The AGO Student Commissioning Project is the AGO’s most recent new music initiative. Each year, grants of $1,000 are awarded to four collaborative composer-and-organist pairs for the composition and performance of four new works for the organ. In the fall, as the academic year begins, a student pair submits a joint application describing a proposed work and its performance. There are no restrictions with regard to a work’s compositional style; however, all composers and organists must be enrolled as full- or part-time students at an accredited U.S. college, university, or conservatory. After the new work is approved by the AGO Committee on New Music, the organist must premiere the work and provide a video recording. 2022-2023 Project Guidelines.
Award: Four grants of $1,000 will be awarded each year to four composer and organist pairs by the AGO Committee on New Music
2023 Award Winners
Four composer-organist student pairs were selected in the fall of 2022: Victor Cui (composer) and Midori Ataka (organist) from Johns Hopkins University; Owen Johnson (composer) from the New England Conservatory and Jacob Gruss (organist) from Juilliard; Nara Lee (composer) and Jihye Choi (organist) from Indiana University; and Christopher Enloe (composer) from Johns Hopkins University and Grant Smith (organist) from Rice University. Videos of their winning compositions will be featured on this page in June 2023.
2022 Award Winning Projects
Four composer-organist student pairs were selected in the fall of 2021: Kylar Gardner (composer) and Nicholas Halbert (organist) from Arizona State University; Eric Pickford (composer) from the College of Charleston and Carson Hayes (organist) from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts; J.P. Redmond (composer) and Eddie Zheng (organist) from Juilliard; and Alvin Tam (composer) from Indiana University and Zoe Lei (organist) from the University of Michigan.
Nicholas Halbert plays Elevation Toccata by Kylar Gardner
Gardner and Halbert were inspired by existing organ repertoire, the Italian Elevation Toccatas, especially those of Girolamo Frescobaldi (1583–1643). They discussed that it was less the exact style of these historic compositions that was inspiring to them, but rather the ethos that they create when played. Their composition, simply titled Elevation Toccata is like a tone poem and “uses chromaticism and darkness, bringing a religious tradition into the concert setting.”
Carson Hayes plays Suite – Salvation Incarnate by Eric Pickford
Suite: Salvation Incarnate walks through the nine traditional lessons and carols. Each brief movement picks out certain themes in the scriptural readings. For instance, the first, titled “Bruised,” is based on the following text: “God tells sinful Adam that he has lost the life of Paradise and that his seed will bruise the serpent’s head.” Each movement differs significantly in style to accommodate the scripture it is based upon, so, while there are probably some common sonorities amongst the movements, they do not share motivic elements.
Eddie Zheng plays Ricercar by J.P. Redmond
J.P. and I worked together over the course of several months in preparation of writing and performing a new work for organ. Meeting at the organs at Juilliard, we discussed how to best write for the nuances of the instrument, what would work well and what was to be avoided, and what our overall idea for the piece might be. What came out of this process was ‘Ricercar’ – a piece featuring three sections. Initially presented are the imaginative, dream-like beginnings of a toccata with weaving hand figurations, which then gives way to an intricate dialogue of hocket figures, with a background of shifting meters. The two sections and their themes collide in the final, hopeful conclusion.
Zoe Lei plays Hong Kong Snapshots by Alvin Tam
Tam and Lei worked on the project apart as Tam was living in Hong Kong. Tam wrote a piece titled Hong Kong Snapshots that attempts to capture parts of the vibrant, international city. While they both grew up in Hong Kong, their experiences were vastly different, and they discussed discovering different personalities of the city through each other and this process.
Committee on New Music
Louise Mundinger, MM, Director Email
David J. Hurd, Jr., MusD Email
Carol Feather Martin, MM Email
Alexander Meszler, DMA Email
M. Jonathan Ryan, Councillor for Competitions and New Music Email
AGO Headquarters Email