Monday, November 30, 2015

COMPOSER WINNERS: chorus music, 2015

The American Prize is honored to announce the winners, runners-up, honorable mentions and citations recipients in the choral music divisions of The American Prize in Composition, 2015. Congratulations, and thank you for such a stimulating contest, full of exceptional chorus music in a broad variety of styles and for various uses.

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, 2015—choral music (professional division):

The American Prize winner:
Travis Alford    West Newton MA
   O Fragile Human, Speak... 
Travis Alford
Travis Alford (b. 1983) is a composer, trumpeter, and improviser whose music has been heard across the United States and abroad. He has received recognition for his work by the League of Composers/ISCM, ASCAP, the American Composers Alliance, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, and the Brandeis Office of the Arts. As a trumpeter, Travis has performed with the New England Philharmonic, the Boston New Music Initiative, the Equilibrium Concert Series, New Music Brandeis, the Park Street Brass, and the Northeast Italian Band.

Travis currently teaches at Johnston Community College in Smithfield, NC, and has held previous positions at MIT, Brandeis University, and Gordon College. He holds degrees from Brandeis (PhD, Music Composition and Theory, '14), the New England Conservatory (MM '08), and East Carolina University (BM '05). He lives in Clayton, NC with his wife Lauren, son Owen, and their dog Toby.

2nd Place (there was a tie):
Stephen R. Bernstein    West Hills CA
   To Speed Them All 
Stephen R. Bernstein
Steven Bernstein is a five-time Emmy-winning composer for films and television whose commercial music spans genres from horror to cartoons. His music can be heard in the television series Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain and Baby Looney Tunes to name a few. Most recently, he scored the grisly horror films “Pernicious” and “Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lampreys”.

Steven has also written extensively for the concert hall. He has had several commissions for large-scale works, both choral and orchestral, and for various chamber ensembles. Two movements for his suite for two violins were premiered in the Oregon Bach Festival in 2013.

As an accomplished conductor and orchestrator, he has worked on numerous motion pictures, TV productions and popular video games. His orchestrations can be heard in such films as Skyfall, The Amazing Spiderman, The Perfect Storm and many others. Visit for more information.

2nd Place (there was a tie):
David Feurzeig    Huntington VT
   Songs of Love and Protest on Traditional Texts 
David Feurzeig
The music of David Feurzeig has been performed throughout the US and in New Zealand, Asia, and Europe. He was twice a featured guest of the International Composer’s Festival in Bangkok. His Songs of Love and Protest were sung by the Dresden Chamber Chorus for the city’s 800th jubilee in the fabled Semper Opera House. He has been awarded the Silver Medal of the Royal Academy of Arts (London), a Beebe fellowship, and grants from the American Composers Federation and Meet the Composer. A pianist as well, he specializes in eclectic lecture-recitals featuring music from the classics to stride piano, jazz, and new music. He is a professor of composition and theory at the University of Vermont, where he has fulfilled commissions for the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, the Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble, and the Bella Voce Women’s Choir.

3rd Place: 
Shawn Crouch    Miami Beach FL
Shawn Crouch
Gramophone Magazine calls Shawn Crouch a "gifted composer" and Anthony Tommasini of the New York Times describes Shawn Crouch's work as music of "gnarling atonal energy". The Miami Herald called his Road From Hiroshima; A Requiem a "staggering achievement, an imaginative, powerful and deeply moving work" making the Miami Herald and Sun Sentinel's 2005 Classical Music Standouts. Shawn has received awards and accolades from such prestigious institutions as the American Academy of Arts and Letters, ASCAP, Yale University, Meet the Composer and the Percussive Arts Society. He is the inaugural recipient of the Dale Warland Singers Commissioning Award given by Chorus America and the American Composers Forum.

Shawn Crouch has been a Fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center as well as a composition fellow at the Norfolk Music Festival.  Mr. Crouch received his B.Mus. in composition from the New England Conservatory, and his M.Mus. in composition from the Yale School of Music.

