Saturday, November 21, 2015

COMPOSER WINNERS: chamber music, 2015

The American Prize is honored to announce the winners, runners-up, honorable mentions and citations recipients in the chamber music division of The American Prize in Composition, 2015. Congratulations!

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—chamber music (professional division):

For the first time in its history, The American Prize has had a tie for first place in a competition. The American Prize in Composition (chamber music—professional division) is awarded to two distinguished creators, each for a string quartet. We congratulate these exceptional artists and hope the awarding of The Prize will help stimulate more performances of their music and additional recognition for their exceptional artistry. In alphabetical order:

The American Prize winner:
DAVID GARNER   San Francisco CA
for String Quartet No. 2
Composer David Garner (b. 1954) is well known and often performed in the San Francisco Bay Area.  His body of work reflects his historical knowledge, theatrical flair, and genre-defying technique. Critics call his works "alluring," "brilliant," "simple yet subtle," "beautiful," "imaginative," and "a heady and touching revelation."  As Janos Gereben of the San Francisco Classical Voice states: “Bottom line: It's the kind of new music you want to hear again.”

Recent critically-acclaimed premieres include "Vilna Poems", for soprano, clarinet, cello and piano (released on the Pentatone Classics CD, "The Hours Begin to Sing"), and String Quartet No. 2, premiered by the Han Quartet for the San Francisco-Shanghai International Chamber Music Festival. Looking forward, Garner composing a full-length opera for Opera Parallèle’s  2016-2017 season. Set in 1880's San Francisco Barbary Coast, with libretto by Mark Hernandez, it promises to be a vital and compelling new work. Website:

The American Prize winner:
for String Quartet 'The Figure'
Internationally recognized throughout the US., Europe and Asia as a distinguished composer.  Composer of 120 works spanning all genres. Pieces awarded Gold Medal-First Prizes  in international composition competitions, Guggenheim Fellowship, awards from both National Endowments (in Music  // in Humanities), 2003 Aaron Copland Award, 2012 honors in Orchestral Composition (The American Prize), and top prizes chamber music (Third Millennium; Tempus Continuum). Recently designated 2014  Commissioned Composer by The Sorel Organization: 50-minute fourth symphony, Pure, Cool  (Water), which received its world premiere by the Janacek Philharmonic in Vienna in November 2014, and is being recorded by that orchestra in spring 2015. Actively commissioned.  Music used as competition repertoire for international contests in piano, conducting and voice. Two dozen CDs currently available  (Naxos, MSR Classics, Navona, Leonarda, Albany).  Two works on Century Lists (Chamber Music America, International Piano magazine ). Publisher: Subito Music. Also a distinguished educator, skilled writer and editor, and active juror for  national competitions.

2nd place: 
for Tar o Pood (Warp and Weft)
Born in 1981 in Tehran, Iran, Aminikia studied music composition in Russia at the St. Petersburg State Conservatory under Boris Ivanovich Tishchenko, a post-graduate student of Dimitri Shostakovich. In his homeland, Aminikia studied under renowned Iranian composer, Mehran Rouhani, a former student of Michael Tippet and Iranian pianists, Nikan Milani, Safa Shahidi and Gagik Babayan.

He received his Bachelor of Music and his Master of Music with honors from San Francisco Conservatory of Music under Dan Becker, David Garner and David Conte where he was the proud recipient of Phyllis Wattis Foundation scholarship. He has also received lessons from Conrad Susa, Richard Danielpour, John Corigliano, Oswaldo Golijov and John Adams. He is the recipient of many various commissions from ensembles such as Kronos Quartet, Symphony Parnassus, San Francisco Conservatory of Music New Music Ensemble, Mobius Trio, Delphi Trio, Areon Flutes, and Living Earth Show.

3rd Place (there was a tie):
for Visions of the Anointed
Daniel McCarthy’s music has been described as "Sassy, foreboding, refreshing and kicky--it's called style" (USA Today).  Numerous recordings of his music appear on Albany, Centaur, d'Note Classics, Gasparo, and Klavier Records and 117 publications with C. Alan Publications.

