Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Announcing: The ERNST BACON MEMORIAL AWARD for the Performance of American Music, 2016

Ernst Bacon
TUESDAY, May 17, 2016 is the extended postmark deadline for CONDUCTORS, ORCHESTRAS, CHORUSES and COMPOSERS to apply for The American Prize ERNST BACON MEMORIAL AWARD for the Performance of American Music, a new contest offered this year for the first time.

The ERNST BACON MEMORIAL AWARD for the Performance of American Music recognizes and rewards the best performances of American music by orchestras and choruses worldwide, based on submitted recordings.

Applications are accepted from professional, college/university, community and high school orchestras, competing in separate divisions, from choruses performing with orchestra, from orchestra and choral conductors, and from composers of orchestral or choral/orchestral music with excellent recordings of their works.

There is no live competition. The American Prize judges recorded performances only. There are no age limits.

The new award honors the memory and recognizes the legacy of Ernst Bacon (1898—1990) one of that pioneering generation of composers, who, along with Thomson, Copland, Harris, and others, who found a voice for American music. Winner of a Pulitzer Scholarship (for his Symphony in D minor) and no fewer than three Guggenheim Fellowships, Ernst Bacon set out to create compositions that expressed the vitality and affirmative spirit of our country.

Upon the creation of the Ernst Bacon Award, Ellen Bacon, widow of the composer, wrote, “Ernst was a strong advocate of performing the music of living American composers...and the visibility that the award would bring would be very helpful to me in my efforts of outreach, and would definitely further the EB Society's mission of promoting awareness and appreciation of Ernst's music.”

We are grateful to the Ernst Bacon Society for providing this short introduction to the composer and his music:

Ernst Bacon was born in Chicago to an Austrian mother and American father; his music - whether lively and humorous or profound and elegiac - combines the best of the old and new worlds.  Bacon's chief aim as a composer was to express the spirit of America in music, as Whitman, Hawthorne, and others did in literature.  He was deeply interested in our country's history and folklore; and the poetry, folk songs, jazz rhythms and geography of America, as well as the landscape itself, which he hiked, climbed, and also painted - all of these elements found their way into his picturesque and evocative music.

Official rules, complete information and application forms may be found here: http://www.theamericanprize.org/AmericanMusic.html

Ernst Bacon as a young man
The Ernst Bacon Memorial Award for the Performance of American Music s offered in as many as five categories, based on the membership in the ensemble, and on the number and quality of entries. Applications on behalf of orchestras (or choruses performing with orchestra) may be made by the conductor of the ensemble, its board members or other ensemble leaders, such as faculty or administrators, by the musicians themselves, by composers, or, in the case of student ensembles, by parents. In this category, multiple applications by the same ensemble are acceptable. Conductors may apply with more than one ensemble, and separately for conducting or ensemble awards (see Orchestra, Chorus and Conducting Prizes in the competition menu).

The five categories are:
  • professional orchestra—(or chorus performing with orchestra)—all musicians are paid
  • community or faith-based orchestra—(or chorus performing with orchestra)—some musicians may be paid/some may be students
  • college or university orchestra—(or chorus performing with orchestra)—mostly students/no paid players except "ringers"/faculty participation ok
  • youth orchestra—(or chorus performing with orchestra)—musicians from more than one secondary or high school, or an ensemble from an arts magnet school
  • secondary school orchestra—(or chorus performing with orchestra)—strings or full ensemble

The contests of The American Prize are open to all U.S. citizens, whether living in this country or abroad, and to others currently living, working and/or studying in the United States of America, its protectorates and territories. For the ERNST BACON AWARD only, applications from non-U.S. orchestras and their conductors are accepted, provided the Requirements for the Recorded Audition have been met and application fees are remitted in U.S. Funds.


The American Prize: Ernst Bacon Memorial Award for the Performance of American Music

You need not prepare a special tape for The American Prize. A previous recording, whether of a concert made in front of an audience or one created in a recording session without an audience, is perfectly acceptable. Neither the location nor the repertoire of any qualified individual limits eligibility, provided the general guidelines listed below have been met. Excellence within categories is the primary criteria for the selection of finalists and winners.

