orchestraThe American Prize in Composition—Opera, Theater, Musical Theater, Film, Dance, 2019-20

REVISED Preliminary DEADLINE for postmark or emailing of application(s):

Wednesday, May 1, 2019.
Automatic extensions to Monday, June 3, 2019 for those who need more time and request it in advance of the June date by emailing

The American Prize in Composition recognizes and rewards the best composers in America of works for orchestra, chorus, concert band, chamber ensemble, theater, opera, dance or film that have been publicly performed, or read and recorded. A new, separate category for works composers themselves would consider "pops" may be accessed via the orchestra, choral and band music composition contest pages.

Composers may also wish to apply for the ERNST BACON MEMORIAL AWARD for the PERFORMANCE of AMERICAN MUSIC, being offered in broader categories (including opera/theater/film). The deadline for the Bacon contest is in May. Details here.


To see 2016 winners in the Opera/Theater/Film/Dance composition division, please click: 2016 theater winners. Full 2017-18 results will be posted soon.

Other recent winners in this category:

YIGUO YAN for "Colors of Obsessions"—Kansas City, MO

TODD GOODMAN  for "Night of the Living Dead: the opera" —Midland  PA


Special Judge's Citation:  "Extraordinary Use of Technology to Expand the Boundaries of Performance"

MATTHEW BURTNER for "Auksalaq"—Charlottesville  VA


Complete, updated listings of winners and runners-up from all seasons will soon be found on the Winners' Pages

The American Prize is more than monetary. Semi-finalists, finalists and winners are announced to national arts media and on our websites, where winners are profiled. Semi-finalists, finalists and winners earn the right to use The American Prize logo and official seal on printed programs and other documents, and on the web.

SEMI-FINALISTS: All semi-finalists receive official certificates.

FINALISTS and RUNNERS-UP: All finalists and runners-up receive certificates and written, unbiased evaluations from our distinguished national panel of judges. When winners are announced on The American Prize blog, RUNNERS-UP are also profiled on the blog with their photos, biographies and website links.

WINNERS: A single winner in each category and/or division is selected. Winners receive certificates, written evaluations, personalized press releases sent by us to local media and other contacts you provide as part of your application, and cash prizes up to $500, depending on the year, the category and the number of entrants.
Only with your explicit permission, excerpts of winning performances may be posted to The American Prize channel on .

The judges reserve the right to award citations and honorable mentions as warranted, and to combine categories when necessary. The decision of the judges is final.


REVISED preliminary DEADLINE for postmark or emailing of application(s): Wednesday, May 1, 2019.

The American Prize in Composition is offered in six divisions: works for orchestra, chorus, concert band, chamber ensemble, theater (including opera, dance and film), or pops, and in two categories, based on your education and experience. You may make application in any division or in all. Works for chorus and orchestra or chorus and concert band performing together should be submitted in the Choral Division. Works composers themselves would consider "pops" should be submitted using the "POPS" application on the band, orchestra or choral composition contest pages.

The two categories are:
    1. professional composer
    2. student composer (actively engaged in learning the art & craft of composition in a school or other educational setting)

The competitions of The American Prize are open to all U.S. citizens, whether living in this country or abroad, and to others currently living, working and/or studying in the United States of America, its protectorates and territories. The American Prize does not discriminate on the basis of ethnicity, gender, age, spiritual or personal belief, disability, sexual preference or gender identification. All application fees must be remitted in U.S. funds.


Every applicant must send certain required information by email.

Applicants can then complete their application either of two ways:


A. ONLINE PRIMARILY: pay fees online, submit the downloaded application as a PDF file, along with the required emailed information (see application form), include links to performances of your music online. (Please note: We do not accept scores of your music as PDFs. Printed, bound copies of music MUST BE SENT BY MAIL to the office—Why? Read Composer Q&A.) Application forms for The American Prize can be filled out on computer, saved and emailed by using Adobe Reader 11. Download it free here.

B. BY MAIL & EMAIL: mail the completed, downloaded application form, send scores, and recordings of your music on disc or tape to the office, and emailing the required information (see application form), paying fees online, or by check, by money order or credit card.