Among awards for his music are The "Doc Severinsen International Composition Prize, The Harvey Phillips Excellence Award, New Generations Commissioning Project, The Sackler Award, The International New Music Consortium Prize, (New York University), Belgrade ppIANISSIMO Composition Prize, and a Life-Time Achievement Proclamation The State of Michigan Legislature.

Daniel is Professor and Chair of Composition and Theory at the University of Akron School of Music where he holds the Distinguished University Research Award.  He previously held the Theodore Dreiser Research/Creativity Award at the Indiana State University School of Music and served as Visiting Scholar at The University of Michigan, The Ohio University School of Music, and DePauw University. website:

3rd Place (there was a tie):
for Duplum

Filippo Santoro is an Italian composer who studied with composers Luciano Pelosi, Boris Porena and Stephen Dembski and draws inspiration from the teaching of Franco Donatoni. Santoro was born in Rome and received a Master’s Degree in composition as well as diplomas in piano performance and chamber music from the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia in Rome. He graduated from University of Bologna with a Master’s Degree in music and semiotics and from State University of New York, Binghamton with a Master’s Degree in composition. He holds a Doctorate of Musical Arts in composition at the University of Wisconsin where he was the recipient of the UW-Madison University Fellowship. His work Arioso Mistico for soprano and orchestra was the winner of the 2010 UW-Madison Concerto Competition.  His most recent music takes inspiration from nature and the way biological forms grow and develop. Recent commissions and premieres of his music include the UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra, Clocks in Motion percussion ensemble, UW-Madison Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, the Boston duo based Transient Canvas, the ensemble Lakeshore Rush and solo virtuosos such as Marc Vallon, Kostas Tiliakos and Doug Lindsey. He has been an artist in residence at the Kimmel Nelson Center for the Arts. Filippo continues to work with ensembles and performers who are engaged in his musical language and he is keen to explore and promote new avenues for composer and audience interaction through technology.

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

for Progeny of Memory
Matthew H. Fields focuses on the potential for non-verbal aspects of sound to fascinate, delight, and evoke wonder. The winner of the League-ISCM Composers Competition, Colorado State Music Teachers Association Composers Commission, Minnesota Orchestra Composers Institute and Reading Sessions, and various other honors, Fields follows Borodin's path by working for a hospital by day and composing by night. Born 1961 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Fields grew up Deerfield, Illinois, and earned degrees from Oberlin College, Oberlin Conservatory, Stanford University, and University of Michigan. Many of his works are recorded on the Centaur Records label. Fields is represented by Price Rubin and Partners, Matthew H. Fields on the Web: www.MatthewFields.NET

for This is the Light of Autumn
Stefanie Lubkowski studied flute, organ, and piano as a child before concentrating on the classical guitar. Early explorations with her mother’s Wurlitzer organ and in her high school’s electronic music studio nurtured Stefanie’s interest in creating sound worlds guided by harmony, punctuated by melody, and inspired by poetry and prose. She went on to study Music and Technology and Guitar Performance at Connecticut College and received her masters from New England Conservatory where her primary teachers were Lee Hyla and Pozzi Escot.

Stefanie has written for orchestra, voice, various chamber ensembles, and electronic media, including commissions from Auros Group for New Music, Ashleigh Gordon, Anthology, New Gallery Concert Series, Alea III, and The Fourth Wall Ensemble. She received her doctorate in composition from Boston University in 2014, where her teachers included Ketty Nez and Sam Headrick. Stefanie currently teaches at Brown University. To hear more of her music at

for String Quartet
With significant new works, the composer Kamyar Mohajer’s passion for music has resurfaced.  As a Silicon Valley tech executive, with a background in music and law, Mohajer resumed his pursuit of his true calling in 2007. Mohajer combines the influences of his Persian homeland with a unique approach to harmony, counterpoint and poly-tonality.   He has studied with the celebrated Iranian-American composer Behzad Ranjbaran, as well as with award-winning west coast composer Giancarlo Aquilanti.  Mohajer earned a BFA in music from York University in Toronto.

