Saturday, August 31, 2019

WINNERS: Bacon Award (American Music Performance), solo division, 2018-19

Ernst Bacon as a young man
The American Prize National Nonprofit Competitions in the Performing Arts, David (Volosin) Katz, founder and chief judge, is pleased to announce winners, runners-up and honorable mentions of the ERNST BACON MEMORIAL AWARD for the PERFORMANCE of AMERICAN MUSIC, 2018-19, in the solo division. Congratulations! (An announcement in the ensemble division will be made 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 or 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 creates an annual award in the memory of Ernst Bacon, recognizing the finest performances of American orchestral music worldwide. To learn more about the music & legacy of Ernst Bacon, please visit the website of the Ernst Bacon Society.

The American Prize ERNST BACON MEMORIAL AWARD for the PERFORMANCE of AMERICAN MUSIC, PROFESSIONAL division, soloists or composers, 2018-19

The American Prize winner:
Reed Tetzloff, pianist
Minneapolis MN
Ives—Piano Sonata #2 (Concord)
Griffes—Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan / Sonata
Rzewski—Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues

Reed Tetzloff, pianist
The American pianist Reed Tetzloff has distinguished himself as one of the brightest stars of a new generation of musicians.  He enthralls audiences with his “magical tone” (The Cincinnati Enquirer) and “ebullient” virtuosity (Gramophone).  

He made his New York debut at Alice Tully Hall in 2012, and now showcases his gifts in concert across three continents.

At the 2015 International Tchaikovsky Competition , Reed Tetzloff’s career received a major boost after being named one of twelve semifinalists.  His performances were praised in Russian media, which dubbed him “the lyric hero of the competition” and noted by music connoisseurs worldwide.  

He won prizes from other international competitions, including the Beijing International Music Festival and Academy, Cincinnati World Piano Competition, and the Cleveland and Tbilisi International Piano Competitions.  At Mannes College, where he earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, he won the two largest awards available to pianists: the Concerto Competition (as a freshman) and the Nadia Reisenberg Competition (as a sophomore).  He was awarded a career grant in 2018 from Salon de Virtuosi.

 His debut solo album, “Sounds of Transcendence,” was released in 2017 to wide acclaim. Reviewing the album, Patrick Rucker of Gramophone praised his version of the Griffes Sonata as “ranking easily with the recordings of Garrick Ohlsson and Stephen Beus as the finest available,” in addition to extolling his “refined touch,” “rhetorical aptness,” and “fervent rapture” in music of Franck and Scriabin.  Marc Rochester, reviewing the album for MusicWeb International, also lauded his “performance of immense individuality and conviction.”

2nd Place (there was a tie):
Chris Gekker, trumpet
University of Maryland
College Park MD
Ghost Dialogues

Chris Gekker, trumpet
Chris Gekker is Professor of Trumpet at the University of Maryland School of Music. Previously a member of the American Brass Quintet for eighteen years, he served on the faculties of the Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, and Columbia University. He has been involved with composers his whole career, premiering and recording many new works for trumpet solo as well as chamber music.

2nd Place (there was a tie):
Ian Mitchell, clarinet
London, England
Isn’t This a Time? - American Music for Clarinet
Ian Mitchell, clarinet
Ian Mitchell studied the clarinet with Alan Hacker at the Royal Academy of Music, London, and subsequently read Music at the University of London. He has performed worldwide as a soloist and chamber musician and recorded both as a soloist and with ensembles as diverse as The Monteverdi Orchestra, the improvising group AMM, The Michael Nyman Band, Gemini and Liria, an Albanian folk band. Ian has commissioned over 60 works for either clarinet or bass clarinet, and his CD of solo bass clarinet repertoire (on Black Box, released 2000) was the first by a British artist. He is currently Director of the chamber ensemble Gemini, renowned for its concerts, recordings (three being chosen as Disc of the Year by the music press) and for its education projects. He was Lecturer in Music Performance at the University of Exeter (1996-2007), and latterly Director of Music there. He held the position of Head of Wind, Brass and Percussion at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance, London from 2007-2014. He now devotes his time solely to clarinet and bass clarinet performance.

3rd Place:
Ching-chu Hu, composer 
Denison University
Granville, OH
Hu—Spheres of Influence

Ching-chu Hu, composer
Ching-chu Hu has received performances around the world in festivals and concert series, including the Alternativa Festival in Moscow, the Piccolo Spoleto Festival, American Music Festival in Sofia, Bulgaria, Wigmore Hall, Beijing Forbidden City Concert Hall, Chicago Symphony Center’s Orchestra Hall and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Ensembles performing his work include: Kiev Philharmonic, National Dance and Opera Orchestra of China, Charleston Symphony Orchestra, Columbus Symphony Youth Orchestra, Moscow Conservatory’s Studio New Music Ensemble, ETHEL, Brooklyn Rider String Quartet, Brave New Works, Now Ensemble, and the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble.

