International Alliance for Women in Music

2022 Search for New Music Winners

The International Alliance for Women in Music (IAWM) selected winners of its 2022 Search for New Music Competition.

The International Alliance for Women in Music (IAWM) is thrilled to announce the winners of its 2022 Search for New Music Competition. The competition recognizes the accomplishments of IAWM member composers and fosters IAWM’s goal of increasing awareness of the musical contributions of women. IAWM hopes that performers around the world will see this as a resource for their own concert programming.


Winners in the various categories are:


Ruth Anderson Commission Prize ($1,000)

Winner: Chloe Knibbs for “Ruins”

Chloe Knibbs is a composer, sound artist and practitioner. Featured on BBC Radio 3, her work encompasses opera, theatre, choral and chamber works, installations and song-writing and has led to collaborations with the Riot Ensemble, Illuminate Womens’ Music, and British Council Music. Her interest in the representation of past women composers led to Ruins, an interactive online sound art installation exploring fragmentation and sonic disintegration (supported by a Jerwood Arts Bursary and ACE Developing Your Creative Practice grant). Also an experienced facilitator, Chloe has delivered arts-in-health programmes specialising in dementia care on behalf of Kissing it Better and Live Age Festival in hospitals and care homes across the Midlands. In addition, passionate about the role of creativity and music-making in primary schools she has facilitated composition projects for the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Welsh National Opera Education, Cheltenham Music Festival and Friction Arts.

Ruins explores the relationship between women composers’ work, its perceived value and what has led to it being eroded from our cultural memory. The project draws on the work and lives of three 19th -century French composers – Marie Jaëll, Clémence de Grandval and Augusta Holmès – and considers the impact of beauty, pseudonyms and self-doubt. The work exists as an electroacoustic piece and an online interactive installation, funded by Jerwood Arts and Arts Council England respectively.


Christine Clark/Theodore Front Prize ($500),

Winner: Jessica Rudman for “Three Vignettes from Marie Curie Learns to Swim”

Jessica Rudman’s music inspires empathy for social issues through stories of myth, magic, and the modern world. Described as a “new music ninja” (Hartford Advocate), she blends lyrical melodies, sensual harmony, and vibrant color to draw listeners into her dramatic narratives. Dr. Rudman’s music has been performed by groups including the Arditti Quartet, the International Contemporary Ensemble, the Riot Ensemble, and the Omaha Symphony’s Chamber Orchestra. She was a 2019 Connecticut Artist Fellow and a 2019-21 Composer Fellow in The American Opera Project’s Composers & the Voice program. She has also received awards from SCI/ASCAP, Boston Metro Opera, the College Music Society, the International Alliance for Women in Music, and others. Dr. Rudman recently joined the faculty at the University of Utah as Assistant Professor of Composition and Theory. More information about Dr. Rudman (she/they) and her work can be found at

Marie Curie Learns to Swim is a chamber opera on a libretto by Kendra Preston Leonard. In response to a request from conductor Cibelle J. Donza, I arranged some of the opera’s material for the Orquestra Sinfônica do Theatro da Paz to perform in 2019. The resulting Three Vignettes from Marie Curie Learns to Swim begins with a brief introduction using two of the opera’s central motives: one a fanfare that accompanies announcements such as Marie’s Nobel Prize wins and the other a more free melody representing the ocean waves. Then, excerpts from three arias are heard. Though they are not presented in the order they appear in the opera, each represents a significant moment from the story.

Honorable Mention: Wan Heo for “Vanishing Light”

Born in South Korea, Wan Heo is a composer and a violinist whose works have been performed in South Korea, Italy, Singapore, Spain, and various venues in the United States. Her percussion solo piece Unveiled Future has been published by Alfonce Production. Wan’s recent commissioners include Yarn/Wire, Unheard-of ensemble, line upon line percussion, New Music On the Point, highSCORE festival, VIPA(Valencia International Performance Academy), among others. Recently, she began her own research on Korean ancestors’ appreciation to nature by touring and recording sounds at historical sites in South Korea, which results in fixed media or ensemble with electronics works using the recorded sounds. Her first piece on this project, From Air to Mind for an ensemble with live electronics, was selected to be presented at Composition In Asia conference at University of South Florida. 