The American Prize in Composition, 2015—choral music (professional division):

Jeffrey Bernstein    Altadena CA
   Pablo Neruda In Love
Jeffrey Bernstein
Jeffrey Bernstein is a California-based composer, conductor, pianist and educator. He is founding director of the Pasadena Master Chorale and artistic director of the Los Angeles Daiku. Known for his ability to inspire performers and audiences alike, Bernstein builds musical bridges between people. He has led choirs on fourteen tours of four continents and traveled extensively as a guest conductor, directing choirs and orchestras in Europe, Japan and throughout this country. Recently premiered works include Dreams of Japan with the Tokushima Symphony, Fukushima Requiem with the Los Angeles Daiku Orchestra, and The Human Journey, commissioned and premiered by the L.A. Choral Lab. Bernstein has released two albums of improvised piano music, PianoJournals (2012) and Clear Mind Calm Water (2015). He holds music degrees from Harv

Jeffrey Cobb    Traverse City MI
Jeffrey Cobb
Jeffrey Cobb lives and works in Traverse City, Michigan where he is the Director of Music Programs and Choirs at Northwestern Michigan College. Jeffrey is a regularly commissioned composer and his pieces have won several awards including honors from the Ithaca Choir Composition Contest, the New York Virtuoso Singers Choral Composition Contest, the Measure for Measure Choral Competition Contest, the Vanguard Premieres Choral Composition Contest, the Summit Chorale’s Composition Contest, the Outside the Bachs International Choral Music Competition, the C7Prize, and the Composition Competition of the Chiayi City (Taiwan) International Band Festival. His choral works are published through G. Schirmer, Santa Barbara Music, Walton Music, Colla Voce, and Roger Dean Publishing. Jeffrey is also a sought after composer and arranger in other genres. His music can be heard on several television series, radio spots, and in television advertisements. To hear a sample of his works, please visit

Christina Brice Dolanc    Erie PA 
   Silence, the New Moon
Christina Brice Dolanc
The choral music of Christina Brice Dolanc, violinist, vocalist, and composer, has been described as “neo-impressionistic” and “emotionally enchanting.” With a BM and MM in violin performance, Christina is a symphony performer, lesson instructor, and string quartet coordinator, in northern California for 12 years, and now recently relocated to northwestern Pennsylvania. Her extensive choral training, which includes study throughout college and 8 years in semi-professional vocal ensembles, combined with her career as a violinist paints her choral writing with a unique aesthetic. Christina began composing for choral ensemble in 2012 and has since been greeted with 7 premieres, 4 commissions, winning the Mary Bussman Emerging Female Composer Competition (Twin Cities Women’s Choir, Minneapolis, MN), awarded as “Recommended Work” for the C7Prize and semi-finalist for The American Prize, work featured in workshop by Musica Intima (Vancouver, BC), and commission for larger-scale work by the Erie Chamber Orchestra (PA), for strings and vocal ensemble.

Danny Gray    Briarcliff Manor NY
   Under the Night Sky 
Danny Gray
Danny Gray is an internationally awarded composer of film scores and concert music, with a love for multimedia collaboration and musical storytelling.

He has contributed music to over 300 episodes of major network television - including programs such as NBC Dateline, 20/20, NY Med and Good Morning America.  His film scores have been heard at South by Southwest, FanTasia, and various other regional and international festivals.  In 2013 he composed the score to the short comedy film Hell No, which became a viral internet sensation garnering over 5 million views in 5 days.

In concert and theatrical music, Danny has written incidental music for productions by Virtual Arts TV, and as composer-in-residence for The Theatre Project in NYC.  He was a recipient of the Manhattan Choral Ensemble's 2015 New Music for New York commission, and winner of the Australian Boys Choir 2014 Composition Competition.

Danny is a graduate of the Purchase College Conservatory of Music, and has studied film scoring at New York University and the University of Southern California.
For more information, visit Danny’s website,

Elise Letourneau    Orleans ON
   Sanctus Benedictus, Psaume 23
Elise Letourneau
Elise Letourneau is an accomplished performer, arranger, educator, and award-winning composer. She is the founding music director of Capital Vox Jazz Choir, which has been heralded as Canada's first community jazz choir. Elise also established and directs Vox Eclectica Women's Chamber Choir. With her background in classical, jazz, and contemporary styles, Elise brings a varied palette of sound and experience to her music. An associate composer of the Canadian Music Centre, her music has been sung by the Vancouver Chamber Choir, Canada's National Youth Choir, the Toronto Children's Chorus, the Cantiamo Children’s Choir, and others. She has performed with many internationally acclaimed musicians including Sheila Jordan, Oliver Lake, Janet Lawson, Bob Dorough, Paula Cole, Dan Haerle, and others. Elise received her music training at Humber College and Berklee College of Music. Her catalogue includes new music for voice, choir, piano, string quartet, and winds; as well as hundreds of custom choral arrangements. Please visit for more information.