   1. Download the application form for The American Prize in Composition—Opera/Theater/Film/Dance Division. On the form, select the category which best identifies the applicant.
    2. MAIL the completed application form by the deadline date or EMAIL it as a PDF attachment with your required email.

    3. If providing recorded selections of your music ONLINE, include the links to them in your required email (see application form.)

    4. If providing recorded selections of your music BY MAIL, include two identical recordings of the composition(s), with the composer, conductor, ensemble and work clearly indicated both on the recording and on the sleeve or box. Be sure both list applicant's name.

    5. All applicants: SEND BY MAIL TWO identical bound copies of each complete score (no reduced or short scores.) Provide a self-addressed envelope (minimum size 11x14 inches) and proper postage if you would like scores returned. We do not accept PDFs or scores provided by other electronic means.
    6. Be sure to sign the form and pay the application fee. Pay ONLINE, if you wish, (click "FEES/GIFTS" in the menu bar, above), or use this link: "Pay competition fees", or send check, money order or credit card information by mail.
    7. Be sure to email the required information (see application form.)

The application fee is $45 per application. Pay ONLINE (click "FEES/GIFTS" in the menu bar, above) or use this iink: "Pay competition fees" pay by credit card, or make checks payable to HCMT/The American Prize (see application form.) Application fees are nonrefundable. No incomplete applications will be accepted. When paying online, BE SURE to identify the applicant with the payment.


The American Prize in Composition—Opera/Theater/Film/Dance Division

The American Prize in Composition—Opera/Theater/Film/Dance Division is designed to evaluate and reward composers of works for "theater" which have already been performed or read and recorded. The performance may be by students, community, or professional musicians. Do not block out your name on scores. Composers do not remain anonymous.


A "work for theater" is defined as any composition that is intented for theatrical (staged) performance, including opera, chamber opera, music theater, performance art, dance, installations, incidental music for plays, film, television or internet. (This definition is purposely broad to allow the largest number of potential contestants to be eligible.) We seek to welcome the greatest variety of composers of theater music from throughout the country, including those that may feature electronic elements, either prerecorded or performed live. If you have questions about eligibility for a particular work, please email theamericanprize@gmail.com.

Complete works should be submitted when possible, or, at minimum, a major segment or act. If sending recordings by mail, performers, works and composer must be clearly identified on the disc and on the cover or video box. Because the judges wish to be able to experience both the visual and/or dramatic aspects of the work in relation to the musical, we accept online video links or DVD or VHS recordings of the music in theatrical performance only (no audio-only or "concert-only" recordings, which, however, would be welcomed in one of the other competition categories.) No cassette tapes. "Computer realized” or “synthesized” recordings will be accepted only if they represent the composer's final artistic intentions. There are no other restrictions. No scores will be returned without a self-addressed envelope (minimum size 11x14 inches) and proper postage.

For the 2019-20 competition, there is no restriction as to when the composition was created.

A. If sending recordings BY MAIL, performers, works and composer must be clearly identified on the disc and on the cover or video box. We accept DVD, VHS or CD recordings only. No cassette tapes.


B. If submitting ONLINE links to your recordings, include them in your required email. Be sure to identify the links by composer and title of the selection and provide any passwords necessary, so judges can easily access your materials. Links must remain active until results in the category are officially announced. PLEASE NOTE: The responsibility for the viability of links rests with the contestant. Please double-check that they work correctly.


SEND required email to: theamericanprize@gmail.com

GENERAL TIMELINE for this competition:

Final deadline for postmark or emailing applications, with extensions available by emailed request: Monday, June 3, 2019. Applications will be acknowledged by email.


In general, the entire competition process is completed in several months. Semi-finalists are announced in the fall, finalists in the winter, followed by winners—after which all certificates, evaluations and prizes are mailed. Specific dates for the announcement of each stage of the competition are posted in regular updates to the competition's blog and facebook pages. Find those links on the homepage of this website.


The American Prize competitions are administered by Hat City Music Theater, Inc. (HCMT), the 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization based in Danbury, CT.