Wan holds B.M. in Composition from Ewha Womans University in South Korea and M.M. in Composition from Florida State University. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Composition and Music Technology at Northwestern University under the guidance of Alex Mincek, Hans Thomalla, and Jay Alan Yim.

Vanishing Light explores inter-modal perception of pitch and brightness by depicting environments for fireflies. It is inspired by two instances of encountering fireflies: in a small village on Jeju Island and by the lake on campus. In both instances, I was under streetlamps, which made the glowing lights of fireflies less bright than how they would be seen in a much darker (with less human traffic) environment. The piece depicts two contrasting brightness levels of the environment and fireflies. When it is darker, the light of fireflies will be seen brighter. When it is brighter by artificial lights, the fireflies’ flashing light may be hard to notice without attention. 

Darkness often brings negative connotations, but a lower pitch seemed appropriate when I thought of depicting darkness, which evoked warmth. On the other hand, higher notes seemed to be suitable to represent lights, which I would map with coldness if I would choose between warm and cold. In the piece, the height of pitch suggests the brightness of the environment, while the dynamic variations portray the lights of fireflies. By using different ranges of pitches with dynamic variations, this music invites listeners into the pleasant darkness, in which sonic lights glow.


Miriam Gideon Prize ($500)

Winner: Jennifer Margaret Barker for “Harmonious Dreams”

Described as a composer of profound sensibility, Scottish-American Jennifer Margaret Barker has received performances of her compositions on six continents. Hailed by critics as extraordinarily moving, soul-stirring, at once gripping and timeless, show-stopping, anything but passive, blazingly alive, with lovely, aching melodies, haunting, beautiful…warm, and illuminated by dreamy images, her compositions have been performed and commissioned by symphony orchestras such as the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and the Virginia Symphony; chamber ensembles such as Vocali3e, Orchestra 2001, Relache, Network for New Music, The Society for New Music, Melomanie and 6ixwire; and an extensive list of international concert artists including British pianist, Martin Jones. Published by Boosey & Hawkes, Theodore Presser, Southern Percussion, Vanderbeek & Imrie, and McKenna-Keddie, Barker’s compositions have been broadcast on American, Hong Kong and Swedish radio, and the BBC. Recordings of her compositions have been released on the Naxos, Composers Recordings Inc., New World Records, Meyer Media, and Mahin Media labels. Barker is a Full Professor of Music Theory/Composition at the University of Delaware.

In a time of worldwide unrest and migration, my thoughts turned to the dreams of peoples who, whether willing or not, became a part of the nation of America: those who sought religious freedom; those who sought a better life; those brought against their will; and those native to the land. Although from disparate walks of life, all of these people shared the same dreams of Hope, Faith, Love and Peace. In order to represent each of these peoples, I looked to the words that they not only held most dear, but that they also shared and archived through generations in communal song: hymns, spirituals and prayers. For those who sought religious freedom I chose text from the traditional Shaker hymn, ‘Beautiful Valley’. For those who sought a better life, I chose James Rowe’s Redemption hymn text, ‘The Story of His Love’. For those brought against their will, I combined text from two spirituals, ‘Going to Sing All Along the Way’ and ‘Gonna Shout All Over God’s Heaven’. Finally, for those native to the land, I chose the ‘Cheyenne Prayer for Peace’.

