Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Winners: CONDUCTORS (orchestra), 2019-20


The American Prize wishes everyone safety and health during this difficult time.


The American Prize National Nonprofit Competitions in the Performing Arts, David Volosin Katz, founder and chief judge, is honored to announce the winners, runners-up, and honorable mentions of The American Prize in Conducting, 2019-20, in orchestra divisions. Congratulations!

Complete listings of finalists and semi-finalists in The American Prize competitions may be found elsewhere on this blog. Please use the chronological tool in the right-hand column to find specific results.

COVID EXTENSIONS: Because of the current national and international situation, many rules have been changed and requirements eased to make it easier to apply for The American Prize 2020-21. In addition, application deadlines have been extended. We will accept applications from COMPOSERS, CLASSICAL VOCALISTS, PIANISTS, CHAMBER ENSEMBLES and INSTRUMENTAL SOLOISTS postmarked or emailed by Wednesday, September 9, 2020. Applications from CONDUCTORS, STAGE DIRECTORS, CONDUCTED ENSEMBLES, ARTS ADMINISTRATORS (arts marketing, arts education) and in the performance of American Music (BACON AWARD) will be accepted until Wednesday, September 9, 2020. Further extensions may be granted pending the most current information about the virus.

Please make us aware of any misprints: theamericanprize@gmail.com


The American Prize in Conducting—professional orchestra division, 2019-20

The American Prize winner:
Markand Thakar
Baltimore Chamber Orchestra 
Baltimore MD  

Markand Thakar
Markand Thakar is Music Director of the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra. His career has taken him to orchestras in Europe, Asia, and across North America, including concerts with the New York Philharmonic, the National Symphony, and some 40 others.

Highlights of his 15 seasons with BCO include a five-concert tour of China and three CDs for the Naxos label, including a disc named to Naxos’ 2009 “Best of the Best” list. In a 12-year tenure as Music Director of the Duluth Superior Symphony the orchestra saw dramatic growth to what Minnesota Public Radio called “Minnesota’s other great orchestra.”

Noted internationally as a pedagogue, his annual intensive conductor training programs draw conductors from five continents.

Thakar is a protégé of the legendary Sergiu Celibidache, and author of three seminal books on music, including On the Principles and Practice of Conducting (University of Rochester Press.)


2nd Place:
Ryan Murray
Modesto Symphony
Modesto CA

Ryan Murray
Ryan Murray is the newly appointed Artistic Director & Conductor of Music in the Mountains, the Associate Conductor for the Modesto Symphony Orchestra, Music Director for the Modesto Symphony Youth Orchestra and Music Director of Opera Modesto. Ryan is also the current Director of Orchestra at California State University, Sacramento. Ryan was the 2016/17 winner of the American Prize in Opera Conducting (Professional Division), the 2014 winner of the Vienna Philharmonic’s Ansbacher Fellowship. He previously studied at the Eastman School of Music's Summer Conducting Institute and has attended masterclasses around the world, studying with some of the world’s top conductors including Kurt Masur and Susanna Mälkki.  Ryan also previously served as Music Director for Fresno Grand Opera, and was a staff conductor for BASOTI and the Opera Academy of California. Ryan is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Music Business from the Berklee College of Music. Visit www.ryanjmurray.com for news and upcoming engagements.


3rd Place:
Victor Shlyakhtenko  
South Coast Symphony
Orange County CA

Victor Shlyakhtenko  
Hailed by the Los Angeles Opus for his “formidable display of pianism” and “impeccable clarity,” seventeen-year-old pianist and conductor Victor Shlyakhtenko has appeared with ten orchestras in the United States, soloed on the stages of Walt Disney Concert Hall and Carnegie Hall, and recently made his conducting debut leading the South Coast Symphony in a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture.

In April 2019, Victor received second place in the 22nd International Virginia Waring Intermediate Concerto Competition, as well as an honorable mention in the competition’s solo category. Later that month, Victor was awarded the Elvin S. McGaughey Platinum Prize in the Glendale Piano Competiton. Victor’s other accolades include first prizes in the Los Angeles International Liszt Competition, Music Center’s Spotlight competition, American Prize in Piano,  among others.

Victor made his concerto debut at the age of 12, performing Mendelssohn’s Concerto No. 1 with the Orange Coast Symphony. Since then, he has appeared with numerous orchestras, performing concerti by Chopin, Grieg, Liszt, Mendelssohn, and Mozart, as well as Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy.  Victor intends to pursue a double major in piano performance and conducting.


