student composing music

Music students receive inaugural Mykytyn Distinguished Composition Award established by ASU alumni

By

Lynne MacDonald

Three music composition students in the School of Music in Arizona State University's Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts are the honored recipients of the inaugural Mykytyn Distinguished Composition Award, established by ASU alumni Kathleen Mykytyn (Bachelor of Arts in education ’58) and Peter Mykytyn (Master of Business Administration ’81, Doctor of Philosophy in computer information systems ’85).

The endowed award was created in memory of former ASU music Professor Arnold Bullock's outstanding service and legacy to the School of Music. Kathleen Mykytyn, a composer, was a student in Bullock's studio.

The $1,000 first prize went to Mohamed-Aly “Mo” Farag, doctoral student, for his composition “Rhapsody for clarinet, piano, violin, viola and violoncello. Second prize ($300) was awarded to Jacob Smith, doctoral student, for his string quartet composition “seep, unwrought.” Karl Stefans, master's student, took third prize ($200) for “Je t'adore à l'égal for Pierrot” for ensemble after a poem by Baudelaire.

“The competition was an opportunity to have my work as a composer presented and recognized,” Smith said. “It was also important that I would be able to share recognition with my fellow composers.”

Smith said his piece was originally composed in February 2018 as a part of the School of Music’s Visiting Quartet Residency Program. Composition students used inspiration from a work at the Phoenix Art Museum to create a piece for string quartet.

Remembering the School of Music as a place that fostered innovation and creativity, Mykytyn said she was inspired to provide recognition as well as a monetary prize to assist young composers in their study of music.

The annual cash award is for an original composition for a vocal or instrumental solo or chamber group, in any genre of music. The competition is judged by ASU faculty or distinguished guest judges and is open to all current undergraduate and graduate composition majors at ASU.

This year’s competition was judged by four School of Music composition and theory faculty: James DeMars, professor; Jody Rockmaker, associate professor; Rodney Rogers, professor; and Kotoka Suzuki, associate professor. 

Students must submit a description of their piece, a written score and a recording of their composition.

“The competition is a blind review,” Suzuki said. “We review all compositions submitted and look for originality, creativity and craftsmanship.” 

Rockmaker said that, in general, judges consider how well the composer expresses their ideas through their notation, how well written the work is for soloist or ensemble, and assess whether the music presents a unique voice.

“Composition students write in many different styles,” Rockmaker said. “It’s one of the most unique aspects of our program. We encourage students to enter all types of competitions as a good way to have their work and abilities as a composer recognized.”