Wednesday, August 29, 2018

GUEST BLOGGER: "An American in Ankara," Part 2

GUEST BLOGGER, The American Prize Laureate Composer and Honored Artist, Lee Actor, writes about conducting concerts of his music in Turkey.  

For part one of this story, please click: 

(Are you a laureate of The American Prize with a musical story to share with our readership? Please write to us with your ideas at 

PART TWO of "An American in Ankara"—more GETTING DOWN TO BUSINESS
by Lee Actor
As the Assistant Conductor of the Palo Alto Philharmonic since 2001, I am very familiar with the rehearsal techniques and pacing needed to prepare a good amateur orchestra for performance.  However, this would be my first time conducting a professional orchestra, and I was admittedly a bit anxious.  As the sole composer on the program, I faced a double whammy: the musicians might dislike my music, my conducting, or both; and negative feelings in one area were sure to affect the other.

Fethi taught me a few words of Turkish to introduce myself to the orchestra, and as we started rehearsing “Dance Rhapsody” a comfortable relationship quickly developed between me and the musicians.  My fears about communication issues proved unfounded; most of the orchestra understood at least some English.  I learned that the concertmaster had studied for several years at the New England Conservatory, and those few times I needed to express a more complex idea, she helpfully translated for the orchestra.  But for the most part “musical Italian” and a little English worked just fine.  I quickly learned to avoid using large numbers, as in “Please begin at m. 237”; much better was “6 before letter K”.  Interestingly, the musicians in Izmir the following week specifically asked me to use absolute measure numbers when they realized I was intentionally avoiding using them.

There is a fine balance for a conductor – especially a guest conductor – between maintaining control and keeping the musicians engaged.  For example, I had been told that the mid-rehearsal break was 15 minutes long; but that first day when I returned to the stage at the appointed time, it was still largely empty.  The “real” break was closer to 25 minutes, which I didn’t make an issue of; an easy decision considering the 3-hour rehearsal length.  On purely musical issues, we worked hard but efficiently, and I made no compromises.  I was “tested” a couple of times – such as when a string principal suggested that a certain passage would be easier if not played as softly as notated – but the orchestra quickly realized that I knew what I wanted, and there was very little friction overall.  As the week passed, more and more musicians overcame their shyness or insecurity about their English to tell me how much they were enjoying the music and working with me.

The orchestra management had asked me if I was willing to give a presentation to local conservatory students, which I agreed to.  On Wednesday afternoon my talk covered the circuitous journey to my career as a full-time composer, with numerous audio examples of how my compositional style has changed over the past 40 years.  No translator was needed, and the audience seemed very appreciative.
Rehearsal in Ankara
The performance in Ankara was billed as the “Turkish-American Friendship Concert” (a bit ironic considering the recent diplomatic friction between the countries), and it wasn’t until we had been in Turkey for some time that I understood how key a player the U.S. Embassy had been as a financial promoter of the concert.  They held a very nice reception for us on Thursday evening at the ambassador’s residence, where I met the acting ambassador and much of his staff, all of whom attended the performance Friday evening.  Of course, promoting good relations between Turkey and the U.S. is a major component of their jobs, and they were very excited to learn that an American composer would be in Ankara for a week to conduct a program of his works.  I should mention that none of the orchestra management who attended the reception had ever been to the ambassador’s residence before, so it was a first for all of us.  One person I met there was a Turkish composer who wrote orchestral music but taught jazz at the conservatory; improbably, he received his doctorate in Tennessee!

The “general” rehearsal on Friday morning – what we would call a dress rehearsal – included a large contingent of elementary-age school kids in the audience.  At the break, they rushed up to the stage and seemed genuinely excited to speak to me, though honestly I’m not sure why.  I’m not a big fan of tiring out the orchestra the day of the concert, so I made sure we did what we needed during the rehearsal and let them go 30 minutes early.  You can’t overrate good will.

I arrived at the concert hall 2 hours before the performance, where the U.S. Embassy filmed a short promotional video; you can see here:

The house was nearly full for the concert, which was received warmly.  I was pretty sure that Dance Rhapsody and the saxophone concerto would go over well, as they always seem to; but I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised at the enthusiastic ovation given the 3rd Symphony, much of which has a fairly dark mood.  The orchestra recorded video for the entire concert, which I’ve linked to on my website:

Just outside ancient Ephesus
Following the performance in Ankara, the original plan was to fly the 325 miles to Izmir for another week of rehearsals and concert; but Fethi offered to drive us there in his van for a more up close and personal view of the country, which sounded like fun.  We spent most of the day Saturday on the road, during which it rained intermittently.  Izmir is the third largest city in Turkey and is located on the west coast of the country, on the Aegean Sea.  It is a popular tourist destination and has a relaxed, laid back feel not unlike Northern California.  Several of Fethi’s close relatives live in Izmir, including his brother Cemil, recently retired concertmaster of the Izmir State Symphony Orchestra (İzmir Devlet Senfoni Orkestrası in Turkish).  Cemil and his wife Karen – originally from Wales – were extremely gracious and treated us like family members, hosting us at their home nearly every evening for dinner and conversation.

The rehearsal schedule in Izmir was similar to that in Ankara: rehearsals in the mornings from Tuesday through Friday, with the concert Friday evening, leaving us two full days for sightseeing.  One must-see destination, about an hour away by car, is the famous ruins of the ancient city of Ephesus, some of which is as much as 8000 years old.  There is a large Greek amphitheater there which is still used as a performing venue.
Concert in Izmir
The concert hall in Izmir is fairly new, and quite attractive.  As in Ankara, the orchestra provided a driver each day.  The musicians again were very friendly and welcoming, and as the week went on a number of them approached me during breaks to let me know they enjoyed rehearsing my music.  It was interesting to compare the two orchestras: one a little stronger in the strings, the other with stronger horns, etc.; but overall they were quite similar in their level of playing.  The concert in Izmir was also well-received, and the entire experience was very humbling and gratifying for me.
Fethi and Me
It is a great honor for any composer to have an entire program dedicated solely to his works.  It’s not unusual to see an all-Beethoven, or all-Mozart, or all-[fill in the name of another immortal composer] concert program; but such a thing is much rarer for a living composer.  It’s not something I ever expected to happen for me – let alone in Turkey!  I’m told that this was the first concert in the 192-year history of the C.S.O. that consisted of the works of a single composer, conducted by the composer.  Obviously I’m very humbled and grateful for the opportunity, and look forward to my next visit to Turkey.  My biggest debt of gratitude goes to Fethi Günçer, who took it upon himself to champion my music in Turkey, and single-handedly fought with determination to overcome every obstacle – and there were many – to bring me to his country to perform.  No composer could ask for more.


Tuesday, August 28, 2018

GUEST BLOGGER: "An American in Ankara," Part 1

GUEST BLOGGER, The American Prize Laureate Composer and Honored Artist, Lee Actor, writes about conducting concerts of his music in Turkey.