The American Prize in Conducting—college/university orchestra division, 2019-20

The American Prize winner:
David A. Rahbee
University of Washington Symphony Orchestra 
Seattle WA

David A. Rahbee
David Alexander Rahbee is currently Senior Artist in Residence at the University of Washington School of Music in Seattle, where he is Director of Orchestral Activities and teaches conducting. He also serves of faculty of the Pierre Monteux School and Music Festival as Conducting Associate. He is recipient of the American- Austrian Foundation's 2003 Karajan Fellowship for Young Conductors, the 2005 International Richard-Wagner-Verband Stipend, and the Acanthes Centre in Paris in 2007. He has recently worked with the Seattle Symphony, Orchesterakademie der Bochumer Symphoniker, the Seattle Modern Orchestra, and Orquesta Sinfónica de Loja. He participated in masterclasses with Kurt Masur, Sir Colin Davis, Jorma Panula, Zdeněk Mácal, Peter Eötvös, and Zoltán Peskó. His principal conducting teachers were Charles Bruck and Michael Jinbo at the Monteux School. He holds degrees from Indiana University, New England Conservatory, and University of Montreal. He also studied at Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst, Vienna.


2nd Place (there was a tie):
Ian Passmore
Indiana University Symphony Orchestra 
Bloomington IN  

Ian Passmore
“Ian Passmore is a rising young conductor,” one who “doesn’t press forward with unneeded aggression—the music simply unfolds” (Fanfare! Magazine). Currently the Assistant Conductor of the Omaha Symphony, Dr. Passmore leads their programs in the areas of education, youth, and community engagement. Prior to his appointment in Omaha, he served as Associate Instructor of Orchestral Conducting at the renowned Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, where he led all aspects of the IU Conductor’s and All-Campus orchestras, and organized the day-to-day activities of the Orchestral Conducting department.

Dr. Passmore studied conducting at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music (Doctor of Music), University of Delaware (Master of Music), University of North Carolina (Post-Bachelor’s studies), and University of North Carolina at Greensboro (Bachelor of Arts). His principal conducting teachers were David Effron, Arthur Fagen, James Allen Anderson, Tonu Kalam, and the late Robert Gutter. Dr. Passmore is a member of the League of American Orchestras, Conductors Guild, and the honors music society Pi Kappa Lambda. In 2019, he was elected to the Conductors Guild Board of Directors. For more information regarding Dr. Ian Passmore, please visit MaestroPassmore.com.


2nd Place (there was a tie):
Ji Hyun Yim
U-Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra
Madison WI    

Ji Hyun Yim
A native of Busan, Korea, Ji Hyun (Jenny) Yim developed a love and passion for music at a young age which led and continues to lead her through multitudes of challenges, achievements, and accolades. Yim, who maintains an active career as a conductor was an apprentice conductor of the Abilene Philharmonic; assistant conductor of the UNT Symphony Orchestra; conductor of Nova, UNT’s new music ensemble; music director of the Korean Central Baptist Church (Irving, Texas); and founder of the Onnuri Church’s Joshua Choir.

Yim is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in orchestral conducting at the UW–Madison Mead Witter School of Music, where she serves as music director of the Medical Orchestra of University of Wisconsin and assistant conductor for the UW–Madison Symphony Orchestra and University Opera. Yim believes that music is a universal language and changes lives, filling them with joy; she expresses her feelings without verbal communication.


3rd Place (there was a tie):
Daniel Cook
Northwestern University Chamber Ensemble
Evanston IL

Daniel Cook
Daniel Cook serves on the faculty at the University of North Texas College of Music. Daniel has completed coursework toward a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at Northwestern University, where he studied with Dr. Mallory Thompson. He holds his Master of Music degree in Conducting from Northwestern University and his Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Georgia.

Daniel previously taught in the public schools in Florida. His students have enjoyed success, earning superior ratings at district and state solo, small ensemble, and large group performance festivals. His ensembles have performed at the FMEA In-Service Conference and the Music for All National Concert Band Festival. Additionally, while in Florida, served as staff pianist and organist at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Daytona Beach. Daniel is currently the assistant brass caption head at the Phantom Regiment and is an active clinician and guest conductor.


