Joshua Fishbein, a doctoral student in music composition at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), is winner of the first Chorus Austin Young Composers Competition. His winning piece, A Prep-School Boy, will be featured on Chorus Austin’s “Southwest Voices” concert May 17 and 18. A second work by Fishbein, Oseh Shalom, also will be performed.
The concert by the acclaimed 40-voice Chorus Austin Vocal Arts Ensemble, under the direction of Ryan Heller, features works by Austin, Texas and southwest composers in two performances only.
Chorus Austin inaugurated its Young Composers Competition in the fall of 2013 to support new choral music by composers under age 30. In its first year, the group received nearly 40 entries from throughout Texas, and from across the United States, from Canada and Germany.
“I am excited and proud that Chorus Austin’s 2013-2014 season includes our first ever Young Composers Competition,” Heller said. “New music is something we are passionate about, and the encouragement and celebration of the next generation of composers is an important part of our role as a dynamic arts organization.”
He noted Chorus Austin’s commitment to many forms of music education. “We recognize that choral composition is alive and well in the United States,” Heller said. “Unfortunately, many people think of composers as long-dead, white Europeans who may have worn powdered wigs. We know this is not the case, especially in the 21st century. The fact that we received nearly 40 entries in our first year is a testament to the fact that young composers are thriving.”
Both a singer and pianist, Fishbein, 29, composes vocal and instrumental music. He currently is a doctoral student in music composition at UCLA. He completed his master’s degree at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music with additional graduate studies at the University of Maryland. An ensemble leader, Fishbein served as managing director of the UCLA Early Music Ensemble and assistant conductor of the San Francisco Conservatory Chorus. He earned undergraduate degrees in psychology and music composition at Carnegie Mellon University. There, Fishbein won the Harry G. Archer Prize in orchestral composition. A native of Baltimore, Fishbein studied piano performance and music theory at the Peabody Preparatory.
“This competition encourages me to compose more choral music,” Fishbein said. “The thrill of winning a competition energizes me to keep writing. Music composition can be a difficult field without many opportunities, especially for young composers.”
Fishbein is pleased, he said “that Chorus Austin created a new opportunity specifically for young composers.” He also acknowledged that as a student the cash award is helpful.
“For someone young like me, who is trying to make a name for myself, competition is very valuable. Winning a competition helps build a name for myself as a composer in different parts of the country. This performance will be my Southwest debut. ”
Second place competition winner is James Doyle, a graduate student at the University of North Texas in Denton, for his composition Self Pity. Third place is awarded to Matthew Emery of Vancouver, Canada, for his work Peace, My Heart.
Other works on the “Southwest Voices” program include Donald Grantham’s Let Evening Come, Craig Hella Johnson’s Psalm of Life, Thomas Pavlechko’s Since By Man Came Death, Abby Gostein’s Vayarotz Likratam, and Robert H. Young’s Sweet Day and A Loving Heart to Thee. Works by Chorus Austin’s own Stephanie K. Andrews, Ave Maria, and Benjamin May, From the Heart of God, are featured.
Performances will be at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 17, at St. Theresa Catholic Church, 4311 Small Dr., and 3 p.m. Sunday, May 18, at St. Martin’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, 606 W. 15th St. Tickets, at $20 general admission and $15 for seniors and students, are available for purchase online at www.chorusaustin.org, at the door or by contacting the Chorus Austin business office at (512) 719-3300.