National Sawdust Has Announced the Winners of the Third Annual Hildegard Competition

Article Pixel
National Sawdust Has Announced the Winners of the Third Annual Hildegard Competition

National Sawdust, the Williamsburg music incubator and non-profit performing arts space, with support from the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, has announced the winners of its third annual Hildegard Competition for emerging female, trans, and nonbinary composers: Flannery Cunningham of the USA, Jimena Maldonado of Mexico, and Sonja Mutić of Serbia.

Named for the seminal medieval composer Hildegard von Bingen, the Competition illustrates National Sawdust's commitment to amplifying voices underrepresented in the world of new music by providing financial and artistic support to emerging composers and opportunities for their work to be professionally recognized in the early stages of their careers.

For this third edition, as in past seasons, the Competition will continue to provide mentorship and opportunities for exposure while also examining how gender distorts the lens through which music is perceived. The three winning composers will each receive a $7,000 cash prize, a new works commission, coaching and mentorship by the Competition's judges and a performance and recording by the National Sawdust Ensemble, led by cellist Jeffrey Zeigler under the baton of conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya. The premiere performances of these new works will take place in a special concert honoring the winners on June 5, 2020 at National Sawdust.

This year will also see the release of the first-ever album of recorded works by all past six Hildegard winners from 2018 and 2019, recorded by the National Sawdust Ensemble and available on National Sawdust Tracks in May 2020. The album will feature works by inaugural winners X. Lee, Kayla Cashetta, and Emma O'Halloran, as well as last year's winners inti figgis-vizueta, Bergrún Snæbjörnsdóttir, and Niloufar Nourbakhsh. To continue to develop the life of the commissioned works, the National Sawdust Ensemble will perform a concert of these works at the Bang on a Can Long Play festival to coincide with the album release in May 2020.

This season, the Hildegard Competition's roster of judges and mentors includes Composer, Artistic Director, and Co-Founder of National Sawdust Paola Prestini; visionary composer and vocalist Joan La Barbara; composer and former National Sawdust Artist-in-Residence Angélica Negrón; trans-disciplinary composer, analog synth designer, LCD Soundsystem synthesist, and National Sawdust Artist-in-Residence Gavilán Rayna Russom; and Pulitzer Prize winning composer Du Yun.

Hildegard winners attend talks and performances by world-renowned visiting artists and industry experts and receive mentorship from established leaders in the arts field. Additionally, artists have the opportunity to build connections, create networks, collaborate, and share their work among peers. Mentoring responsibilities will be shared, giving all the Competition's winners the benefit of the full range of musical experience represented by the pool of judges. Throughout the period leading up to the concert, Competition winners will take part in a professional development process that mirrors the residency program at National Sawdust. Within these sessions, composers will explore issues ranging from intellectual property rights, improvisation, acoustics, publishing, criticism, and other relevant topics pertaining to their field in conversations directed by leading figures in the field and National Sawdust staff.

Fellows will be encouraged to take advantage of other elements of National Sawdust's significant resources, including the venue's state-of-the-art Meyer Sound Constellation® acoustic system and its immersive component Spacemap®, providing new ways to enhance the compositional process and provide a bridge into the next compositional phase.

To qualify for the Hildegard Competition, all applicants were required to certify that they have met two of the following three criteria: that they have received no prior commissions of $7,000 or more; that there are no major, commercially released recordings of their work; and that there have been no prior performances of their work by a professional ensemble in NYC outside of a university setting. Applicants were judged on their past compositions, curriculum vitae, personal statement, and the specifics of their proposal for a new original chamber work. In an attempt to remove the barriers traditionally faced by composers, neither letters of recommendation nor application fees were required.

The Hildegard Competition is generously supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation. Bios on this year's winners and jurors follow. More information about past winners and jurors of the Hildegard Competition can be found online at

About the 2020 Hildegard Competition Winners

Flannery Cunningham is a composer and musicologist fascinated by vocal expression, auditory perception, and the resonances of environmental sounds. She aims to write music that surprises and delights. Her work has been performed at festivals such as Aspen, June in Buffalo, TCML, SPLICE, and Copland House's CULTIVATE and by performers such as International Contemporary Ensemble, TAK, and Music from Copland House. Her current projects include commissions for PRISM Quartet and Musiqa Houston and a new work for Sō Percussion. Flannery is attracted the very old and very new; she has presented at the International Medieval Congress and performed at the International Computer Music Conference. In addition to acoustic ensembles she writes for players and singers (sometimes including herself) with interactive electronics, always striving to foreground the musicality of human performers. Flannery holds a BA from Princeton University, an MA from University College Cork as a Mitchell Scholar, an MA from Stony Brook University, and is pursuing a PhD in composition and musicology at the University of Pennsylvania. Find out more at

Jimena Maldonado is a Mexican composer based in The Hague. Having studied both Composition and Photography, she is interested in combining the two disciplines in order to achieve alternative forms of both composing and presenting her work. Experimenting with the relationship between music and visual elements, her work explores the way that they interact and influence each other, how this relationship affects the performers and ultimately, its impact not only the piece itself, but also the audience's perception of it. Jimena's work has been performed and commissioned by the Ligeti Quartet (UK), Jeffrey Zeigler (USA), Rohan de Saram (UK), Cuarteto José White (MX), Quinteto de Alientos de la Ciudad de México (MX), Cepromusic Ensemble (MX), Irvine Arditti (UK), Okest de Ereprijs (NL), and HD Duo (AUS), in festivals such as the Manuel Enríquez International Festival of New Music (MX), Le Tout-petit festival musical (FR), Open Circuit Festival (UK) and Aires Nacionales (MX), among others. Jimena completed a BA in Composition and Music Theory at the Research and Music Studies Centre (CIEM) in Mexico City and holds an MA in Composition from the Royal Conservatory of The Hague. She is currently pursuing a PhD at the Birmingham Conservatoire, with the support of CONACYT-FINBA (MX). Find out more at

Sonja Mutić is a composer, performer and PhD candidate at Harvard University. She works with sounds at thresholds of silence, harmony and noise, using minimal means to create textures of maximal expressive weight. She is interested in slowness, artistic self-exposure and vulnerability. Born in Croatia and raised in Serbia, Sonja finished master studies at the University of the Arts in Belgrade, postgraduate studies at Kunstuniversität Graz, and is currently a PhD candidate at Harvard University, studying with Chaya Czernowin and Hans Tutschku. Her music was performed by Ensembles Elision, Schallfeld, Studio 6, Lucerne Festival Alumni, Orkest de Ereprijs, pre-art and Fractales amongst others, with performances at the Lucerne Festival, Gaudeamus Muziekweek, International Rostrum of Composers, impuls Minuten Konzerte, Culturescapes, Echofluxx, mise-en, International Review of Composers etc. Prizes and awards include: Impuls Prize (2019), Styria-Artist-in-Residence Graz (2018), IAWM Judith Lang Zaimont Prize (2017), Sigismund Toduţă (2017), Weimarer Frühjahrstage für zeitgenössische Musik (2016), Young Composers Meeting (2014), Künstlerhaus Boswil Artist-in-Residence (2014-15), Pre-art (2013), Josip Slavenski (2011). Listen to Sonja's prior work at

Related Articles View More Brooklyn Stories   Shows

More Hot Stories For You