Honorable Mention: Faye-Ellen Silverman for “Reflections on a Distant Love”

Faye-Ellen Silverman began studying at the Dalcroze School of Music shortly before her fourth birthday. At age 13 she won the Parents League Composition contest, judged by Leopold Stokowski, resulting in her Carnegie Hall debut. Her compositions (about 100) are published by Seesaw Music, a division of Subito Music Corp., and recorded on several music labels, including Albany records. She has received awards from UNESCO, the National League of American Pen Women and ASCAP, and been awarded residencies at the Fundacion Valparaiso (Spain), the Macdowell Colony, Villa Serbelloni (Italy), VCCA, VCCA Le Moulin Nef (France), and Yaddo. She has received numerous commissions including those from the Greater Lansing Symphony and the American Brass Quintet. Silverman is a Founding Member of Music Under Construction, a Founding Board Member of the International Women’s Brass Conference and is Secretary of the Board of NYWC (New York Women Composers). She is currently on the faculties of Juilliard (Extension Division) and New York University (Steinhardt) and teaches privately. She is also contributing an article to an upcoming edition of the IAWM Journal. Further information is available at

Reflections on a Distant Love uses poems by female writers (Sara Teasdale and Emily Dickinson) to tell the story of absence from a loved one (the “distant love”) from a female point of view. I created my perspective on this age-old story in four songs. As in Dichterliebe, one of my favorite song cycles, the first song is the beginning of a relationship. The second song reflects on shared sexual joy. The third song mirrors the situation of Gretchen- the character in Goethe’s Faust, who keeps waiting for a lover who will never arrive. The last song reaches a reconciliation with reality, and a rationale for telling this story via song. I had conceived of creating a work to tell the story of Gretchen from a female composer’s point of view while watching the Metropolitan Opera dress rehearsal of Gounod’s Faust. The actual composition, however, occurred many months later during the Covid lockdowns, when the New York State strict restrictions that were creating long separations between friends and even, in some cases, between married spouses, made the theme seem relevant. The work is available from Subito Music’s online store and other music dealers.


Libby Larsen Prize ($300)

Winner: Nikka Gershman-Pepper for “The Tears of Winter”

Described as “without question one of the finest and most dedicated young flute soloists and composers” by Mike Green, the President of the Grammy Foundation, Nikka is a 14-year-old composer and flutist. She is honored to be the youngest ever Haynes Young Artist and is currently attending the Pre-Conservatory Program at the Colburn Music Academy under the mentorship of legendary musician Jim Walker. 

In 2021 Nikka’s original composition “Respiro” was premiered by the LA Jewish Symphony. Subsequently, in February 2022, Nikka was a guest performer and her composition was featured on NPR’s From the Top National Public Radio station, showcasing the most promising young musicians. 

Community outreach is extremely important to Nikka, and she is dedicated to inspiring young audiences and bringing her music to underserved communities.  In 2021, Nikka was named an ambassador to Music to Save Humanity Mentorship and Outreach Program. As a From the Top Fellow, she performed her music for the Colorado Children’s Hospital facilitated by the Ryan Seacrest Foundation.

Nikka is a first-prize winner in numerous competitions including the 2022 Music Teachers’ National Association (MTNA) national winner, British Flute Society International Competition (BFS), and Vancouver Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition. In March, Nikka was the youngest in the history of the Pasadena Showcase House Competition to win the Grand Prize for Exceptional Talent and Musicianship Award across all categories. Most recently, Nikka was the only flutist selected out of 13 winners internationally by the Classicalia Global PBS Televised Competition to perform in Vienna’s renowned Konzerthaus with a symphony orchestra.

The Tears of Winter was composed to commemorate the humanitarian crises in Ukraine. It was recorded by the legendary Flutist Jim Walker along with composer’s colleagues from the Colburn Music Academy and Colburn Conservatory of Music.