(Are you a laureate of The American Prize with a musical story to share with our readership? Please write to us with your ideas at

PART ONE: "An American in Ankara"
by Lee Actor
In November of 2011, I received an unexpected and surprising email from Turkey.  It was from a musician named Fethi Günçer, who explained that he played clarinet/saxophone for the Presidential Symphony Orchestra in Ankara, had heard my alto saxophone concerto online, really liked it, and suggested that I come to Turkey to conduct it with his orchestra.  My initial reaction, frankly, was “Is this for real?”.  A quick online search revealed that this was indeed a legitimate, full-time professional orchestra – the Turkish name is Cumhurbaşkanlığı Senfoni Orkestrası, or C.S.O. – and in fact one of the oldest orchestras in the world, having been founded in 1826.  Looking through their season schedule, I discovered that the orchestra presented a new program every week from September through May, with repertoire very similar to that of any major American orchestra – with the exception of a few Turkish composers who I wasn’t familiar with.

Naturally, I was intrigued, and had many questions: about the rehearsal schedule, possible language issues communicating with the orchestra (English is my only fluent language), the financial arrangements – and not least about Turkey itself, which I had never visited.  But my main concern was how programming decisions get made.  Certainly for U.S. orchestras, individual musicians have little or no say over programming, which is normally the province of orchestra management and music directors.  For historical reasons, all orchestras in Turkey are state institutions, with rotating management councils elected by the musicians, and Mr. Günçer was confident that presenting this kind of project to his friends on the management council had a high probability of being approved.  In his enthusiasm, he even suggested offering an all-Actor program, to be conducted by me, and taking it to orchestras in other Turkish cities besides Ankara.  This prompted me to ask the question, “Why would people in Turkey come to a concert of works by an American composer they’ve never heard of?”  Not to worry, he assured me; they played weekly to nearly full audiences, who no doubt would enjoy my music.  They would consider it an honor to host me, and had every reason to expect a successful concert.  No pressure!

Over the following months, as we continued to email back and forth, Fethi introduced the symphony management to my music, which apparently they liked very much.  In mid-2013, I finally received a formal invitation from the orchestra to conduct a program of my works for the 2013-14 season.  However, it was late in the planning process, and we couldn’t find a mutually agreeable time to schedule the concert.  I was invited again for the 2014-15 season, but the appointment of a new General Music Director and the usual bureaucratic red tape caused that season’s schedule to fill up before we could find a suitable date.  I got another invitation in the summer of 2015 for the 2015-16 season, and, try as we might, couldn’t find a date that worked for both of us.  Unbelievably, the same thing happened a year later for the 2016-17 season.  The stars finally aligned for the 2017-18 season and we locked in a week in mid-March 2018.  In short order, Fethi arranged for a concert the following week in Izmir with the Izmir State Symphony Orchestra (İzmir Devlet Senfoni Orkestrası in Turkish).  A few months later I had signed contracts with both orchestras and could start planning this trip in earnest.

Then in early October 2017, Turkey and the U.S. got into a diplomatic dispute and both stopped issuing travel visas to the other country.  As the impasse continued week after week, the entire project became increasingly doubtful.  It seemed the only other option I had was to make an appointment for an interview at the nearest Turkish embassy (400 miles away) and hope they would decide to issue a visa.  But I was working on a deadline for my latest composition, and didn’t have the time to spare – especially since there was no guarantee that it would result in a travel visa.  I asked my friends at the C.S.O. if there was anything they could do, but their hands were tied.  The two countries finally kissed and made up the last week of December 2017, and I was able to quickly get our e-Visas online.

Another snag concerned getting the orchestral parts for the program to Turkey.  When the C.S.O. tried to place an order on my website, they told me they were unable to because “Turkey” was not in the list of countries offered.  This surprised me, as I use PayPal on the website.  But a little investigation revealed that in 2016 Turkey had passed new regulations that required IT systems for financial transactions be localized within the country, making it impossible for PayPal to continue doing business there (they distribute their IT across numerous global hubs).  This inspired us to forgo the shipping of physical parts entirely, opting instead for secure pdfs – much less expensive and less work, at least on my part.  I’ve since added a pdf option to my online store for all parts.

The orchestra booked our flights, and we made our final preparations.  Ok, I’ll say it – I HATE traveling.  I hate airports with their security lines and endless waiting, I hate being a captive sardine on an airplane, I hate disrupting my daily schedule, I hate not having my “stuff” around me.  It took the extraordinary opportunity offered me in Turkey to overcome my innate reluctance to spend 2 weeks in a foreign country.  We had a direct flight from San Francisco to Istanbul, which took 13 hours; from there it’s an hour or so flight to Ankara, the capital of Turkey and its 2nd largest city.  The orchestra sent a car to take us from the airport to the hotel, where we finally met in person my now good friend Fethi Günçer.  Fethi greeted us with flowers for my wife and a large supply of bottled water – “better than hotel bottled water”, he assured us.  Apparently, most people in Turkey drink bottled rather than tap water.

Our room was fairly small by American standards, but big enough for our needs, and at least we had Wi-Fi.  But as we hauled in our several large suitcases filled with 2 weeks’ worth of clothing, concert clothes and other essentials, we noticed there was no closet, no place to hang up anything, no drawers, and no shelves.  Hmm, this was going to be interesting.  We did end up changing rooms after one night, as the ventilation system wasn’t working properly, and ended up in a larger room with space to hang up and store our clothes.

We had two full days before rehearsals started on Tuesday, leaving plenty of time for sightseeing around Ankara.  Fethi was our gracious host, taking us to museums, bazaars, and the famous mausoleum of Atatürk, the founder and first President of the Republic of Turkey, which replaced the crumbling Ottoman Empire in 1923.  Call me quirky, but I always enjoy visiting supermarkets and department stores in other countries, which along with “people watching” gives me a better feel for the local population than artifacts from the Bronze Age, interesting though the latter may be.  We had several outstanding meals in Ankara; one of the most memorable was lunch at a restaurant very popular with locals, but practically unknown to tourists.  We had lamb “kebap” – seasoned meat roasted on a vertical rotisserie, sliced thinly and served on a kind of puffy bread – and the best baklava I’ve ever had, baked fresh daily at the restaurant.  And at the hotel breakfast buffet I developed a daily habit for “simit”, a popular street food which is basically a round bread covered in sesame seeds – kind of a Turkish bagel.  The food in Turkey was delightful, the only problem being to avoid overindulging.

