Finalists selected for inaugural Graham Sommer Competition for Young Composers


The Schulich School of Music is pleased to announce the five finalists for the inaugural edition of the Graham Sommer Competition for Young Composers. This new national competition for Canadian composers under the age of 35 was founded by Dr. Graham Sommer, MDCM’72, (1946-2016), a graduate of McGill University’s Faculty of Medicine and an accomplished pianist and devoted music lover. In this first edition of the competition, five finalists are to compose works for piano quintet (piano and string quartet) which will be judged in front of a live panel. This year’s finalists are:

  • Ashkan Behzadi: Behzadi currently resides in New York City where he is a doctoral student at Columbia University. A graduate of the Schulich School of Music in composition and music theory, his music has been performed by Nouvel Ensemble Moderne (NEM) and the Esprit Orchestra, among other ensembles.
  • Taylor Brook: Often integrating electronics and new technologies, Brook’s music has been described as “gripping” and “engrossing” by the New York Times. The winner of several SOCAN Young Composers awards, he holds a master’s degree in composition from the Schulich School of Music and is currently completing a doctorate in music composition at Columbia University with Fred Lerdahl.
  • Christopher Goddard: The National Youth Orchestra of Canada’s Emerging Composer-in-Residence for 2016, Goddard has written new works for Koerner Hall’s 21C Festival and many other events and ensembles in both Canada and Europe. He holds master’s degrees from the Manhattan School of Music and Rice University, and is currently pursuing a Doctorate in composition with Professor John Rea at the Schulich School of Music.
  • Alison Yun-Fei Jiang: A winner of the 2016 Toronto Symphony Orchestra Call for Scores, Jiang is the commissioned composer for the National Youth Orchestra of Canada's 2018 season. Her music has been performed and workshopped by the TSO, JACK Quartet, Imani Winds, the Wet Ink Ensemble and the American String Quartet, among many others. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in music composition at University of Chicago.
  • Thierry Tidrow: A winner of the Canada Council for the Arts’ Jules-Léger Prize, Tidrow currently resides in Cologne, Germany. His studies at the Schulich School of Music were followed by a master’s degree in composition from the Conservatorium van Amsterdam and an Advanced Studies diploma at the Hochschule für Musik Freiburg. Thierry has collaborated with many performers across Europe and North America, and was selected for the ECM+ Generation 2018 tour.

Competition jury member and composer Ana Sokolović commented, “We did not have an easy task, as we had many more than five excellent applicants from all over the country. The creativity and diversity of style were extremely impressive.” Sokolović was joined on the jury by composer Alexina Louie; clarinetist and composer Kinan Azmeh; David Pay, Founder and Artistic Director of Vancouver’s Music on Main; violinist/violist Barry Shiffman, Associate Dean at the Glenn Gould School; and jury chair Dr. Brenda Ravenscroft, Dean at the Schulich School of Music.

Each of the finalists’ new works for piano quintet will be premiered in concert by pianist Sara Laimon and the Molinari Quartet, on September 29, 2018 at Pollack Hall at the Schulich School of Music. That same evening, the jury will award a $15,000 grand prize, a $10,000 for second place prize, and $5,000 prizes for third, fourth, and fifth place, plus an additional $5,000 People’s Choice Award.

About the competition

Canadian composers under the age of 35 (born after December 1, 1982), were invited to submit three scores for any standard chamber music configuration by December 1, 2017. On February 15, 2018, the jury selected five composers to create an original work for piano quintet to be completed by August 1. The five new works will be performed in concert before a live jury at McGill University’s Schulich School of Music on September 29, 2018, which will also be webcast.

About Dr. Graham Sommer

Dr. Sommer died on October 2, 2016 and left a legacy of excellence in medicine and an abiding love for the transformative power of music. A native of British Columbia, Sommer graduated from McGill’s Faculty of Medicine in 1972 and went on to hold positions at Yale and Stanford Universities, becoming a world class researcher for 37 years.  Dr. Sommer’s enduring passion for music has resonated at McGill notably through the Dr. Graham Sommer Piano Fund, which supported the restoration of pianos in McGill residences and the purchase of a new piano for Douglas Hall. While Sommer excelled in his chosen field of medicine, he was also inspired by a lifelong love of music fostered by his own accomplishments as a classical pianist and composer.

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