Honorable Mention: Emily Joy Sullivan for “(subito)”

Emily Joy Sullivan (b. 1987) writes music animated by the spirit of song, dance, and storytelling, grounded in a deep respect for vernacular traditions and their communicative potential. Her works have been performed in New York, Chicago, Memphis, Melbourne, Vancouver, Valencia, and Cape Town. She holds a Master’s Degree in Music Theory & Composition from SUNY Fredonia and a BA in Music from Amherst College, where her feminist musicology thesis was “Envoicing Eve: Femmes Fatales in Carmen, Salome, and Lulu.” She also holds a Master’s degree in Early Childhood and Childhood General Education, and she is active as an educator and choral-community-maker in addition to her composing. Her current research includes emotional prosody and methodologies for analyzing popular song. She is especially passionate about writing for the voice – be it lyrical art song, community-focused choral works, or a musical drama retelling fairy tales from the heroines’ points of view.

Subito initially began with sheerly musical inspiration: to explore the instruments I found most beautiful, and the contrast between them, while also embracing the qualities of groove and lyricism I highly value. 

In working with these musical ideas, however, a rather extramusical idea emerged. The interaction between the material seemed psychological to me in how it would change suddenly (“subito”) and then go back-and-forth in a sort of dialogue. As the piece took shape, I thought about the many apparent contradictions in our minds and behaviors – and the bootstrapping we sometimes need to do within our own psyches in order to make any sense whatsoever! 

Ultimately, I used the hero’s journey to organize the material and create a narrative trajectory through the piece, tracing this psychological story. The goal is that, eventually, an integration is achieved: not only between musical contrasts, but also between the poles of extroversion / introversion, confidence / doubt, and answering / questioning.


Pauline Oliveros New Genre Prize ($300)

Winner: Cecilia Suhr for “The Fate of the Dollar”

Cecilia Suhr is an award-winning intermedia artist and researcher, multi-instrumentalist (violin/cello/voice/piano), audio-visual composer, improviser, painter, and author. Her creative work draws from various disciplines, such as technology, interaction design, medicine, media studies, economy, philosophy, etc. to create innovative and provocative intermedia performances. Her creative work has been featured in New York City Electro-Acoustic Festival, ICMC, Festival of Contemporary Art Music, Splice Festival, Hot Air Music Festival, Electronic Music Midwest Festival, Moxonic Festival, Beast Feast, Irish Sound, Science & Technology Association, Performing Media Arts Festival, Oh My Ear Festival, SEAMUS, iDMAa, Audio Mostly Conference, ACM International Conference on Multimedia, IEEE Games, Entertainment and Media Conference, Convergence, International Conference/Festival of Music, Technology & Ideas, Music Diaries Festival, Klingt Gut International Symposium on Sonic Art and Spatial Audio, CICA Museum, IANG Gallery, Pensacola Museum of Art, Society of Composers, Artech: International Conference on Digital and Interactive Arts, National Associations of Composers, ELO Conference and Media Arts Festival, etc. She is a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation, Digital Media and Learning Research Grant Award (2012), and Asia Culture Center Residency Award/Grant (2022, had to decline). She is currently an Associate Professor of Humanities and Creative Arts and an Affiliate Professor of Art at Miami University Regionals, Ohio.

This interactive, audio-visual live electro-acoustic performance explores the looming concerns about fiat currency creation linked to the Covid pandemic and the potential impact on people’s livelihoods and lifestyles. In doing so, it reflects on a wide range of emotions tied to the current economy ranging from uncertainty, urgency, volatility, anxiety, and the rising concern about inflation and the fate of the dollar via cello and violin improvisation.


PatsyLu Prize ($500)

Winner: Jacqueline Wilson for “Dance Suite for Solo Bassoon”

Dr. Jacqueline Wilson is Assistant Professor of Bassoon at Washington State University. As an active soloist, she regularly presents recitals, masterclasses, and clinics at various college campuses and festivals, including recent engagements at the International Double Reed Society Conference, the International Alliance For Women In Music Conference, and the LunART Festival. Dr. Wilson (Yakama) is especially passionate about diversity and American Indian representation in classical music and frequently performs the works of Native American composers. She currently serves as the Co-Executive Director for the Meg Quigley Vivaldi Competition and Bassoon Symposium. She also co-hosts the Double Reed Dish podcast with oboist Galit Kaunitz and serves as the Grants Coordinator for the International Double Reed Society.

