Saturday, December 16, 2006

Composition Competition

I received an announcement of a new composition competiton from Joel Hoffman, Professor of Composition at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

Music07 and eighth blackbird are pleased to announce a competition for composers:

There will be one prize, which consists of a performance by the premiere new music ensemble EIGHTH BLACKBIRD during Music07 (10 through 16 June, 2007 in Cincinnati, OH) and $500 in cash. One or more honorable mentions may also be awarded at the discretion of the judges (These awards do not include a performance or a cash prize).

Applicants can either apply to the competition or to Music07 or both.

The application fee for the competition is $25 (payable by check to“University of Cincinnati” and marked “Music07 competition fee”). The application fee for Music07 Is $25 (payable by check to “University of Cincinnati” and marked “Music07 application fee”). Each submitted composition must be accompanied by a separate application form and application fee. The competition reserves the right to not award any prizes. The decision of the judges is final and no correspondence will be entered into.

The competition will be judged by members of eighth blackbird and by the directors of MusicX. The competition will be judged anonymously; the score and CD should be marked only with a pseudonym. Accompanying the submission should be an envelope marked with the pseudonym on the outside and the application form with application fee on the inside.

The receipt deadline is 20 March, 2007. Results of the competition will be announced by 15 April. The instrumentation of eighth blackbird is: flute (piccolo, alto flute), clarinet (b-flat, a and bass), violin (viola), cello, percussion and piano. Composers are welcome to submit works either for the whole group or any sub-set of it. Participants may be citizens of any country, and there is no age limit. All submitted works should be 8-15 minutes in length. Submitted compositions cannot have been performed during previous editions of MusicX in Cincinnati.

Submission materials:
-Score (parts will be requested only of the winning composer)
-CD, either of a live performance or MIDI
(submissions without CD will also be considered)
-Application form (downloadable at and application fee, both of which in an envelope marked only with the pseudonym on the outside
-SASE, if you wish your materials returned
Music07 is the latest installment of the annual new music festival hosted at the University of Cincinnati. If you have questions, email Prof. Hoffman or eighth blackbird.

Update: Read the comments here and this post for arguments against this competition.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the info, Scott.

I have to say, though, that I'm not keen on competitions in which the composers must finance their own participation. Especially when the right not to make an award is reserved.

Then again, I'm not that keen on artistic competitions in any case.

Anonymous said...

Steve Hicken is polite. I'll be blunt: a $25 entry fee for a competition with a single $500 prize is obscene. Boycott this.

Scott said...

I'm not familiar with composition contest practices, but I know it is quite common for performance competitions to have an entry fee. I don't blame anyone for decided against this competition based on risk analysis, but I don't think it is unethical (my translation of obscene) to construct a competition in this way. Steve's concerns about artistic competitions in the first place is valid. I was going to say that these competitions are ways to get exposure for new composers or performers as a healthy way of growing the art. But is this true? Perhaps by having a winner-take-all attitude there are many performers and composers who are being discounted for not having won or placed in such a competition.

Anonymous said...

Scott, I've posted a lengthier plea for a boycott on my blog (here: ).

The problem here is straightforward: if the prize were, say, $5000, the composers entering would have some indication that the organizers were operating in good faith by sharing some of the risk. But this, a competition in which the first 20 entries pay for the cash prize, is a risk-free proposition for the organizers and shows that they were happy to share in the PR generated by the competition but not willing to either (a) pay for themselves, or (b) do the work required to find a third-party sponsor to endow the prize.

Anonymous said...

I'll save myself the 25 bucks and not enter this one. Actually I have decided not to enter any composition competition with an entry fee because they are all variations on the same theme. There have to be better ways to strengthen the composition-performance "food chain."

Patty said...

Not being a composer, I should probably remain silent on this one ... but too late ...

I used to dabble in poetry, and entered a few contests. Many legit contests did ask for an entry fee. Such is life.

That being said, it does seem that the prize is rather low. I wonder if they could have said, instead, that $500 would be the minimum prize, and more might be available, depending upon number of entries.

Just an idea ....

Anonymous said...

Additional annoyance: "SASE, if you wish your materials returned"

25 bucks, and you have to pay your own return postage? Can we just judge the thing ourselves, too?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps by having a winner-take-all attitude there are many performers and composers who are being discounted for not having won or placed in such a competition.

I feel this way myself to be honest. Competitions are a lottery based on judges preference at best and who you know at worst. Often without a good quality recording and professional performance, you might as well not bother,and this also takes luck and connections. The worst part is that you are given no feedback what so ever, so it is not an opportunity for growth. Yes, you generally have to have good craft, but quite frankly most of us who stick with it have good craft. My wife recently a women's competition(both of us are composers). Seeing the doors it has opened up for her has been quite illuminating. The same people that wouldn't have given her the time of day a month earlier suddenly want her to write for them. I have been increasingly soured to the entire field because of competitions, their pressure, and the arbitrary nature of it all. I feel that it actually hurts music by rewarding status quo instead of original voices. The few that I actually do think are fair and ok(though I have yet to win) are the BMI awards. They cannot get rid of the judges biases, but at least recordings, who you know, and where you go to school don't come into play.

Regardless I think everyone needs to look more at the music and less at who wins the lotto.