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2023 Composition Contest Winners
(Contest Guidelines and information on Past Winners)

1st Prize
Kian Ravaei, Indiana University
Unstoppable (clarinet, violin, cello, piano)

Whether composing piano preludes inspired by mythical creatures, flute melodies that mimic the songs of endangered birds, or a string quartet that draws from the Iranian music of his ancestral heritage, composer Kian Ravaei (b. 1999) takes listeners on a spellbinding tour of humanity’s most deeply felt emotions. Ravaei has collaborated with performers and ensembles such as Eliot Fisk, Bella Hristova, Salastina, and Juventas New Music Ensemble, and has served as a Copland House CULTIVATE Fellow and a Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra Composer Teaching Artist Fellow. In recent months, Ravaei was featured on an episode of Performance Today, America’s most popular classical music radio program. His string quartet Family Photos has garnered numerous awards, including First Prize in the Spectrum Chamber Music Composition Competition, Second Prize in the instrumental chamber music division of the American Prize, and Honorable Mention in the Tribeca New Music Young Composer Competition. DJs know Ravaei as the go-to person for creating orchestral versions of dance songs, including Wooli & Codeko’s “Crazy feat. Casey Cook (Orchestral).” Ravaei counts celebrated composers Richard Danielpour, Derek Bermel, and Tarik O’Regan among his teachers. He is an alumnus of UCLA and the Curtis Institute of Music Young Artist Summer Program.


2nd Prize
Jacob Beranek, The Juilliard
Sempre nella luce (flute, cello, piano)

Jacob Beranek (b. 1998) is a Wisconsin-born, New York-based composer of classical music rooted in melody, craft, and rhythmic vitality. His compositions are often infused with his love of historical traditions—musical, religious, or even his Czech heritage. Jacob served as the inaugural Composer-in-Residence of the Midsummer’s Music Festival (Door County, WI) from 2017–20. His works have been championed by the ALIAS Chamber Ensemble, Blair Brass Quintet, Blair String Quartet, Dolce Suono Ensemble, Gesualdo Six, Juilliard Orchestra, Milwaukee Musaik, Oxford University Wind Orchestra, Wisconsin Philharmonic, choreographers Sidra Bell and Kannen Glanz, and soloists Peter Sheppard Skærved and Mimi Stillman. After receiving his Bachelor of Music in Composition from Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music in 2021, Jacob was accepted to The Juilliard School as a student of John Corigliano, earning his Master of Music in 2023. He is now pursuing his Doctor of Musical Arts degree as a member of Juilliard’s C.V. Starr Doctoral Fellow program. Learn more at www.BeranekMusic.com.s

3rd Prize
Sean Penzo,
Fuse (violin, piano)
Cleveland Institute of Music

Born in Genova, Italy, and raised outside of Syracuse, New York, Sean Penzo is a composer and cellist known for a wide range of collaborations and compositions. He has held board positions in Ethos New Music Society and The Improv. Collective, among others. Penzo has attended several music festivals, including Sewanee Summer Music Festival in Sewanee, Tennessee, Alba New Music Festival in Alba, Italy, and highSCORE New Music Festival. He has composed for ensembles which have performed his music internationally including Sonic Apricity, Akropolis Reed Quintet, and Quartetto Zuena. During his undergrad at SUNY Fredonia, Penzo studied composition with Paul Coleman, Andrew Martin Smith, Rob Deemer, and Jamie Leigh Sampson, and cello with Natasha Farny. He is currently studying composition with Keith Fitch, and cello with Bryan Dumm at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Penzo values performance just as much as composition. He enjoys working with live bands and playing the role of a studio musician--often recording remotely for clients of all genres. His recent endeavors have involved working with Shane Patterson, Todd Hobin, Isa Bruder, and Julia Goodwin.

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