Composed in 2021, Dance Suite is comprised of several unaccompanied evocative miniatures centered on a specific theme. I was inspired by Benjamin Britten’s portrayals of Roman mythological figures in his Six Metamorphoses after Ovid Op. 49 and was attracted to a structure that lent itself equally to performances of the work in its entirety and of selected movements alone or in combination. Each movement of Dance Suite is inspired by one of the dance styles of the contemporary powwow dance complex. Powwows are social gatherings in which Native American people gather to dance, sing, and socialize. Though an event might be hosted by a particular tribe, powwows are pan-tribal and can be attended by Natives and non-Natives alike. Though they contain spiritual elements, powwows are not ceremonies: they are a time to come together and celebrate Native culture as a community. Much like a county fair, powwows have laughter, competitions, shopping, and food. There are several dance styles, five of which are depicted in this piece: Grand Entry, Grass, Traditional Bustle, Fancy Shawl, Traditional Shawl, and Fancy Feather.

Honorable Mention: Ha Nee Park for “Stagger, staggered, had staggered”

As a composer, pianist and arranger originally from South Korea, Hanee Park has been exploring how music engages with culture, history, literature, philosophy, and other arts in order to pursue her belief that music must go beyond music. Park is currently a doctoral candidate in music composition studying under Clifton Callender at Florida State University where she has received the Ellen Taffe Zwilich Fellowship in 2019 – 2020. She has earned the BM at Ewha Womans University in South Korea, and the MM at Roosevelt University in Chicago, IL, where she studied with Kyong Mee Choi and Stacy Garrop. Her compositions have received many performances, including FSU 20th Biennial Festival of New Music, Bent Frequency at CNMF, Composers Who Brunch series, and The Rocking Chair series. From a young age, theatre is a significant influence. She has extensive experience working as a music director and sound director at diverse places including, Who’s There, a music theatre club she co-founded for students from multiple colleges in South Korea, and Beings, the English Theater Society of Ewha Womans University. With this background, she keeps broadening her compositional perspectives by searching for the ways that can convey something beyond sound.

This work for solo double bass is inspired by the staggering motion in the opening section of the fourth movement of Brahms Symphony No. 3. Beyond the tonal-based staggering melodic pattern in Brahms, a wide range of musical elements switches back and forth in this piece. Stagger, staggered, had staggered conveys not only the staggering motion itself in a different non-tonal language but also the time that goes backward in this order: when it staggers, staggered, and had staggered. It means the journey to the past memory that used to be having staggered as well as the mortality of memory, which as a result, builds unsteadiness and uncertainty, and transcends the time from the present to the past.


Portland Jazz Composers Ensemble Prize ($300)

Winner: Eliana Fishbeyn for “On Worlds Colliding”

Eliana Fishbeyn is a composer and arranger. Her musical upbringing started at an early age in her Russian-Jewish family that immigrated to America in the 90’s to her birth town: Greensboro, North Carolina. At age 6, she began classical piano lessons with John Ruggero, to whom she owes much of her musical understanding.

Eliana hopes to be a small part of a large galaxy of artists who are there to clarify, understand and deal with the human experience on an individual, communal and global level. With all of her life spent living in a society which principally revolves around its economy, she hopes to be part of the many that challenge that by creating experiences where the intrinsic foundations lie in our relationships to each other, the world and nature around us, as well as our inherited collective memories. 

Currently, she is finishing her masters degree in jazz composition at Manhattan School of Music, studying with composer and pianist, Jim McNeely. In fall of 2021, she and fellow composer, Robert Buonaspina started a composition collective big band that meets at Advent Lutheran Church to workshop, rehearse, and perform new music on a regular basis. 