3rd Place (there was a tie):
Jeffrey Klefstad
All University Orchestra-Carnegie Mellon University
Pittsburgh PA 

Jeffrey Klefstad
Jeffrey Klefstad is Music Director and Conductor of the All University Orchestra (AUO) at Carnegie Mellon University. He has led orchestras throughout North America and Europe, including the Aurora Festival Orchestra (Sweden), the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic (Czech Republic), McGill Symphony Orchestra (MGSO) and Contemporary Ensemble (MCE). He has collaborated with the saxophone quartet, Quasar, and worked with the Meitar Ensemble (Israel) under the guidance of Pierre-André Valade.

Previously, Klefstad served as assistant conductor for Resonance Works (Pittsburgh), was guest conductor in residence for l’Orchestre du Conservatoire de la Montérégie (Montreal), and cover conductor for the Pittsburgh, Akron and Edgewood Symphony Orchestras, and the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh. He has worked with acclaimed conductors and composers, Leif Segerstam, Kurt Masur, Manfred Honeck, Steve Reich, Jennifer Higdon, Roberto Sierra, and Samuel Jones, among others. He is a student of Alexis Hauser.


Finalist Honorable Mention:
Robert Denham
Biola Conservatory New Music 
La Mirada CA    

Robert Denham
Robert Denham (RobertDenham.com) holds music degrees from the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, UCLA, and Biola University.  He studied conducting with Robert Feller and Rodney Winther, and currently serves as director of the New Music Ensemble at the Biola Conservatory of Music (11 years), and as music director for the Biola Youth Theater orchestra (also 11 years).  He also occasionally directs the Biola Symphony Orchestra, and has made guest appearances conducting both the California State University Bakersfield Concert Band and the combined-university wind ensemble at the 35th Annual Intercollegiate Symposium for New Band Music in Virginia.  He directs ensembles of various sizes in a wide range of musical repertoire that includes Beethoven, Puccini, Shostakovich, Rogers and Hammerstein, and myriads of current professional and student composers.  Each year he works with high-school and middle-school level ensembles in honor band and clinic settings.



The American Prize in Conducting—community orchestra division, 2019-20

The American Prize winner:
Ji Hyun Yim  
Medical Orchestra of 
University of Wisconsin
Madison WI   
 
Ji Hyun Yim
A native of Busan, Korea, Ji Hyun (Jenny) Yim developed a love and passion for music at a young age which led and continues to lead her through multitudes of challenges, achievements, and accolades. Yim, who maintains an active career as a conductor was an apprentice conductor of the Abilene Philharmonic; assistant conductor of the UNT Symphony Orchestra; conductor of Nova, UNT’s new music ensemble; music director of the Korean Central Baptist Church (Irving, Texas); and founder of the Onnuri Church’s Joshua Choir.

Yim is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in orchestral conducting at the UW–Madison Mead Witter School of Music, where she serves as music director of the Medical Orchestra of University of Wisconsin and assistant conductor for the UW–Madison Symphony Orchestra and University Opera. Yim believes that music is a universal language and changes lives, filling them with joy; she expresses her feelings without verbal communication.


2nd Place:
Scott E. Woodard 
Charleston Chamber Orchestra  
Charleston WV 
   
Scott E. Woodard 
Scott E. Woodard is the music director of the West Virginia State Philharmonic Orchestra (formerly known as the Charleston Chamber Orchestra) and the Ashland Ballet Orchestra. Woodard’s study and pursuit of conducting has taken him all over the world. Past podiums include: guest conductor of the Macon Symphony Orchestra (2006), associate conductor (2016-17) and cover conductor (2013-16) of the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra, finalist in the Pittsburgh Philharmonic Orchestra conductor search (2019), guest conductor for the Gwinnett Symphony Chamber Orchestra (2020), and finalist in the Butler Philharmonic Orchestra conductor search (2020). Future podium dates are booked with the Ohio Valley Symphony Orchestra in Gallipolis, Ohio.  Woodard was named First Prize winner of the International Conductor’s Workshop Competition (2006) and First Prize winner at the International Academy of Advanced Conducting in St. Petersburg, Russia, where he is now a full faculty member of the Academy.  Celebrated guest artists with whom Dr. Woodard has worked include Victoria Fatu, Romanian violinist Gabriel Croitoru, Israeli tenor Michael Riskin, Cristian Fatu, and Yip Wai Chow.

