Monday, April 30, 2018

WINNING COMPOSERS: vocal chamber music, 2017-18

The American Prize is honored to announce the winners, runners-up and honorable mentions of The American Prize in Composition, 2017-18, in vocal chamber music 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.

QUICKNOTES: Although The American Prize does not usually provide written evaluations to semi-finalists, some semi-finalist composers will receive in their certificate packets short comments, suggestions or overall impressions made during the judging. We hope they will prove valuable. All finalists receive written evaluations from a member of The American Prize judging panel.

Please make us aware of any misprints:

The American Prize in Composition—VOCAL CHAMBER MUSIC, professional division, 2017-18

The American Prize winner:
Ralf Yusuf Gawlick   Newton MA
    Kollwitz-Konnex (… im Frieden seiner Hande)
Ralf Yusuf Gawlick
Ralf Yusuf Gawlick was born Yusuf Mustafa Zeren in Pfaffenhofen-an-der-Ilm, Germany, in 1969. He studied at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the University of Texas at Austin and the New England Conservatory of Music as well as at the Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien and the Academy of Music in Łódź, Poland.  With his Romani-Kurdish ethnicity wrapped within his German-Polish-American identity, his music travels far afield by drawing inspiration from and engaging with literary, visual and musical landscapes both in time and place. This dialogue across centuries and among the arts informs much of his solo, chamber, orchestral, film and vocal music. Gawlick’s music (, broadcast on NPR and available on the Musica Omnia and Capstone labels, is published by ECS Publishing, Musica Omnia Publishing and Brazinmusikanta Publications. He teaches at Boston College and lives in Newton, MA, with his wife Basia and their two children.

2nd Place:
Tony Solitro   Philadelphia PA
    More Beautiful Than Night
Tony Solitro
Tony Solitro is composer of concert and stage music whose recent works have been commissioned by Boston Opera Collaborative, Joseph Conyers (Assistant Principal Bass, Philadelphia Orchestra), the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, and Network for New Music. His compositions have been performed by People Inside Electronics (Los Angeles), the Litha Symphony Orchestra (Manhattan), International Opera Theater (USA/Italy), and in venues such as the Red Note New Music Festival (Illinois State University), the Royal Northern College of Music (Manchester, England), and the International Guitar Research Centre (University of Surrey, Guildford, UK). Tony has been awarded fellowships from Yaddo, VCCA, Brush Creek, Kimmel Harding Nelson, and the Brevard Music Center. He earned his Ph.D. (University of Pennsylvania) as a recipient of the George Crumb Music Fellowship and his M.M. (Longy School of Music) on a Nadia and Lili Boulanger Scholarship. To hear recordings, see videos, and explore his composition catalogue, visit

3rd Place (there was a tie):
Curtis Bryant   Union City GA
Curtis Bryant
Curtis Bryant (b. 1949) composes and teaches in the Atlanta area and served on the faculty of Georgia State University School of Music for ten years. For over three decades his music has been performed throughout North America and worldwide in concerts, music festivals and radio and television. Bryant composes for virtually all concert media including chamber, choral, orchestral, art song, and opera. He is a 2016 winner of THE AMERICAN PRIZE in composition opera/theater/film division for his opera ZABETTE. THE LAUGHING MONKEYS OF GRAVITY is a four-part song cycle based on a set of poems by Stephen Bluestone. Written for high soprano voice and expanded Pierrot ensemble, it is a meditation on the great comedians of the early film era, Laurel and Hardy, Lou Costello, The Three Stooges, and Charles Chaplin. The world premiere was given by soprano Arietha Lockhart in 2003 with faculty members of Mercer University.

3rd Place (there was a tie):
Moshe Shulman   Buffalo NY
    Song of Songs
Moshe Shulman
Russian-born Israeli composer, violin, viola, bandoneon and accordion player, Moshe Shulman (b.1978) holds a Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in composition from the Jerusalem Academy of Music and the PhD degree in composition from the NY State University at Buffalo, studying with Mark Kopytman, David Felder and Johannes Schollhorn through the years. His music was performed in Israel, Canada, United States, Russia and France and Hungary with various ensembles such as Norrbotten NEO and Juventas New Music Ensemble, Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Meridian Brass Quintet, Slee Sinfonietta (Buffalo, NY), International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) and Arditti Quartet. As a student he received numerous award, scholarships and assistantships from Israel and USA. He received a 2015 Fromm Foundation Commission from Harvard University. In summer 2009, Moshe won 3rd prize for “Construction 3” at the Jurgenson Contemporary Music International Competition in Moscow. He is on the Walden Summer Music Camp Faculty since 2014, and University at Buffalo adjunct professor.

