Winners of The American Prize in Composition, 2012

Complete listings of finalists and semi-finalists in The American Prize competitions may be found on our Please scroll down for winners and runners-up in earlier competitions.

Orchestra - Professional Division

Orchestra - Student Division

Choral - Professional Division

Choral - Student Division

The American Prize in Composition (Orchestra—Professional Division), 2012

The American Prize winner:

The Whispering Wind

performed by the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, Marin Alsop, conductor

The music of Michael Gatonska has been performed by the Minnesota Orchestra, the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, the American Composers Orchestra, the Pacific Symphony, the Hartford Symphony, the Ossia Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Chamber Musicians, the LOCRIAN Chamber Players, the Talea Ensemble, and string quartet DAFO (Poland) among others. He has received numerous awards for his compositions, including fellowship and grant awards from the Civitella Ranieri Center, the Kosciuszko Foundation, ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, the American Music Center, Meet the Composer, the American Composers Forum, the Roberts Foundation, the Paul Underwood/ ACO Commission, the MATA Festival Commission, the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, the Field, and he is a MacDowell Colony Fellow. His music has been recorded on the Albany Records, MajorWho Media, and Einstein Records labels.

Among judge's comments: "very organic – it flows from one thought or gesture to another...well-balanced between programmatic and abstract moments...warrants future performances."

2nd Place:



Matthew Peterson (b. 1984, Grand Forks, ND) writes music for concerts and the stage. A composer of "considerable imagination and individuality" (Houston Chronicle), his music is "fresh and passionate…beautiful, challenging" (BBC Berkshire). His diverse music ranges from songs of criminals and outcasts, to modern settings of sacred texts, to stunning orchestral soundscapes. Matthew has received commissions from musicians and ensembles in the United States, England, and Sweden, and fifty of his works have been performed across North America and Europe. He has received the Fulbright Grant, and prestigious awards from BMI, ASCAP, Opera Vista, Indiana University, the Boston Choral Ensemble, the National Opera Association, Vocal Essence, ensemble Chanticleer, and others.

3rd Place:

CONCERTO for Piano and Wind Orchestra: "Solar Traveller"

Composer Judith Lang Zaimont (b. 1945) is internationally recognized for her distinctive style, characterized by its expressive strength and dynamism. Many of her 100 works are prize-winning compositions; these include three symphonies, chamber opera, oratorios and cantatas, music for wind ensemble, vocal-chamber pieces with varying accompanying ensembles, a wide variety of chamber works, and solo music for string and wind instruments, piano, organ, and voice. Many of Zaimont's musical compositions have been recorded and have won prizes in national and international competitions. Critics consistently praise her music, terming it "expressive and idiomatic" [CLAVIER], "colorful and commanding" [THE NEW RECORDS], and "exquisitely crafted, vividly characterized and wholly appealing" [NEW YORK TIMES].


The American Prize has also awarded two Special Judge's Citations in Orchestral Composition for 2012.


Trotzky's Train

Santa Monica composer & conductor David Avshalomov () is also an accomplished vocalist. He writes in an accessible neo-Romantic tonal style, displaying a lyric gift and rhythmic vitality, creating works for choir, solo voice, chamber ensembles, band, and orchestra, earning regional commissions and national awards. His music is performed across the US and in Europe and Russia, and recorded on Albany and Naxos. Trained at Harvard, U. Washington, Aspen, and Tanglewood, he conducted orchestras and opera for 20 years, toured in Europe and the Far East, and recorded music by his grandfather Aaron in Moscow. He now focuses on composing and singing.


