Sunday, January 29, 2012


The American Prize is pleased to announce 2012 competitions for ENSEMBLES and CONDUCTORS. All have a postmark deadline of Thursday, March 15, 2012.

Ensemble competitions for 2012 include ORCHESTRAS, CHORUSES, CONCERT BANDS, OPERA COMPANIES and MUSICAL THEATER COMPANIES. Conductors and music directors in all those concentrations, as well as their ensembles, are eligible.

Music directors may also apply for The American Prize—Vytautas Marijosius Memorial Award in the unique field of Orchestral Programming.

Complete information and application forms may be found on The American Prize website, where recent winners are profiled.

DEADLINE APPROACHING for vocalists, composers, pianists

Monday, February 6 is the absolute postmark deadline for pianists in solo and concerto performance and composers of choral or orchestral music to apply for The American Prize, 2012. It is also the deadline for vocalists to apply for The American Prize in the divisions of art song or opera/operetta, and for the Chicago Opera Award.

Semi-finalists, finalists and winners in all categories will be announced according to the schedule published with each competition. We expect Chicago Opera Award winners to be selected by the end of February. Application forms on our website:


Sunday, January 22, 2012

MORE questions & answers from SINGERS, COMPOSERS and PIANISTS

Here are answers to several more questions we have received from applicants. Most apply to all contestants in the vocal, piano and composition contests. (For additional Q&A posts, please visit HEADLINE NEWS on The American Prize website to locate them easily on our blogs.)

Please note that the extended postmark deadline for applications is Monday, February 6, 2012. Although the date on the website and application forms will not be changed, all applications postmarked by the extended deadline will be considered on-time for all divisions of the composition, vocal and piano competitions.


GENERAL: I have a combination of DVD and CD selections to submit. Must they be on one disc?
No. You may send both types of recordings with your application. Be sure to send two copies of each. There is no need to combine selections on one disc.

GENERAL: I am eligible to apply for The American Prize, but all my performances are with foreign ensembles. May I submit those?
Yes. Any performance (from anywhere) by qualified applicants that fulfills the general guidelines as outlined in the application is acceptable.  

GENERAL: I have a combination of studio and live recordings. Is that ok to submit?
Yes. Any combination of selections that fulfill the general guidelines for the recordings is perfectly acceptable.

COMPOSER: I am a composer and have selections by several different ensembles, including some not in the U.S. Is that ok?
Yes. Performances by multiple ensembles is fine. It does not matter where the ensembles were located or when the recordings were made.

COMPOSER: I don't have an actual performance of my piece (in front of an audience) but I do have a good reading that I feel does my work justice. May I submit that?
Absolutely. Any "performance" that you feel is a good representation of your work is acceptable (except midi or other computer generated performances.) Works must have been performed with the instrumentation or type of ensemble for which they were originally written.

COMPOSER: I have a performance of my work but have revised it since then. May I submit the revised score with the older recording?
Yes. We do recommend that you include a note with your application bringing any substantive changes to the judges' attention. 

COMPOSER: I have one choral piece I would really like to submit, about seven minutes long. Must I send more?
No. One piece is fine. You decide what to submit, up to the limit of 30 minutes in the choral composition area.

Additional questions? Please email:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

POSTMARK DEADLINE EXTENDED to Monday, FEBRUARY 6, 2012 for vocalists, pianists, composers

We have heard from a number of applicants who just discovered The American Prize and would appreciate a little more time to complete applications.

We are pleased to announce postmark deadline extensions of two weeks: to Monday, FEBRUARY 6, 2012 for vocalists, pianists and composers in all categories for our 2012 contests. There is no need to contact the office to request an extension. They will be granted automatically.

Any application postmarked by February 6 will be considered ON TIME for this year's competitions. (Please note that the date on the application forms and on the website will not be changed to reflect the later deadline date.)

Questions? Please email the office at

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

ROBERT SOLLER, former Schorr Prize judge, has died

The American Prize notes with sadness the passing of Robert Soller, former artistic director of the Croswell Opera House. It was Soller, together with The American Prize chief judge, David Katz, who served as the first adjudicator for the Friedrich Schorr Prize, the precursor to The American Prize in Vocal Performance—Friedrich and Virginia Schorr Memorial Awards.

The Friedrich Schorr Prize was the vehicle Katz created to select vocal soloists for productions of OPERA!Lenawee, the professional opera company he and Soller founded in 1990 to bring professional opera to the magnificently restored civil-war-era Croswell Opera House in Adrian, Michigan. OPERA!Lenawee was a unique collaboration between Lenawee County Michigan's two premiere performing arts organizations, the Croswell and the Adrian Symphony Orchestra, where Katz was music director.

