Composition Contest

Ithaca College Jazz Ensemble 2014-15 Composition Contest


Greetings, jazz composers!   

Thank you all very much for submitting your music to the 5th annual Ithaca College Jazz Ensemble Composition Contest.  As you already know, the contest was completely anonymous; judges had no knowledge of the identity or origins of the composers.  We received the largest number of entries in the history of the contest.  And without a doubt, this year’s entries were also the strongest we’ve had musically.  Not only were the submissions very good, but also extremely varied in terms of style and mood.  I was deeply heartened by how many people are contributing their unique voice to the realm of large jazz ensemble writing.  Please keep it up!   

I am very excited that we’ll be performing the winning pieces at our upcoming concert on March 2 with the IC Jazz Ensemble, along with our guest artist, the fantastic saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa.  In addition, in honor of the 5th year of the contest, we will be performing new works from all the previous contest winners.  The concert will be web streamed live (and archived for later viewing) at:    


I know you’ve all been waiting for the results, so without further delay...   

1st place winner in the pro/college composer category, awarded the $500 prize:

  • MIRAGE by Rick Hirsch of State College, PA

2nd place winner in the pro/college composer category (will also be performed on the concert):

  • VISTA HERMOSA by Remy Le Boeuf of Brooklyn, NY

Honorable mention in the pro/college composer category (in alphabetical order):

  • KAIROS by Gabe Condon, of Penfield, NY
  • IT WAS WHISPERED by Earl McDonald of Mansfield Center, CT
  • CYAN THREAD by Jessika Smith of Eugene, OR
  • RIO VERMELHO by Cassio Vianna of Greeley, CO

1st place winner in the high school composer category, awarded the $200 prize:

  • FLYING COLORS by Mark Ninmer of Taylorville, IL

Honorable mention in the high school composer category (in alphabetical order):

  • PRETZEL STAND by Satchel Fisher of West Stockbridge, MA
  • DIMORIUM by Francis Judilla of Henderson, NV
  • DON’T MESS WITH MY GROOVE by William Steidl of Cape Elizabeth, ME

About the composition contest

For the 2014-15 contest, all entires feature alto saxophone soloist, or at least contain a significant alto sax solo portion. Entries were accepted in two categories:

  1. high school students (have not yet started full-time college study), and
  2. all others (college, professional, etc.).

The winning pieces in both categories will be performed and recorded by the Ithaca College Jazz Ensemble on March 2, 2015, with world-renowned saxophonist/composer Rudresh Mahanthappa who will serve as guest soloist at the concert.

The contest has been created to encourage the composition and performance of the highest possible quality of jazz ensemble literature playable by high school, honor bands, college bands and professional bands alike.  Therefore, the winners of the contest will receive a concert recording of their piece performed by Rudresh Mahanthappa with the Ithaca College Jazz Ensemble, an honorarium ($500 for category 2, $200 for category 1). 

Contest Rules

1.     Entries must be original, unpublished compositions for instrumental jazz ensemble, featuring alto saxophone solo, utilizing the following instrumentation:

a.     5 saxophones, AATTB.  1st alto sax may also double on soprano sax.  Any/all woodwind doubling parts must be optional, and the chart must be playable without the doubles.  Non-doubling parts must also be provided.  The featured alto saxophone may either be fully within the existing saxophone parts, or as an additional soloist part (in which case their could be six sax parts).

b.     4 trombones (3 tenor + 1 bass trombone).  Tuba may be used in place of bass trombone, but the chart must be playable with bass trombone instead of tuba.

c.     4 Bb trumpets or flugelhorns.  Common mutes (plunger, straight, cup, harmon, or bucket) are usable.  The 1st trumpet range should go no higher than a written D above the staff to maximize playability for younger bands.  

d.     Rhythm section of piano, guitar, double bass and drum set.  A vibes part may also be possible but should be optional.

e.     In addition to alto sax, other members of the jazz ensemble may also be given solos.

f.     Although the alto sax is to be a primary soloist, the featured sax part/portions may be orchestrated to be in unison, harmony or counterpoint with other soloists or groups within in the ensemble.  Creativity in this regard is encouraged.

g.    Entrants in the high school category (category 1) may submit pieces with reduced instrumentation.  Entrants in category 2 must submit pieces for full jazz ensemble.

