Composition Competition for First-Generation College Students


Symphonia Caritas is pleased to announce the 2021 Composition Competition for First-Generation College Students. All first-generation students, from first year undergraduate to graduate, who are currently enrolled at a United States accredited institution are invited to apply. There is no fee to enter the competition.


  1. First prize is $1000 and a performance of a work at a future Symphonia Caritas concert, at the discretion of the Symphonia Caritas Music Director. The work performed does not have to be the same as the work submitted for the competition.  
  2. If there is a strong runner up, the Symphonia Caritas Music Director may award a 2nd place prize of $200. 


  1. First-generation is defined as no parent, grandparent, or legal guardian completed a 4 year degree. Siblings holding a 4 year degree is ok. 
  2. Applications will open Oct. 27 and close Jan. 31, 2021. Incomplete applications or applications not following the specified format will be rejected. The competition will be capped at the first 30 students who apply and meet the requirements. 
  3. Submissions must be of an original instrumental work, not an arrangement or adaptation. See below for specific requirements of the work. 
  4. All judging will be anonymous. Judges will not have knowledge of the identity of the composer. 
  5. Judging will take place in 2 rounds:
    1. In the first round, each judge will be given a portion of the overall submissions, randomly assigned. From that group, they will select 1 or 2 works to be forwarded to the final round. 
    2. In the final round, each judge will be given all the submissions selected for the finals. They will vote in a rank choice system. The first submission to receive a majority of votes will be declared the winner. 
  6. All applicants will be required to provide the institutional email of a music professor who can attest to both their status as a currently enrolled student and as a first-generation student. Please inform this professor that an email will be forthcoming. Failure of the professor to respond will result in a disqualification for the applicant. 
  7. The winner must provide a social security number or IRS tax ID number to accept the prize.
  8. Winners will be announced sometime in the spring of 2021. The rental and performance fee for the winner's performed work will be included in the cash prize. 
  9. All performance, copyright, and royalty rights of all works submitted remain with the composers.
  10. Judges reserve the right to withhold prizes if in their judgment no deserving works are submitted.
  11. In case of any question to the rules or eligibility, the decision of the Symphonia Caritas Music Director will be final. 

How to apply

Submissions must adhere to the following:

  1. The work must be an original instrumental work, not an arrangement or adaptation. A single vocal part as part of the ensemble is allowed, but the work may not be for chorus. It does not need to be for full orchestra. 
  2. The work must be through composed, and not heavily rely on improvisation. Small amounts of improvisation are allowed (for instance, a cadenza). 
  3. The work must include at least 4 players and 3 different instruments. 
  4. If the work is over 10 minutes, please let us know which 10 minutes you would like the judges to focus on. Be sure to include both starting measure number/rehearsal letter and timing in the recording. Otherwise the judges will focus on the first 10 minutes. 
  5. Applicants must submit a score and audio recording. The recording may be with real players or MIDI. SoundCloud is recommended for audio recordings, and Issuu for scores, both of which have a free tier. Submissions from personal websites will not be allowed.
  6. Submissions must be scrubbed of any identification, including composer name or institution. If your SoundCloud, Issuu, or other similar site contains your name, please create new accounts for the competition.
  7. Program notes should not be included in the submission. Program music may include the program. For example, if a work is based on a poem, the score may include the poem, but not the composer's interpretation of the poem. 
  8. Previously performed works are acceptable. 

For questions or more information, contact us


    Kazem Abdullah

    Freelance conductor

    Former Music Director of City of Aachen, Germany

    Ming Luke

    Music Director, Merced Symphony

    Principal Conductor, Nashville Ballet

    Director and Conductor, Berkeley Symphony Education Programs

    Barbara Day Turner

    Music Director, San José Chamber Orchestra

    Rei Hotoda

    Music Director, Fresno Philharmonic

    Cristian Măcelaru

    Music Director, Orchestre National de France

    Chief Conductor, WDR Sinfonieorchester

    Music Director, Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music

    Paul Schrage

    Music Director, Symphonia Caritas

    Music Director, Midsummer Mozart Festival

    Photo credits. Rei Hotoda: Todd Rosenberg; Cristian Măcelaru: Adriane White; Barbara Day Turner: Teresa Tam; Paul Schrage: Matt Washburn