Kurt Erickson Named First Place Winner Of 2020 NATS Art Song Composition Award
Composer Kurt Erickson has won First Prize in the National Association of Teachers of Singing 2020 Art Song Composition Award for his composition "Here, Bullet (Song Set for Baritone and Piano)" based on poems written by Brian Turner during his time serving in the Iraq War.
Erickson's winning work will be performed at the 56th NATS National Conference, June 26-30, 2020, in Knoxville, TN along with the 2019 winning work "Elemental Earth" by Philip Lasser. "Here, Bullet" will also be programmed on a future concert by the Cincinnati Song Initiative as part of its Americana series.
Kurt Erickson is an active composer whose vocal and instrumental works are performed by leading singers, orchestras, chamber ensembles, and opera companies. Erickson is currently serving as composer-in-residence with San Francisco performing arts organization LIEDER ALIVE!. Erickson remarks of the work, "Here, Bullet" is radically innovative poetry-firsthand poetic descriptions of 21st Century warfare by an established poet at the height of his powers. I approached this work with great respect and trepidation, seeking ways to amplify the raw, visceral power of the poetic descriptions."
"The project began as a kind of grand entrepreneurial thought experiment where I created a new template for commission projects," said Erickson. Slightly frustrated with the traditional model where months and months of hard work yields only a few performances, Erickson came up with a project to waive his usual commission fees and allow singers to personally commission a work so long as they publicly performed the work during the 2019-2020 season. "I set up a page on Facebook and advertised on social media sites populated by emerging and professional singers. It was a gamble and I was prepared for the project to not meet my expectations. But that was not the case. Some 25 + singers signed on to perform the work at various venues this season, although nothing as prestigious as the upcoming NATS Conference," said Erickson.
Second place was awarded to Ellen Harrison for her composition "Between Magic and Possibility," written for soprano and flute. The set of seven songs is based on texts from "Track" by Norman Finkelstein, published by Shearsman Books. Harrison, a composer of lyrical, vividly colored music, lives in Cincinnati, OH, where she teaches at UC's College-Conservatory of Music. In addition to instrumental solo and chamber music, she writes frequently for voice. "I am very honored and excited to receive this award from NATS for Between Magic and Possibility. I love writing for voice and feel that musical inspiration comes most naturally to me in response to poetry. I find Norman Finkelstein's poetry to be especially moving and have tried to express the magical, enigmatic quality of his texts in this song cycle for soprano and flute," said Harrison.
Honorable mention was given to Ben Krause for his composition "Six Lowell Songs," based on the poetry of Amy Lowell, for soprano and piano. A Chicago-based composer and pianist with interdisciplinary engagement across a wide range of media, Benjamin Krause has taught at Rice University, the University of Oregon, and Valparaiso University, and is currently on the music faculty at Hope College, where he teaches composition and theory. "It has been a true joy for me to write for the voice and contribute to the art song repertoire. I'm especially honored that my music has been recognized by NATS, which has done so much to promote and advance this tradition as a living, breathing art form," said Krause.
The NATS Art Song Composition Award program was established in 1983 to stimulate the creation of quality vocal literature through the cooperation of singer and composer. Recent winners have included David Conte, Robert Patterson, Melissa Dunphy, David Sisco, Matt Boehler, and Benjamin C.S. Boyle.
Cash prizes generously sponsored by American composer Lori Laitman include a $2,000 First Prize and a $1,000 Second Prize, along with a two-year paid NATS membership. The first-place winning composition is performed at the NATS National Conference and by the Cincinnati Song Initiative. The competition is open to any composer, professional or student, whose submitted work meets the prescribed requirements.
Applications will be accepted beginning June 1, 2020, for the 2021 Art Song Composition Award with a submission deadline of December 1, 2020. The NATS Art Song Composition Award program is led by Carol Mikkelsen, coordinator, Lori Laitman, advisor. Information is available at nats.org/art-song-composition.