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SFCM Awards Students with Composition Prizes

Peter Engelbert ’18 and David Taylor ’17

Every year, SFCM presents a spread of awards in multiple categories, including performance and composition. The conservatory’s Concerto Competition winners were announced in February, and those awardees have recently been joined by the winners of two different composition contests: the Highsmith Competition and the Biennial Art Song Composition Competition.

This year’s Highsmith Award winner is Peter Engelbert ’18, a student of David Conte, for his orchestral work, Vagaries. The Conservatory Orchestra will read Vagaries this semester and perform the work in concert during the 2017–18 season. Additionally, for the third time, the competition also chose a runner-up: Taylor Rankin ’17, a student of Mason Bates, for his work, California Nocturnes. Rankin’s work will also be read by the Conservatory Orchestra.

The Highsmith Award is an annual prize awarded to a current student or alumnus, displaying exceptional skill in orchestral composition. This year’s judges were Ilya Demutsky ’09 (Highsmith winner 2008, Hoefer Prize winner 2017), Robert Kyr, Professor and Chair of Composition at the University of Oregon, and Michael Morgan, Music Director and Conductor of the Oakland Symphony.

Another SFCM contest, the 7th Biennial Art Song Composition Competition, took place March 15. Switching off with the Choral Composition Competition year by year, this competition sees student composers present works written for voice and piano. At the end of the concert, three cash prizes are awarded. This year, the first prize ($300) was awarded to David Taylor ’17, a student of David Conte, for his piece, “The Storm.” Second prize ($200) was awarded to Michael Smith ’18, a student of David Garner, for his piece, “Winds of May.” Third prize ($100) was awarded to Luke Mayernik ’17, a student of David Garner, for his piece, “Chocolate.”

“Peter Engelbert is the most recent of the many composers who have come to SFCM from my studio at the EAMA program in Paris,” said David Conte. Speaking to Engelbert’s Highsmith-winning composition, he commented, “His work, Vagaries, is well crafted, with a solid and compelling melodic through-line.”

Conte also noted the skillful setting of David Taylor’s winning art song. “David Taylor’s ‘The Storm’ is a very ambitious song, setting a poem by his fellow New Zealander Katherine Mansfield. The scope of the work approaches that of a monodrama, as the speaker of the poem goes through many emotions, all expertly expressed in the vocal line and very imaginative and difficult piano accompaniment.”


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