Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Winners: BACON AWARD (American Music Performance)—solo division, 2020

Ernst Bacon as a young man
The American Prize wishes everyone safety and health during this difficult time.

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, 2019-20, in the solo division. Congratulations! (An announcement in the ensemble division will be made separately.)

Because of the current national and international situation, many rules have been changed and requirements eased to make it easier to apply for The American Prize 2020-21, In addition, we will accept applications from COMPOSERS, CLASSICAL VOCALISTS, PIANISTS, CHAMBER ENSEMBLES and INSTRUMENTAL SOLOISTS postmarked or emailed by the new Covid-extended deadline date of Wednesday, October 14, 2020. Applications from CONDUCTORS, STAGE DIRECTORS, CONDUCTED ENSEMBLES, ARTS ADMINISTRATORS (arts marketing, arts education) and in the performance of American Music (BACON AWARD) will be accepted until Wednesday, October 14, 2020. Further extensions may be granted pending the most current information about he virus. Visit for complete contest information.

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, 2019-20

The American Prize winner:
Hyunjung Rachel Chung, piano
Roswell  GA       
My Cherished Garden    
piano music by Higdon, Zwilich, Thomas, Park and Leon

Hyunjung Rachel Chung, piano
Since making her Carnegie Hall New York debut recital in 1996, Korean-American pianist Hyunjung Rachel Chung has paved a multifaceted path as a performer, educator, recording artist, and avocational composer. Her solo and collaborative recitals have taken her throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. She has appeared as a performer, presenter, and master teacher in many conferences and music festivals including National Music Teachers Association National Conference, College Music Society International Conference, San Giacomo Festival, Grumo Festival, Forty Fingers–Manifestazione Pianistica Internazionale, South Carolina Chamber Music Festival, Arioso Musica Domani International Composition Prize, and Piano at Peabody Workshop.

Dedicated to the music of our time as well as the neglected and forgotten music, she has performed and recorded various piano solo works by women composers in her two award-winning albums in the Studio Jeeb label: My Cherished Garden: Piano Works by American Women Composers (2017) and Three Piano Sonatas by Women Composers (2018). She has enjoyed collaborations with many instrumentalists and singers. Also, Rachel frequently shares a stage with her husband and a tenor Dr. Sungbae Kim.

A devoted educator, Hyunjung Rachel Chung is an associate professor at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. Chung earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music from Seoul National University, a Master of Music degree and a Professional Study Diploma from the Mannes College of Music, and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Piano Performance from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University.

2nd Place (there was a tie):
Robert G. Patterson, composer            
Rhodes College Mastersingers, Coro Rio, Memphis Symphony
William Skoog, conductor      
Memphis TN       

Robert G. Patterson, composer            
Robert G. Patterson resides in Memphis, Tennessee. His music is infused with the popular rhythms and melodic fragments around him, and these provide source material for his personal voice. A student of George Crumb and Don Freund, he is a resident composer with the Luna Nova Ensemble and recent accomplishments include commissions from Opera Memphis, the One Coin Concert series in Osaka, Japan, and First Prize in the NATS Art Song Composition Award. His Requiem for massed choir, soloists, and orchestra received its premiere in November, 2018 by the Rhodes Mastersingers and Memphis Symphony Orchestra.

In addition to his musical activities, Patterson also has been a professional software developer. This led him to become an expert in musical engraving using a computer. His Patterson Plug-Ins Collection for Finale software is a staple of composers and copyists worldwide.

William Skoog, conductor

William Skoog is Professor of Music at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, where he served as Chair of the Department of Music from 2009-2018, and continues as Director of Choral Studies. He conducts the Rhodes Singers, Chamber Singers, and the MasterSingers Chorale, conducting them with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra.


