Saturday, December 31, 2011

PIANISTS WEIGH in on the VALUE of The American Prize

How valuable is The American Prize in Piano Performance to those who participate? We have received unsolicited emails from several laureates we are proud to share.

In the welter of media "noise" every day,  it is sometimes difficult for artists to get the recognition they so clearly deserve: we are pleased that the value of The American Prize is getting through, even after only one year.

From Sarah Chan, winner of The American Prize in Piano Performance, 2011, professional division, concerto:

"I thank you for the objectives of your organization in encouraging many fine artists in their development. I am very thankful for the honor of The American Prize and am grateful for your continued support of excellence in music across this nation....Through The American Prize, your...efforts to encourage excellence in the arts at all levels nationally remain inspirational as a model of generosity, expressing the very soul of art."
—Sarah Chan, Assistant Professor of Music and Director of Keyboard Studies / Music Theory
Northwestern Oklahoma State University

From Catharine Dornin, The American Prize in Piano Performance
3rd place, 2011, professional division, concerto

"I am so thrilled to have been a part of this competition and all the wonderful opportunities it offers to its finalists and winners. I'm delighted to have my picture on your website and to have won third place in the Concerto Performance Category in the Professional Division. I definitely saw the press release that the Concord Monitor, our local newspaper, ran in August concerning my award and I appreciate this recognition so very much. It is wonderfully helpful to me both as a performer and music teacher. 

I've received so many congratulations from friends and acquaintances. I've tried to explain to them how The American Prize is a new and wonderful award opportunity for artists who've been laboring in relative obscurity for years to have their performances listened to and adjudicated by highly qualified judges and to give those performers professional recognition that is just invaluable and is so very affirming.

It's so helpful to my musical career to have all this great support and recognition. It is just a wonderful idea! We are all so very grateful." 

—Catharine Dornin, faculty
St Paul's School and Concord Community Music School, Concord, NH

And this, from a member of the national judging panel for The American Prize in Piano Performance:

"you've created a new type of art music competition.  Fantastic!"

Michael Benson
Assistant Professor of Music, Coordinator of Keyboard Studies and Education, Malone University, Canton, OH


The American Prize is unique. A non-profit organization that focuses on recognizing and rewarding artists solely based on their recorded performances, contestants avoid the hassle and expense of traveling to competitions. Our distinguished panel of nationally recognized judges provides every contestant, from finalist to winner, with unbiased written evaluations. With no age limits and few repertoire restrictions and separate divisions for professional, college/university, high school and amateur artists, we assist artists in building careers, audiences and visibility.

 The postmark deadline for The American Prize in Piano Performance, 2012, which includes separate competitions in solo performance and in concerto, is Monday, January 23, 2012.  Visit the The American Prize website for complete information, application forms, bios and photos of past winners, and more.

Friday, December 30, 2011

COMPOSER Q&A #2: rights, recordings and more

Some additional questions from composers.
(To read the first composer Q&A, follow this LINK.)

1. Does the composer retain all rights to his/her music if he applies (or wins)?

Without question. The composer relinquishes no rights whatsoever. We only ask to publish photos and bios of runners-up and winners, which may be posted to our website and blog. We do expect The American Prize channel on YouTube to go live this season and hope to post excerpts of winning compositions on the site, but only with the permission of the composer. (Sometimes, union rules or other contracted limitations prevent this from being possible.) The composer makes the final call.

 2.  In the choral contest, is there any limitation to the number of choral works that may be submitted to fill 30 minutes on the tape? May the recordings be by different ensembles?

There is no limit to the number of pieces represented within the 30 minutes, and no restrictions on the number or type of groups performing them, provided they are all identified. The focus in the composition contests is on the works themselves, rather on the performers, though of course, the performances that do the best justice to the music (in the opinion of the composer) are the ones to send.  

3. Whose links get selected for the NEWS highlights on your Facebook page?

Practically every week, The American Prize shares news links from competition laureates on our Facebook page, including the latest information from individual performing artists, ensembles and composers. The links help to highlight some of the many different ways contestants have shared their success in the competitions, as well as focusing on their ongoing achievements.