Finalist Honorable Mention: 
Jennifer Bellor   Las Vegas NV
    Songs in the Dark
Jennifer Bellor
Jennifer Bellor is a versatile composer who has been recognized for both her classical and jazz works with awards including The American Prize for her composition Chase the Stars, Elevate Ensemble Call for Scores winner for Moments Shared, Moments Lost, IAWM Judith Lang Zaimont prize for Skylark Lullaby, Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra prize for Noir, and a Downbeat Award for Midnight Swim. Fanfare magazine praised Bordello Nights as being a “terrific piece of big-band jazz.” Her works have been performed by Washington National Opera, Lviv Philharmonic, Las Vegas Philharmonic, Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, and many others in the United States and abroad. Jennifer’s album Stay (2016) was featured on NewMusicBox’s Staff Picks as displaying a “wonderful demonstration of how to maintain a highly individual compositional identity without needing to take refuge in pre-post-genre musical silos.” (Frank J. Oteri). Jennifer earned a PhD in music composition at Eastman School of Music, a Master of Music degree in composition at Syracuse University, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in music at Cornell University. She is currently Visiting Lecturer at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she teaches courses in music composition and theory. For more information, please visit

Finalist Honorable Mention: 
Timothy Lee Miller   Mahwah NJ
    Three Poems of Henry W. Longfellow
Finalist Honorable Mention: 
Timothy Lee Miller
Timothy Lee Miller is an American composer, arranger and publisher writing contemporary concert music for chamber ensembles, orchestra, wind ensemble, and voice, as well as jazz and film music. He has earned degrees from the University of Tennessee, the University of Miami and Vermont College of Fine Arts. His principle composition teachers have been John Anthony Lennon, James Progris, Tamar Diesendruck, Jonathan Bailey Holland, Andy Jaffe, John Fitz Rogers and Roger Zahab. He has received numerous commissions and awards, including several ASCAP awards. His works have been performed throughout the US and in Europe. His music is recorded on ERMMedia, Navona Records, Ansonica Records and Phoenix Classics. He lives in Mahwah, New Jersey with his wife and son.   

Finalist Honorable Mention: 
Craig Thomas Naylor   Kalispell MT
    our voices, for now, sustained
Craig Thomas Naylor
The music of Craig Thomas Naylor (b. 1954) has been played worldwide by ensembles ranging from elementary school band to the orchestral soundtrack for the IMAX film "To The Limit."  His commissions include the Los Angeles Concert Orchestra, The "President's Own" Marine Band Tuba-Euphonium Quartet, the Wind Ensembles of the Universities of Georgia, Idaho, Montana, Colorado State, Yale, Cornell, California at Los Angeles, numerous professional musicians and chamber ensembles, and community college, high, middle and elementary school choirs, bands, and orchestras. He received two Continental Harmony commission/residencies from the American Composers Forum. Recent residencies include Illinois Wesleyan University, Northwestern University, Arizona State University, San Jose State University, the University of Idaho and the University of Richmond. Craig earned his Bachelors Degree in Music Education from Humboldt State University and Masters and Doctorate degrees in Composition from the University of Southern California.

Finalist Honorable Mention:
Adam Schumaker   Portage MI
    The Best Thing Ever
Adam Schumaker
Adam Schumaker is a composer, educator, arts administrator, father, husband, and a generalist. He currently directs the education programs for The Gilmore Keyboard Festival and is a visiting professor of music theory & composition at Kalamazoo College, where he teaches music theory, composition, and arts entrepreneurship. Schumaker has composed for film, theater, chamber ensembles, concert band, promotional video, electronic mediums, and an intensive care unit hospital bed. He has received numerous local grants and commissions, most recently the Kalamazoo Artistic Development Initiative grant from the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, to premiere his new song cycle, “The Best Thing Ever.”

