2008 | Zachary Wadsworth

Zachary Wadsworth | Winner, 1st Annual Commission Competition

The music of Zachary Wadsworth, praised for its “evocative mixture of old and new,” includes works for solo instruments and voices, choirs, chamber ensembles, and orchestras. Zachary’s opera, Venus and Adonis, has been performed by three different companies and has been hailed as an “astonishingly confident” and “mesmerizing” work. As first-prize winner of the 2007 ASCAP / Lotte Lehmann Foundation Art Song Competition, Zachary’s recent song cycle, Pictures of the Floating World, was premiered in February, 2009, at the Lincoln Center Library in New York. Other awards include a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2007), three ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composers Awards, and first prizes in the first Long Leaf Opera One Act Opera Competition (2006), the Chamber Music Rochester Young Composer Competition (2007), the Boston Choral Ensemble Commission Competition (2007), and the Pacific Chorale Young Composer Competition (2008). While studying composition, he also received the Howard Hanson Large Ensemble Prize from the Eastman School of Music and the Frances E. Osborne Kellogg Memorial Prize from the Yale School of Music. Two of Zachary’s works, O Saving Victim and Beati Quorum Remissæ, have been recorded on the Gothic record label, and the latter has been published by Alliance Music Publications. An energetic compositional collaborator, he has received commissions from numerous individuals and organizations, including ASCAP, The Commission Project, the Hanson Institute for American Music, MAYFEST, the Eastman School of Music, Smith College, St. Anne Church, Rochester, and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Rochester. His works have been performed by the Washington National Opera chorus, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Atlanta Philharmonic Orchestra, Long Leaf Opera, and by ensembles at Cambridge University, Yale University, the Eastman School of Music, Westminster Choir College, Smith College, and Nazareth College. A native of Richmond, Virginia, Zachary (b. 1983) is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music (BM, 2005) and Yale University (MM, 2007), and he is currently pursuing a DMA in music composition at Cornell University. His composition teachers have included Steven Stucky, Roberto Sierra, Martin Bresnick, Ezra Laderman, Ingram Marshall, Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez, Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon, Robert Morris, David Liptak, James Willey, and Syd Hodkinson. He has also studied at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute and the Aspen Music Festival and School.

Mr. Wadsworth’s composition, Look down, fair moon, was premiered during the spring concert of BCE’s 7th season.

Honorable Mentions

Eric Banks | Honorable Mention, 1st Annual Commission Competition

Conductor, composer, professor, vocalist, linguist, and ethnomusicologist, Eric Banks has garnered significant acclaim as one of the most creative choral directors in the United States—for his unwavering commitment to new music for unaccompanied voices. In 1992, Eric founded The Esoterics, a professional-caliber chamber chorus of volunteers in Seattle whose mission is to perform and perpetuate contemporary choral music beyond the scope of the established a cappella canon. In 2004, Banks founded another group, the all-male vocal ensemble ÆDONIS, whose mission is to perform choral music by gay composers. After completing his BA in Composition at Yale University in 1990, Eric relocated to Seattle to study in the departments of Choral Studies and Music Theory at the University of Washington. In 1997, at the conclusion of his graduate study, Banks traveled to Sweden as a Fulbright Scholar and Lois Roth Fellow in order to learn more about its contemporary choral culture. While in Stockholm, Eric sang as a chorister and soloist with several ensembles, including the Swedish Radio Choir and the Eric Ericson Chamber Choir. In his composition, Eric is drawn to ideas that are ‘esoteric’ in origin, and chooses to uncover and elucidate texts and concepts that are undiscovered, under-represented, or not easily decipherable to most. By focusing almost exclusively on choral repertoire, Banks has been able to combine his interest in poetry, philosophy, classical civilization, comparative religion, ancient melody, and social justice, to create a growing repertoire for a cappella chorus. His compositions include: Celestial Wystan (2001, a triptych of poems by WH Auden), Tabula siderum zodiaco (2002, mapping the stars of the zodiac), Jâvdâni(2003, setting two quatrains on the afterlife by Rumi), Sonetti d’amore(2005–2006, a cantata of Italian love sonnets by Michelangelo), Twelve Qur’anic visions (2005–2007, a dreamscape of sacred verses in Arabic), Vitam impendere vero(2007, setting Russian verses by Marina Tsvetayova and English phrases from the last published article by the slain journalist Anna Politkovskaya), Sarasvati (2008, a mantra in Sanskrit and English to the Hindu goddess of music), The seven creations(2008–2010, a surround-sound a cappella opera based on the ancient Persian cosmology), Shir hakhusim (2009, setting verses of Hebrew love poetry from the Song of songs), Twelve flowers (2009, commissioned by Boston Choral Ensemble, setting haiku in Japanese and English by Yosa Buson), A new alphabet (2009, commissioned by Boston Children’s Chorus, setting verses in Arabic and English by the Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani), and Voices (2009, commissioned by the Yale Glee Club, setting a poem in Greek and English by Constantine Cavafy). For three of his most recent works, Eric has received composition grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.

AJ McCaffrey | Honorable Mention, 1st Annual Commission Competition

A composer and performer in the Los Angeles area, McCaffrey has written extensively for theater, film, and the concert hall. McCaffrey has been a composition fellow at the Aspen Music Festival and School and the Tanglewood Music Center, where he received the prestigious Paul Jacobs Memorial Commission. His music has been performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and he recently was composer-in-residence for the Radius Ensemble.

Justin Merritt | Honorable Mention, 1st Annual Commission Competition

In 2000 composer Justin Merritt (b. 1975) was the youngest-ever winner of the ASCAP Foundation/Rudolph Nissim Award for Janus Mask. He is also the winner of a host of other awards including the 2008–09 Copland Award, the 2008 Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute Prize for River of Blood, and the 2006 Polyphonos Prize. He received his Bachelors from Trinity University and his Masters and Doctorate from Indiana University. He studied composition with Samuel Adler, Sven-David Sandström, Claude Baker, Timothy Kramer, Don Freund, and electronic and computer music with Jeffrey Hass. He is currently Associate Professor of Composition at St. Olaf College. He resides in Northfield, Minnesota with his wife Yuedong and their children Cullen Fang Ouxiang and Molly Fang Qinghe.