Mohajer’s compositions include his Symphony No. 1, Bliss for orchestra (2014), half a dozen solo piano works, and many chamber works including a string trio commissioned by Ensemble Epomeo to be premiered in 2015.  In May 2015, his string quartet and 5 Songs (Based on Poetry of Hafez) is performed at Stanford University by the Ives Quartet, pianist Laura Dahl, and mezzo soprano Buffy Baggott.

for Theseus and the Minotaur 
Rebecca Oswald is an awardwinning composer and pianist. She has written art songs, music for solo piano, various choral and chamber ensembles, string, chamber, and full orchestra, chorus with orchestra, a clarinet concerto, and the music for two CD-ROM games. Oswald’s discography includes two albums of original solo piano music (“Whereas” and “October Wind”), plus several chamber works and two orchestral works. She was a finalist for The American Prize 2014 in chamber composition and choral composition.

Oswald grew up in Oklahoma, Colorado, and Texas. She earned a BMus summa cum laude in music theory and composition (with piano as principal instrument and voice minor) from Westminster Choir College of Rider University (1998), and an MM in music composition from the University of Oregon School of Music (2001) where she was named Outstanding Graduate Student Composer of 2001. Today she calls Oregon home. For more information please visit

for Walls 
Jorge Variego was born in Rosario, Argentina. He has a doctorate degree in music composition from the University of Florida, a masters of music degree in composition and clarinet performance form Carnegie Mellon University, where he attended as a Fulbright scholar, and a JD equivalent from the National University of Rosario. He is currently Lecturer in Music Theory and Composition at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Previously, he pursued research at the Institute of Sonology, and served as music faculty at Valley City State University and at the University of Florida. He participated in many international music festivals such as MATA, SEAMUS, EMS, Holland Festival, Sonoimágenes, and can be heard on many CDs, including his most recent solo CD's Necessity (Albany-2010) and Regress (CMMAS-2013), and in a recent album by SCI Pendulum (PARMA Records 2014). In June 2013, he was resident artist at the Visby Centre for Composers, in Sweden.
More information:

for When the War Began
Award-winning composer, sound designer, teacher, vocalist and guitarist, Nick Vasallo is “a composer on a mission and one possessed of a distinctive voice” - Michael Quinn, 2012 (The Classical Review). His music exhibits “strokes of genius that blend the density of heavy metal with the harmonics of gamelan, the polyrhythms of taiko, and atonality” – François Couture, 2012 (Monsieur Délire). “…creating new sonic alloys never heard before. Vasallo’s work is a fresh music that may help usher in a new audience for classical music.” - Daniel L. Muñoz, 2014 (I Care If You Listen)

Director of Music Industry Studies at Diablo Valley College and Artistic Director for Composers, Inc., Vasallo has taught college-level courses in Music Theory, Composition, Digital Audio, Electronic Music, Music Appreciation, Form & Analysis, Counterpoint, Instrumentation, Music Industry, History of Rock & Roll, and Songwriting in addition to his work as a composer and performing artist. He has previously taught at Cal Poly Pomona, CSU East Bay, UC Santa Cruz, Gavilan College, and Los Medanos College. Vasallo currently composes, does lead vocals and plays bass for the modern extreme metal band Oblivion. His music is published by Santa Barbara Music Publishers and released by Innova Recordings and Unique Leader.

The American Prize in Composition, 2015—chamber music (professional division):
"Most Entertaining Work of the 2015 Contest Year"

for Mr. Distinguished
Dante De Silva, a southern California native, studied composition at Humboldt State University, UC Santa Cruz, and UCLA, where his principal teachers were David Lefkowitz, Paul Reale, David Cope, Paul Nauert, J. Brian Post. He also studied piano with Deborah Clasquin and percussion with Eugene Novotney at Humboldt State University.