He teaches at Denison University (Granville, Ohio), where he holds the Richard Lucier Endowed Professorship.  Also active as a pianist and conductor, Hu holds degrees from Yale University, The University of Iowa and the University of Michigan. His music can be heard on the Albany Records, Capstone Records, and ERM Media. More info:

Finalist Honorable Mention:
Lansing McLoskey, composer    
The Crossing / Philadelphia PA
McLoskey—Zealot Canticles

Lansing McLoskey, composer    
Lansing McLoskey’s music has been performed in twenty countries on six continents, and has won more than two dozen national/international awards, including the 2016 American Prize, the 2016 Robert Avalon International Composition Prize, two awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the 2017/18 Copland House Award. He has been commissioned by the Fromm Foundation, NEA, Meet The Composer, Pew Charitable Trusts, Barlow Endowment, the International Joint Wind Quintet Project, and numerous ensembles. Recent commissions include a Barlow Commission for an 80-minute oratorio for The Crossing; a full-length opera for Guerilla Opera (Boston); The Copland House; ensemberlino vocale (Berlin); the New Spectrum Foundation for violinist Miranda Cuckson; Ensemble Berlin PianoPercussion; Passepartout Duo (Berlin); and oboist ToniMarie Marchioni. Professor at the Frost School of Music, his music is released on Albany Records, WergoSchallplatten, Capstone, Tantara, Equilibrium/Soundset, and Beauport Classics. Most importantly, he is an avid surfer, skateboarder, and cyclist.

Finalist Honorable Mention:
Patrice Michaels, composer & soprano
Chicago IL
Michaels—The Long View: A Portrait of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Patrice Michaels, composer & soprano
Composer - soprano Patrice Michaels creates lyrical soundscapes with a curious ear and an exceptional artistic range that allows her to make captivating music – sometimes out of even the most unexpected source material. A passion for both performance and composing sets Michaels apart.

The breadth of Michaels’ talents are fully expressed in her latest project, Notorious RBG in Song, a salute to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Cedille Records) with pianist Kuang-Hao Huang. Michaels channels her talents as composer and singer on the album, distilling the Justice’s legal opinions, letters, and lectures with deft sensitivity, creating “an engrossing, episodic portrait of the legal thinker, wife, mother and feminist icon” (WQXR). The prismatic album of world premieres has earned praise as “a remarkable tribute” (AllMusic) delivered in “an attractive, post-modern tonal idiom” (Classics Today). The project has been so well received that it will premiere as a concert with chamber orchestra, narrative, and multi-media elements with upcoming performances at the Skirball Center (Los Angeles) and in Washington, DC, produced by The Constitution Center of Philadelphia.

Finalist Honorable Mention:  
Kenneth Thompkins, trombone
Detroit MI
Sonatas, Songs and Spirituals

Kenneth Thompkins, trombone
Kenneth Thompkins was appointed Principal Trombone of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra by Neeme Järvi.   Prior to this appointment, he held positions in the Buffalo Philharmonic and the Florida Orchestra.

Thompkins has been invited to perform and conduct master classes at many music schools, including the Curtis Institute of Music, The Eastman School of Music, the University of Michigan, and Interlochen Arts Academy.   An active chamber musician, Thompkins performs frequently in recital and is a member of Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings.  Thompkins has performed concertos with both the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and New World Symphony.

Thompkins can be heard on recordings by Detroit Chamber Winds, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.  His solo trombone recording; Sonatas, Songs and Spirituals features the music of Alec Wilder, Philip Wharton, Stephen A. Taylor and William Grant Still.

Please visit for more information about the musical activities of Kenneth Thompkins.

Honorable Mention:
Lee Actor, composer
Presidential Symphony Orchestra 

Ankara Turkey
Actor—Symphony No. 3 

Lee Actor, composer
Composer and conductor Lee Actor ( has received numerous commissions, and has won many awards for his compositions, which are characterized by their dramatic impact and emotional expressivity. Since 2001, he has created an extensive catalog of works for large ensembles, including 3 symphonies and 9 concertos, which have been performed by nearly 80 orchestras and bands in the U.S. and around the world.  He has studied composition with Donald Sur, Brent Heisinger, Charles Jones, and Andrew Imbrie, and conducting with Angelo Frascarelli, David Epstein and Higo Harada.  Actor has been Composer-in-Residence of the Palo Alto Philharmonic since 2002, following his appointment as Assistant Conductor in 2001.  In 2014 he was one of the first five composers selected as an "Honored Artist of the American Prize".  In March 2018 he was invited to
conduct two all-Actor programs with the top professional orchestras in Ankara and Izmir, Turkey.

The American Prize ERNST BACON MEMORIAL AWARD for the PERFORMANCE of AMERICAN MUSIC, college/university division, soloists or composers, 2018-19

The American Prize winner:
Solene Le Van
Princeton University Orchestra 

Princeton NJ
Barber—Knoxville: Summer of 1915

Solene Le Van
Soprano Solène Le Van was born in France and moved to America at five years old, when she made her orchestral debut. She has been invited to perform nationally and internationally, notably in the Brunneby Concert Series (Sweden), the Committee of the LA Philharmonic Series, Carnegie Hall, and the Vianden Festival (Luxembourg) under the patronage of the US Embassy. Ms. Le Van recorded her debut recording to be released with Sheva Collection, an internationally distributed label, featuring works by Hahn and world premieres by Paladilhe.

