Young composer award is the only award of its kind in Australia

Published on 28 September 2021

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Imagine having your work performed by Willoughby Symphony Orchestra and winning $5,000. Your composition will also be recorded by the orchestra and you’ll be named the Young Composer of the year. These great opportunities and more are available as part of the Young Composer Award 2022. Budding young composers now have until 22 November to enter with the application deadline extended due to the pandemic.

The only one of its kind in Australia, this prestigious annual award, presented by Willoughby City Council, is in its 17th year and has been a springboard for a generation of composers.

The award provides young Australian composers under the age of 30 with the rare opportunity to compose their original score alongside a respected conductor and accomplished orchestra.

There’s also a Highly Commended Award with $1,500 prize money and an Encouragement Award with $500 prize money.

Willoughby Symphony Orchestra gratefully acknowledges benefactor Mark Wakely’s generous support of the Young Composer Award in memory of former arts patron and ABC journalist Steven Alward. The award is a lasting legacy to Steven’s belief in the universal force of fine music to connect us without the need for language and to uplift humanity into a higher realm.

The last Young Composer Award winner was Joseph Newton, a 21-year-old composer and student of advanced sciences at the University of Sydney. His original composition The Phoenix premiered in May 2021 at the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra’s Next Chapters concert at The Concourse.

Mr Newton, who also plays the piano and viola, said, “Receiving the award was very special. It’s my first-ever big time piece of work performed by the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra. Ten living Australian composers were in the room when it was performed by the Orchestra, this is rare and the feedback was positive.

"Many people in the audience seemed to like how my piece started off spooky and finished with a more beautiful sound. Modern compositions tend to be pretty wild, so I tried to contrast that by ending with something closer to home."

For up-and-coming composers who are keen to become the next Joseph Newton, his advice is to “bring your own style to the table. Don’t feel the need to fit expectations.”

The submission criteria include that the composition/score submitted must be a new, original composition never before performed, workshopped or published and it needs to be no longer than ten minutes.

The prize will be adjudicated by three industry experts and the panel will be chaired by Dr Daniel Rojas, who is a Senior Lecturer in Music at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Winners will be notified early February 2022.

The Young Composer Award winner for 2022 will have his/her world premiere composition performance on Saturday 14 May 2022 at 7pm and Sunday 15 Sunday, 2022 at 2pm. The Willoughby Symphony Orchestra concert is to be conducted by acclaimed conductor Dr Sarah Penicka-Smith.

Dr Penicka-Smith made her international debut at The Dallas Opera as part of the Hart Institute for Women Conductors in 2018. Her conducting credits include Willoughby Symphony Orchestra, Penrith Symphony Orchestra, Ku-rin-Gai Philharmonic Orchestra and a range of choirs, including Western Sydney’s new symphonic choir River City Voices, of which she is the Founding Director. 

Enter the Young Composer Award now!

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