On Tuesday morning we finally got down to business.  The orchestra sent a car to take us from the hotel to the concert hall, only a few minutes away.  The program was designed around my “Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Orchestra”, a Finalist for the 2013 American Prize in Orchestral Composition and always a big hit with audiences; it has been performed 16 times to date.  Fethi and I spent a couple of hours on Monday going over the whole concerto and aligning our concepts of the piece; I had just conducted a performance of the concerto in February with the Palo Alto Philharmonic, so it was still very fresh in my memory.  For the opener I had decided on “Dance Rhapsody”, one of my most popular pieces (14 performances) and a sure-fire audience pleaser; it won 2nd place in the 2011 American Prize in Orchestra Composition, and was the winner of the 2016 Austin Civic Orchestra Composition Competition.  I had conducted the premiere in 2010 and knew there were technical challenges for both orchestra and conductor.  The final piece on the program was my 34-minute “Symphony No. 3”, which had not been performed since its premiere in 2013; it has a definite “Shostakovich” vibe, and a couple of the movements are challenging even for professionals.  The program totaled 72 minutes of music, which I thought would be quite doable in 4 rehearsals, even though this would be all-new music for the orchestra – the Turkish premieres of all 3 pieces, in fact.



Friday, August 24, 2018

The American Prize ERNST BACON MEMORIAL AWARD recipients recognized for excellence in the performance of American Music

Ernst Bacon as a young man.
The American Prize, the national nonprofit competitions in the performing arts, has recognized ensembles, conductors, soloists and composers for musical excellence within their divisions in the performance of American Music as 2017-18 honorees of The Ernst Bacon Memorial Award for the Performance of American Music. The honorees include artists at professional, community, college/university, youth, and high school levels, both in this country and abroad.

The American Prize is a series of new, non-profit competitions unique in scope and structure, designed to recognize and reward the best performing artists, ensembles and composers in the United States based on submitted recordings. The American Prize has attracted hundreds of qualified contestants from all fifty states since its founding, has awarded more than $50,000 in prizes in all categories since 2010, and is presented annually in many areas of the performing arts. Additional information about the competitions may be found on the website:

The American Prize Ernst Bacon Memorial Award for the Performance of American Music recognizes and rewards the best performances of American music by ensembles and soloists worldwide, based on submitted recordings. There is no live competition. Applications are accepted from professional, college/university, community and high school age solo artists, chamber ensembles or conducted ensembles, competing in separate divisions, and from composers with excellent recordings of their works. Beginning in 2017, categories were expanded to encompass performances of American music in practically any instrumentation or genre, with very few repertoire restrictions.

Ernst Bacon (1898—1990) was one of that pioneering generation of composers who, along with Thomson, Copland, Harris, and others, found a voice for American music. Winner of a Pulitzer Scholarship for his Symphony in D minor, and no fewer than three Guggenheim Fellowships, Ernst Bacon set out to create compositions that expressed the vitality and affirmative spirit of our country. It is fitting, and with honor, that The American Prize in 2016 created an annual award in the memory of Ernst Bacon, recognizing the finest performances of American music worldwide.

The First Place winners of The American Prize ERNST BACON MEMORIAL AWARD
in each division for the 2017-18 contest year are:

PROFESSIONAL ensemble division
Solaris Vocal Ensemble
Giselle Wyers, conductor
Seattle WA

COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY ensemble division
SPECIAL PRIZE: Championing the Music of Ernst Bacon
Oklahoma State University Symphony Orchestra
Thomas Dickey, conductor
Stillwater OK
COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY ensemble division
Capital University Chapel Choir and Choral Union
Lynda Hasseler, conductor
Columbus OH

COMMUNITY ensemble division
Vox Nova
Christine Jarquio Nichols, conductor
Columbia MO

YOUTH & HIGH SCHOOL ensemble division
Decatur HS Wind Ensemble
Robert Truan, conductor
Decatur GA

PROFESSIONAL solo artist division
Ann Maire Wilcox-Daehn, soprano,
and Elizabeth Avery, piano
Springfield MO

COLLEGE/UNIVERSITY solo artist division
Corinne Rydman, soprano
San Francisco CA

Photos and short biographies of each of these artists, as well as those of the runners-up in each division may be found here:


The first place (winning) artist in each division receives a cash award up to $500. All receive certificates, written professional adjudication, and regional, national and international recognition based on recorded performances. There is no live competition. In addition to written evaluations from a member of The American Prize's distinguished panel of judges, winners are profiled on The American Prize websites, where links will lead to video and audio excerpts of artist performances.

THE AMERICAN PRIZE—Mission, History & Judges

The American Prize National Nonprofit Competitions in the Performing Arts grew from the belief that a great deal of excellent music being made in this country goes unrecognized and unheralded, not only in our major cities, but all across the country: in schools and churches, in colleges and universities, and by community and professional musicians.

With the performing arts in America marginalized like never before, The American Prize seeks to fill the gap that leaves excellent artists and ensembles struggling for visibility and viability. The American Prize recognizes and rewards the best America produces, without bias against small city versus large, or unknown artist versus well-known.

David Katz is the chief judge of The American Prize. Professional conductor, award-winning composer, playwright, actor and arts advocate, he is author of MUSE of FIRE, the acclaimed one-man play about the art of conducting. Joining Katz in selecting winners of The American Prize is a panel of judges as varied in background and experience as we hope the winners of The American Prize will be. Made up of distinguished musicians representing virtually every region of the country, the group includes professional vocalists, conductors, composers and pianists, tenured professors, and professional orchestra, band and choral musicians.

“Most artists may never win a Grammy award, or a Pulitzer, or a Tony, or perhaps ever even be nominated,” Katz said, “but that does not mean that they are not worthy of recognition and reward. Quality in the arts is not limited to the coasts, or to the familiar names, or only to graduates of a few schools. It is on view all over the United States, if you take the time to look for it. The American Prize exists to encourage and herald that excellence.”

By shining a light on nationally recognized achievement, winners of The American Prize receive world-class bragging rights to use in promotion right at home. “If The American Prize helps build careers, or contributes to local pride, or assists with increasing the audience for an artist or ensemble, builds the donor base, or stimulates opportunities or recruitment for winning artists and ensembles, then we have fulfilled our mission,” Katz said.

The American Prize is administered by Hat City Music Theater, Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit performing arts organization based in Danbury, Connecticut.


RELATED STORY: THE AMERICAN PRIZE honors Twenty-Two American Orchestras

RELATED STORY: THE AMERICAN PRIZE honors Sixteen American Orchestral Conductors

Friday, August 3, 2018

ERNST BACON AWARD (American Music Performance): ensemble divisions, 2017-18

Ernst Bacon
The American Prize is honored to announce WINNERS, runners-up, citation recipients and honorable mentions of the ERNST BACON MEMORIAL AWARD for the PERFORMANCE of AMERICAN MUSIC, 2017-18, in ensemble divisions. Congratulations! (Solo artist division winners of the Bacon Award are posted separately.)