To submit a link of your own, or if you have additional questions, simply email

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Singers Q&A: MEZZOS REJOICE! (and other good news)

Here are some answers to a few questions we have received from classical vocalists about The American Prize in Vocal Performance, which has a postmark deadline of Monday, January 23, 2012.

1. Are mezzo-sopranos prohibited from applying for the Chicago Opera Award?

Of course not! All voice types and fachs are welcome to apply. We have clarified the requirements on the application form and on the website. (If you already downloaded the older application, don't worry—you can still use it!)

The CHICAGO OPERA AWARD is a special opportunity in 2012.

In addition to the national competitions of The American Prize listed on the website in opera/operetta and in art song, three $500 prizes will be awarded as performance fees to opera soloists selected to appear under Maestro David Katz's baton in concert with the Chicago Bar Association Symphony Orchestra & Chorus in May 2012. The Chicago Opera Award is geared primarily to those who live within comfortable travel distance of Chicago and can make their own housing arrangements.

The selection process for the Chicago Opera Award is separate from The American Prize judging. Winning one competition does not preclude the possibility of winning the other. Maestro Katz expects to select the winners of the Chicago Opera Award by March 1, 2012.

For more information about this opportunity, please follow this LINK to reach the application form and the specific webpage, which includes additional important information about the Chicago Opera Award.

2. The American Prize competition honors the memory of Friedrich Schorr, who was a great Wagner singer. I don't sing Wagner. Isn't that really what you are looking for? 

Absolutely not. Schorr was a great Wagnerian, yes, but he sang Mozart and Beethoven, and was a brilliant lieder and oratorio singer. (In fact, he credited his success and longevity in Bayreuth and at the MET to the fact that he said he sang Wagner like it was Mozart!)

The American Prize seeks to recognize and reward the finest vocalists in America at professional, college/university and amateur levels through the evaluation of your recorded performances. Wagner singers have no special advantage nor disadvantage: we seek excellence in any repertoire and at all levels of endeavor.

3. I don't live in the US and my recordings were made elsewhere. May I still apply?

Yes. The competitions 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. You need not prepare a special tape for The American Prize. A previous recording, whether of a performance 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 have been met. Excellence within categories is the primary criteria for the selection of finalists and winners. 

4. Who gets to be selected for The American Prize Winning Links?

The American Prize Winning Links is our new blog devoted to links of winners, runners-up, finalists and semi-finalists for The American Prize. Use the site to see some of the many different ways contestants have shared their success in the competitions, or to learn more about The American Prize laureates. We will update the site regularly, and will include 2012 laureates, when selected.

To submit a link or if you have additional questions, simply email

Monday, December 19, 2011


The New World Singers, winner in 2010 of The American Prize in Choral Performance in the youth choir division, performs at the White House in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday morning.  The New World Singers is the top ensemble of the Columbus and Central Ohio Children’s Chorus Foundation, Sandra Mathias, conductor, formed as a non-profit foundation in 1995. 

Quoting from Zanesville (OH) Times-Reporter:

“Dr. Mara Gross, the choir's managing director, said the group officially was contacted in September by the (White House’s) Social Affairs office.

"It's unique because groups usually request to sing but they got the call to go there," said Susan Hankinson, (parent.) "It's an honor, and to be there at Christmastime is exciting. I know it will be a wonderful experience for the kids..."

The group will...give a two-hour performance Tuesday morning in the Grand Foyer, the formal entrance of the White House...”

The New World Singers has toured in the U.S., Russia, Eastern Europe, and Canada. They have performed with the National Repertory Orchestra, Chautauqua Symphony, and the Columbus Symphony Orchestra.

This past summer, the New World Singers performed at the Lancaster Festival at the personal invitation of Maestro Gary Sheldon, festival music director, and winner, with his Lancaster Festival Orchestra, of The American Prize in Orchestral Performance and Conducting, also in 2010. 

Friday, December 16, 2011


We are very excited to announce that a new blog has joined our family of The American Prize websites. The American Prize Winning Links, is now live, featuring 2011 laureates of our piano, composition, and vocal competitions.

WINNING LINKS features websites and news stories from winners, runners-up and finalists for The American Prize. Use the new site to track how others share their success in the competitions, or to learn more about some of The American Prize laureates.