2.     No transcriptions or arrangements (except arrangements of the composer's own works) will be eligible. Ithaca College students, faculty or staff (or direct family members of a student, faculty or staff member) are not eligible to enter the contest.

3.     The composition may already have been performed, but shall have been written in the past three years of the contest deadline.

4.     The purpose of the prize is to encourage the composition and performance of the highest possible quality of jazz ensemble literature.  Therefore, the composition should be conceived and constructed to ensure an effective performance by professional, university and high school honors jazz ensembles.  Pieces will be judged on (1) overall musical quality, (2) playability/appropriateness for high school, college-age and professional bands alike, and (3) proper/professional notation.

5.     Entries shall be no longer than 10 minutes in length.

6.     Compositions must be submitted with a full score, full set of parts and compact disc recording.  Compositions without recordings or complete parts will not be considered.  Computer / MIDI recordings will be accepted, but a recording of a live reading/rehearsal or performance is preferred.

7.     The submissions must be completely anonymous.  Therefore, the composer’s name must not appear on score, parts or CD, nor be audible on the enclosed CD (if the composer's name is announced at the recorded performance, that portion should be edited out).  The envelope containing the printed entry form confirmation email (see "How to enter the contest" below for the link to the online entry form) and a check or money order for $25 made out to "Ithaca College" should be included in the envelope.  The date of composition must appear on the title page.  Entry fees will not be returned for any reason.

8.    Entrants in the high school category (category 1) must be currently enrolled in high school, with a maximum age of 18.  Entrants in category 2 can be any age.  In both categories, composers of any national origin are eligible.  Composers may submit as many pieces as they like, but each piece must be submitted separately with a separate entry fee, printed entry form and outer/inner envelopes for each.

9.     The winning compositions will be selected and the composers notified no later than January 27, 2015.

10.   The winning composer in Category 1 (high school-age) will receive an honorarium of $200, and the Category 2 winner (all others) will receive $500.  Both winners will receive a concert recording of their piece with guest artist Rudresh Mahanthappa, from the performance which is tentatively scheduled to occur on Monday, March 2, 2015 in Ford Hall at the Whalen Center for Music, Ithaca College.  In the unlikely event that an unforeseen situation prevents Mr. Mahanthappa from performing, the piece will still be recorded, but with a different soloist.  The winner is strongly encouraged to attend the performance.  Travel is at the composer’s own expense.

11.   The Ithaca College School of Music has the option of withholding the awards in either category if no entries are found to be suitable.

12.   If the composer does not opt to let Ithaca College keep their piece (an option indicated on the entry form) for consideration for future performance, they must provide a self-addressed, stamped envelope for return of their materials.  All precautions will be taken to ensure that manuscripts and CDs are returned safely, but Ithaca College cannot assume responsibility for loss or damage in transit (the winning piece will be kept by Ithaca College regardless).

13. Composers should send their scores, parts, CDs and inner sealed envelopes containing the printed entry form (see web link below under "How to enter the contest") and entry fee of $25 (NO entry fee is required for high school composers in Category 1) in the form of check or money order payable to Ithaca College, to Jazz Composition Contest, Ithaca College, School of Music, 953 Danby Road, Ithaca, NY, 14850.  All inquiries should be sent to the same address.

14. Composers must not attempt to contact any of the members of the Ithaca College Jazz Ensemble or IC faculty to exert influence over the outcome of the contest.  Any attempt to do so will immediately disqualify the composer and all their submissions from the contest.

How to enter the contest

  1. Read the complete set of rules (above).
  2. Completely fill out an online entry form, and print out the email confirmation you receive.
  3. Enclose the printed email confirmation, entry fee (only applicable for category 2 composers), fully anonymous score, parts and CD recording in a single envelope/package.
  4. Send the envelope/package to be received at Ithaca College by January 16, 2015 to: Jazz Composition Contest, Ithaca College, School of Music, 953 Danby Road, Ithaca, NY, 14850
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