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SFCM Grad Wins International Composition Award and $100,000

Aleksandra Vrebalov, ('96) is the 2024 winner of the Grawemeyer Award in Music Composition, a $100,000 international prize honoring outstanding innovation in music.

December 4, 2023 by Mark Taylor

An SFCM graduate has won a major composition award. 

Aleksandra Vrebalov has won the 2024 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Music Composition for Missa Supratext, a nontraditional choral work for string quartet and girls’ chorus. The work’s Latin title translates to “Mass Above Words” in English.

“Vrebalov’s music transports and envelops the listener,” said Matthew Ertz, the Grawemeyer Award director. “Her winning piece emphasizes the universality of human expression through music, bypassing a single language, style or tradition."

Kronos Quartet, a group long known for nurturing musical innovation, and San Francisco Girls’ Chorus, a Bay Area group for young women from diverse backgrounds, premiered the 22-minute work in 2018 in San Francisco. The piece also incorporates bells, Tibetan bowls and an optional musical saw. 

Vrebalov earned her master's degree in composition at SFCM and graduated in 1996. "The SFCM community felt like family to me; some of the relationships I formed back then still remain among my most vital connections," Vrebalov said. It was at the Conservatory where she first made contact with the Kronos Quartet, "While working in the SFCM library, (I) mailed them my first string quartet, met them shortly after in the neighborhood, and have been collaborating with the group ever since."

While at SFCM Vrebalov studied with Elinor Armer, who now has two former students as Grawemeyer winners (the other is Olga Neuwirth, class of 1987.) "My beloved composition teacher, Elinor Armer has been an unwavering source of support and inspiration over the years," Vrebalov said. 

Of her time at SFCM, Vrebalov reflects that it was formative in setting up her musical career. "A sense of adventure, camaraderie, freedom, and healthy competition were the qualities of that time at SFCM. They shaped me into the artist I am today and I am grateful for it," she added. While at SFCM Vrebalov won the Highsmith Competition and Hoefer Prize in composition. 

The Grawemeyer Awards are five annual prizes given in the fields of music, political science, psychology, education and religion. They were founded by H. Charles Grawemeyer to help make the world a better place. Recipients will visit Louisville in the spring to accept their awards and give free talks on their winning ideas.

Learn more about studying Composition at SFCM.