the West.

Among judges' comments: "VERY well written…it is an effective, brooding piece."

The American Prize in Composition—Band/Wind Ensemble (student division)

The American Prize winner:
WEIJUN CHEN for "Distance"
Buffalo  NY
Weijun Chen
Weijun Chen (b. 1990) is a Chinese-American composer of contemporary concert music. His music has been performed and read by ensembles such as Eastman Wind Ensemble, Arditti Quartet (UK), Uusinta Ensemble (Finland), Freya String Quartet, Cuong Vu Trio, Ensemble Son (Sweden), Either/OR, Sound ExChange, Drum Joy Ensemble, and Birch Crescent Duo, among others. Currently, Weijun is pursuing his PhD at State University of New York at Buffalo with Presidential Fellowship, where he studies composition with David Felder. He has studied composition with Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon, Lisa Bielawa, David Liptak, Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez, and Robert Morris. Weijun holds two BMs from the Eastman School of Music in both composition and music theory (Highest Distinction), as well as an Arts Leadership Certificate. He is also a member of Pi Kappa Lambda, a national music honor society. For more information, please visit

Among judges' comments: "stunning use of hymn tune fragments in a thoroughly contemporary sound world…deeply affecting."

2nd Place:
MATT LAROCCA for "Arctic Voices"
Sommerville MA
Matt LaRocca
Matt LaRocca (b. 1980, NJ) is a composer, performer and educator from Somerville, MA.  He holds a B.A. from Middlebury College in chemistry and music, a M.Mus. from Carnegie Mellon University in music composition, and is currently a doctoral candidate at Boston University.  After spending several years as a chemist after college, he switched professions so he could focus on music.  As a composer, much of his inspiration is drawn from the natural world, the environment, and historic events.  In addition to composing, Matt is an active performer in many different genres of music on both the guitar and viola.

Among judges' comments: "haunting, eerie, evocative of the title…well-scored."

3rd Place:
TED KING-SMITH for "Manhattan"
Kansas City  MO
Ted King-Smith
Ted King-Smith's music is a hybrid of vernacular and contemporary music, exploring the vast sonic space between an energetic drive and a surreal stillness. Hailing from the Hudson Valley of New York, Ted began his studies in music on the saxophone at age 8, and then went on to attend and graduate from the Hartt School of Music in 2010, and Washington State University in 2012. He is currently pursuing his DMA in composition at the University of Missouri – Kansas City where his current teachers include Chen Yi and James Mobberley.

Awards for Ted’s music include the 2012 Washington-Idaho Symphony Young Artist Competition and 2011 Sinfonian Saxes Composition Competition, as well as selected performances at College Music Society Conferences in Vancouver, British Columbia and Knoxville, Tennessee. Notable performers and ensembles include the Saxophilia Saxophone Quartet, University of Tennessee Symphony Band, and others. For more information visit

Among judges' comments: "off-beat, jazzy, humorous and…convincing."


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