Between 1990 and 1995, with Soller as stage director and Katz as conductor, the team produced La Boheme, Die Fledermaus, Carmen, La Traviata and Tosca, with gifted professional casts, selected from thoughout the country through the Schorr Prize contest, bringing live opera to the opera house (and to Lenawee County) for the very first time. Later, with Katz conducting and renowned English soprano Lorna Haywood as stage director, OPERA!Lenawee went on to produce Albert Herring, Madama Butterfly, Gianni Schicchi, I Pagliacci, and a semi-staged production of Cosi fan tutte, before a final La Boheme, (this this time directed by William Shomos), ten years later, bringing the company full circle.

To read Katz's remembrance of his friend and colleague, please follow this link to the Friedrich Schorr Prize blog.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

THE AMERICAN PRIZE: A Competition LIKE NO OTHER and a unique career builder

You have recordings. We want to hear them.


The American Prize is unique—the only national, nonprofit competitions in the performing arts based solely on the evaluation of commercial and noncommercial CDs and DVDs of performing artists.
  • No live competition.
  • No age limits.
  • Few repertoire restrictions.
  • 1 page application form.
  • Multiple divisions for professional, college/university, community, high school musicians.
Complete information, application forms, biographies of judges and winners:

2012 Competitions:
  • National: Pianists (solo, concerto)
  • National: Classical Vocalists (opera/operetta, art song) 
  • Chicago Opera Award (additional opportunity)
  • National: Composers (choral music, orchestral music)
Postmark Deadline Monday, January 23, 2012
Automatic two-week extensions to February 6, 2012 for those who just heard of the competitions and need more time to complete applications.

Winners of The American Prize receive:
  • cash awards
  • award certificates (to all semi-finalists, finalists and winners)
  • unbiased written evaluations from our national panel of distinguished judges (to all contestants who place as a finalist or higher)
but more important, laureates of The American Prize derive local, regional and national recognition to help them generate opportunities, build audiences and sustain careers.

In a world where the performing arts are more marginalized than ever before and media coverage harder than ever to get, The American Prize provides its contestants with the visibility and recognition they need to stand out from the rest.

  • 1-page application form.
  • Send bio and photo by email.
  • Send CD, DVD or VHS tape by mail. 
  • All applications are acknowledged upon receipt.
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 have been met. Excellence within categories is the primary criteria for the selection of finalists and winners.

Since 2010, more than $7500 in prize money has been distributed to winners.

Other 2012 Competitions:
  • Orchestras
  • Choruses
  • Bands/Wind Ensembles
  • Opera and Musical Theater companies
  • Conductors
Postmark Deadline Thursday, March 15, 2012


  • No live competition. Contestants are judged solely through their recorded performances.
  • No age limits.
  • Separate categories for professional, college/university, community and high school musicians.
  • Few repertoire restrictions.
  • Written evaluations provided to all finalists, runners-up and winners from our distinguished panel of judges.
  • Personal communication and published timelines for the announcement of semi-finalists, finalists and winners.
  • Minimal application fee.
Complete information:

For the most up-to-date information, including questions and answers from contestants, please visit THE AMERICAN PRIZE HEADLINE NEWS.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Famed American soprano, BRENDA LEWIS, named DISTINGUISHED JUDGE EMERITUS of The American Prize

The American Prize is honored to announce that the extraordinary American soprano, Brenda Lewis, (shown above with composer Marc Blitzstein, photo courtesy Sony Music Entertainment) is our first Distinguished Judge Emeritus. Miss Lewis's career, jaw-dropping in its variety and accomplishment, has included outstanding successes in opera and light opera (at the Met, New York City Opera, on tour, and in world premieres of operas by Marc Blitzstein and Jack Beeson) on Broadway and television, and as stage director and educator.

“I have had the privilege (and the fun) of knowing Brenda Lewis for more than three decades,” commented David Katz, chief judge of The American Prize, “starting as her assistant conductor for performances of Benjamin Britten’s Albert Herring at the Hartt School in 1980s. 

"When I moved the original Friedrich Schorr Prize from Michigan to Connecticut in 2000, it was Brenda (and her dear friend and fellow artist Adelaide Bishop) who I turned to to head up the judging panel. 

"I am delighted that Brenda Lewis has agreed to offer her name and expertise to the Schorr competition’s reincarnation as The American Prize in Vocal Performance—Friedrich and Virginia Schorr Memorial Awards. We are deeply honored by her attention and interest.”


(Photo of Brenda Lewis as Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus.)

The following biography of Miss Lewis is excerpted from a longer version written by Lucy Cross of, where the full version may be found.

Brenda Lewis grew up in Sunbury, PA. After attending the Curtis Institute, she auditioned for the Philadelphia Opera Company and at the age of nineteen made her operatic debut with the Company in the role of the Marschallin(!) in Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier.

Miss Lewis’s first Broadway appearance was in The Merry Widow (1944), with the famous Polish tenor Jan Kiepura. After World War II, Brenda Lewis supplemented performances at the City Center Opera (The Bartered Bride, Faust, and The Gypsy Baron, Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia), with gigs as a nightclub blues singer and standup comic.

