As part of The New World Initiative, the Composition Challenge invited New York City—based composers to create works that contained or referenced themes from Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9, From the New World. Entries were evaluated for execution, originality, and creative engagement with the source material. The following eleven composers were selected as the winners of the New World Composition Challenge:
Grand Prize: Gregor Huebner
Born in Stuttgart in 1967, Gregor Huebner studied violin and piano in Vienna and Stuttgart. In 1994 he earned his MA degree in jazz piano/composition from Manhattan School of Music, where he was bestowed with a “President’s Award.”
Huebner is a member of Sirius Quartet, who performed his winning composition “New World Nov. 9. 2016” and participated in the Philharmonic’s New World Initiative. Internationally acclaimed veterans of contemporary music, Sirius Quartet creates unforgettable musical events that combine exhilarating repertoire with unequaled improvisational fire.
Born and bred in NYC’s downtown music scene, Sirius has performed at major venues around the globe. Having premiered works by the likes of Phil Kline, Uri Caine and Richard Einhorn, Sirius pushes beyond the conventional vocabulary of string instruments with bold, original works by its own members, incorporating improvisation, extended techniques and undeniable grooves.
Huebner’s first important commissions came from the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra lead by Denis Russell Davies and Helmuth Rilling’s International Bachakademie in Stuttgart. The success of “Bach21” lead to “De Profundis for Schumann” and Piano Concerto Nr.2 for Musikfest Stuttgart in 2010 and 2013. Other commissions include the cello concerto op. 31, commissioned by the Landesakademie Ochsenhausen; Mayim Mayim, a dance production for the State Theater of Fürth; and his string quartet “New York Suite” which premiered at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. Latest commissions include Tribeca New Music 2014, “Clockwork Interrupted” for the Radio Symphonie Orchester and the SWR Big Band 2014, “Six Songs of Innocence” for the CIS Choir 2014 and a Violin and Piano concerto for the WDR Big Band in 2016. He is published on Schott, Gerstenberg and Norsk Musikvorlag.
As a film composer, Huebner’s credits include collaborations with Gerd Baumann on scores for “Bergwehen” and “My Beautiful Country”. These movies were nominated in 2011 for the German TV Awards and received international awards.
In addition to his extensive work with Richie Beirach , Huebner’s compositions can be heard on numerous CDs including “Panonien” and “Januschke’s time,” “No Limits,” “Fantasia,” and “New York Lounge” (Niveau Records); “In Between,” “Cityscapes,” “Racing Mind,” and “Colors of the East” with the Sirius Quartet; and Cuban Blues 2012 with Salsafuerte. “El Violin Latino” and “El Violin Latino Vol.2” which focus on Latin American Music were released in 2011 and 2014.
Listen to Huebner’s winning composition, “New World Nov. 9, 2016” on the Sirius Quartet artist page →
Second-place: Best in Borough
The Bronx: Michael Pineda
My name is Michael B Pineda and I was born February 15, 2005. I am 12 years old and I started learning to play piano when I was 3 1/2. I attend Trevor day school and I am in 6th grade. My first music composition was when I was 7. I have been part of the New York Philharmonic’s Very Young Composers program since 5th grade and I have learned so much about composing from this exciting program.
Brooklyn: Yazmín Morales-Vicente
Yazmín was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico on January 7, 1986. From an early age, she showed an interest in music and the arts. After studying viola and voice at the Libre de Música Ernesto Ramos Antonini School from 1998-2004, she moved to New York to start her college education. Since then, she has been a member of the Brooklyn Philharmonia Chorus, the BMCC Select Chorus, the Brooklyn College Choral Union, the Brooklyn College Basic Pitches (the college’s first a cappella ensemble!) and most recently BombaYo. Yazmín currently works for University Settlement as a preschool teacher and lives in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
BombaYo emerges from the streets and schoolyards of the Bronx, where salsa and hip-hop were born. Under the direction of Jose L. Ortiz aka Dr. Drum and Melinda Gonzalez, BombaYo’s young people bring new energy to a centuries-old Afro Puerto Rican music and dance tradition. In a short time, the group had been invited to perform at schools, youth conferences, and Latino Heritage Month events across NYC. Other events include, National Women’s Heart Day at Madison Square Garden’s Expo Center, Brooklyn Academy of Music with Dan Zanes, National Museum of History, Easter Bonnet “On Broadway, 2010” at Minskoff Theatre, and Symphony Space. The group has shared their musical talents in the 2010 album DARE TO GO BEYOND with Corbin Bleu and William Cepeda, produced by Revolucion Latina.