Among the many contests of The American Prize, the Ernst Bacon Memorial Award for the Performance of American Music is unique. It recognizes and rewards the best performances of American music by ensembles and individual artists worldwide, based on submitted recordings. Applications are accepted from professional, college/university, community and high school age solo artists, chamber ensembles and conducted ensembles, competing in separate divisions, and from composers with excellent recordings of their works. Beginning in 2017-18, categories were expanded to encompass performances of American music in practically any instrumentation or genre, with very few repertoire restrictions.

Focused exclusively on works by American composers from any period and in any style, the contest not only judges performances, but in the case of new or unfamiliar works, the music itself.

Ernst Bacon (1898—1990) was one of that pioneering generation of composers who, along with Thomson, Copland, Harris, and others, found a voice for American music. Winner of a Pulitzer Scholarship (for his Symphony in D minor) and no fewer than three Guggenheim Fellowships, Ernst Bacon set out to create compositions that expressed the vitality and affirmative spirit of our country. It is fitting, and with honor, that The American Prize created an annual award in the memory of Ernst Bacon, recognizing the finest performances of American music worldwide. To learn more about the music & legacy of Ernst Bacon, please visit the website of the Ernst Bacon Society.

Questions, or to make us aware of any misprints in the listings below, please email:

The American Prize ERNST BACON MEMORIAL AWARD for the PERFORMANCE of AMERICAN MUSIC, PROFESSIONAL ensemble division, 2017-18

The American Prize winner:
Giselle Wyers, conductor
Solaris Vocal Ensemble
Seattle WA
Floodsongs—Anne LeBaron

Solaris Vocal Ensemble
Solaris Vocal Ensemble consists of 12 professional vocalists from the Seattle area. They seek to encourage a renaissance in innovation in the field of choral music and specialize in new American works, including world premieres. Every project is unique and never repeated.  Their premiere concert featured four American world premieres which culminated in a CD recording available through Albany Records.  In 2015, they launched “Burning the Bridge,” a neo-medieval tale of love and courtship, with a narrative thread stitched between every piece, featuring expressive movement choreographed by a dancer.  Solaris is thrilled to have continued collaborations with Seattle Modern Orchestra, including last month's “Quest”, a program of works by Julia Wolfe, Ted Hearne, and Stuart Dempster, and a full concert honoring American music luminaries Stuart Dempster and Robert Erickson, entitled “Double Portrait.”

Giselle Wyers, founding conductor of Solaris, is the Donald E. Petersen Associate Endowed Professor of Choral Music at the University of Washington. She has conducted All-State and honor choirs in New York (Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center), Georgia, Connecticut, Nebraska, Texas, Washington, Alaska, Idaho, and Vancouver, Canada. She has conducted semi-professional ensembles across the United States and in Germany, the Netherlands, Estonia, and Sweden. She is series editor of the Giselle Wyers Choral Series through Santa Barbara Music Publishing, and is regularly commissioned to compose new works for high school, community, and professionally-based choirs across the United States and in Europe.

Second Place:
Reuben Blundell, conductor
Gowanus Arts Ensemble
Brooklyn NY
“American Romantics”—music by Foote, Busch, Parker, more

Reuben Blundell
The Gowanus Arts Ensemble, with conductor Reuben Blundell, released this CD in April 2016. It garnered outstanding reviews in Gramophone Magazine, American Record Guide, Australia’s Limelight Magazine and other major outlets, and continues to be featured on classical radio.  They recently recorded a second CD, with release anticipated in late 2017.  The group is named after Brooklyn’s Gowanus Arts Building, in a corner of Brooklyn rejuvenating through investment in the environment and the arts.

The Gowanus Arts Ensemble comprises some of New York’s finest musicians, who can be found playing as soloists, in Broadway shows and other major ensembles. For the 2016 CD, its members were violinists Hiroko Taguchi (concertmaster), Orlando Wells, Yuiko Kamakari, Elizabeth Nielsen, and Sarah Zun, violists Entela Barci and Carla Fabiani, cellists Julian Schwarz and Alisa Horn, and bassist Rick Ostrovsky.

Reuben Blundell is Music Director of the Lansdowne Symphony Orchestra near Philadelphia, and New York’s Riverside Orchestra. He recently completed eight transformative years with the orchestra at Hunter College (CUNY) and has served as a Chelsea Symphony conductor for five years.  Blundell has performed in his native Australia, in Austria, Chile, Holland, Iraq, Japan, and Lebanon. He conducted the New World Symphony in their 2013 John Cage festival.

After studies in Melbourne and Sydney, he was a Tanglewood Fellow (’02 & ’03) and a principal New World Symphony violinist (2003-05). He attended the Monteux School (’05 & ’06) and Eastman, earning a conducting DMA with Neil Varon and studying violin with Zvi Zeitlin.

Third Place (there was a tie):
Michael S. Horwood, composer
Sinfonia Varsovia 

Ian Hobson, conductor
Joseph Kubera, piano
Warsaw Poland
Intravariations— Horwood

Michael S. Horwood
Michael S. Horwood (b. 1947, Buffalo, NY) studied with Lejaren Hiller, Lukas Foss, and Istvan Anhalt at SUNY Buffalo (BA, MA). His composition career developed with performances, broadcasts, recordings and commissions, while securing professorship at Humber College in Toronto. His 60+ compositions constitute a kaleidoscope of directions including avant-garde, jazz, minimalism, electroacoustic and neo-romanticism. Besides the wide variety, Horwood has an acute sense of sonority and a subtle use of humor. He has composed for conventional ensembles, unusual instrumental combinations, flexible scoring, dance, theater and film. He resides in Tucson, Arizona. 
Sinfonia Varsovia
Sinfonia Varsovia began in 1984 as an expansion of the Polish Chamber Orchestra and was led by Yehudi Menuhin. Krzysztof Penderecki is the current music and artistic director. The Sinfonia Varsovia is a Warsaw cultural institution. It performs at many prestigious concert halls and festivals, working with world renowned conductors and soloists. The orchestra has recorded over 280 CDs, many of which have received impressive prizes.
Ian Hobson
Pianist, conductor, scholar, educator, adjudicator and founder of the Sinfonia da Camera, Ian Hobson is internationally recognized for his extraordinarily comprehensive repertoire new and old, consummate performances of Romantic and contemporary composers. His discography covers over 60 recordings for 10 CD labels.
Joseph Kubera
Joseph Kubera is recognized as a leading interpreter of contemporary music for over 30 years as witnessed by extensive touring, impressive reviews and recordings on 10 different prestigious new music labels. A soloist at numerous new music festivals, he has championed a diverse range of who’s who in contemporary music.