Make Gentle the Life of This World

Raymond Horton (b. 1952, Jeffersontown, KY) has had a 40-year career as composer, arranger, performer (bass trombone, euphonium), conductor and church musician in his native Louisville, KY, and southern Indiana area since winning the position of Louisville Orchestra Bass Trombonist in 1971 at age 18. With advanced degrees in trombone, composition, and church music, he has made solo appearances locally and nationally, and has had compositions played by orchestras in Louisville, the US and abroad. Horton and wife Terry live in Floyds Knobs, IN, both serve as music staff at nearby Edwardsville United Methodist Church. Horton has a website:


The American Prize in Composition (Orchestra - Student Division), 2012

The American Prize winner:

Mascaras for Orchestra

Mexican native Roberto Kalb is an active Composer, Conductor, and Pianist. Kalb's music has been performed in Mexico, France, Germany and throughout the United States. His piece Le Dormeur du Val (Winner of the 2nd Prize of the Washington International Composition Prize 2012) will be performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. this summer. Kalb holds a Bachelor's Degree in Composition from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, a Master's Degree in Composition from the University of Michigan and is currently a Doctoral Candidate at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, Massachusetts.

Among judge's comments: "expertly orchestrated...holds interest with telling details of instrumental color. Finely evocative, the harmonic language is bold and clear, as is the melodic material..."

2nd Place:

Berlin Songs

Jason Thorpe Buchanan (b. 1986) is an American composer. His works have been described by critics and leading composers in the U.S. and Europe as "sharply-edged," "shimmering," "symphonic," and "ambitious." Jason spent 2010-2011 in Hamburg, where he was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship at the Hochschule für Musik while conducting research in regard to compositional process and aesthetics. In 2011 his Berlin Songs were premiered in Berlin, later recorded at the Melos New Music Festival in San Francisco, conducted by the composer. Jason is a Ph.D. candidate at the Eastman School of Music, director of the composer's consortium Melos Music.

3rd Place:


Liza White's music has been featured at top venues including REDCAT, the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, the Bowdoin International Music Festival, and the Composers' Conference at Wellesley College. Liza's work has been performed by Alarm Will Sound, Fifth House Ensemble, the Charlestown Symphony Orchestra Brass Quintet, ALEAIII conducted by Gunther Schuller, and many other world-class musicians. Liza has won the Craig and Janet Swan Prize, the Margaret Blackburn Composition Competition, and an Emil and Ruth Beyer Award. She has held residencies at the MacDowell Colony, the Hambidge Center, and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. Visit for more information.


The American Prize in Composition (Choral—Professional Division), 2012

The American Prize winner:

Amherst Requiem

words: missa pro defunctis and Emily Dickinson

Largely self-taught as a composer, Brian Holmes usually composes for chorus or solo voice. His works include three operas, two musicals, a Requiem Mass, two extended works for chorus and orchestra, ten song cycles, over one hundred works for chorus, and a variety of works for orchestra, band, and chamber groups. He has numerous commissions, composition prizes, recordings, and publications to his credit. He has been composer in residence to four choruses in the San Francisco Bay area. Holmes is a professor of Physics at San Jose State University, where he teaches a course on the physics of music.

Among judge's comments: "a wonderful composition. Its variety, beauty and introspection are very moving and artistically satisfying."

2nd Place:

selected choral works

Jenni Brandon (b. 1977) is an award-winning composer whose music has been featured by ensembles in venues across the world, including Carnegie Hall, as well as regularly on radio broadcasts across the United States. Commissioned and recorded by many ensembles, her music is also published by Boosey & Hawkes, Graphite Publishing, Santa Barbara Music Publishing, as well as Jenni Brandon Music. Active also as a conductor, she frequently makes guest appearances and currently leads The Concert Singers in Los Angeles. Her first self-produced CD, Songs of California: Music for Winds and Piano was released in 2010. Please visit .

3rd Place:

Thy light has come

Composer and conductor David P. Sartor is Adjunct Professor of Composition at Trevecca Nazarene University. He has received the prestigious Ostwald Award from the American Bandmasters Association, the National Fine Arts Award, and more than two dozen awards from New Music for Young Ensembles, Meet The Composer, Delta Omicron and ASCAP, among others. In 2009, Sartor was inducted as a National Patron of Delta Omicron International Music Fraternity in recognition of his accomplishments as a composer and conductor. His works are recorded on the ERM label and are published by E.C. Schirmer, Shawnee Press, and Metamorphic Music. Web site: .