2nd Place (there was a tie):
Nolan Stolz, composer
Brno Philharmonic     
Brno   Czechoslovakia    
Lincoln Highway Suite   

Nolan Stolz, composer
Nolan Stolz is a composer, scholar, and drummer living in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Stolz’s compositions are firmly rooted in the contemporary classical tradition yet clearly influenced by a performance background in jazz fusion and progressive rock. His flute piece Princess Ka‘iulani was published in SCI Journal of Scores (51) and released on Modes, vol. 30 of SCI’s CD series on Navona/PARMA. His Lincoln Highway Suite was recorded in the Czech Republic in 2017 and released on Ablaze Records in 2018; many orchestras and concert bands around the U.S. have performed the suite or movements from it. Several other compositions of his have been released on Ablaze Records, ESM, Six String Sounds, and Tributary Music.

Dr. Stolz is Assistant Professor and Coordinator of Music at University of South Carolina Upstate. Previously, he taught at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Southeast Missouri State University, University of South Dakota, and at two community colleges in Connecticut. Stolz has been Artist-in-Residence at Goldwell Open Air Museum, Osage Arts Community, Prairie Center of the Arts, Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, and VCCA.

Third Place (there was a tie):
Susan Merdinger, piano           
Highland Park  IL       
American Melting Pot:
Pieces of China (Gould), Ballade in F-sharp minor (Vasquez), Piano Sonata (Alter), Toccata (Barilari)

Susan Merdinger, piano           
Steinway Artist, Susan Merdinger has been internationally acclaimed in prestigious newspapers and journals for her stunning performances, particularly noted for her recordings of Schumann, Brahms, and Beethoven. Among her many honors, Merdinger is a two-time First Prize Winner of the Bradshaw and Buono International Piano Competition in Professional Solo and Duo Piano, Gold Medalist of the Global Music Awards, Winner of the Dewar’s Young Artists Award in Music, Winner of the Artists International Young Musicians Competition, and 2nd Prize Winner in the American Prize for Chamber Music. Performing her sold-out solo recital debut in Carnegie Recital Hall at age twenty-four, Merdinger has continued to grace the stages of some of the world’s best concert halls. She has appeared as soloist with professional orchestras such as the Chicago Philharmonic, the State Symphony Orchestra of Mexico and the Northbrook Symphony and has been a frequent Visiting Artist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chamber Music Series. Merdinger’s live performances and recordings have been broadcast worldwide on WQXR, WFMT, BRT-3 (Belgian National Radio), NPR and BBC Television. Merdinger received her formal education at Yale University, the Yale School of Music, and the Manhattan School of Music. She is on the Faculty of Summit Music Festival in New York, and is Artistic Director of Sheridan Music Studio, The Five Greene, Sheridan Solisti, and Pianissimo! Ensemble.

3rd Place (there was a tie):
Ann Marie Wilcox-Daehn, mezzo-soprano
Elizabeth Avery, piano        
Springfield  MO       
Songs to the Moon (Heggie)  
Ann Marie Wilcox-Daehn, mezzo-soprano
Mezzo soprano Ann Marie Wilcox-Daehn thrives on a performing career that includes oratorio, opera, art song, and musical theater. She has soloed at Carnegie Hall in the Mozart Requiem, Haydn’s Creation Mass, and Vivaldi’s Gloria. Internationally and domestically she performs in solo and chamber recitals with traditional as well as obscure repertoire. Of the over 35 opera roles to her credit, favorites include Carmen; Dorabella in Cosí fan Tutte; Isabella in The Italian Girl from Algiers; and the role she created for Libby Larsen’s jazz opera Picnic, Rosemary. Ann Marie is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music, UNC-Greensboro, and Miami University.

Elizabeth Avery, piano        
Pianist Elizabeth Avery concertizes and gives masterclasses regularly throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. She has given world premiere performances at Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall and Steinway Hall (New York City) and premiered Italian operas with International Opera Theater in the Umbria and Piemonte regions of Italy. Dr. Avery coaches repertoire and diction at the University of Oklahoma School of Music, and has been on the facultyat Indiana University, the Up North Vocal Institute, and the Songe d'été en musique festival in Québec. She has played under such prominent conductors as Slatkin, Guerrero and Mauceri. Avery was a Master's fellow under Martin Katz and earned her Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the Eastman School of Music.