Third Place (there was a tie):
Rain Worthington, composer
Missouri State University Symphony 

Christoper Kelts, conductor
Springfield MO
Tracing a Dream—Worthington

Rain Worthington
“There is a deep interiority to this music . . . Worthington has an instantly recognizable sound, an austere sensuality not quite like anyone else . . . a composer of considerable imagination, emotional expressiveness, and poetic sensibility.” – American Record Guide

Performances of Rain Worthington’s compositions have spanned the globe from Brazil to Iceland to Armenia, with premieres in Tokyo, Oxford University, and the Delhi Music Society in India. Her work takes “. . . ideas of American musical style to a new place – like a walk in a familiar, yet very different park” – Chamber Music magazine

Her catalog includes works for orchestra, mixed chamber ensembles, violin duo, solo marimba and even a miniature for oud. When asked what inspires her music, Rain says the impulses for new pieces have ranged from the sounds of “NYC garbage trucks backing up late in the night, to the two-note expression of a sigh, to a dream of a careening bike ride through dark fog.”

In 2016 Navona Records released Worthington’s CD of orchestral works “DREAM VAPORS” to critical acclaim. That same year Missouri State University Symphony premiered her orchestral work, “Tracing a Dream.” Worthington returned to MSU 2017 as guest composer for a residency and the premiere of “In Passages” – for violin soloist and string orchestra. This work is scheduled for a PARMA Recordings session in 2017 with Croatian conductor, Miran Vaupotić. In addition to composing, Worthington serves as Artistic Administrator/Composer Advocate for the New York Women Composers.
Missouri State University Symphony
Christoper Kelts
The Missouri State University Symphony Orchestra is a full-sized symphonic orchestra that performs from the complete range of symphonic repertoire.  Its members come from all different walks of academic life.  Students performing in the University Symphony are music majors, music minors and non-majors.  The orchestra’s diverse musicians come from all parts of the State of Missouri, the greater mid-west region and as far away as China, South Korea, Malaysia, Japan and Columbia, South America.  Conductor, Christopher Kelts is in his 3rd year as Director of Orchestral Studies.  Concurrently he is Music Director and Conductor of the Kinnor Philharmonic Orchestra, Kansas City Civic Orchestra and artistic partner with Project Musica.  Rain Worthington, American composer, has had a wonderful relationship with the Missouri State University Symphony with this première of Tracing A Dream and a very recent world première of her work In Passages for solo violin & string orchestra.


SPECIAL PRIZE: Championing the Music of Ernst Bacon: 
Thomas Dickey, conductor
Oklahoma State University Symphony Orchestra
Stillwater OK  

music by Bacon (Nantucket Fling), Copland (Our Town), Hanson (Symphony No. 2)

Oklahoma State University Symphony Orchestra
The OSU Symphony Orchestra is one of the School of Visual & Performing Arts’ premier performing ensembles, showcasing some of the university’s finest players performing traditional orchestral repertoire in a series of dynamic concerts.  In addition to approximately five annual performances, the OSUSO also provides music for the Opera Theater’s fully staged productions and serves as the lab orchestra for various academic classes, from composition to orchestral conducting.  The OSUSO is dedicated to the study and performance of significant orchestral music, and to that end often collaborates with faculty and guest soloists in performances of major concerto literature.  In 2013, the OSUSO was a finalist in The American Prize in Orchestral Performance Competition and performed at the College Orchestra Directors Association National Conference in Cleveland, Ohio and the Oklahoma Music Education Association Conference in Tulsa.
Thomas Dickey
Dr. Thomas Dickey is the Director of Orchestral Studies at Oklahoma State University, where he conducts the OSU Symphony Orchestra and guides all aspects of the orchestra and orchestral conducting programs.  He concurrently serves as Music Director & Conductor of the OSU Youth Orchestra and the Stillwater Community Orchestra.  Prior to his appointments in Oklahoma, he was the Director of Orchestral Activities at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and Music Director & Conductor of the Dubuque Symphony Youth Orchestra (IA).

He holds doctoral and master's degrees in orchestral conducting from the University of Georgia and Louisiana State University, respectively, and graduated with highest honors from Eastern Illinois University. He has worked with conductors such as Carl Topilow, Christopher Zimmerman, Daniel Lewis, Gustav Meier, and Diane Wittry, and further studied conducting at the Cleveland Institute of Music, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, and numerous workshops and master classes.

The American Prize winner:
Lynda Hasseler, conductor
Capital University Chapel Choir and Choral Union
Columbus OH
the music of Jake Runestad

Capital University Chapel Choir and Choral Union
Since 1929, the Capital University Chapel Choir has upheld the rich Lutheran heritage of fine choral singing and enjoys national and international acclaim as a premier collegiate choral ensemble.The Capital University Choral Union is one of the premier volunteer choirs in central Ohio, distinguished by its keen musicianship and challenging repertoire.
Lynda Hasseler
Lynda Hasseler, D.M.A. is Professor of Music, Director of Choral Activities, and acting Head of the Voice Area in the Conservatory of Music at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, where she directs the Chapel Choir, Choral Union, and vocal chamber ensemble, Philomel; and teaches choral methods and conducting. Nurturing Capital University’s rich choral legacy, the choirs under her direction have received numerous invitations to perform for multiple music regional and national conferences and festivals, have been awarded gold medals in world choral competitions and have toured nationally and internationally.
Jake Runestad
Jake Runestad is an award-winning and frequently-performed composer of “highly imaginative” (Baltimore Sun) and “stirring and uplifting” (Miami Herald) musical works. He has received commissions and performances from leading ensembles around the world. Jake’s visceral music and charismatic personality have fostered a busy schedule of commissions, residencies, workshops, and speaking engagements, enabling him to be one of the youngest full-time composers in the world. Jake Runestad holds a Master’s degree in composition from the Peabody Conservatory of the Johns Hopkins University where he studied with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts. Has has also studied extensively with acclaimed composer Libby Larsen. A native of Rockford, IL, Mr. Runestad is currently based in Minneapolis, MN and his music is published by JR Music.

Second Place (there was a tie):
Stephen Heyde, conductor 
Baylor Symphony Orchestra
Waco TX
Barber—Tocatta Festiva, op. 36
Stucky—Son et Lumiere

Baylor Symphony Orchestra
The Baylor Symphony has an extensive performance schedule, annually presenting six concerts of standard orchestral repertoire, a full opera production, concerto accompaniments, new music readings, choral/orchestral collaborations and a series of children's concerts reaching an audience of over 6000 area schoolchildren.

The featured piece in this application is Son et lumièr by Pulitzer award winning composer Steven Stucky, a Baylor alumnus who passed away February 14, 2016. Other pieces submitted include 2016-17 performances of the Kevin Puts Symphony #2 and the Samuel Barber Tocatta festiva and an earlier Baylor Symphony performance of Christopher Theofanidis’ Rainbow Body.

