Andrew Svoboda Prize for Orchestral Composition

The Andrew Svoboda Memorial Prize in Orchestral Composition was created in memory of Andrew Yin Svoboda (BMus 2000, MMus 2004), who died suddenly at the age of 27 in 2004. The prize seeks to recognize excellence in orchestral composition, encourage the creation of new Canadian orchestral works and provide enriched pedagogical opportunities for student composers and performers through an annual commissioning prize of $5,000 for an orchestral piece to be premiered by the McGill Symphony Orchestra. A high quality, non-commercial archival recording of the premiere will also be provided to the composer.

Application deadline

April 16, 2022
Applications must be received by the published deadline. Late applications will not be considered.

Application process

Submit your application to the chris.harman [at] (subject: The%20Andrew%20Svoboda%20Memorial%20Prize%20in%20Orchestral%20Composition) (Composition Area Coordinator). Include:

Electronic copy:

  • One score of a work for orchestra or ensemble (with recording, if available)
  • One score of a work of the candidate’s choice (with recording, if available)
  • Curriculum vitae (max. 3 pages)
    • Catalogue of works
    • List of recent performances
    • Letter of intention describing the proposed work
    • Links for recordings

Amount and disbursement of funds

The winner receives:

  • A commission of $5,000 for an orchestral piece to be premiered by the McGill Symphony Orchestra.
  • A high quality, non-commercial archival recording of the premiere.

The funds are awarded in two installments:

  • Half on receipt of the prize.
  • Half on submission of the final score with parts, once these have been determined to meet acceptable professional standards by the Chair of the Composition Area and the conductor who will perform the piece.


This annual competition is open to composers registered as McGill students at the application deadline.

Selection process

A judging panel is formed by the Dean and includes:

  • The Director of the McGill Symphony Orchestra
  • Three members of the Composition Area
  • One external member
  • The Dean (or delegate) as president of the jury

The judging panel’s decision is final.

Award acceptance requirements

If you are awarded this prize, you must:

  • Clearly describe technical requirements if your work involves electronics, and be responsible for providing technical support in collaboration with the Digital Composition Studios.
  • Meet with the conductor who will perform the composition to receive feedback on practical questions of appropriateness for the ensemble, playability, feasibility, etc. Other members of the Schulich School academic staff may also be consulted (e.g. members of the Composition Area, the Director of the DCS, Performance Area Chairs, etc.).
  • Be responsible for the creation of all performance materials.
  • Acknowledge the Andrew Svoboda Memorial Prize for Orchestral Composition and the Schulich School of Music of McGill University on the title page of the score and in future program notes for performances and recordings.
  • Allow the Schulich School of Music and McGill University to promote this prize by publishing your name, biography and image as well as to publish audio and video recordings of performances of the work by university ensembles for non-commercial purposes in any media in perpetuity. A formal agreement to this effect will be signed.
  • Provide one full copy of the score and parts for the library. 
  • Grant the Schulich School of Music the rights to the first performance and recording (non-commercial) of the work, for five years following the awarding of the prize.

Criteria for final work

  • Instrumentation: full orchestra: (may be doubled with piccolo, English horn, bass clarinet and contrabassoon),, timpani, 2 perc., harp (optional), piano (optional),
  • Works may include electronics (see acceptance requirements)
  • Concertos for any soloists and orchestra will not be accepted
  • Duration: 10–12 minutes
  • Original score (unpublished and unperformed at time of submission) written in C
  • Professional-quality performance materials
  • High standard of compositional technique and artistic value
  • Appropriate for performance by Schulich School of Music students

Timeline for preparing the composition

The prize is awarded annually in the winter term.

  • By July 1 (usually) of the second year following receipt of prize, deliver the score and parts.
  • The new composition is performed the following fall or winter.
  • The exact deadline for the submission of the score must be agreed upon by the student and the director of the MGSO.

About Andrew Svoboda

Andrew Yin Svoboda was born on February 4, 1977 in Burlington, Ontario. A gifted child of a Czech father and Chinese mother, he began piano lessons at 6. In school, he would have excelled in Science, Medicine and Law. Andrew was fascinated with music from an early age. The teenaged Andrew spent summers as a field assistant in the Arctic, hauling his synthesizer with him. In high school he was a member of drama productions, collecting awards for original music. His School Principal commissioned an original score to be performed by the students. Svoboda wrote libretto and composed the musical Earth Angels for 10 principal singers and a chorus, also training, directing and accompanying the cast.

The success of that production urged him into studies in Montreal. In his first semester at McGill, Canadian author May Cutler commissioned Andrew Svoboda to score her play about the Canadian North. Aah-Pootee! That’s snow, in classical fable style, is set for singers and musicians. The production was staged in Moyse Hall, McGill, on July 23, 1998. Aah Pootee was later produced in the New York City Family Arts Festival in July 2000.

At McGill, Svoboda studied under Bruce Mather, Denys Bouliane and Brian Cherney, and composed a number of chamber works. While still an undergraduate, he was named Composer-in-residence. His choral work Maran Atha was premiered by the McGill University Chorus under Iwan Edwards in October 2000. Andrew obtained his B.Mus (Hon) with distinction in 2000.

Continuing in a Master’s program under John Rea at McGill, his April 2001 Rhapsody for chamber orchestra was premiered by the McGill Contemporary Music Ensemble, conducted by Denys Bouliane. In 2002, Michel Reason and the Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra premiered the full orchestral version of this piece. Andrew became a finalist in that orchestra’s composition competition, winning 2nd prize.

During a 2002 Master Class with composer Tan Dun, Andrew was approached by Radio France’s Bruno Berenguer, offering a commission of an orchestral piece for the broadcasting series Alla breve. Granted leave from McGill, Svoboda moved to Paris to work under the guidance of Prof. Michel Merlet, of L’École Normale Supérieure de Musique de Paris. Two compositions came from Paris: Elevation, for full orchestra and conducted by Kirill Karabis, recorded by the Orchestre philharmonique de Radio-France on July 10, 2003, and broadcast on Alla breve. Le Caveau des Oubliettes was commissioned by Quatunord, Dunkerque and premiered June 15, 2003 in Paris.

Andrew received a Diplome Supérieur and First Prize (Prix de l’Unanimité), and Le Prix de la SACEM (French Society for authors and composers). The one-act opera Martin Streda, for which Svoboda also wrote the libretto, was scored for baritone and eight instrumentalists. That was judged by the examiners as exceeding the scope of a Master’s work, and defended in December 2003. Andrew gained his M.Mus. in Composition in 2004.

In August of 2004, Andrew moved to New York, with a doctoral scholarship to Columbia University. At 27, he began his final composition, Trans-it, for piano and cello. This piece remained unfinished. Andrew Svoboda died on the morning of December 29, 2004.


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