John Orfe    Peoria IL
John Orfe
John Orfe has fulfilled commissions for the Sacrum Profanum International Festival, Duo Montagnard, Dez Cordas, Alarm Will Sound, the NOVUS Trombone Quartet, Ludovico, the Music Institute of Chicago, the Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra, the Lila Muni Gamelan Ensemble, and choral groups across the US. His recognitions include a Jacob K. Javits Fellowship, a Tanglewood Music Center Fellowship, a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the William Schuman and Boudleaux Bryant Prizes from BMI, and thirteen Standard Awards and the Morton Gould Award from ASCAP. His works for solo, chamber, choral and orchestral ensembles have been performed in Russia, Denmark, Canada, Germany, the Baltics, the Balkans, Italy, the United Kingdom, Australia, Thailand and throughout the US, earning praise from The New York Times, LAWeekly, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Die Welt, and Hamburger Abendblatt. As a pianist he has earned critical acclaim for his interpretations of five centuries of keyboard repertoire ranging from the canonic to the arcane. Dr. Orfe is Assistant Professor of Music at Bradley University and has taught at Dickinson College and Yale University.

Eric Sawyer    Amherst MA 
Eric Sawyer
The music of Eric Sawyer receives frequent performances on both coasts, including at New York’s Weill and Merkin concert halls and at Tanglewood, as well as in England, France, and China.  Sawyer’s opera Our American Cousin was premiered in 2008 by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project and released on the BMOP/sound label.  A second opera, The Garden of Martyrs, received its premiere from the Springfield Symphony in September 2013. A third, The Scarlet Professor, will be performed in workshop in June 2015.  Other recent works including Fantasy Concerto: Concord Conversations, composed for the piano trio Triple Helix and the Concord Orchestra. A chamber collection String Works and the cantata The Humble Heart are available on CD from Albany Records.  Mr. Sawyer has received the Joseph Bearns Prize, awards from the Tanglewood Music Center and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is on the music faculty at Amherst College. website:

Katherine Saxon   Santa Barbara CA
   Kubla Khan
Katherine Saxon
Katherine Saxon was born in Santa Monica, California and recently completed her Ph.D. in Music at the University of California, Santa Barbara, studying with Joel Feigin. While at UCSB she founded New Century Voices, an ensemble that workshops and performs music written by students. Katherine also holds a BA from Williams College where she studied composition with Ileana Perez-Velazquez and voice with Brad Wells and a Masters of Music from the University of Oregon where she studied with Robert Kyr and David Crumb. Her work Speed and Perfection received first prize in the San Francisco Choral Artists’ 2012 New Voices Competition. Navona Records released East of the Sun/ West of the Moon and Vox Dilect Mei on the album Polarities: exploring the contemporary expanse in March 2014. This winter she spent five weeks at the Banff Centre in Alberta working on her science fiction opera, The Cradle of Dreams.

Ken Walicki    Fullerton CA
   just like a dream experience
Ken Walicki
Ken Walicki is widely recognized and acknowledged for his dramatic, engaging music. He has received grants and commissions from ACF, the NEA, the Jerome Foundation, the Kronos Quartet, ETHEL, the New Century Saxophone Quartet, the Soldier String Quartet, the Mary Flagler Cary Trust, and Meet the Composer.  He is composer-in-residence for the Divan Consort. As a Fulbright scholar, he studied with Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Helmut Lachenmann, and in master classes with Copland, Barber, and William Schumann. Walicki has collaborated with artists from the classical, pop, theater, film, and dance worlds.  He was the founder and composer of the Ken Valitsky Ensemble.  He was the first composer to have turntables as a regular instrument in a ensemble. Walicki was on the faculty at NYU, and Istanbul Technical University.  He is director of composition at Cal State, Fullerton.  His music is available on Knitting Factory Works, C.R.I., CRS Artists, and Channel Records.

The American Prize in Composition, 2015—choral music (professional division):

Kathleen McGuire, Andy Payne and Jonathon Welch   Parkville, Australia
   Street Requiem 
"Dignifying the Homeless Through Song"
Kathleen McGuire
Australian-born Kathleen McGuire DMA became a US citizen in 2010. She composed Street Requiem in 2014 in collaboration with Australian composers Jonathon Welch AM and Andy Payne as a response to increased violence and a loss of safety on our streets. The cantata, which has been premiered in Australia - and in the US with soloist Frederica von Stade - was featured on NPR. McGuire has conducted in many countries in such venues as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and the Sydney Opera House. In 2010 she founded Singers of the Street (SOS) in San Francisco – a choir of people at risk of homelessness. Recognising her contributions, “Kathleen McGuire Day” was designated twice by San Francisco. In 2013 she returned to Australia, assuming positions as Director of Music at Queen’s College – The University of Melbourne and co-Artistic Director of the School of Hard Knocks.

Otter Dreaming   Decorah IA
   selected works
"Charming Music for Singing and Playing Together"

Otter Dreaming
Otter Dreaming was born in Iowa in 1957. As a child, he took piano lessons and relished the countryside. He lives with his husband and three-year-old daughter in a small, rural community where he gardens, gives piano lessons, performs and composes.

