Alton Sato Wins 2019 KDFC Sound Logo Competition and 2016 Winner Jana Ma Takes Flight

Photo of Alton Sato '21

KDFC Choir Theme 1 Alton Sato KDFC Choir Theme 1 by Alton Sato.

Alton Sato ’21 has been named the winner of the 2019 KDFC Sound Logo Competition. A multimedia composer studying in the Technology and Applied Composition (TAC) program, Sato won the top prize in the fourth annual contest.

The Sound Logo Competition is a partnership between SFCM and San Francisco’s premiere classical radio station, KDFC. Sato’s compositions will be featured throughout the year on both the radio and the KDFC website. KDFC is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to making classical music a more important part of people’s lives.

“During the Sound Logo Competition, I enjoyed watching my final pieces come to life from its inception as an idea to the live recording session,” says Sato. “This opportunity was my first time creating many interpretations on a single theme, and it helped me develop many new approaches to writing music.”

A sound logo is a short, distinctive melody or other sequence of sound, typically positioned at the beginning or ending of a promotional announcement and can be seen as the audio equivalent of a visual logo. Competition submissions were between 7-15 seconds long and were arranged for 12 voices.

As the competition winner, Sato received a $1,000 prize on behalf of the Northern California Chapter of InspirASIAN, a non-profit, educational organization focused on representing Asian and Pacific Islanders employed by AT&T Inc. He was also awarded a professional quality microphone from sE Electronics.

Sato, who spent this past summer working in the recording studio with producer and drummer Homer Steinweiss in New York City, said the monetary award and the studio microphone will be used toward his “ever-growing home studio to improve my future projects.”

Projects and collaborations like the KDFC Sound Logo Competition “not only provide the opportunity to create relevant and polished works for the students' professional portfolios, but they also lead our students towards a professional standard of work and provide the inspiration and confidence to launch exciting careers,” says MaryClare Brzytwa, executive director of the TAC program. “We are so grateful to InspirASIAN and sE Electronics for their support over the years.”

Sato joins previous winners Danielle Ferrari ’20, Kevin Becker ’19, and Jana Ma ’19, winner of the inaugural sound logo competition in 2016. Like Sato, Ma also invested her winnings in her now status as an up-and-coming-producer, having used her new microphone to record her first album.

Ma was among the first cohort of TAC students to graduate this past spring, and she is now on tour. She also works for sE electronics, one of the sound logo sponsors, who hired her immediately upon graduation. “Winning the competition opened doors for me as a composer in the confidence that I could pursue whatever I wanted with music,” says Ma. “I currently am a SFCM graduate, part-time employee with sE electronics, and a full-time composer.”

Another competition that is yielding results is the InspirASIAN Award for Professional Excellence—a $1,000 scholarship to SFCM students currently enrolled in the TAC program. Applicants are judged by the quality and professionalism of their website and the materials contained there — their portfolio in particular.

“We as an organization want to encourage the artistic and gifted students pursuing a career in the creative arts and found the TAC program at SFCM a means to achieve that,” says June Tom, the community involvement and scholarship director at InspirASIAN.

Brzytwa added that SFCM students benefit from participating in projects that raise their profile and boost their professional credentials.

“Two students (both women in a very male-dominated field) are taking a leave of absence their senior year because they have already been hired,” she says. “You can see from the quality of the work presented on their websites how motivating the competition is towards launching these students to their first professional engagements.”

Listen to Sato’s winning logos—and all the KDFC Sound Logo Competition winners over the years