Ms. Le Van has won the David W. Scott Vocal Competition, the David Weiss Scholarship, the AADGT International Competition, and the YMF Debut Concerto Competition. She performed with the Princeton University Orchestra as a two-time concerto competition winner and as a soloist in Handel’s “Dixit Dominus”, the Young Musicians Foundation Orchestra, the RCM Big Band and Orchestra, and the Nassau Sinfonia at the American Handel Society with conductor John Butt. Recent roles include Mabel in "The Pirates of Penzance" and "La Musica" in "L’Orfeo" under the direction of English National Opera director Tom Guthrie.

Ms. Le Van has studied with Metropolitan Opera singers Cynthia Munzer, Kim Josephson, Jon West, and Carole Farley and received coaching at Juilliard. In 2016, she attended the Royal College of Music, where she was given first class honors for dual study in voice with Russell Smythe and violin with Daniel Rowland. At fifteen, she was accepted into Princeton with a concentration in French and certificates in Vocal Performance, Italian, and Musical Theater.

Versatile in many styles, including jazz, folk, and musical theater, Ms. Le Van recently was a standby for a lead role in “Rocktopia” on Broadway.

2nd Place:
John Wilson, pianist
New World Symphony
Miami FL
Bernstein—Symphony No. 2: Age of Anxiety 
Copland—Four Piano Blues

John Wilson, pianist
Hailed for his “Virtuosity” (Miami Herald), “elegance and energy” (Classical Miami Magazine),“inventiveness” (San Diego Tribune) and described as a “marvelous, musical mad scientist” (Music Critics Association of North America) American pianist John Wilson performs equally brilliantly as a solo recitalist, chamber musician, and orchestral pianist. Most recently Wilson was featured in the San Francisco Symphony’s 2018 Carnegie Hall tour, under the direction of Mo. Michael Tilson Thomas, performing the solo pianoforte part to Stravinsky’s “Petrushka (1947). His playing was subsequently described as “brilliant” by the “Classical Voice” publication. His performances have been broadcast on WQXR, and Wilson has recorded for MSR Classics. Wilson has just been awarded an artist grant from The Belin Foundation which will sponsor a recording during the 2019-2020 season of all American solo piano music, which will include works by Michael Tilson Thomas, George Gershwin, and Aaron Copland, among others.

Wilson has performed extensively in North America, South America and Europe, in recital halls such as the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Merkin Hall at the Kaufman Center and at The American Academy of Arts and Letters. As a soloist he has performed with the New World Symphony, Napa Valley Symphony Orchestra, and both the New Amsterdam Symphony and Orchestra Camerata Notturna in New York City. He most recently won the prize for the "Best Performance of an American Work" at the 2017 Liszt- Garrison International Piano Competition.

An avid chamber musician, he has appeared in chamber ensembles with musicians of the San Francisco Symphony, Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal, violin soloist Anthony Marwood, and San Diego Symphony where his pianism was described as “highly inventive” by the San Diego Tribune. He has performed in duo recital with violinist Joshua Bell numerous times, cellist Johannes Moser, and soprano Audra McDonald.

3rd Place:
Martin Hebel, composer
Hamden CT
Brno Philharmonic Orcherstra
Hebel—Symphony No.3 in E Minor 

Martin Hebel, composer
Martin Hebel composes expressive, emotionally direct music for a wide variety of ensembles. His catalog includes instrumental and vocal chamber works, orchestral works, and pieces for educational ensembles.

In his orchestral compositions, Martin explores strategies for engaging audiences, seeking to enrich and enhance concert experiences for contemporary listeners. By combining traditional symphonic forms with a contemporary chromatic language, he hopes to help expand audiences for concert performance of contemporary classical music.

Martin Hebel’s Symphony No.3 in E Minor: Concert in Three Acts, recorded by Mikel Toms and the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra, was released internationally in August 2016 by ABLAZE Records. An evening-long chamber-orchestral hybrid composition, Symphony No.3 was selected as a Finalist in the 2015 Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, and received its broadcast premiere by WPRB Princeton University’s Classical Discoveries program on August 30, 2016.

In addition to composing, Martin maintains a self-designed, high-performance computer workstation to render high-quality simulations of digital scores, an application of his interest in adapting technology to serve music composition.

Born in Hamden, Connecticut in 1990, Martin Hebel began composing in high school, winning the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven’s Frances L. Lauro Scholarship in 2009. Martin Hebel received his M.M. in composition from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music in 2018 where he studied with Douglas Knehans and Ellen Ruth Harrison. He graduated with honors from the University of Connecticut in 2015, where he studied composition with Dr. Kenneth Fuchs and trumpet performance with Dr. Louis Hanzlik.



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