Brenda Lewis attributes her early success to the fact that she could absorb music and words (in any language) almost on the spot: to learn the role of Marie in Wozzeck at the NY City Center Opera she took only three days, and once in 1945, when a scheduled soprano became indisposed, she learned Marguerite in Faust in twenty-four hours.

By 1949 Brenda Lewis was the Carmen, the Salome, and the Santuzza of choice at the City Opera. One night after a performance of Salome, Marc Blitzstein and Leonard Bernstein came backstage to congratulate her, and Blitzstein mentioned in the course of the conversation that although the title role of Regina in his new opera (based on Lillian Hellman’s play The Little Foxes) was being written for a mezzo-soprano, the soprano role of Birdie was still open. “I felt that it was fated to be mine,” said Lewis later...Regina came to the 46th Street Theatre in New York on October 31, 1949, and played to excited and uplifted audiences for 56 performances.

Brenda Lewis made her debut with the Metropolitan Opera Company in 1952 in the role of Musetta in La Bohème, and followed it very shortly thereafter with Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus.

Over the next ten years Lewis appeared at the Met as Rosalinde, as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Venus in Tannhäuser, Marie in Wozzeck, Marina in Boris Godunov, and as Carmen, Salome, and Vanessa. Yet she did not abandon Broadway – for a three-month run in 1954 she performed with French ballet star Zizi Jeanmaire in The Girl in Pink Tights. She continued to sing with City Opera as well, taking on the central role of Regina in revivals of the Blitzstein opera, when the production was recorded for Columbia.

Lewis traveled extensively in the 1950s: she toured with the Metropolitan Opera to leading American cities coast to coast and had comparable successes in her signature roles with regional opera companies in Pittsburgh, Central City, New Orleans, Boston, Montreal, Seattle, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, and Chicago. Nor was she confined to the shores of North America: she went to Rio de Janeiro to sing Venus, Musetta, Santuzza, Marguerite, Marina, and Donna Elvira, and to Cuba to sing Santuzza.

In 1956 she was engaged at the Volksoper in Vienna, Austria, to star in the first gala full-scale European production of Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate. It was such a sensational success that she was asked to return the following season in Annie Get Your Gun, in the Ethel Merman role. She was subsequently invited to sing both these roles at the Zurich Opera in Switzerland, as well as Carmen and Salome.

In 1963 Lewis began a new career as producer and stage director for the New Haven Opera Company in Connecticut. She had not stopped performing, however. In 1965 Jack Beeson’s Lizzie Borden, with Lewis in the title role, had its world premiere at the New York City Opera; it was filmed by WGBH in Boston and broadcast nationally.

In 1973 Lewis took on yet another role: as Professor of Voice and Opera at the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford. Inaugurating a new Musical Theater Program at Hartt, her Die Fledermaus at the University of Hartford in 1989 was filmed for Connecticut Public TV and won a regional Emmy.

Monday, January 2, 2012

JAY WHITE (8 year veteran of CHANTICLEER) and TAP judge, shares a sample VOCAL EVALUATION

JAY WHITE, eight-year veteran of the Grammy Award-winning vocal ensemble, CHANTICLEER, and a distinguished member of the judging panel for The American Prize, shares an evaluation he wrote for one of last year's finalists for The American Prize in Vocal Performance—Friedrich & Virginia Schorr Memorial Awards.

Although judges have a great deal of leeway about the structure and length of the evaluations they provide (some are shorter, some may be longer—others are provided in a matrix format, where the judge ranks each of a number of specific criteria) the paragraphs below represent a sample of the quality of evaluation we aspire to provide to every contestant who reaches Finalist status or higher in the competitions of The American Prize.

(Please note that judges' assignments are rotated annually, based on their qualifications, areas of interest, years of service and availability for a particular stage of the process.)

Here is what Dr. White wrote about one opera contestant. (The name of the vocalist has, of course, been removed.) 

A warm, resonant, and strong sound.
This is a well-produced tone! Very grounded and easy.

X has a strength to his sound that is very much based on resonance and a strong control of breath energy. There is no pushing to his tone and his upper range is well managed.

His lower range is well set within his body.
He has a good sense of textual phrasing.

His command of languages is spot on! He seems very at ease with French especially. (His strong character work here helped tremendously).

While I think his Rossini was not the strongest of his submissions, I did very much enjoy the attention he placed into his character (he seems to be having difficulty with managing his breath here).

X is a fine performer and a delight to listen to. His reverberant, warm voice is produced with such ease as to draw you in to hear every nuance. He has an intensity to his delivery that makes one want to see and hear just what he is to do next.

Dr. Jay White
Associate Professor of Voice
Hugh A. Glauser School of Music
Kent State University