First Place in the American Prize

 MACOMB, IL -- The Western Illinois University Singers were named the first place national co-winners of The American Prize in American Music (College/University Division), winning the coveted Ernst Bacon Memorial American music award for their performance of "Considering Matthew Shepard."

First Place in the American Prize

Ensembles of all types (instrumental, stage and vocal) and levels, high school to professional, from around the United States, submitted recordings in late April 2020. From those recordings, a national panel of judges selected semi-finalists, finalists, and finally winners in each category.

"I could not be more honored and proud to accept this award on behalf of everyone who worked hard on this project," said WIU Director of Choral Activities Brian J. Winnie. "The composer, Craig Hella Johnson, also sends his pride for the WIU Singers' performance. We spent an hour with the composer over Zoom during the process to discuss his compositional outlook and connection with Matthew's story. This work was so meaningful to us, and we were honored to be one of the first ensembles to perform the work in its entirety. Congratulations to all Western Illinois University Singers, both former and present, on a touching the lives of so many through this performance."

The American Prize is a national competition in the performing arts providing professional adjudication and regional, national and international recognition for the best recorded performances by ensembles and individuals each year in the United States at the professional, college/university, church, community and secondary school levels. The American Prize National Competitions in the Performing Arts are the nation's most comprehensive series of contests in the classical arts.

Ernst Bacon (1898—1990) was one of that pioneering generation of composers who, along with Thomson, Copland, Harris, and others, found a voice for American music. Winner of a Pulitzer Scholarship (for his Symphony in D minor) and no fewer than three Guggenheim Fellowships, Bacon set out to create compositions that expressed the vitality and affirmative spirit of our country. It is fitting, and with honor, that The American Prize creates an annual award in the memory of Bacon, recognizing the finest performances of American orchestral music worldwide. To learn more about Bacon's music and legacy, visit the website of the Ernst Bacon Society.

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