Choral Composer Wins 2013 Sackler Composition Prize

SacklerComposition prize winner Steven Sametz conducting.
SacklerComposition prize winner Steven Sametz conducting.
Steven Sametz, winner of the Sackler Composition prize.
Steven Sametz, winner of the 2013 Sackler Composition Prize.

Choral composer Steven Sametz has been named the recipient of the 10th Raymond and Beverly Sackler Music Composition Prize presented by the University of Connecticut, a $25,000 award to compose a new work for a specific area of musical arts that will be performed and recorded.

“The proposed project is a response to the Sandy Hook Elementary killings of December, 2012, “ says Sametz, who is a native of Westport, Conn. “I am currently working with schools in my area to develop a libretto drawn from children's responses to tragedy and loss.” The new work is tentatively titled ‘A Child's Requiem.’

Sametz, who has earned increasing renown in recent years as both composer and conductor, is the Ronald J. Ulrich Professor of Music and director of Lehigh University Choral Arts, one of the country’s premier choral programs. He also serves as artistic director for the elite a cappella ensemble, The Princeton Singers, and is the founding director of The Lehigh University Choral Composer Forum, a summer course of study designed to mentor emerging choral composers.

Sackler Composition Prize-winner Steven Sametz conducting the Princeton Singers. (Photo courtesy of Steven Sametz)
Sackler Composition Prize-winner Steven Sametz conducting the Princeton Singers. (Photo courtesy of Steven Sametz)

“The Sackler Composition prize is a unique award and one of the largest given for the composition of new musical works,” says Brid Grant, dean of the UConn School of Fine Arts. “It’s so important that we continue to encourage both the composition and performance of new music.”

Grant notes that once composed, the new works funded by the Prize are performed by UConn students: “Engaging our students in the performance challenges generated by this competition is a unique learning opportunity. It not only expands our students’ musical horizons but gives them an added ‘string to their bow’ credential when they are seeking opportunities after college.”

Sametz says in addition to the UConn premiere of his new composition, he also plans to reprise the work at Lehigh University, and to develop an exhibition of artwork from young children expressive of their thoughts on loss which will be displayed at the time of the performances.

The competition, organized by the School of Fine Arts, is an international award that supports and promotes composers and the performance of their new musical works. The prize was established through a gift from Raymond and Beverly Sackler, major philanthropists and frequent donors to UConn.

Every second year, entrants are asked to compose a piece for a specific area of the musical arts, chosen by the head and other faculty of the UConn music department, such as a jazz ensemble, choir, opera, wind ensemble, or chamber ensemble. This year’s prize is for chorus and orchestra, and entries were received from seven nations and 17 states.

Sametz holds degrees from Yale University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Kunst in Frankfurt, Germany. He has received commissions from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Connecticut Council on the Arts, and the Santa Fe music festival. He has created new works for Chanticleer, the Dale Warland Singers, Philadelphia Singers, Pro Arte Chamber Choir, the Santa Fe Desert Chorale, Connecticut Choral Artists, and the King of Thailand. His recent guest conducting appearances include the Taipei Philharmonic Foundation, the Berkshire Music Festival, the New York Chamber Symphony, and the Netherlands Radio Choir.

For more information, visit