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Daniel De Togni ’18 Wins 2018 Highsmith Competition

April 23, 2018 by Shase Hernandez

Daniel De Togni ’18 has been selected as the winner of the 2018 Highsmith Competition, SFCM’s annual composition prize given to a current student or recent graduate. De Togni, a postgraduate student in the Technology and Applied Composition program, received his master’s degree in Composition from SFCM in 2017 while studying with Mason Bates. His winning work, Tsuioku: On the Internment of Japanese Americans, will be performed by the Conservatory Orchestra in the 2018-19 academic year.

Alexander Goodhart ’16, a former student of David Conte, was selected as runner-up in this year’s competition. His submitted orchestral work, Magnetic Sky, will be read by the Conservatory Orchestra in the 2018-19 academic year.

In the program notes for his piece, De Togni notes, “On February 19th, 1942, Executive Order 9066 was signed and issued, an order evacuating all Japanese and Americans of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast. This order included anyone who was 1/8th or more Japanese. This included my grandfather, George Hajime Tsuda. Just a young man living in San Francisco between Japantown and the Golden Gate Panhandle, he, his parents and sister were ordered to sell everything they owned and board a bus to Tanforan Race Tracks, a holding area for them before being sent to the Topaz Internment Camp in the deserts of Utah. Tsuioku is a Japanese word for reminiscence, and likewise, this piece is a reflection on one of the darker footnotes of American history. It is an elegiac reminder that history can and will repeat itself should we not recognize our past and use it to look forward.”

“Daniel has written a visceral and moving piece about a rarely explored subject, the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII,” says Mason Bates. “In this piece, he cracked into new compositional territory by integrating highly disparate sound worlds into a cohesive whole. It is a fine choice for the Highsmith and it is great to see the award go to such a fine musical citizen.”

This year’s judges were Ian Dicke (Assistant Professor, the University of California, Riverside; Hoefer Alumni Prize Winner, 2013; Highsmith Winner, 2004), Daron Hagen (Artist Faculty, Chicago College of the Performing Arts, Roosevelt University), and Donato Cabrera (Conductor; California Symphony, and Las Vegas Philharmonic)

The Highsmith Award is endowed by James (Jim) Milton Highsmith, who developed a lifelong passion for drama, music and literature in his native Robersonville, North Carolina. Highsmith came to San Francisco in 1971 to teach English at Lone Mountain College, where he eventually served as department chair. Highsmith's interest in the Conservatory stemmed not only from his love of music, but also from his friendship with former Conservatory President Milton Salkind.