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BMI Student Composer Awards 2017

At a meeting in Chicago in June 1951, BMI invited a group of composers and educators to devise a plan to encourage and aid young composers. The result was the BMI Student Composer Awards, which today, more than 60 years later, are widely regarded as the premier recognition for young American composers of classical music. Awards are given for compositions - instrumental, vocal, or electronic (or any combination thereof) - submitted by students actively engaged in the study of music. The Permanent Chair of the Awards, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, presides over a rotating judging panel that has in recent years included such icons of contemporary-classical music as Bernard Rands, Joseph Schwantner, Christopher Rouse, Tobias Picker, Ingram Marshall, and Gunther Schuller, as well as well-known newer voices such as Kevin Puts, Kristin Kuster, and Sean Shepherd.

Eligibility requirements:

  • Must be a citizen of a country in the Western Hemisphere
  • Currently studying music, either in an educational institution or privately
  • Under the age of 28 as of time of submission
  • Has not won a BMI Student Composer Award more than two times (Honorable Mention excluded)

Prizes totaling $20,000 and ranging from $500 to $5,000 will be awarded at the discretion of the judges. The judges shall have the right to determine the amount of each award to be given and the number of such awards to be made, as well as the right to make no awards or to make awards totaling less than such full amount. The William Schuman Prize will be given to the score judged “most outstanding” in the competition. This prize is given in memory of the late William Schuman, who served for 40 years as the chairman and then chairman emeritus for the BMI Student Composer Awards. The Carlos Surinach Prize is awarded to the youngest winner in the competition, in honor of the late Carlos Surinach, a premier composer of the twentieth century and generous supporter of the BMI Foundation’s programs for young classical composers.

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