His compositions have been performed by such wonderful performers as Opera Parallèle, Gloria Cheng, the Talea Ensemble, What’s Next Ensemble, Phyllis Chen, Ryan MacEvoy McCullough, Arizona Women in Tune, Composer’s Inc., as well many others. He was the composer-in-residence with the Definiens Project (2005-2007) and the Tonoi Ensemble (2006-2007).

Upcoming premieres include Grunge Factory for The B Band, Teasdale Poems for Lucy Hazel Fitz Gibbon, and Drive-Thru Etudes, Book 2 for Ryan MacEvoy McCullough. He currently lives in Los Angeles with his wife, two sons, and a cat. For more information, go to

The American Prize in Composition—Chamber Music (student division)

The American Prize winner:
Derek David    Boston MA
    String Quartet No. 1, Viola Sonata
Derek David
Praised by composer John Adams for his “masterful demonstration of technique” in his viola sonata, composer Derek David is emerging as an exciting new musical talent of contemporary concert music. Adams also went on to say that he was “dazzled by [David’s] capabilities and musicality.”

As a composer, Derek has been the recipient of the EAMA prize, Morton Gould ASCAP Award, and has received composition fellowships from the EAMA and Aspen Music Festivals. As an educator, Derek has been teaching keyboard harmony at The New England Conservatory of Music since and has held an interim faculty position at the Boston Conservatory in the fall semester of 2014 where he taught theory, musicianship, and keyboard harmony. Mr. David is a current teaching fellow at Harvard University where he teaches music theory.

He currently resides in Boston, Massachusetts where he is completing his Doctor of Music degree in composition at the New England Conservatory of Music in the studio of Michael Gandolfi. For more information and a full biography, please visit

2nd Place:
Bin Li    New York NY
    What I Have Forgotten
Bin Li
Bin Li (b. 1987, Fuzhou, China) is an emerging composer based in New York City. His music has been performed internationally in festivals and venues such as the Aspen Music Festival, Avanti! XXIX Suvisoitto (Finland), Palais Montcalm (Quebec), Neuen Synagoge (Berlin), Yogyakarta Contemporary Music Festival (Indonesia), the Buskirk-Chumley Theatre, Midwest Composers Symposium and SoundCrawl. Bin has won prizes from SCI/ASCAP Commissioning Competition, Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra Composition Competition, International Society of Bassists Composition Competition and Cortona Prize.

Bin holds degrees from the Jacobs School of Music and the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. His principle teachers at IU were P.Q. Phan, David Dzubay, Claude Baker and Jeffrey Hass (Electronic).  Additional studies include Samuel Adler in Berlin (2012), George Tsontakis at Aspen Festival (2012), Georg Friedrich Haas and Fred Lerdahl in France (2013), and Jukka Tiensuu and Jouni Kaipainen at Sävellyspaja in Finland (2014). For more information, please visit

3rd Place:
Trevor Bumgarner    New York NY
   Everything Went Quiet
Trevor Bumgarner
From North Carolina, Trevor Bumgarner is a bassoonist who first began composing during college. He is currently in the Masters of Music Composition program at the Juilliard School studying with Robert Beaser. His first composition received the Emerging Composer mention, the first of three consecutive awards including honorable mention, from the Tribeca New Music Young Composers Competition. Trevor won the 2013 Edging the Cut competition and was an American Prize semi-finalist. He has had performances or recordings by groups such as the Cassatt Quartet, Dark in the Song, and members of the International Contemporary Ensemble. Trevor has had performances at several conferences including the Society of Composers Student National Conference and the NASA region IV conference. Trevor Bumgarner graduated from UNC-Greensboro summa cum laude with a BM in Composition and Bassoon Performance studying with Mark Engebretson, Alejandro Rutty, and Michael Burns. Website:

The American Prize in Composition—Chamber Music (student division)