Manhattan: Luke Cissell
Luke Cissell’s versatility as a musician and composer at the intersection of bluegrass, post-rock, and classical traditions has taken him from honky-tonks to rock clubs and symphony halls in the U.S. and abroad, and he is credited on albums by artists as diverse as Ingrid Michaelson and Philip Glass.
Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Cissell was a fiddling champion at the age of eight. He earned a degree in history at Princeton University before establishing himself in New York, where he has performed as a freelance violinist at many of the city’s most revered cultural institutions (Carnegie Hall, CBGB, Radio City Music Hall, Lincoln Center). His output as a composer includes five albums of original music, a chamber opera, a feature length film score, and a collection of chamber music. Cissell’s recent String Quintet will receive its Old World premiere in Germany this summer by Odyssey Ensemble.
Queens: Joel Pierson
Composer and jazz pianist Joel Pierson has worked with artists of great repute (The Kronos Quartet, The NY Philharmonic), & artists of not-so great repute (Wayne Newton, Ke$ha). As a pianist, Joel has performed on all seven continents (yes, even Antarctica). As a songwriter, Joel was signed to Warner Brothers Records and has written and performed with artists like Linkin Park, Father John Misty, and My Chemical Romance.
Joel’s symphonic arrangements have been performed by over 20 symphony orchestras, including Atlanta, Toronto, Cleveland, & The Philly Pops. He wrote additional music for the 2013 film The Internship, and is Musical Director of The Queen’s Cartoonists, a jazz band dedicated to the preservation and performance of music from classic cartoons. Joel has been featured in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, McSweeney’s, The Chicago Tribune, and the CBS Evening News. He has a doctoral degree in music composition from the University of Maryland, a masters degree in jazz piano from New York University, and a bachelor’s degree in classical piano from Westmont College.
Joel lives in Queens and maintains an active performing and teaching schedule in New York City.
Staten Island: Sabrina Isaac
Sabrina Isaac is a composer and clarinetist currently studying music in Staten Island. She has been studying music for eight years in New York. Sabrina has a strong passion for performing and composing music which stems from her love of creating.
She began composing after being inspired by classical symphonies and pieces. Her music has heavy influence from music of that classical era. She is a high school junior currently performing with the Susan E. Wagner Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band under the direction of Paul Corn and the ISO Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Jeffrey Grogan.
In Armenian, zulal means “clear water.” Zulal, the a cappella trio, takes Armenia’s village folk melodies and weaves intricate arrangements that pay tribute to the rural roots of the music while introducing a sophisticated lyricism and energy. Zulal’s singers, Teni Apelian, Yeraz Markarian, and Anaïs Tekerian, have been singing together since 2002. The trio has performed in such esteemed venues as the Getty Museum, Berklee College of Music, Carnegie Hall’s Weill and Zankel Recital Halls, The Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage and New York’s Symphony Space, along with performances for Cirque du Soleil and the Silk Road Project. Additionally, the trio has scored the film Stone Time Touch and has three acclaimed albums to its credit.
Zulal celebrates the trials and joys of old Armenian village life: girls cast fortunes by the moon’s light, morning smoke rises from the tonir, young brides weave golden threads through their hair as others spin wool into gossip. These images of the past come to life in Zulal’s arrangements, hearkening back to a simpler time, providing tokens of comfort in our increasingly complex, modern world.
Dionne McClain-Freeney & Allison Sniffin
Dionne McClain-Freeney is a pianist, composer, singer, choral and musical director, arranger, and teaching artist who has appeared on numerous national and international stages, played in some of New York City’s most beloved churches, and accompanied many artists from Broadway, television, and the recording industry.