The Symphony has appeared at the Texas Music Educators Convention eight times,  performed a 2003 PBS Special, “Christmas at Baylor” seen by six million viewers, performed at Piccolo Spoleto Festival and at a national convention of the American String Teachers Association. The Baylor Symphony has collaborated with many distinguished American performers including Van Cliburn, Joseph Gingold, Robert Shaw, Corey Cerovsek, Jacob Druckman, Lorin Hollander, Roberto Diaz, Andrew Balio and Peter Schickele among others. The BSO has taken international tours of Costa Rica (2004) and Belgium (2010) and has won the prestigious American Prize for four consecutive years since 2015. Former members of the BSO have won positions in many professional orchestras including New York, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Cincinnati and Fort Worth among others.

Second Place (there was a tie):
Chris Younghoon Kim, conductor
Cornell Orchestra 

Richard Faria, clarinet
Ithaca NY
Clarinet Concerto—Joan Tower   

Chris Younghoon Kim
Cornell Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Chris Younghoon Kim, present multiple concerts during each academic school year.  The membership of the orchestra is formed from students of all colleges and departments across the university-wide community.  It is the only non-music major orchestra to win first place among collegiate orchestras the ASCAP award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary music during the 2008-2009 season. It has won the Adventurous awards for 6 years in a row from 2008-2014. For the last seven seasons Cornell Orchestras have been jointly producing the Ithaca International conducting masterclasses with Ithaca College Symphony Orchestra.
Joan Tower  
Joan Tower is widely regarded as one of the most important American composers living today. During a career spanning more than fifty years, she has made lasting contributions to musical life in the United States as composer, performer, conductor, and educator. Her works have been commissioned by major ensembles, soloists, and orchestras, including the Emerson, Tokyo, and Muir quartets; soloists Evelyn Glennie, Carol Wincenc, David Shifrin, and John Browning; and the orchestras of Chicago, New York, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Washington DC among others. Tower was the first composer chosen for a Ford Made in America consortium commission of sixty-five orchestras. Leonard Slatkin and the Nashville Symphony recorded Made in America in 2008 (along with Tambor and Concerto for Orchestra). The album collected three Grammy awards: Best Contemporary Classical Composition, Best Classical Album, and Best Orchestral Performance. Nashville’s latest all-Tower recording includes Stroke, which received a 2016 Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Classical Composition. In 1990 she became the first woman to win the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for Silver Ladders, a piece she wrote for the St. Louis Symphony where she was Composer-in-Residence from 1985-88. Other residencies with orchestras include a 10-year residency with the Orchestra of St. Luke's (1997-2007) and the Pittsburgh Symphony (2010-2011). She was the Albany Symphony’s Mentor Composer partner in the 2013-14 season. Tower was cofounder and pianist for the Naumburg Award winning Da Capo Chamber Players from 1970-1985.
Richard Faria
Clarinetist Richard Faria pursues an active career as soloist, chamber musician, and educator. He has been a participant in numerous festivals such as the Bennington Chamber Music Conference, Bard Music Festival of the Hamptons, Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music, Skaneateles Festival, Garth Newel Music Festival, and Klasik Keyifler in Cappadocia, Turkey. His chamber music experience includes collaborations with such diverse groups as the Zephyros and Sylvan Wind Quintets, Atlantic, Tetraktys, and Arianna String Quartets, Composers Concordance, Guild Trio, Mother Mallard, and the Young Composer’s Collective in Seattle. He has performed in Weill Recital Hall, Carnegie Hall, Merkin Hall, The Kitchen, Miller Theater, Spivey Hall, the Smithsonian Institution, as well as at the American Academies in Rome and Berlin, Netherlands' De Lakenhal, and the Temple of Apollo in Turkey.

Third Place:
David Hahn, conductor  
Eastman Repertory Singers
Rochester NY   
Fern Hill—John Corigliano

Eastman Repertory Singers
The Eastman Repertory Singers is a mixed 60-voice chorus of Eastman students presenting frequent performances under the direction of graduate students in conducting, in styles ranging from Renaissance madrigals and motets to premieres of contemporary choral works. Recent concerts have included the Haydn Lord Nelson Mass, the Duruflé Requiem, and works of Rachmaninoff, Mozart and Bach. This chorus includes students in vocal performance, conducting, piano, organ, composition, and music education.

Finalist—Honorable Mention:
Catherine Sailer, conductor
University of Denver Lamont Chorale
Denver CO
music by Averitt, Takach, Lampi, more

University of Denver Lamont Chorale
The University of Denver Lamont Chorale is the premier choir at the University of Denver, and includes music majors and non-music majors from across the school.  The choir passionately pursues artistic excellence in choral performance and sings diverse repertoire.  Through the Chorale's dedication to performing music of living composers, it has enjoyed collaborations with Tan Dun, Morten Lauridsen, Eric Whitacre, Tim Takach, Ken Lampl,  and many more established and emerging composers and conductors.  The Lamont Chorale has performed for the Colorado Music Educator's Association Conference, and the Regional conference of the American Choral Director's Association.

Finalist—Honorable Mention:
Chris David Westover, conductor
Denison University New Music Ensemble
Granville OH  
Bassoon Concertino—Augusta Read Thomas

Denison University New Music Ensemble
Chris David Westover, D.M.A., is Assistant Professor of Music and conductor of the Wind Ensemble at Denison University in Granville, Ohio. Prior to this appointment, Dr. Westover led wind ensembles, orchestras and operatic performances at Bethel College, the University of Oklahoma and the Meadows School of the Arts at SMU. He is in constant demand as a conductor and has led bands and orchestras in the US and China. His research focuses on the historical sources of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Most recently he presented his scholarship as a guest speaker at the 2016 International Conference on Creativity and Performance at Hong Kong Baptist University.
Chris David Westover
His career spans operatic performances including Falstaff, Don Giovanni, and Iphigenie en Tauride, as well as educational work with young singers and orchestras. Westover commands a broad and diverse repertoire including the core symphonic repertoire and the contemporary repertoire of the symphony orchestra and wind ensemble. He has served as a staff conductor for the TUTTI Festival and the 4x4 Prizes. He has commissioned and premiered works by Brad Baumgardner, Andrew McManus, Michael Kallstrom, David Sterrett and Dan Lazerescou.

In February 2010, Westover led the critically acclaimed Dallas premiere of Daniel Roumain’s “Darwin’s Meditation for the People of Lincoln” during the inaugural season of the renowned Winspear Opera House. The Dallas Morning News said the performance “often shift[ed] between majesty and melancholy, [and] was as powerful an emotional exploration as a historical one.” Westover’s conducting mentors include Jonathan Shames, John Carmichael, Jack Delaney, and Eric Smedley.