Jean Patrick Besingrand    Pittsburgh PA
    Et le vent murmura le nom de Sarah
Jean Patrick Besingrand
Jean-Patrick Besingrand was born in France in 1985. He has a Master’s degree in Musicology from the University of Bordeaux, and graduated with high honors in Analysis, Harmony, Counterpoint, Fugue, Composition, and Soundpainting from the Bordeaux Conservatory under the tutelage of Patrice DeFaccio, Laurent Soulié, Jean-Louis Agobet, and Etienne Rolin. Currently, he is enrolled in Carnegie Mellon University’s Advanced Certificate in Composition program under the supervision of Leonardo Balada. He is also working on his doctoral thesis at the Sorbonne in Paris. Jean-Patrick has participated in several festivals and masterclasses,  and has received recognition from composition competitions around the world.

His music has been performed by the Mivos Quartet, the Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic, the Carnegie Mellon Contemporary Ensemble, the Very Small Consortium Ensemble, the Aurae Duo, and by the soloists Thomas Piercy, Vilian Ivantchev, Elsa Seger, and Andrew White.
His music is published by Questions de Tempéraments.

Cody Brookshire    Gainesville GA
Cody Brookshire
Cody Brookshire's music has been performed at events and venues such as the 2015 N_SEME at Bowling Green State University, the OME Marathon Concert in Phoenix, Arizona, the New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival at the Abrons Art Center, the Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology Symposium in Connecticut, and the Guangzhou Grand Theater in China. He has written music for So Percussion, the Athens Guitar Duo, the University of Georgia Bands, and the University of North Georgia String Orchestra. Awards include 1st place in the 2014 SCL Competition with his guitar trio, Shrapnel, and he was a semi-finalist for the 2013 American Prize in Composition with Slumbers Kiss Your Golden Eyes for flute, viola, and harp. Two of his electronic compositions have been digitally released: Harmonic Meditation, No. 1 appears on the 2014 SEAMUS Electroacoustic Miniatures album Transients, and M3TA11UR6Y appears on Sonic Flux released by the EMPiRES label.

Daniel Despins    Wilmington DE
    Off to War, Lads
Daniel Despins
Daniel Despins (b. 1994) is a composer of contemporary classical music flavored with many different styles, including jazz, rock, folk, and traditional music, with strong influences from classical music of the 20th and 21st centuries. He has written for choral, instrumental, and chamber ensembles, as well as duets and smaller works for solo voices and instruments. He currently resides in Newark, Delaware, where he studies music composition at the University of Delaware. His works have been performed both throughout the university’s campus and in communities throughout New Castle County. His music can be found online at

Zachary Ploeger    Pipestone MN
    Galactic Voyage
Zachary Ploeger
Trumpeter and Composer, Zachary Ploeger is a promising up and coming musician. As a senior in high school, Zach began to experiment in composition, having his first piece for band played only months later. Zach now studies trumpet performance and composition at Western Michigan University, one of the nations premier public schools of music. Zachary’s primary teachers at Western are Scott Thornberg, trumpet, and Dr. Richard Adams, composition.

As a composer, Zach writes a wide range of works. His pieces are frequently played on recitals and composers concerts at Western Michigan University and in the surrounding Midwest area. Zach was recently named a Minnesota Public Radio Finalist in their young composers contest. Zach is also a published composer, having his pieces on the websites of both J.W. Pepper and Sons, as well as Sheet Music Plus. He also maintains a website where all of his pieces can be viewed, ordered, or heard. Zach has studied composition with Dr. Richard Adams and Dr. Lisa Coons and is a member of both The Society of Composers and ASCAP.