The collaboration of Dr. Ann Marie Daehn and Dr. Elizabeth Avery earned the pair the 2017-2018 Ernst Bacon American Prize for their performance of songs by Sergius Kagen.

Finalist Honorable Mention:
Cayla Bellamy, bassoon
Cedar Falls  IA       
Jazz Variations (Larsen), Elegy and Dance (Davis), Deep (Shapiro) 

Cayla Bellamy, bassoon
Dr. Cayla Bellamy currently serves as Assistant Professor of Bassoon at the University of Northern Iowa and contrabassoonist with wcfsymphony. In addition to performing at regional and national conferences for the National Association of Wind and Percussion Instructors and the College Music Society International Conference, Cayla will be appearing as an invited recitalist at the upcoming conference for the International Double Reed Society.  In September 2018, Cayla released her debut album entitled Double or Nothing under the Mark Records label, a collection of previously unrecorded bassoon solos and duos including works by Libby Larsen, Alex Shapiro, John Steinmetz, Roger Boutry, Michael Daugherty, and William Davis.

In the 2019 season, she will be featured performing Libby Larsen’s Full Moon in the City (Northern Iowa Symphony Orchestra) and Joan Tower’s Red Maple (wcfsymphony), as well as premiering John Steinmetz’s new Concerto for Bassoon and Strings (Herricks High School). A dedicated educator, Cayla spends her summers as Conductor for the New York Summer School of the Arts and has held positions with Interlochen Arts Camp, Gwinnett County Public Schools, and the Emory Youth Symphony Orchestra.  Cayla completed the Doctor of Music degree from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music in 2015, and she also holds Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in Music Education and Bassoon Performance from the University of Georgia, where she was distinguished as a National Presser Scholar and invited to perform with the American Wind Symphony Orchestra. Find out more online at

The American Prize ERNST BACON MEMORIAL AWARD for the PERFORMANCE of AMERICAN MUSIC, college/university division, soloists or composers, 2019-20

The American Prize winner:
Matt  Ridge, composer & percussionist
Bloomington  IN       
Small Talk (A Portrait of Social Skepticism)

Matt  Ridge, composer & percussionist
Matt Ridge is a composer, arranger, and performer who enjoys a wide scope of influence and output. He seeks to access the full human spectrum of emotional and intellectual engagement in his body of work, which bridges the realms of concert music, electronics, the marching arts, live multimedia, and collaborative art installations.

Matt comes from a diverse performance background, running the gamut from contemporary vocal music with Indiana University’s acclaimed NOTUS to years of world class DCI/WGI membership as a percussionist. He gained recognition as the winner of The American Prize (Ernst Bacon Memorial Award for the Performance of American Music) for the 2019-20 season, as well as finalist standing in two categories of The American Prize in Composition.

Matt maintains an active presence within the marching arts community, writing for ensembles of varying skill level each year. Most notably, he has earned two WGI Concert World Class championships and three BOA Grand Nationals semifinals appearances with Fishers High School (IN), for whom he regularly writes and consults. His performance experience in this realm spans four seasons with The Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps and two with Music City Mystique, serving a prominent leadership role in both ensembles.

Matt holds a BM in Composition (high distinction) from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, with a minor in electronic music and specialized studies in orchestration, scoring for media, and choral music. His teachers included Tansy Davies, David Dzubay, Sven-David Sandström, Jeffrey Hass, Claude Baker, Don Freund, John Gibson, Aaron Travers, and Larry Groupé. In addition to his formal studies, Matt developed skills as an engraver working for percussion-oriented publisher Tapspace Publications, LLC.

Currently residing in his hometown near Indianapolis, IN, Matt is a member of ASCAP, PAS, and SEAMUS. Outside of music, he takes interest in science, film, the universe, and the endless void of Internet humor. Discover more at

2nd Place (there was a tie):
Martin Hebel, composer
CCM Wind Ensemble     

Dr. Terence G. Milligan, conductor
Cincinnati OH       
Tides Within 

Martin Hebel, composer
Martin Hebel composes expressive, emotionally direct music for a wide variety of ensembles.
  In his orchestral compositions, Martin explores strategies for engaging new audiences, seeking to enrich and enhance concert experiences for contemporary listeners, combining varied traditional symphonic forms with his contemporary harmonic language.

