The Ulysses S. James Composition Competition
2016-17 Composition Competition
The Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic (WMP) is a 65-75 member orchestra that performs in Washington, DC and Alexandria, Virginia (www.wmpamusic.org). For its tenth annual composition competition, the Philharmonic requests submission of scores as described below. One composition will be selected for performance during the 2016-17 season.
The competition is open to composers of any age and whose permanent residence is in the Eastern States (ME, NH, VT, NY, MA, RI, CT, PA, NJ, DE, MD, DC, MI, OH, IN, WV, VA, KY, TN, NC, MS, AL, GA, SC, and FL). Compositions are to be received
The competition winner will receive a prize of $1,000 plus performances of the winning composition by the Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic. Deadline for submissions is August 5, 2016.
How to Apply
2016-17 application guidelines are available for download below.
WMPA congratulates our past winners:
Congratulations to Polina Nazaykinskaya, winner of The Ulysses S. James 2015-16 WMPA Composition Competition for her composition, Winter Bells.
When I select a composition for Washington Metropolitan Philharmonic, it has to create in me a great desire to perform it. The composition that does so has to somehow create a strong sense of direction, of movement, and simultaneously, be compelling harmonically and melodically so that an audience can appreciate it on the first hearing. It was very clear to me when I was making a selection that Winter Bells was such a composition. Ms. Nazaykinskaya’s orchestration is especially intriguing. I think our audiences will be struck by the music as I was when they hear her wonderful creation.
Ulysses S. James
Born in Togliatti, an industrial city on the Volga River in Russia, Polina Nazaykinskaya (b.1987) studied piano, violin and flute as a child, and as a teenager at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory she concentrated on violin and composition. She came to the U.S. to attend the Yale School of Music, where she completed a master’s degree in composition and theory and an artist diploma in composition, working with Christopher Theofanidis and Ezra Laderman. She is now is pursuing a doctorate degree in composition at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, studying with Tania León. She has won numerous awards including the Charles Ives Scholarship at The American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship, and has garnered performances by ensembles including the Minnesota Orchestra, the U.S. Army Orchestra, the Russian National Orchestra, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the Hermitage Orchestra and Chorus, the Yale Philharmonia Orchestra, the Youth Symphony Orchestra of Russia, the Omsk Philharmonic Orchestra, the Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, the St. Olaf Philharmonia and the Juventas New Music Ensemble, where her chamber opera, The Magic Mirror, drew considerable attention for its elegance and rich, intricate score.
About Winter Bells... Each piece of music that I write comes from the depth of my heart, from the inner ocean of emotions and possibilities, that are carried by the waves of memories. Just as a sculptor who frees the elusive figures from the block of marble by cutting away all that is unnecessary, I find myself carving out the musical notes from the inspiration that visits me and calls me to compose, guiding the process of creation. Perhaps for the composer, the writing of music is a divine act, as much a meditative experience that opens the gates to the paradise lost and brings out the nostalgia for the infinite. This is what I felt when I was writing symphonic poem “Winter Bells”.
Over the past summer, after finishing my first year at Yale I was looking for an inspiration. I was preparing to write a symphony, but I did not have the material or an idea with which I could work. In search of it, I went back to Russia and visited an old Russian village. There I was able to connect with my roots and rekindle my imagination, by visiting a series of sacred places in the wilderness: three mountain peaks, that when seen from an aerial perspective, appeared to be forming a giant goblet. I was all alone, with vastness of space and rocks stretching in all directions. And then it came to me. It was a choral, religious motif that I could faintly discern. I sat down on a fallen tree and wrote it into my scratch book.
Once I returned and started working on my symphony, I felt that I was still missing the key idea. It was so hard to start the first orchestra piece! Unable to decide whether to have a tour de force opening or to save it for the culmination toward the end, I was caught in a dilemma. After multiple starts, I finally found the right key, and it felt like the symphony was writing itself. I just barely had time to move my hand scribbling it all down. Inspiration had unleashed, as I feverishly worked non-stop for several days, until I laid my pen down to rest.
When I started composing the symphony, I found myself reaching for that special place within, where everything surrenders to the whispers of nature and divine harmony. This symphonic poem is probably one of my most cherished compositions because it has such personal significance. Creating it has been both a challenge as well as an enchanting delight.
The symphony begins with a fleeting image. A Russian winter filled with void, bleakness and an eerie feeling. A traveler on a long journey, on the brink of madness and desperation, is fighting his way through the deadly blizzard. A vision from the past, joyous and wondrous, materializes and disappears, as a mirage in a middle of a snowy dessert. Will the traveler survive? For whom shall the bells toll when their ringing resonates at a distance? Will he be spared or will he perish before completing his journey?