The American Prize:
Ernst Bacon Memorial Award for the Performance of American Music,


The American Prize: Ernst Bacon Memorial Award for the Performance of American Music recognizes and rewards the best performances of American music by ensembles and soloists worldwide, based on submitted recordings. There is no live competition. 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. Categories encompass performances of American music in practically any instrumentation or genre, with very few repertoire restrictions. (See the application form and "Requirements for the Recorded Audition"— below—for complete details.) In this division we are accepting performances made within the last five years.

REVISED DEADLINE (because of many requests): Tuesday, July 30, 2024, with extensions available by email request. Questions? Email: theamericanprize@gmail.com

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 in 2016 created an annual award in the memory of Ernst Bacon, recognizing the finest performances of American music worldwide. To learn more about the music & legacy of Ernst Bacon, please visit the website of the .


The American Prize is more than monetary. The Prize grew from the belief that a great deal of excellent music being made in this country goes unrecognized and unheralded, not only in our major cities, but all across the country...in schools and churches, in colleges and universities, and by community and professional musicians. Laureates of The American Prize at all levels of achievement derive local, regional and national recognition to help generate jobs, build audiences and sustain careers. 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. Thousands of artists have derived benefit from their participation in the contests of The American Prize.

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

FINALISTS and RUNNERS-UP: All finalists receive certificates and short comments about their audition. 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 with 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 media 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.

The American Prize: Ernst Bacon Memorial Award for the Performance of American Music is offered in as many as five categories, based on the age or experience of the artist or artists, and on the number and quality of entries. Applications may be made by soloists, chamber ensembles of any size, by conducted ensembles—by their members, by composers, conductors, board members or other ensemble leaders, such as faculty or administrators—or, in the case of student ensembles, by parents. In this category, multiple applications by the same artist or ensemble are acceptable. Conductors may apply with more than one ensemble, and separately for conducting or ensemble awards (see Orchestra, Chorus, Band and Conducting Prizes in the drop-down competition menu—above).

The five categories are:
    1. professional artist or artists (solo artist or composer, chamber ensemble or conducted ensemble)—all musicians are paid
    2. community or faith-based artist or artists (solo artist or composer, chamber ensemble or conducted ensemble)—in the case of ensembles in this category, some musicians may be paid/some may be students.
    3. college or university artist or artists (pre-professional solo artist or composer, chamber ensemble or conducted ensemble)—in the case of ensembles in this category, most members are students/no paid players except "ringers"/faculty participation ok.
    4. secondary school artist or artists (high school age solo artist or composer, chamber ensemble or conducted ensemble)

    5. youth chamber or conducted ensemble (ensemble made up of musicians from more than one secondary or high school, or an ensemble from an arts magnet school)

See "Requirements for the Recorded Audition," (below) for more information about what works may be submitted.

New MARIAN ANDERSON AWARD IN SOCIAL JUSTICE: Any applicant may self-nominate for this additional award, either because of personal circumstances, or in recognition of the nature of the repertoire provided in the audition. This is a subcategory of the main contests for which a separate prize will be awarded, should there be enough entrants. There is no additional application fee required to be considered in the additional category. Simply highlight the designation on the application form. The American Prize National Nonprofit Competitions in the Performing Arts, based in Danbury, Connecticut, is honored to rename its Social Justice award in memory of the internationally acclaimed contralto and longtime Danbury resident, Marian Anderson. Henceforth to be known as The American Prize Marian Anderson Award in Social Justice, the award honors the extraordinary legacy of one of America’s greatest performing artists, while annually recognizing and rewarding The American Prize laureate who best exemplifies the singer’s courage and trailblazing fortitude as an artist of Diversity, Equality and Inclusion. Questions? Please email Maestro Katz at theamericanprize@gmail.com

The competitions of The American Prize are open to all U.S. citizens, whether living in this country or abroad, and to others who have lived, worked or studied (or are 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. For the ERNST BACON MEMORIAL AWARD only, applications from artists, ensembles, and conductors anywhere in the world are accepted, provided the Requirements for the Recorded Audition have been met and application fees are 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 ONLY: pay fees online, submit the downloaded application as a PDF file or scan, along with the required emailed information (see application form), and include links to online audition selections. (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 and send audition selections on disc to the office, and email the required information (see application form), pay fees online, or by check, money order or credit card.


    1. Download the application form for The American Prize: Ernst Bacon Memorial Award for the Performance of
American Music
. Select the categories which best identifiy the applicant(s).
    2. MAIL the completed application form by the deadline date or EMAIL it as a PDF or scan with your required email.

    3. If providing audition selections ONLINE, include the links in your required email (see application form.)

    4. If providing audition selections BY MAIL, include two identical recordings of the applicant in performance, with the selection(s) clearly indicated on both the recording itself and on the recording's cover or box. Be sure it lists applicant's name. No loose discs, please.
    5. Be sure to sign the form and pay the application fee. Pay ONLINE (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.
    6. Be sure to email the required information (see application form.)

The application fee for this contest is $65 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.Parents, teachers and others interested in applying for a David Daniels Scholarship, which covers up to 80% of application fees to The American Prize contests for high school-age students only (currently enrolled or home schooled in any U.S. state, territory or protectorate), please write to David Katz, chief judge of The American Prize, at theamericanprize@gmail.com. Place the words "Daniels Scholarship" in the subject line of the email. In the Bacon contest, the scholarship opportunity applies to individual high school artists or chamber ensembles only, not to conducted ensembles. To learn more about David Daniels and the scholarship created in his memory, please click to visit the article on our blog.

email with questions: theamericanprize@gmail.com

The American Prize: Ernst Bacon Memorial Award for the Performance of American Music

You need not prepare a special tape for The American Prize. A previous recording, whether of a concert made in front of an audience or one created in a recording session without an audience, is perfectly acceptable. Neither the location nor the repertoire of any qualified individual or ensemble limits eligibility, provided the general guidelines listed below have been met. Excellence within categories is the primary criteria for the selection of finalists and winners.

1. MAIL recordings of, or email ONLINE links to, the performance of any work (or works) of American music from any period, including "new" music, recorded within the last five years. Up to twenty minutes of music may be submitted, unless a work is of longer duration, in which case the entire piece may be sent. There is no minimum time limit for the audition. The judges prefer complete works, but complete movements—not excerpts—may be submitted if the full work is not available, even if they exceed the time limit. Recordings may be audio or video, as is the applicant's preference.

"AMERICAN MUSIC"—For the purposes of the Bacon Award competition, "American music" is defined as any work composed in this country, at any time, in any period or style, by persons of any nationality, or works by American citizens composed anywhere in the world.


These definitions are purposely broad to allow the largest number of potential contestants to be eligible. We seek to welcome the greatest variety of performances of American music from throughout the world.


2. Performers and works must be clearly identified on the disc itself and on the cover or box. We accept CD or DVD recordings only. No materials will be returned PLEASE NOTE: If also applying for a conducting prize, the requirements for the recording in the conducting category are different from those listed above—video is required for conductors. (See Conducting Prizes in the contest menu).


3. If submitting ONLINE links, include them in your required email. Be sure to identify the links by title of the selection and provide any passwords necessary, so judges can easily access your audition. Links must remain active until the end of the contest year. PLEASE NOTE: The responsibility for the viability of links rests with the contestant. Please double-check that they work correctly.


4. There are no other restrictions. No materials will be returned. Completed applications will be confirmed by email.


SEND required email to: theamericanprize@gmail.com

GENERAL TIMELINE for this competition:

In general, the competition process is completed over a number of months. Semi-finalists are selected in-house, then finalists are announced in the winter & spring, 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.