MAIL recordings of, or email ONLINE links to, the performance of any work (or works) of American orchestral (or orchestral/choral) music from any period, including "new" music, recorded within the last five years. Up to thirty minutes of music may be submitted, unless a work is of longer duration, in which case the entire piece may be sent. There is no minimum time limit for the audition. The judges prefer complete works, but complete movements—not excerpts—may be submitted if the full work is not available. Recordings may be audio or video, as is the applicant's preference. Works for orchestra alone, those with soloist(s), or with chorus, may be submitted.

"AMERICAN MUSIC"—For the purposes of the Bacon Award competition, "American music" is defined as any work composed in this country, at any time, in any period or style, by persons of any nationality, or works by American citizens composed anywhere in the world. 

"ORCHESTRA WORK"—For the purposes of the Bacon Award competition, an “orchestra work” is defined as any composition that is designed to be conducted which requires at least 9 musicians and includes among its membership bowed string instruments, including works for orchestra and chorus and/or instrumental or vocal soloists, or those that may feature electronic elements, either prerecorded or performed live.

These definitions are purposely broad to allow the largest number of potential contestants to be eligible. We seek to welcome the greatest variety of performances of American orchestral (or choral/orchestral) works from throughout the country and abroad.


The American Prize is unique—the only national nonprofit competitions in the performing arts to provide evaluation, recognition and reward to America’s finest performing artists, ensembles and composers based on recorded performances. The American Prize is proud to have awarded more than $40,000 in cash prizes in all categories since 2010.

The American Prize sponsors annual competitions for classical vocalists, pianists, composers, chamber musicians, conductors, ensembles and arts administrators and has welcomed applications from 49 U.S. states and from American citizens living throughout the world.

There is no live competition. The American Prize judges recorded performances only. Most contests feature separate divisions for professional musicians, pre-professionals (college and university), community musicians and high school age artists. There are no age limits.

Complete information on the website: www.theamericanprize.org

The American Prize: HISTORY and JUDGES

The American Prize grew from the belief that a great deal of excellent music being made in this country goes unrecognized and unheralded, not only in our major cities, but all across the country: in schools and churches, in colleges and universities, and by community and professional musicians.

With the performing arts in America marginalized like never before and media coverage harder than ever to get, The American Prize seeks to fill the gap that leaves excellent artists and ensembles struggling for visibility and viability. The American Prize recognizes and rewards the best America produces, without bias against small city versus large, or unknown artist versus well-known.

David Katz, chief judge of The American Prize, was recently honored by MUSICAL AMERICA as one of its Top Professionals of the Year for his work on behalf of The American Prize contests. Professional conductor, award-winning composer, playwright, actor and arts advocate, he is author and performer of MUSE of FIRE, the acclaimed one-man play about the art of conducting.

Joining Katz in selecting winners of The American Prize is a panel of judges as varied in background and experience as the organization hopes the winners of The American Prize will be. Made up of distinguished musicians representing virtually every region of the country, the group includes professional vocalists, conductors, composers and pianists, tenured professors and orchestra, band and choral musicians.

“Most artists may never win a Grammy award, or a Pulitzer, or a Tony, or perhaps ever be nominated,” Katz said, “but that does not mean that they are not worthy of recognition and reward. Quality in the arts is not limited to the coasts, or to the familiar names, or only to graduates of a few schools. It is on view all over the United States, if you take the time to look for it. The American Prize exists to encourage and herald that excellence.”

By shining a light on nationally recognized achievement, winners of The American Prize receive world-class bragging rights to use in promotion right at home. “If The American Prize helps build careers, or contributes to local pride, or assists in increasing the audience for an artist or ensemble, builds the donor base, or stimulates opportunities or recruitment for winning artists and ensembles, then we have fulfilled our mission,” Katz said.

The American Prize is administered by Hat City Music Theater, Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit performing arts organization based in Danbury, Connecticut.


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