Dr. Woodard’s primary teachers were Dr. Leonid Korchmar of the Mariinsky Theatre and the St. Petersburg Conservatory and Dr. Oleg Proskurnya, with whom he studied the methods of the Leningrad School of Conducting developed and taught by Maestro Ilya Musin at the Leningrad Conservatory from 1932-1999.In 2005 and 2011, Woodard conducted orchestras of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Society and the Mariinsky Theatre in concerts throughout the former Russian capitol. He is a member of the Conductor’s Guild and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia fraternity.


3rd Place (there was a tie):
Michael Isadore 
Houston Civic Symphony
Houston TX 

Michael Isadore 
An energetic and dynamic musician, Michael Isadore serves as Associate Conductor of the Houston Civic Symphony, Philharmonia Conductor with the Houston Youth Symphony, and director of orchestras at Dulles High School.  Under his direction, the Dulles High School orchestra symphony and string orchestras have been consistent “commended winners” in the Mark of Excellence competition and recognized as the 2012 National Winner. Other honors include performances at the Midwest Clinic in 2016 and 2004 and runner up for TMEA Honor Orchestra in 2005. In 2010 Mr. Isadore was recognized with the Spec’s Charitable Foundation Award for Excellence in Music Education presented by the Houston Symphony.

An accomplished clarinetist, Isadore also holds the second clarinet position with the Victoria Symphony and freelances in the Houston area.  Isadore holds degrees in clarinet and conducting from Baylor University and the University of Missouri—Kansas City, Conservatory of Music.


3rd Place (there was a tie):
Taka Matsunaga
Midwest Philharmonic Orchestra 
Schaumburg IL 


Taka Matsunaga
Taka Matsunaga came to the U.S. in 1998 to pursue his violin studies with David Taylor, Joseph Golan and Robert Chen, while attending Roosevelt University and Northeastern Illinois University, where he received a Master of Arts in Music. From 1999-2001, he was a regular member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago. In March 2000, he performed at Carnegie Hall under the baton of Maestro Daniel Barenboim. While playing in the Civic Orchestra, Taka has played with many world known conductors including Neeme Jarvi, Christoph Eschenbach, Osmo Vanska, Pierre Boulez, Pinchas Zukerman, to name just a few. Taka has played with the Illinois Symphony Orchestra, South Bend Symphony Orchestra and Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra. Taka has made his conducting debut at Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center in Chicago in 2016, and at Carnegie Hall in New York in 2018. He is a founder of the Midwest Philharmonic Orchestra. From the fall of 2019, Taka will start serving as an adjunct faculty (Orchestra Director) at Elmhurst College, Elmhurst, Illinois.


Finalist Honorable Mention:
Martha Stoddard
Oakland Civic Orchestra 
Oakland CA  

Martha Stoddard
Martha Stoddard enjoys a rich and varied career in the Bay Area as conductor, educator, composer and flutist. She was appointed Artistic Director of the Oakland Civic Orchestra in 1997, and has been an Associate Conductor of the San Francisco Composers Chamber Orchestra for over a decade. She served as Resident Conductor for Enriching Lives Through Music in San Rafael for three years and  is Chair of the Performing Arts Department at Lick-Wilmerding High School. She also worked as Director of the John Adams Young Composers’ Program at the Crowden Music Center for two years, and recently assumed role of conductor for the Piedmont Chamber Orchestra.


Finalist Honorable Mention:
Ivan Shulman
Los Angeles Doctors Symphony  
Los Angeles CA 
   
Ivan Shulman
Ivan Shulman is an award winning conductor, teacher, clinician and virtuoso performer, who became Music Director of the Los Angeles Doctors Symphony Orchestra in 1990. Although trained as a surgeon, he has never been far from music, playing oboe professionally including many appearances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic as both tour physician and oboist.  In 2008 he received a Master’s degree in Music in orchestral conducting from the California State University at Long Beach, where he wrote a thesis on and conducted the Second Symphony of Charles Ives. For his efforts, he received the Outstanding Graduate Thesis award from the University, and subsequently was on the music faculty. In addition to his musical activities, he currently is a Voluntary Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery at the University of California-Los Angeles, where he delights in teaching the next generation of physicians at the David Geffen School of Medicine. 


The American Prize in Conducting—youth/school orchestra division, 2019-20

The American Prize winner:
Mary Gerard
All About Music San Diego
San Diego CA    

Mary Gerard
Mary Gerard, conductor, is celebrated for her success as a teacher of violin and viola. Throughout her career she has produced string students who now occupy principal positions in noted professional orchestras throughout the nation.