The American Prize has also awarded two Special Judge's Citations in Choral Composition for 2012.


Soft Footfalls: Song of the Anasazi

Composer Anne Kilstofte has received awards and honors from ASCAP, the American Composers Forum, the Bush Artist Fellowship Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, several McKnight Fellowships and a Fulbright Senior Scholarship. She continues to receive commissions from prominent national and international ensembles from Asia, Europe, and North America. Her work has been heralded for its exceptional variety of tone color and atmospheric display of light and sound. She received her Ph.D. in Music Theory and Composition from the University of Minnesota, studying with Pulitzer prize-winning composer Dominick Argento. Her website offers listening and information about her works.

The American Prize in Composition (Choral—Student Division), 2012

The American Prize winner:

selected choral works

An accomplished singer and pianist, Joshua Fishbein is a natural fit as a composer, choral conductor, and music teacher. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Fishbein studied at The Peabody Preparatory. He won the orchestra prize from Carnegie Mellon University as an undergraduate. Fishbein completed his Master's degree at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where he won the art song competition. Fishbein has also won competitions sponsored by the Baltimore Choral Arts Society, Shalshelet, WomenSing, The Esoterics, the National Lutheran Choir, the Guild of Temple Musicians, and the American Choral Directors Association. Currently, Fishbein is a PhD student at UCLA.

Among judge's comments: "A composer of excellent gifts, with solid technical skills, experimenting, learning, and worth the listen."

2nd Place:

selected choral works

Jason Michael Saunders was born in 1989 and was raised in the Portland, Oregon area. In December 2011 he graduated from Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, where he earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree. Saunders has composed since the age of 16, and has conducted the premiere performances of many of his works. His choral compositions have been performed by ensembles across the United States and in Europe. At Pacific Lutheran, Saunders studied composition with Dr. Gregory Youtz and choral conducting with Dr. Richard Nance and Dr. Brian Galante. For more information, please visit .

3rd Place:

Carmen Vocis

Costas Dafnis (b. 1989 in Athens, Greece) is a composer of modern concert music. He is a founding member of Noisi Paintr, a consortium of musicians dedicated to progressive sound. When not composing, Costas spends his time playing mandolin poorly and reading all of the strange, obscure poetry he pretends to like. .

Winners of The American Prize in Composition, 2011

Complete listings of finalists and semi-finalists in The American Prize competitions may be found on our .

Orchestral Prizes

Choral Prizes

The American Prize in Composition (Orchestral Division), 2011

The American Prize winner:
Jesse Ayers,

Canton, OH

The Passion of John Brown, commissioned by the Akron Symphony Orchestra, Christopher Wilkins, music director.

Jesse Ayers's (b. Knoxville, TN 1951) music has been performed in Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, Russia, Poland, Serbia, Slovenia, and over 100 U.S. cities, and has twice been selected to represent the United States at the ISCM World Music Days. His awards include a MacDowell Fellowhip, an Individual Creativity Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council, annual awards from ASCAP, and grants from Meet the Composer and the American Music Center. For more about Mr. Ayers and The Passion of John Brown, please visit

Among judges' comments: "Well orchestrated, well voiced...quite moving."


2nd Place:

Lee Actor,

Monte Sereno, CA

Dance Rhapsody

3rd Place:

Todd Goodman,
Midland, PA

Concerto for Bass Clarinet and Orchestra

4th Place:

Robert Wendel,
New York, NY

Towers of Light


The American Prize in Composition (Choral Division), 2011

The American Prize winner:
Ted Vives,

Los Alamos, NM

Castrovalva, Lux Aeterna and Gloria

Ted Vives has received many awards and commissions for his choral and instrumental works. He holds Bachelor's degrees in Music Composition and Education from Florida State University and a Master's in Music Composition and Ph.D. in Music Education from the University of Florida. His composition instructors have included John Boda, Charles Carter, and Budd Udell. He is the musical director for the Los Alamos (NM) Community Winds where he resides with his wife and children. Visit

2nd Place:

John Van Geem,
Mount Prospect, IL