The American Prize ERNST BACON MEMORIAL AWARD for the PERFORMANCE of AMERICAN MUSIC, COMMUNITY ensemble division, 2017-18

The American Prize winner:
Christine Jarquio Nichols, conductor
Vox Nova
Columbia MO
music by Lowell Liebermann, William Billings, Moira Smiley, more

Vox Nova
Vox Nova (founded 2014), a vocal chamber group based in Columbia, Missouri, brings friendship and teamwork to its sound. The musicians in the ensemble are established music educators, conductors, and professional vocalists. The members currently come from Columbia, MO, Kansas City, Lawrence, KS, Chicago, Baton Rouge, Colorado, New York City, and Seattle. Many of the members perform with other professional choirs, prominent music festivals, and chamber opera companies, both locally and across the United States. Vox Nova is committed to choral excellence and to spreading choral music to listening audiences. Vox Nova regularly collaborates with native Columbia chamber ensembles and composers. They have been guest artists for the Odyssey Chamber Music Series, the Idaho International Choral Festival, the True/False Film Festival, and MMEA. In 2015, they were selected as national semifinalists in the professional division of The American Prize in Choral Performance, and were 2016 semifinalists in the professional division of The American Prize in Chamber Ensemble Performance. They are the 2017-2018 Ensemble-in-Residence for the Odyssey Chamber Music Series.

Second Place (there was a tie):
Libi Lebel, conductor
Texas Medical Center Orchestra
Houston TX
Appalachian Spring—Copland  

Libi Lebel
Established in November 2000, Texas Medical Center Orchestra (TMCO) is one of very few community orchestras in the United States and the world with its origin in the health professions. It includes physicians, dentists, nurses, medical students, biomedical scientists, social workers and other allied health professionals who are dedicated to making music. Part of the orchestra’s mission is to provide health care professionals a creative outlet; offer affordable concerts to a diverse public audience; and bring public attention and support for, medically related and/or educational charities.

Russian-born conductor Libi Lebel, founder and artistic director of TMCO, has a strong and growing reputation in the music world. Ms. Lebel has been listed as one of the 50 most influential women in Houston, (population over 2 million). She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Julliard School of Music and Westminster Choir College, in piano performance and conducting. Conducting appearances in New Jersey, New York, Texas, Russia and Romania have been met with high praise. In 2013, conductor Lebel led the TMCO in a well-received program at Carnegie Hall. As to her passion about music, Ms. Lebel says: “What inspires me is to make music come alive. To feel the love, pride, joy, sadness. To help it unfold in the most convincing and compelling way. With it, we connect to the very essence of our humanity, we then come into contact with that part of ourselves that expresses our most profound creativity. I am so lucky to have music in my life.”  

Second Place (there was a tie):
Walter Morales, conductor
Edgewood Symphony Orchestra
Pittsburgh PA  
Porgy & Bess Symphonic Picture— Gershwin/Bennett
Barber—Adagio for Strings
Copland—Lincoln Portrait

Walter Morales
Walter Morales is the Music Director of the Edgewood Symphony Orchestra. His previous positions include Music Director of Undercroft Opera, Music Director of the Carnegie Mellon University Contemporary Ensemble, Head of Music of Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, Principal Guest Conductor of the Pittsburgh Philharmonic, Assistant Director of Orchestral Studies at Carnegie Mellon University and Assistant Conductor of the Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic. He has been a guest conductor with the National Symphony Orchestra of Costa Rica, Westmoreland Symphony Orchestra, Butler County Symphony Orchestra, McKeesport Symphony Orchestra, University of Costa Rica Symphony Orchestra, University of Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Duquesne University Opera & Orchestra, Pittsburgh Youth Chamber Orchestra and Rutgers Chamber Orchestra.  He has also served as cover conductor for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. For more information please visit:
Edgewood Symphony Orchestra
The Edgewood Symphony Orchestra, a not-for-profit organization, strives to be the best volunteer symphony orchestra in the region while providing cultural experiences to our members and community through challenging symphonic music. The ESO is committed to valuing its members and providing them with the opportunity to improve their technical and musical skills and share their passion through high quality performances and educational outreach.

Third Place:
William P. Gorton, conductor and composer
Members of Philadelphia Orchestra & friends
NJ Master Chorale, Philadelphia Boys Choir
Haddonfield NJ  
Gorton—Te Deum

William P. Gorton
William Gorton is the Director of Sacred Music at Haddonfield United Methodist Church in New Jersey, where he is also Artistic Director/Conductor of the New Jersey MasterChorale, which performs choral masterworks twice yearly with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra and Friends. Prior to his appointment at HUMC, Dr. Gorton was Assistant Professor of Voice and Opera at Millikin University, where he taught studio voice, served as coach and conductor for the opera program, and directed Tudor Voices, a select chamber choir specializing in early music. William has had a diverse career as singer, voice teacher, composer, and conductor. The Founding Artistic Director of the Central Virginia Masterworks Chorale, he acquired his DMA in Choral Conducting at Arizona State University. While at ASU he also served as Assistant Chorus Master for the Phoenix Symphony Chorus. With a M.M. in Voice Performance and Pedagogy from Westminster Choir College, William has been a professional tenor and voice teacher, performing opera roles and oratorios with numerous organizations around the United States. Dr. Gorton is also a published composer. His hymn, “O God in Whom We Live,” can be found in Worship and Song, a United Methodist hymnal. World Library Publications has published “The Lord is My Shepherd,” for SATB choir with piano and flute. Hope Publishing recently released his arrangement for SATB choir, piano, and violin obbligato, “Jesus, Jesus, Rest Your Head.” His opus includes numerous art songs, choral anthems, and church service works, as well as a new orchestral work, “Fantasy on God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” recently performed in concert with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra and Friends. An April 9, 2017 performance of the Chorale, together with the Philadelphia Boys Choir, included Duruflé’s Requiem, Mozart’s Regina Coeli (K. 247), and the world premiere of Dr. Gorton’s Te Deum, for orchestra, SATB choir (divisi), treble choir, and mezzo-soprano solo.

Finalist—Honorable Mention:
Donald L. Appert, conductor and composer
Oregon Sinfonietta
Vancouver WA
Concerto for Viola and Orchestra—Appert

Oregon Sinfonietta
Donald L. Appert
Donald Appert been Music Director/Conductor of the Clark College Orchestra since 1990. He has guest-conducted orchestras in Europe, Central America, Japan and Australia. Currently he is a Full Professor of Music and Head of the Music Department at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington. In addition, he is the Music Director/Conductor of the Oregon Sinfonietta and of the Jewish Community Orchestra, both in Portland, Oregon.  He received The American Prize in Orchestral Programming—Vytautas Marijosius  Memorial Award in 2011 for his work with the Oregon Sinfonietta, an Honorable Mention in 2012, 3rd Place in 2014, and 2nd Place in 2015. He was also Honored Artist of the American Prize in 2015. In 2014, he received the Clark County (WA) Arts Commission Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award.  He has received the ASCAPLUS Award numerous times and orchestras in Europe, Central America, Japan, Australia, and the United States have performed his works.  Jeffrey Butler of the Houston Symphony (who commissioned the work) will premiere his latest composition, Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, with the Clark College Orchestra in June of 2018. Videos of his conducting and his original compositions may be seen and heard via the Internet on his web site at

Finalist—Honorable Mention:
Thomas Rainey, conductor
Williamson County Symphony Orchestra
Round Rock TX
Gershwin & All That Jazz    

Williamson County Symphony Orchestra
The Williamson County Symphony Orchestra is completing its 15th season.  The 100-member Orchestra is staffed entirely by volunteer musicians and run by volunteer administrators. Most of the musicians are adults working in other professions but who have a great love of music and have performed at high levels earlier in their life.  The musicians consider their efforts as a ministry to the community.