The American Prize in Composition, 2015—choral music (student division):

The American Prize winner:
KYLE RANDALL selected works
San Francisco CA
Kyle Randall is an internationally-performed composer, with premieres across the world from Carnegie Hall to La Schola Cantorum in Paris and Harvard's Memorial Hall, and he has received commissions from renowned groups such as the Harvard Glee Club and the Juventas New Music Ensemble. In his music, Kyle strives for vividness and sincerity, and he enjoys writing in a wide variety of styles. Listeners have commented on his directness and clarity of expression, and appreciate his willingness to draw on the past as well as the present in his writing. Born and raised in New Hampshire, Kyle received a B.A. from Harvard, where he studied composition with Chaya Czernowin, Hans Tutschku, Richard Beaudoin, and Trevor Baca, and he is currently pursuing a Master's in composition from San Francisco Conservatory, studying with David Garner. In his spare time, he likes to read, cook, hike, and ski.

2nd Place:
KEITH ALLEGRETTI "Three Nocturnes"
Santa Fe NM
A native of Santa Fe, New Mexico, Keith Allegretti is a composer and pianist who enjoys working comfortably in many genres, including chamber, orchestral, vocal, and electronic music, and even musical theater. His music has been performed in Santa Fe, Houston, Berlin, Ann Arbor, New York and elsewhere by professional and amateur ensembles, including Santa Fe New Music, Quartetto Indaco, the Rice University Chorale, the University of Michigan Symphony Orchestra, Circuit Bridges, the Santa Fe Community Orchestra, and the American Creators Ensemble. He holds degrees in composition from Rice University and the University of Michigan. For more information, please visit

3rd Place:
JULIA SEEHOLZER selected works
Santa Monica CA
Julia Seeholzer (b. 1990) takes much of her compositional influence from color – intervalic relationships conjure specific hues, which in turn dictate a piece’s direction. She is currently finishing her Master’s degree in composition at Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, where she studies with Joel Hoffman. Julia received her B.M. in composition from Berklee College of Music, where she graduated summa cum laude.

Julia’s pieces have been played by the ensembles including the Esterhazy String Quartet, Kalistos Chamber Orchestra, Trio d’Esprit, and members of the LA Philharmonic. She has presented work in master classes with John Corigliano, Robert Carl, Craig Hella Johnson, and others. In 2011, she attended Yale’s New Music Workshop as a composition fellow to study with Martin Bresnick. Julia has had works commissioned by groups such as the Tenuto Chamber Singers, WomenSing, and the University of Chicago's Camerata. To learn more about Julia, please visit her website at

The American Prize in Composition—Chorus 
(student division)
SPECIAL JUDGES CITATION: "Career Encouragement Certificate"

selected works
Jackson MI
Daniel J. Knaggs, native of southeast Michigan, is a concert composer working in a wide range of media and styles. He has lived in France, Mexico, and Nicaragua and many aspects of these diverse cultures and languages find their way into his music.

Daniel’s music is heard in concert halls, churches, and radio broadcasts in both Europe and the Americas. In the last three years, his compositions have secured performances throughout the UK, France, Switzerland, Poland, Italy, Lithuania, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, and USA.

Daniel completed his master’s degree in music composition at Bowling Green State University in 2009 and graduated in 2007 from the University of Michigan with bachelor’s degrees in voice performance and Spanish. His composition teachers include Bright Sheng, Marilyn Shrude, Karim Al-Zand, Pierre Jalbert, and Arthur Gottschalk. Daniel was a full-time high school Spanish teacher for three years (2009-2012) and is now pursuing a doctorate in music composition at Rice University Shepherd School of Music.

ANDREY STOLYAROV i won't even stop
Verona NJ 
Andrey Stolyarov (b. 1990) is a composer, conductor, and singer, currently beginning his Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Composition at The Hartt School in West Hartford, CT. Andrey’s recent achievements in composition include a residency at the Unitarian Society of Hartford and multiple national and international premieres. His piece Ebb & Flow won first prize at the 2014 ISAM Festival Joseph Dorfman International Composition Competition in Ochsenhausen, Germany. Additionally, Andrey was a finalist in the 2014 ASCAP Morton Gould competition and the Khorikos ensemble’s ORTUS competition. Andrey is currently the Director of Music at West Avon Congregational Church in Avon, CT, and is a graduate music theory teaching fellow at The Hartt School. He is an active professional choral singer in the Hartford and New Haven areas, currently performing with the CONCORA ensemble based out of New Britain, CT. 

Congratulations to all 2015 composition laureates.

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