2017 | Mari Valverde

Mari Esabel Valverde | Winner, 10th Annual Commission Competition

Composer and singer Mari Esabel Valverde has been commissioned by the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), Texas Music Educators Association (TMEA), the Seattle Men’s and Women’s Choruses, and others. Her music has been featured at conventions and festivals such as Chorus America, the Oregon Bach Festival, the Association of British Choral Directors, and TMEA. She was a featured composer at the 2016 GALA Choruses’ Festival, where her Our Phoenix was premièred by a cluster of six ensembles from the United States and Canada. Her works are published by earthsongs, Santa Barbara Music Publishing, and Walton Music and self-published.

An educator, she taught voice at the high school level for four years in Texas, where in addition she sang with the Dallas Symphony Chorus, the Dallas Chamber Choir, and Vox Humana. Her students, many of whom have participated in All-State Choirs and State Solo Competition, are represented in a dozen collegiate music programs in-state and beyond.

She holds degrees from St. Olaf College, the European American Musical Alliance in Paris, France, and San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Her teachers include Tim Mahr, Justin Merritt, Philip Lasser, Narcis Bonet, David Conte, and David Garner. She is a member of ASCAP, ACDA, and the American Composers Forum.

Honorable Mentions

Ian Assersohn is a composer, arranger and choral director living in Surrey, England. His music has been described as “haunting”, "exquisite", "moving" and "beautiful" and has won praise from such luminaries of the choral world as John Rutter, Judith Weir, Bob Chilcott, Stephen Jackson, Alan Bullard, Brian Kay, and David Hill. His works have been widely performed both in the UK and abroad.

He has had great success in competition: he was winner of the 2016 Bach Choir composition competition, the 2010 Making Music competition, the 2014 Cornwall International Male Voice Festival composition competition (and highly commended in 2016), and the 2014 Nicola Dando Prize and was a finalist in the 2010 Waverley Care carol competition. 

Ian was educated at Westminster School and The Royal College of Music, London, and later at Koninklijk Conservatorium in Den Haag, Netherlands.

For 20 years he worked as a software developer and product manager, only returning to the musician’s life in 2009. Today he enjoys a varied career as a piano teacher, choral director and composer and as a member of ABRSM’s grade examining panel.

2016 saw the premiere of his large-scale cantata of remembrance for three choirs, soloists and orchestra, Dies Irae - described in reviews as “a masterpiece” - and in June 2017 his award-winning “entertainment” for adult and children’s choirs The Pied Piper of Hamelin will be premiered in St John’s Smith Square, London by The Bach Choir. 

Ian’s music is published by his own imprint Apple Tree Music (appletreemusic.net) and his works have appeared in anthologies published by Novello and OUP.

David Lipten’s music has been described as possessing “a strength and integrity…along with a deep [and]…rigorous musical lyricism.” The New York New Music Ensemble, Harvey Sollberger, conductor, the Chester Quartet, and the Bienen Contemporary Ensemble, Donald Nally, conductor, among others, have premiered his compositions. His string quartet, Ictus, received first prize at the Portland Chamber Music Festival. The chorus “Volti” performed Time’s Dream for chorus (E.E. Cummings, poems) on three occasions. That piece was also a finalist for the 2013 American Prize following its release on David’s first solo CD, Best Served Cold, on Ablaze Records in 2012. Another CD, “Requiem for the Innocent: Contemporary Choral Works Vol. 1,” was also released in 2016. It features “A Widow’s Song” and “How To” from the song-cycle of the same name with texts written by Minnesota-based poet William Reichard. These works were recorded by the New York Virtuoso Singers, Harold Rosenbaum, conductor.The Fromm Foundation/Harvard University and the Verdehr Trio, among others, have commissioned David’s work. He has received awards from St. Paul’s Chamber Music, Music+Culture, ASCAP, and the ISCM, among others. He has also been a fellow at the Yaddo and MacDowell artist colonies on multiple occasions, and in residence at the Aspen, CSU and Oregon-Bach festivals, and the June in Buffalo Composers Conference. David holds a Ph.D. from Duke University where he worked with Scott Lindroth and an M.A. from Queens College/CUNY, having worked with Thea Musgrave.

Kenji Oh is a Japanese composer of contemporary classical and media music, based out of San Francisco and Los Angeles. His music has been performed at various venues in the US, Japan, and the Netherlands, by Choral Chameleon, Amaranth Quartet, International Orange Chorale of SF, The Esoterics and others. Recently he finished a piece for piano four hands inspired by Japanese painting by Yokoyama Taikan, commissioned by ZOFO, a Grammy-nominated, prize-winning Steinway Artist Ensemble. 
In addition to concert music, Oh composes music for various kinds of media such as film, theatre, TV, video games, and also for women’s gymnastics floor exercise being a gymnast himself. He started his career as a media composer while studying at Kyoto University of Education, where he received his Bachelors of Liberal Arts Degree in Information Music. The films he scored have been screened in numerous film festivals; “B/W Foxes and the Cave of Light” (Kiyoshi Kurahara, director) in Montreal World Film Festival 2012, “Born With It” (Emmanuel Osei-Kuffour, director) in NBCUniversal Short Film Festival 2015 (received Best Film Award) and others.
Oh earned his Master of Music Degree in Composition from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where he studied with David Garner. He has achieved various awards and honors for his orchestral, choral, and chamber music. His music illustrates vivid images as though the sound carves out a sculpture or paints a scroll.