Whether semi-finalist, finalist or winner, participants in The American Prize are utilizing their success in the contests to bolster careers, build resumes and improve visibility.  

We plan to add many more links in the coming days, including from choruses, orchestras and conductors. If you have a link you think we should highlight, please email us the URL address at

Friday, December 9, 2011

COMPOSER Q&A—what style of music is most likely to win The American Prize? The answer may surprise you...

Answers by David Katz, chief judge of The American Prize.

Q: Aren't so-called "romantic" or "accessible" works more likely to win The American Prize?

A: I hate those terms as much as you probably do, and the short answer is a resounding "NO."  

"Challenging" music, whatever that means, elegantly crafted, performed at a level of accomplishment where its merits are clearly discernible, is every bit as likely to win The American Prize as more conventional works. 

We have no compositional axe to grind here—other than to bring to the larger musical community information about valuable pieces with which it may not be familiar. I charge my fellow judges to favor no style over another as a matter of policy, make every effort to avoid bias and conflict of interest (the judges' guidelines are particularly clear on this last point) and try to provide well-considered evaluation at every stage of the audition process. The best music, in the opinion of the judges—the work that most closely fulfills its artistic intent, regardless of style—should win.

(It strikes me with a certain irony, as someone who has "been in the business" longer than I care to admit, that it used to be the composers of "romantic" or "accessible" music who worried about being frozen out of the running—at least in competitions sponsored by elite performing and educational institutions...Times have changed.)

Anything we at The American Prize can do to raise the profile of the art of musical composition through the winning works we select, helps regain for American composers some of the attention and respect they once had, and still deserve.

Here are answers to other questions we have received from composers about The American Prize in Composition.

Q: Why must composers send recordings? Why don't you just accept the scores? And why not mp3 or other online files?
A: The recorded component is key to the philosophy of The American Prize—central to what makes it unique. Different from many composition contests which require that only new, unperformed works be submitted, The American Prize in Composition seeks to evaluate and reward composers of works which have already been performed and recorded. Here's why we think that's important: 

In an age when second hearings are sometimes more difficult to obtain than premieres, TAP provides a forum for the composer who has already accomplished thousands of hours of toil—shepherding a work from conception through to performance. By being previously performed—whether by a student, community or professional ensemble—submitted works have, to a certain extent, already been vetted. The scores (and parts) are more likely to be free of errors (and therefore more attractive to conductors interested in additional performances); the recording also helps provide the judges with more than a mind's ear conception: music being an aural art, they can hear (as well as see) the extent to which the composer seems to have satisfied his or her intended artistic aims, taking into consideration who is performing, of course. 

As for recordings sent via the internet, not everyone has exceptional audio playback on their computers, but most musicians have excellent systems to listen to cds and dvds. Internet connections are not yet all created equal—some are prone to failure, others may be exceptionally slow. Besides, there is something tangible about a recording in the hand. Having a physical recording requires a commitment to the act of audition; it requires the musician to say "now I will focus on listening to this new work by Composer X," an act which still feels very different from clicking on an MP3 link.

Likewise, printed scores. Of course many composers have their music available as PDFs, but speaking as a conductor, I like to have the score open before me: I like to easily turn the pages, turn back quickly, check a fact, confirm a hunch, observe on the printed page the geography of the work. Music is far easier to read on paper than on a computer screen, where the monitor may be too small to see the whole page, or too small to read the notes. 

II. What type of composers does The American Prize attract?
A: Serious ones, both professionals and students. A number of composers we have heard from generated additional performances of works directly as a result of their placement in the competitions.

We are told that The American Prize helps give its laureates a way to cut through the welter of "noise" in the marketplace, to derive local, regional and national attention for their work, while seeking to provide contestants at various stages of the selection process—whether they win or not—with visibility and feedback far beyond the modest application fee.

Click on the WINNERS button on the homepage of The American Prize website to see our composer laureates.

Q: I am an American citizen living outside the U.S. May I still apply? What about recordings by foreign ensembles?
A: Perfectly fine. The competitions 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. All application fees must be remitted in U.S. funds. Recordings by student, community or professional ensembles from anywhere in the world are acceptable.

David Katz, chief judge
The American Prize