The Orchestra performs FREE "pops-styled" concerts often highlighting American composers in the classical, movie/TV, and contemporary genre and new compositions from our Composer-in-Resident, Dr ML Daniels.  The FREE concerts are pitched toward families, seniors, and people who do not yet know they like great music.  The Orchestra, directed by Dr Thomas Rainey, performs a two-concert series four times a year - Fall, Christmas, Spring, & Outdoor - at venues across Williamson County plus one FREE concert for the troops and their families at Ft Hood.

The Orchestra's March 2016 concert series was devoted to that most American form of music - jazz. The theme Gershwin and All That Jazz  had numerous samples of George Gershwin's "classical" music along with the great music of Duke Ellington and some of Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong's top hits.  One could hear the influence of Jazz in the selection of movie music by Henry Mancini.  The Orchestra's focus was to demonstrate how "classical" the jazz idiom has become.

Finalist—Honorable Mention:
Douglas Anderson, conductor
The Putnam Chorale
Carmel NY
Casey at the Bat—William Schuman

The Putnam Chorale
The Putnam Chorale, under the artistic direction of composer/conductor Dr. Douglas Anderson, is the sole community chorus in Putnam County, NY. Founded 1984, the Chorale has been providing high quality choral and orchestral music and academic commentary ever since. The two-fold mission of the Chorale is to provide amateur and aspiring professional singers an opportunity to enrich their lives through choral singing and to provide the community with compelling performance experiences unrivaled outside of major city venues. Chorale choristers come from Putnam, Westchester, and Dutchess counties and nearby Connecticut.  Music Director Douglas Anderson, currently a Professor of Music on the faculty of Borough of Manhattan Community College, is a conductor, composer, educator, and producer who has been active in the New York music scene for over 40 years.  He founded the American Chamber Opera Company in 1984 and conducts the Downtown Symphony in New York City.

The American Prize ERNST BACON MEMORIAL AWARD for the PERFORMANCE of AMERICAN MUSIC, YOUTH & HIGH SCHOOL ensemble division, 2017-18

The American Prize winner:
Robert Truan, conductor
Decatur HS Wind Ensemble
Decatur GA  
American Salute—Gould

Decatur HS Wind Ensemble
This is Robert Truan’s third year as Director of Bands for Decatur High School where he teaches Symphonic Band, Wind Ensemble, Percussion Ensemble, IB Music, and other chamber ensembles.  While at Decatur, his ensembles have won a Grand Championship at the Southern Invitational Music Festival, have performed at the Georgia Music Educator’s Association Convention twice, and have performed at the Cork School of Music in Ireland.  His ensembles have also received straight superior ratings at Large Group Performance Evaluation.  This is the second year Decatur has differentiated its band classes in two groups: Wind Ensemble and Symphonic Band.  After Wind Ensemble’s inaugural year, our recorded submission was selected to headline Music for All’s Southeastern Regional Concert Band Festival. Robert Truan is heavily influenced by his wonderful mentors throughout the years: Reid Hall, Richard Brasco, Dr. Tony McCutchen, John Culvahouse, Dr. John P. Lynch, Dr. Laura Moates Stanley, and Jack Jean.  Mr. Truan graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Georgia and has a Master’s degree in Music Education.

Second Place:
Michael Isadore, conductor
Dulles HS Honors Orchestra  
Sugar Land TX
Visions and Miracles—Theofanidis
Autumn Rhapsody—Jalbert

Dulles HS Honors Orchestra 
Located in Sugar Land, TX, The John Foster Dulles Orchestra program is one of the largest orchestra programs in Fort Bend ISD and one of the premiere orchestra programs in the state of Texas.  Located in Sugar Land, a southwest suburb of Houston, Fort Bend County and Dulles High School are among the most diverse schools in America. The orchestra program in Fort Bend ISD began in 1990 and Dulles High School has only had two orchestra directors.  Michael Isadore became the director of orchestras in 1999 and today the program boasts over 170 members.  The Dulles Orchestra has been consistently awarded the Mark of Excellence National Honor Orchestra Award and Commended Award in the string and full orchestra categories, been runner up for TMEA Honor Orchestra and has performed at the Midwest Clinic in 2004 and 2016.

Third Place:
Carolyn Watson, conductor
Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra
Interlochen MI
The Improvised Violin Concerto—Mark O'Connor

Carolyn Watson
A major prizewinner at the 2012 Emmerich Kálmán International Operetta Conducting Competition in Budapest, Carolyn Watson was also a Fellow of the American Academy of Conducting at the Aspen Music Festival where she studied with David Zinman. She has conducted throughout Europe with orchestras including Staatsoper Berlin, Brandenburger Symphonkier, BBC Concert Orchestra, North Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, Kodály Philharmonic, Savaria Symphony Orchestra (Hungary), Budapest Operetta Theatre, and Bulgarian State Opera Bourgas. In 2016 Carolyn was one of ten conductors selected for the elite Dallas Opera Institute for Women Conductors and has participated in master classes with Marin Alsop, Peter Eötvös, Yoel Levi, Martyn Brabbins and Alex Polishchuk.

Carolyn conducted musicians of the Berlin Philharmonic in Interaktion 2010, was resident assistant at the Israeli National Opera in 2009 and has worked with conductors including Sir Charles Mackerras, Simone Young and Karen Kamensek. She is the recipient of the Brian Stacey Award for Emerging Australian Conductors, Charles Mackerras Conducting Prize awarded by the Australian Music Foundation in London, Nelly Apt Scholarship and Opera Foundation Australia’s Bayreuth Opera Award and Berlin New Music Opera Award. Carolyn holds a PhD in Performance (Conducting) from the University of Sydney where the subject of her doctoral thesis was Gesture as Communication: The Art of Carlos Kleiber.

An enthusiastic music educator, Carolyn is currently Director of Orchestral Studies at Texas State University and enjoys an active freelance career throughout the US, Europe and Australia. From 2013-15 she held the prestigious position of Conductor of the Interlochen Arts Academy Orchestra, having also conducted the World Youth Symphony Orchestra and Detroit Symphony Civic Orchestra since moving to the US in 2013.