Alex Shapiro Prize ($500 and mentorship/consultation from Alex Shapiro)

Winner: Jamie Leigh Sampson for “Ships’ Passing”

Jamie Leigh Sampson is a composer, bassoonist, author, teacher, and entrepreneur based in Western New York. She currently teaches music composition and entrepreneurship in the School of Music at the SUNY Fredonia. She is the Co-Owner of the publishing entity ADJ’ective New Music.

Sampson has written operas, art songs and cycles, instrumental and vocal chamber works, large-ensemble compositions, and electroacoustic music. Her compositions have been described as “impressionistic, enabling the listener to focus on the beauty, timbre, and nuance of the singing” and “transcendentally moving” by the Brooklyn Rail. 

Her research includes: contemporary techniques for the bassoon, microtonal harmony, and entrepreneurship for musicians. Jamie’s first published resource, Contemporary Techniques for Bassoon: Multiphonics, documents thoroughly tested multiphonic fingerings from the preexisting body of repertoire. Upcoming publications include Self-Publish or Perish: A Composers Guide to Self-Publishing, and Contemporary Techniques for the Bassoon: Microtone and Timbre Fingerings.

When you stand next to the water on the St. Lawrence River you can feel an approaching ship long before you can see it. What begins as a low rumble grows to a mechanical, metallic, repetitive drone that interacts and dances with the natural sounds of the waterways. On rare occurrences two ships will pass each other in front of you, and when that happens at night it’s an incredibly memorable and musical experience.

The container ships that make their way along the Northeast shipping routes of the US have come from all over the world. They may interact with the natural surroundings on the waterways, but they are separate communities from those on the shore. These floating cities have passed me for my entire life. This work draws the power of the full ensemble together to traverse from natural to mechanical, and from nautical to musical.

Award of Distinction ($100): Amelia Kaplan for “The Permian Divide”

Amelia Kaplan is a composer whose music reflects the riotous mix of sounds cohabiting in our increasingly fragmented world. Her work is primarily gesture driven, privileging pitch, timbre, and shape equally. She embraces current sensibilities of form and rhetoric while continuing to draw on the classical tradition, and creates meaning by juxtaposing, filtering, and recontextualizing both the ordinary and extraordinary. In recent years her music has mostly responded to the ecological and political crises besetting our warming planet which we, as humans, seem to have no will to prevent.

Ms. Kaplan is a recipient of the Copland House Residency Award, and has had past residencies at MacDowell, Ucross, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She has received commissions from the International Mise-En Festival, the Khasma Piano Duo, Bent Frequency Duo Project, DoublePlay Percussion Duo, Violet, guitarist Paul Reilly, and bassoonist Benjamin Coelho, among others. Her works have been performed at festivals around the world, including the Thailand International New Music Festival, numerous national and regional SCI conferences, SICPP, International Alliance for Women in Music, Wellesley Composers Conference, Gaudeamus, Darmstadt, June in Buffalo, and others. Recordings are available on Albany, Ablaze, Centaur, and Navona Records, and her double reed compositions are published by TrevCo Music.

Ms. Kaplan holds degrees from the University of Chicago (PhD, A.M) and Princeton University (A.B.), and she received a Diploma di Merito from the Accademia Musicale Chigiana and a Diploma from the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau. She has been on the faculty at Ball State University since 2011, where she heads the department of theory and composition and directs the New Music Ensemble. She previously taught at Oberlin Conservatory, the University of Iowa, and Roosevelt University.

The Permian extinction took place about 250 million years ago and divides the Paleozoic and Mesozoic periods. The history of life on our planet is punctuated with five notable dips in the number of species, known as extinction events and defined as a sudden and massive loss of life on a global scale (we are currently in a sixth extinction, likely caused by humans). These extinction events usually took place over tens of thousands of years, but from the perspective of 550 million years, the duration of life on our planet so far, 1000 years is the blink of an eye. The Permian extinction was the largest extinction event: over 90% of all species died out. Ferns, conifers, therapsids (which evolved into mammals), and archeosaurs (which evolved into dinosaurs), were some of the few species to survive. Although the reason for the great die out, referred to by some as the “…mother of all extinctions,” is not known with 100% certainty, it is hypothesized that it was due to a massive dumping of carbon into the atmosphere along with massive climate change. This work was inspired by that event.