Her award-winning compositions and arrangements (New York Musical Theater Festival, GLAAD Media Award nominee), including the music for The Movie Star and The Mammy, The Sugar Hill Sisters (book and lyrics by Bil Wright), and music and lyrics for This One Girl’s Story (book by Bil Wright) have been featured on television and radio, and praised in several online and print publications. Dionne was a headliner at Joe’s Pub in 2016, and is currently a member of the BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop.
Allison Sniffin is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, and composer. As Music Director of Meredith Monk & Vocal Ensemble she performs and transcribes Monk’s works which she has co-orchestrated for The New World Symphony, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Juilliard’s Ensemble Connect, Bang on a Can and Alarm Will Sound.
Ms. Sniffin’s compositions have been performed at Merkin Hall (Oyeme con los ojos); International Alliance for Women in Music (Serenade for Horn and Strings); and by the New York Philharmonic’s Christopher Lamb (Punch!). She is a frequent arranger/orchestrator for The Stonewall Chorale and Melodia Women’s Choir (NYC). She was featured with The New York Theremin Society at Joe’s Pub. Ms. Sniffin has received grants from Meet the Composer and Concert Artists’ Guild. She serves as Organist at Middle Collegiate Church and Temple Sha’aray Tefila.
Mike von der Nahmer & Zack Childers
Peter Michael von der Nahmer (“Mike”) is a composer and sound researcher based in New York City. His American/German/Cuban heritage influences the questions of identity, complexity, and transcendent connection that shape his music. He has written over 27 works for music theater and dance, and over 100 works for concert and film; many have received national/international awards, and been performed around the world. Most recently he was awarded the 2016 McKnight Visiting composer residency, where he currently works on new musical theater pieces concerning the history and heritage of the town New Ulm in Minnesota.
Mike holds a B.A. in composition from the University of Music and Performing Arts, Munich and an M.A. in Music Therapy from the University of Augsburg. He holds certificates in Film Scoring from the UCLA, and in Music Pain Treatment from the Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences. In May 2015, he received an M.F.A. in Musical Theater Writing from New York University.
Mike’s barrier-breaking, eclectic background explains his passion for music both as artistic expression and as a means to connect disparate cultures. His desire to be an agent of radical connection – to literally create harmony out of apparent dissonance – is his defining motivation.
Zackry Childers is an Oklahoma-raised, New York-based writer, specializing in dramatic writing and composition. He is currently pursuing an MFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts’ Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program.
Much of Zack’s work has been within the theatrical world as a writer, musician, and actor. He does do work outside of traditional performance venues though and has worked in musical composition, copywriting, and commercially marketed prose.
LehCats (Norbert and Karen Stachels’ last name spelled backwards) blends Modern Jazz, Middle Eastern, Funk, R&B, Latin, and other world music styles into a delicious stew especially prepared to help sooth the soul using original compositions as the vehicle. This group of seven musicians was formed in August 2013 by Norbert and Daniel Gonzalez and was designed to showcase all original world jazz compositions. These musicians tell a unique story with versatility, passion, discovery, and invention.
Norbert Stachel, tenor, soprano sax and flute
Karen Stachel, flute and piccolo
Gary Fisher, piano
David Solomon, guitar
John Benitez, bass
Renato Thoms, percussion
Daniel Gonzalez, drums
Sammy Sussman is a senior at the Fox Lane High School in Bedford, New York. He has been composing for five years and has been a member of the New York Youth Symphony Composition Program since 2014. He was recently named a NextNotes High School Composition Award winner for his electro-acoustic work Eyrie. His pieces have also been selected for performance at both the New York State Music Association’s Composer Honors Concert and the National Association for Music Education’s Eastern Division Conference Young Composer Concert.
For the past two summers, he has traveled to Paris, France to attend the European American Musical Alliance’s Composition Program, where he was awarded Distinction in Solfège and Keyboard Harmony. He currently studies composition with Dr. Kyle Blaha. In addition to composing, he plays classical and jazz bass. He has twice participated in Berklee High School Jazz Festival, where his jazz quartet placed second and third. This fall, he will be studying composition at the University of Michigan’s School of Music, Theatre & Dance.