Finalist Honorable Mention:
Reginald Unterseher   Kennewick WA
    Here, Bullet, a cycle of songs
Reginald Unterseher
Reginald Unterseher is Music Director and Composer-in-Residence at Shalom United Church of Christ, Richland, Washington. His works are published by Oxford University Press, Walton Music, and his web site, and are available at He was the Washington State Music Teacher’s Association’s “Composer of the Year” for 2013. Mr. Unterseher’s compositions are regularly performed throughout the world and have been featured at regional and national ACDA and MENC conventions in the US as well as at Carnegie Hall in New York City. He is the Repertoire & Resources Chair for Composition for the Washington State American Choral Director’s Association. Mr. Unterseher is founder and past Chorus Master of Washington East Opera, and an active member of Male Ensemble Northwest as well as a founding member of Chor Anno. He is currently the Associate Conductor of the Mid-Columbia Mastersingers.

Finalist Honorable Mention:
David von Kampen   Lincoln NE
David von Kampen
David von Kampen (b.1986) is a composer from Lincoln, Nebraska. David’s music spans a wide variety of genres and styles, including choral music, jazz, hymnody and liturgy, art song, chamber music, and musical theater. David is a six-time Downbeat Award winner in graduate-level jazz writing categories, a three-time winner of the Vancouver Chamber Choir Young Composers Competition, and was named MTNA Distinguished Composer of the Year for his song cycle "Under the Silver and Home Again." David was the recipient of an ASCAP Young Jazz Composer award, winner of the San Francisco Choral Artists New Voices Project, winner of the National Band Association’s Young Jazz Composers Competition, and received Honorable Mention in the New York Youth Symphony First Music Commissions. David has over 50 choral and instrumental compositions and arrangements published with Walton Music, Santa Barbara, G. Schirmer, Concordia Publishing House, UNC Jazz Press, MusicSpoke, and others.

The American Prize in Composition—VOCAL CHAMBER MUSIC, student division, 2017-18

The American Prize winner:
Michael Lanci   Saratoga Springs NY
    Songs For Joe Hill
Michael Lanci
Michael Lanci (b.1984) is an active composer, teacher, and performer residing in Cincinnati, Ohio. Michael's music has been performed throughout America, Canada, Europe, and Japan. Michael has been commissioned by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and performed by the University of Iowa Symphony Orchestra. He has worked with a variety of ensembles, including Klangpar2, Duo d’Entre Deux, Tres Por Radio, the harp duo Beyond Pluck, Decho Ensemble, Azalea Quartet, All of the Above, Hypercube, Fredonia Saxophone Ensemble, and Buffalo Chamber Players. Michael holds a Bachelor of Music degree in piano performance from SUNY Albany, where he also studied composition with Max Lifchitz and Master of Music degree in composition from SUNY Fredonia, where he studied with Rob Deemer and Karl Boelter. Michael is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Musical Arts in Composition at the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati where he is studying with Michael Fiday. (

2nd Place:
Jihyun Kim   Houston TX
Jihyun Kim
Jihyun Kim was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1988. Studying Composition with Shinuh Lee, she graduated early from Seoul National University with a Bachelor of Music as valedictorian and then earned a master's degree in Composition. Later, she graduated with a Master of Music from Indiana University where she studied with Don Freund, Aaron Travers and PQ Phan. She is currently pursuing a DMA at Rice University, studying with Karim Al-Zand. Her composed pieces have been performed at the festivals in Korea such as the Korean Music Expo and the ISCM World Music Days. Her works have also been performed in the United States and Brazil, including International Symposium of New Music, the RED NOTE New Music Festival and the Midwest Composers Symposium. Additionally, she won the Libby Larsen Prize in the International Alliance for Women New Music Competition and the Merit Award in the LinYao Ji International Competition for Composition in Hong-Kong.

3rd Place:
M.O. Abbott   Urbana IL
M.O. Abbott
M.O. Abbott's music has been performed by ensembles such as loadbang and Illinois Modern Ensemble, and by esteemed new music performers such as Kevin McFarland, Caleb Burhans, Martha Cluver, Tomoko Ono, Melody Chua, Victor Pons, and Yi-Wen Chen. M.O.'s work has recently been heard at festivals and conferences including Diffrazioni, Electronic Music Midwest, the SPLICE Institute, the SEAMUS National Conference, NUNC! 2, and New Music on the Point. M.O. was recently awarded the 19th Annual 21st Century Piano Commission with pianist Whitney Ashe. M.O. holds a B.M. in Theory from Eastman School of Music and a M.M. in Music Composition from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he now pursuing a D.M.A. as the graduate teaching assistant administrator of CAMIL (Computer Assisted Music Instruction Laboratory) and CMP (Computer Music Project). His principal composition instructors include Sever Tipei, Scott A. Wyatt, Heinrich Taube. Brian Belet, and David Liptak.


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