Composer Competition Winner 2021

Co-winner: Julian Ward (USA) – Spirits of the Dead

Julian Ward (b.1994) is a native of Greenville, North Carolina and is the recent accepter of a 2020 performance of Distances In Between for the NYCEMF. He is also the winner of the fourth-place prize of the Megalopolis Saxophone Orchestra 2019 call for scores for his piece, Lilac Lights (2018). Julian graduated in 2019 from the University of North Carolina Greensboro with a Master of Music degree in composition. In 2017, he graduated from East Carolina University with a Bachelors of Music in flute performance and music composition. Julian writes music for a large variety of ensembles. He has had his music read and or performed by ensembles such as the Beo Quartet, Roomful of Teeth, Yarn/Wire, the Greensboro Symphony, and others. Julian likes to use many different methods and mixed instrumentation in his works and also draws from various sources and styles to inform his compositional process. Emphasis of timbral character and strong contrasts are elemental to Julian’s compositions.
Photo by Yasha Hoffman:

Co-winner:  Isaac Ward (USA) – Sketch for soprano and piano

Isaac Ward is a musician–composer, hornist, and guitarist–currently based in Greenville, North Carolina. He studied at East Carolina University, receiving bachelor’s degrees in music composition and horn performance in 2017 and recently graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, obtaining a master’s degree in composition in 2019. He has had pieces performed by groups, including Hypercube, Quintet Sirocco, a subset of the Beo Quartet, and the Domino Ensemble. Additionally, Ward has had pieces read by multiple groups and soloist, including Miranda Cuckson and Loadbang. In his works, Ward strives to make dramatic and expressive music with timbral interest and idiomatic instrumental writing. He draws inspiration from popular music styles and the classical music tradition.
Photo by Yasha Hoffman:

Canadian Category Winner: Monika Gurak – Hope is…

Monika Gurak graduated with distinction with a Bachelor of Music degree from the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto, specializing in composition, as well as with a Master of Arts degree from Department of Music, York University, also specializing in composition. York University additionally gave her a merit-based entrance scholarship. She also took courses in writing songs and music production at Berklee Online, where she received a certificate. In addition, Monika is an alumna of the Institute of Iberian and Ibero-American Studies, University of Warsaw. Monika prefers writing music with words, be they pop songs, art songs or opera. She writes in three languages: Polish, English and Spanish, and she also loves writing prose. She published a few articles about music in Hispano-American literature and Heitor Villa-Lobos.

Honorable Mentions

Mari Alice Conrad (Canada)- Coyotes
Mari Alice Conrad is an emerging, award-winning composer currently finishing her BMus in Composition in Edmonton, Alberta. She has had the honour to create works for Babɛl Choir (Toronto), Standing Wave Chamber Ensemble (Vancouver), Pro Coro Canada (Edmonton), pianist Allen Stiles (Vancouver), and is currently working with the Allegra Chamber Orchestra (Vancouver), the SHHH!! Ensemble (Ottawa), and the East Chamber Music Emerging Composer Festival (Toronto). Her recent work for string quartet is set to premiere on a collaborative recording with Bent River Records (Edmonton) in summer of 2021. She holds associateships and diplomas in piano performance, accompanying, and teaching from the Victoria Conservatory of Music, Camosun College, and the Royal Conservatory of Music. She brings authenticity, enthusiasm, and depth to her compositional practice and will be attending graduate studies in composition at the University of Alberta in 2021.

Zuzanna Koziej (Poland) – Gdybym spotkał ciebie
Zuzanna Koziej, a Polish composer and arranger. She studied composition and graduated from the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw, Poland and at the State Conservatory of Music “Giuseppe Verdi” in Turin, Italy. An award-winning participant of international composition contests. She has written works for various ensembles: chamber, orchestral and choral. The scope of her compositions and arrangements covers movie soundtracks, folk music arrangements and many more. In 2015, her piece Arion was presented as the Final Piece of the 12th International Festival of University Choirs Universitas Cantat in Poznań, Poland. Arion was performed by about 350 musicians from different parts of the world. Since then, the piece has been performed in various countries, reaching Ecuador in South America.

Heather Niemi Savage (USA) – Mirage
Heather Niemi Savage explores the interaction between the old and the new, tradition and innovation, examining every nuance and implication of her experiences and musical ideas. In addition to composing, she also works as a collaborative pianist, private teacher, blogger, and herbalist. Heather’s compositions have been performed by the North-South Consonance, the Great Woods Symphony, and by saxophonist Lawrence Gwodz, as well as being included in the national conference of the Christian Fellowship of Art Music Composers; the 2016 Rhode Island All-State Festival; the 2017 New Music Festival in Fitchburg, MA. Additionally, her work has been featured on the radio programs, “Music of Our Mothers” and “Classical Discoveries.” Her piece, Daughter of the Stars, came in second place in the 2020 American Prize composition competition (pops/light-music division) and was released on Ablaze Records’ Orchestral Masters Volume 7. Heather studied music composition with Dr. Larry Bell in Boston, MA.

Roan Shankaruk (Canada) – A ballade of suicide
Roan Shankaruk is working towards her Masters in Opera at the University of Manitoba, with a Graduate Student Fellowship. She is a UBC graduate, with a double major in Opera and Composition. In 2018 Roan was selected as a composer for the Vancouver Opera New Works Project, where she composed two operas that were performed as part of the Vancouver Opera Festival. A work of hers for Clarinet, Violin and Piano called “Flowers on the Train” was presented in the 2019 Sonic Boom New Music Festival. Also in 2019 Roan took part in the inaugural Vancouver Indie Opera Week, producing a concert of her own compositions, both art song and operatic. In 2018, she composed and produced her first Opera, a one act chamber opera called The Woman Who Borrowed Memories. This opera was later mounted in Montreal, by the 23 Degree Theatre company, and was most recently produced fully staged as part of the 2019 Vancouver Fringe Festival. This spring the UofM will produce a workshop of her new opera, “The Fox”.