Composition Contest

The David P ‘60 and Susan W Wohlhueter Jazz Composition Contest at Ithaca College

About the contest

The contest has been created to encourage composers to write for the jazz ensemble and to give Ithaca College students the experience of evaluating and performing new music. Students will participate in the judging of the contest. The winner of the contest will receive a prize of $1,000 plus a concert recording of their piece with the Ithaca College Jazz Ensemble. In 2017 our guest artist at the culminating concert on December 8th, 2017 will be world-renowned drummer Matt Wilson, who will play the winning piece with the Jazz Ensemble.

In addition to reviewing submissions' musical quality, we will be assessing several other factors:

  • Compositions should be steeped in the traditions of jazz music.
  • Compositions should be musically accessible to both the audience and the performers.
  • The difficulty level of the compositions should be such that they are playable by high school honor jazz bands, college bands, and professionals alike.
  • Compositions may have drum solos, but they are not required to. Mr. Wilson's style and role in the piece should be well-conceived and clear. Featuring Mr. Wilson in creative ways other than in solos (or in addition to solos) is encouraged.
  • Compositions must be clearly and professionally notated. Scores should be bound properly and parts bound/taped with well-considered page turns. 

Winning pieces, composers and guest artists from previous years are listed at:


Submission deadline

All submissions must be received by October 1, 2017 to be eligible for the contest. Pieces received after that date will be ineligible.


Contest rules

Please read this complete set of rules before submitting your piece. (Instructions for submission are found below, in the section "How to enter the contest.")

  1. Entries must be original, unpublished compositions for instrumental jazz ensemble, utilizing the following instrumentation:
    • 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.
    • 4 trombones (3 tenor + 1 bass trombone)
    • 4 Bb trumpets. Common mutes (plunger, straight, cup, harmon, or bucket) are usable. The range and endurance of college and high school honor band trumpeters should be considered thoughtfully. Flugelhorns are also possible.
    • Rhythm section of piano, guitar, double bass and drum set. A part for vibes or auxiliary percussion is also possible.
    • Other members of the jazz ensemble may also be given solos.
  2. No transcriptions or arrangements (except arrangements of the composer's own works) will be eligible. Current Ithaca College students, faculty or staff (or direct family members of a student, faculty or staff member) are not eligible to enter the contest. Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to submit pieces/arrangements to Mr. Titlebaum for consideration for performance at any time, including for this concert, but not to enter the contest itself.
  3. The composition may already have been performed, but must 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 for a wide range of experience levels. Therefore, the composition should be conceived and constructed to ensure effective performance by high school honors jazz, university and professional ensembles alike.
  5. Entries should be no longer than 10 minutes in length.
  6. Compositions must be submitted with a full score and full set of parts. Compositions without a full score or complete set parts will not be considered.
  7. An audio recording of the piece must be submitted along with the online entry form. High-quality computer renditions or MIDI-based recordings are acceptable, but a recording of a live reading, rehearsal or performance is preferable. 
  8. The submissions must be completely anonymous. Therefore, the composer’s name must not appear on score, parts, nor be audible on the audio file (if the composer's name is announced at a 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.
  9. Composers of any age or national origin are eligible.
  10. 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.
  11. The winning composer will receive $1,000 (US). Winners will also receive a concert recording of their piece with guest artist Matt Wilson, from the performance which is scheduled to occur on Friday, December 8, 2017 in Ford Hall at the Whalen Center for Music, Ithaca College. In the unlikely event that an unforeseen situation prevents Mr. Wilson from performing, the piece will still be recorded, but only with the IC Jazz Ensemble. The winner is strongly encouraged to attend the performance. Travel/lodging is at the composer’s own expense.
  12. The Ithaca College School of Music has the option of withholding the award if no entry is found to be suitable.
  13. Composers must not attempt to contact any of the members of the Ithaca College Jazz Ensemble, guest artist or faculty (other than to ask questions directly to the director) 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



​Questions can be addressed to Mike Titlebaum, Director of Jazz Studies, at In any communication, do not name your piece or mention any specific aspects of it that would identify your piece to ensure that anonymity of all the entries is maintained.

I'm looking forward to hearing the pieces!


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