Mary held first violin and viola positions with the San Diego Symphony, the San Diego Chamber Orchestra, the San Diego Opera Orchestra and Starlight Opera. She holds a B.A., M.A. Certificate from Dreilinden Conservatory in Switzerland and classes completed for a Ph.D. at UCSD. Her teachers include Nick Stamon, Gilbert Bach of the Berlin Philharmonic, Gerhart Heizel, concertmaster of Vienna Philharmonic, Wolfgang Schneiderhan, soloist for Deutch Gramophone.  Her career includes a professorship in the music department of SDSU, teaching violin, viola, symphonic literature, chamber music literature, and coaching chamber music classes.  Her quartet performed for Young Audiences for ten years, and her ERA trio made a debut in New York’s' Carnegie Recital Hall."


2nd Place: 
Michael Webster
Houston Youth Symphony
Houston TX  
 
Michael Webster
Michael Webster is Professor of Music at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music and Artistic Director of the Houston Youth Symphony, winner of six national awards between 2008 and 2011. Described by the Boston Globe as “a virtuoso of burgeoning prominence,” he has collaborated with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Tokyo, Cleveland, Muir, Ying, Enso, Leontóvych, and Chester String Quartets and many internationally-known artists including Yo-Yo Ma, Joshua Bell, Lynn Harrell, and many others. He has been associated with some of North America’s finest festivals, including Marlboro, Santa Fe, Chamber Music West and Northwest, Norfolk, Angel Fire, Steamboat Springs, Sitka, Park City, Skaneateles, Stratford (Ontario), Maui, La Musica di Asola, Victoria (BC), and Domaine Forget (Quebec). As a soloist he has appeared with many orchestras, including the Philadelphia Orchestra with Aaron Copland and the Boston Pops with John Williams, and was for many years Aaron Copland’s favorite interpreter of his Clarinet Concerto.

Webster’s recital career began at Town Hall in 1968 with his eminent father, Beveridge Webster, as pianist. That same year he won Young Concert Artists’ International Competition and became Principal Clarinetist of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. Since then he has performed in all of New York City’s major halls, across the United States, and in Canada, Mexico, Central America, South America, Japan, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. He has appeared as guest artist at the 92nd Street “Y”, Da Camera of Houston, and Context. High Fidelity/Musical America placed his CRI recording of American clarinet music on its Best Recordings list and Artists International selected him for its Distinguished Artist Award.


3rd Place: 
Michael Shane Wittenburg
Elite Academy for Strings Chamber 
Englewood Cliffs  NJ
    
Michael Shane Wittenburg
Conductor and pianist Michael Shane Wittenburg made his European debut with the Romanian National Theater of Opera and Ballet “Oleg Danovski” conducting Puccini’s Turandot and has served as assistant conductor with multiple opera companies including in Nashville, Orlando, and Sarasota. As a symphony conductor, he has appeared in concert with Adelphi Chamber Orchestra (NJ), Norwalk Symphony (CT) and Ocala Symphony (FL).  He was Music Director of both the Chamber Orchestra and Opera Theatre while an Assistant Professor of Music at Lee University.  The former Artistic Director of the Hudson Valley Chorale, he is currently the Chorus Master of NJ Association of Verismo Opera, a faculty member of the Precollege for Manhattan School of Music, is on the conducting staff of Manhattan Opera Studio and Amore Opera, and is the Organist and Director of Music at Christ Lutheran Church of Paramus, NJ. 


Finalist Honorable Mention:
Alex Wise
MISA Summer Festival Youth Orchestra 
Shanghai China  

Alex Wise
Alex Wise is a conductor and educator from the United States and currently lives in Shanghai, China where he is Music Director of the Shanghai Children's Art Theatre Jr. Orchestra and the Pinghe Youth Orchestras. Alex has served on the faculty of Shanghai Orchestra Academy and has been invited as guest lecturer at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. He has served as Conductor for Shanghai Symphony Orchestra’s MISA Summer Festival Youth Orchestra since 2016.

Prior coming to China, Alex received his DMA in conducting from the University of South Carolina. His appointments included Music Director of the Kamera Orchestra of Columbia, The APS Youth Summer Festival, The New Music Festival of Louisiana and held the position of Assistant Conductor with the Rapides Symphony Orchestra. His guest conducting appearances include the Sonoma County Philharmonic, Aurora Symphony Orchestra, Louisiana Symphonietta, and the Topeka Opera Society. His website is www.alexwiseconductor.com



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