Weijun Chen    Buffalo NY
Weijun Chen
Weijun Chen (b. 1990) is a Chinese-American composer of contemporary concert music. His music has been performed and read by ensembles such as Eastman Wind Ensemble, Arditti Quartet (UK), TALEA Ensemble, Momenta Quartet, Uusinta Ensemble (Finland), Deviant Septet, Freya String Quartet, Cuong Vu Trio, Ensemble Son (Sweden), and Either/OR, among others. A Presidential Fellow, Weijun is currently pursuing his PhD at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he studies composition with David Felder. He has studied composition with Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon, Lisa Bielawa, David Liptak, Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez, and Robert Morris. Weijun holds two BMs from the Eastman School of Music in both composition and music theory (Highest Distinction), as well as an Arts Leadership Certificate. For more information, please visit

Hangrui Zhang    Cincinnati OH
    A Wild Runaway
Hangrui Zhang
Hangrui Zhang (b.1989) is a Chinese student composer. Now, he is studying in College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) as a third-year undergraduate student. Hangrui entered the world of music much later than most of his contemporaries. At the age of 20, he found his interest in music, and began his study as a beginner. During that time, he studied music very independently, and often involving self-teaching. After two-year music study and one-year English study, in the year of 2012, he began his first formal music study in CCM. His composition teachers include Jian Feng, Mara Helmuth, Douglas Knehans and Michael Fiday. His music has been performed by such groups as the Eurydice Quartet, the Donald Sinta Quartet, the CCM Chamber Players, and by performers at the College-Conservatory of Music.

The American Prize in Composition—Chamber Music (student division)

Christopher Couling    South Lyon MI
    Apres un Reve
Christopher Couling
Christopher Couling attends South Lyon High School in South Lyon, MI. He hopes to continue composing music throughout his life, and is an avid supporter of melody. Chris can be contacted a

Brandon Rafal Epstein    Dix Hills NY

Brandon Rafal Epstein
·       Music Education:
-The Juilliard School, Private music composition student of Dr. Kyle Blaha, 2009-present.
-Piano (lessons and recitals), student of Robin Helfner: 2006-present.
-Viola (lessons and recitals), student of Siobhan Hohf: 2008-present.
·       Orchestra:
-Gemini Youth Orchestra, Symphony (viola): 2014-present.
-Gemini Youth Orchestra, Philharmonia (viola): 2012-2014.
-Half Hollow Hills Cross Campus Chamber Orchestra (viola): 2013-present.
-Half Hollow Hills Symphony Orchestra (viola): 2014-present.
·       Tri-M Music Honor Society: 2013-present.
·       Performance History:
-Concerts at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, Gemini Youth Symphony Orchestra (2015), Gemini Youth Philharmonia Orchestra (2013, 2014).
·       Award History:
-Finalist in ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composers Award in 2014
-First Place Award and Overall Best Orchestra Award in Music in the Parks 2013 and 2014 Competitions.

Julia Riew    St.Louis MO
    Laughing Lake 
Julia Riew
Julia Riew, 15, is a sophomore at John Burroughs School.  She started playing the violin at age four and studies with Joo Kim at the Community Music School of Webster University (CMS).  Julia began composing at age 8 and recently has composed an orchestral piece as well as a quartet piece, both of which were performed during concerts at her school. Furthermore, Julia loves songwriting and has written over a dozen songs as well her first musical this year.

Julia currently sits as concertmaster of the John Burroughs Senior Orchestra. Julia has also played in the Saint Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra and four orchestras at CMS. She is honored to be the recipient of three merit scholarships at the CMS.  During her free time, Julia enjoys singing, acting, playing the guitar and ukulele.  She also enjoys reading to preschool aged children in the Ready Readers Program.

Ben Vining    Flagstaff AZ
    Starry Night Over The Rhone
Ben Vining
Ben Vining is a young composer living in Flagstaff, Arizona. A high school senior aged 16, The American Prize in Chamber Music Composition is one of Mr. Vining's first major awards, for his set of impressions for string quartet inspired by the van Gogh painting "Starry Night Over The Rhone".

Mr. Vining enjoys writing concert music and performing as a cellist, but his ultimate goal is to write and stage opera.

In the fall, Ben will be attending Arizona State University to study music theory and composition.


Congratulations to all 2015 composition laureates.

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