Martin Hebel’s Symphony No. 3 in E Minor: Concert in Three Acts, second place winner of the 2019 American Prize and National Finalist in the 2015 Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, was recorded by Mikel Toms and the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra and released internationally in August 2016 by ABLAZE Records. 

Born in Hamden, Connecticut in 1990, 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.

2nd Place (there was a tie):
Zachary Ploeger, composer & trumpeter
Tempe  AZ       
Sonata for Trumpet and Piano

Zachary Ploeger, composer & trumpeter
Zachary S. Ploeger is quickly emerging as one of the most promising musicians of his generation. As an active conductor, trumpeter, and composer, he is constantly in demand. At 24 years of age, he has already performed for audiences all around the world.

Zach is currently pursuing a doctorate in trumpet performance at the University of Minnesota where he holds a Music Fellowship and studies with Professor Marissa Benedict. He recently completed a master's degree at Arizona State University where he was the Rafael Mendez Scholar in Brass. At ASU he studied with Regents Professor David Hickman, one of the most highly regarded trumpet pedagogues of all time. Zachary also holds undergraduate degrees in trumpet performance and composition from Western Michigan University, where he graduated summa cum laude. At WMU, Zach studied with Professor Scott Thornburg, trumpet, and Dr. Richard Adams, composition.

Zachary has received numerous awards and accolades. Among them are five “American Prize” awards for excellence in the field of music composition. He is also frequently commissioned and his works regularly performed. Recent engagements include the Mivos String Quartet, the Western Michigan University Symphonic Band, the International Trumpet Guild, and many prominent soloists. A CD of his own original trumpet works composed and performed by Zachary has been released. And an album of standard trumpet repertoire is currently in progress.

3rd Place:
Young Jun Lee, composer
New Thread Saxophone Quartet
New York  NY       

Young Jun Lee, composer
YoungJun Lee is a distinguished composer, pianist, conductor and a businessman, born in 1991. He started learning how to play the piano at the age of 7. He is an awarded musician from Berklee Composition department for Vuk Kulenovic/Memorial Prize as one of the best composition students of the year in 2019. He got a masterclass with George Lewis. His music has been premiered by renowned musicians such as Jack Quartet(String_US) and New Thread Saxophone Quartet(US). Also, he co-wrote the concerto for electronic instrument for Suzanne Ciani. He is currently studying in Berklee College of Music with Professor Andrew List, Alla Cohen, Dennis Leclaire and Marti Epstein. And he got nominated to Dean’s list for 4 semesters in a row. (CGPA 3.98/4.0) You can check him more in his website -

Finalist—Career Encouragement Certificate
Annika Huprikar, composer & pianist
Deerfield IL       
Ballade in F minor; Arabesque; Olympus

Annika Huprikar, composer & pianist
Annika Huprikar, a rising senior in high school, is a pianist and composer. She has been studying piano since the age of six. She is a classically trained pianist, under the tutelage of Susan Merdinger. Annika has performed twice in Carnegie Hall, as a Second Place Winner in the American Protege International Romantic Music Competition in 2017 and the Elite International Music Competition in 2019. She performed her solo repertoire in her Young Steinway Artists Concert in 2018. Annika has been named an Illinois All-State Musician by the ILMEA for composition, and was invited to attend and perform at the All-State Composition Festival in January 2019. She was one of four nationally selected finalists for The American Prize competition in Piano Concerto Performance in 2017, and has also performed concertos with regional orchestras. Annika is also a part of the Midwest Young Artists Conservatory as a the pianist in a piano quintet, and recently made her Ravinia debut with the quintet. Annika regularly performs mini-concerts for memory care residents in senior living. She is the co-founder of Music-Is-Medicine, a volunteer organization that brings musicians in the community together to play for senior citizens.



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