Judith Lang Zaimont Prize ($400)

Winner: Gyuli Kambarova for “Unchained”

Gyuli Kambarova is a classically trained pianist and composer who graduated from Rostov State Rakhmaninov Conservatory (Russia) with two Masters’ of Music: Piano Performance and Music Composition. 

Some of Gyuli’s achievements are: finalist of the International Dvorak Composition Competition (Czech Republic), winner of the competition “Fifteen-Minutes-Of-Fame: Re-Imagining Shubert” (USA), winner of the Prokofiev International Composer Competition (Russia), “Best Jazz Track” by International Music Contest (USA), “Best Film Score – Soundtrack” by Cult Critic Movie Award (India), “Best Soundtrack” by Los Angeles Film Awards (USA), recipient of an annual award “Commissioned Composer” by Kentucky Music Teachers Association (USA), winner of the Annual Concert and Search for New Music Competition by IAWM (USA). 

Gyuli released four CDs: “Dreams”, “My Way”, Memories”, “Unchained”. 

Gyuli composed music for documentaries “You Are Not Alone!” and “Voice for Voiceless”.

She currently resides in Louisville, KY where she continues to compose, teach, and manage her music studio “PianissiMore.”

Freedom… Everyone needs it, but it has multiple meanings that are different for everyone. 

The first movement has the soul of a fighter, dreaming, but in pain, who never gives up and never looks back. The second movement opens to a deep world full of excruciating grief and hopelessness. The third movement brings light to the next level. The theme from the introduction of the first movement and the main motive of the American National Anthem as a symbol of freedom join together as the catharsis of the piece. The proclamation of these two motives allows listeners to feel free from shackles, floating in an unchained world. 

Everyone should have room for love, hope, and freedom and be released from hopelessness, betrayal, fear, and discrimination.


Choral/Vocal Ensemble Prize ($300)

Winner: Makenzie J. Ahlman for “Hope is the thing with feathers” 

Mackenzie J. Ahlman, coloratura-soprano and composer, is a vocal performance masters student at Illinois State University where she holds both the titles Vocal graduate assistant and Choral graduate assistant. Born and raised in Grand Island, Nebraska, Mackenzie has passionately studied music her whole life. She has participated in MIOpera for four years and has also been seen in Illinois State University opera practicum performances since 2017. Recently she participated in Illinois States Messiah sing-along, singing the alto solo, and was a finalist for the Illinois State University Concerto/Aria contest in 2019 and 2021. She also received the John Ferrell Scholarship at ISU in 2022. Another one of Mackenzie’s passions is classical music composition. Her recent compositional premieres include Serenity (Choral composition commissioned by La Camerata Madrigal Singers, 2018), Defiance (Song cycle for piano and voice, 2019), The Violet (Choral composition commissioned by La Camerata Madrigal Singers, 2019), Three love songs (Song cycle for piano and voice, 2020), Another Spring (Song for voice and piano, 2020), and Hope is the thing with feathers (Choral composition for SSAATTBB, 2021). She is currently working on two operas, two string symphonies, a Requiem Mass, several choral pieces, and several arts songs.

Written for the 2020 Choral Impact Project: Incite Hope Hope is the thing with feathers (2021) is an a cappella choral piece written for SSAATTBB. The text written in 1891 by queer, American poet, Emily Dickinson, portrays subtly that even the smallest creatures can provide hope for the world, and the human condition. The choir grapples with relentless repetition and dissonance until breaking free, together concluding that hope will always be there to set one free.


Special thanks to the adjudicators Molly Jones, Caroline Hand, Alexandra Dee, Tao Li, Clara Allison, Nicholas Dragone, Elio Villafranca, and Justine Miller. Sarah Horick served as chair of the competition.