Three musicians seated playing stringed instuments

Composition Competition Winner – Nan Yi

ClefWorks announces the winner of the String Quartet Composition Competition, and the world premiere of the selected piece in Birmingham, Alabama, by the Samford Quartet on February 23, 2021.

“Nan Yi’s piece, entitled “Fenway Park” has been selected as the First Place Winner in the competition,” said Jenny Brown, Executive Director at ClefWorks. “Nan is a young composer, studying in the United States and reflecting on his new home of Boston, Massachusetts. Fenway captures his love for the city and was written during the unique summer of 2020.”

The theme for the Composition Competition this year was The Year 2020: Life, Headlines and the Soul of America.  Musicians were left without audiences this year. So ClefWorks opened this competition to celebrate the creation of new music, and to encourage beauty out of chaos. We were thrilled with the contributions we received from across the country, from Vermont to Oregon, Massachusetts to Missouri. All of the entries captured a different aspect of this year and created lasting art from isolation. We commend all the composers who took a risk and shared their immense talents with us.

The Composer

Nan Yi (b. 1995) is a Chinese born composer who is currently studying composition in the United States. His compositional interest is on how to employ the past musical tradition into the modern context, or in other words, how to integrate the contemporary musical expression with the musical tradition from the past. He wants to write music that sounds new, but to some degree, old as well. He is currently a composition master student at New England Conservatory, Boston. He looks forward to continuing further doctoral study in the future.

“The string quartet was composed from the summer break of this unprecedented year. Each movement is named after a location I encountered in the past. Fenway Park is my favorite spot during my study in Boston. All of these places represent a slice of my everyday life.”

The World Premiere

The Samford Quartet is comprised of faculty members, Caroline and Samuel Nordlund and Jeffrey and Angela Flaniken. These immensely talented musicians had the difficult task of judging the entries and will perform the winning piece in their faculty concert on Tuesday, February 23, in Brock Recital Hall on Samford’s campus. Attendance is limited to Samford’s guests, however a livestream is available on the University website and to all subscribers of ClefNotes, the ClefWorks newsletter.

Questions? Go to, or contact Jenny Brown at 334-603-CLEF

Nan Yi, student at the New England Conservatory, is the winner of the
2020 Composition Competition with his piece “Fenway Park”
Composition Competition Winner – Nan Yi2021-02-22T13:01:27-06:00

INVOKE in Montgomery!

Invoke brings innovative American chamber music to Montgomery. A multi-string quartet, they shift instruments mid-piece to seamlessly add color and texture to their work. Violin, Viola, Cello, Banjo and Mandolin – a little something for everyone. Come be delighted.

Buy your tickets now for Friday, January 31, 2020!

INVOKE in Montgomery!2020-01-10T15:26:30-06:00

Wind Down with Windsync!

We’re delighted to bring these talented musicians to Montgomery. Don’t miss this young, vibrant wind quintet. Flute, Bassoon, Clarinet, Oboe and French Horn will surprise and delight you!

Buy your tickets now for Friday, February 22nd, 2019!

Wind Down with Windsync!2019-02-12T18:55:29-06:00

2017 Competition Winner – Roger Briggs

We are thrilled to announce the winner of our 2017 Composition Competition, Roger Briggs! Roger’s piece “Friction” is the perfect complement to Catalyst’s Hemispheres Program that was performed on March 10th. Roger spoke eloquently about the force of music and noise to create friction in our lives. Catalyst tackled the complex techniques and left us breathless with their skill. To learn more about Roger, visit his website.

It was certainly a difficult decision thanks to the high caliber of all of the selections. Catalyst Quartet, who judged this year’s competition, said they were overwhelmed with options. We are so enthused about the quality and exuberance of those composers that are creating new music for today. We wish you all great success.

Congratulations as well to our first runner up, Will Huff. His piece was “Three Monologues About the Same Thing.” Well done, Will!

2017 Competition Winner – Roger Briggs2017-06-07T18:45:26-05:00

Award-winning Catalyst Quartet Brings Music To Montgomery

Catalyst Quartet, an award winning quartet out of New York shared their talents with Montgomery March 7th at school outreach concerts. On Friday, March 10th the group also performed a family-friendly concert at City Auditorium. We invited everyone to join us for an engaging and exciting night of music in Montgomery, and they didn’t disappoint!

The quartet’s visit was part of our 10th Anniversary Festival, which kicked off with local favorites in a laid back setting,  our Jazz Brunch at A&P Social, and the music of the Lo-Fi Loungers. On the 8th, there was a unique opportunity to hear chamber music as it was originally intended, in a private home! Thank you to The Cottage Hill Foundation for sponsoring that event.

Award-winning Catalyst Quartet Brings Music To Montgomery2017-06-07T18:45:19-05:00

2012 Special Competition Winner – Iron Giant

ClefWorks announced Iron Giant Percussion as the winner of its special Percussion Competition for 2012. Iron Giant was chosen by So Percussion after the group submitted a recording of their ensemble performing David Skidmore’s Ritual Music ClefWorks’ 2012 Percussion Competition was made possible with grant funds from the Central Alabama Community Foundation.

Iron Giant received a cash prize, the opportunity to work and rehearse with So Percussion and performed on stage with So during the 2013 ClefWorks Festival in February.

The Percussion Competition provided aspiring percussionists from the Gulf Coast area with a unique opportunity to collaborate with an accomplished percussion ensemble, not to mention putting ClefWorks on the map in the percussion world.

We enjoyed getting to know Iron Giant and look forward to seeing them develop as artists.

2012 Special Competition Winner – Iron Giant2017-06-07T18:47:16-05:00

2011 Competition Winner – Christopher Culpo

Selected by ETHEL after an extensive review process, ClefWorks looks forward to bringing composer Christopher Culpo from Paris, France to Montgomery, Alabama for a date with ETHEL. ETHEL will perform his winning score “Of Ground, of Air, or Ought”.

Christopher is both an active jazz composer and performer. His prior awards include recognition from the New York State Council on the Arts, ASCAP and the French Ministry of Culture. Christopher has degrees in composition from Boston University and The Julliard School. Following his studies at Julliard Christopher was personal assistant to Aaron Copland and an active Teaching Artist for the Lincoln Center Institute. Since receiving a Fulbright scholarship to study in Paris in 1991, he has been based in Europe.

Recent activities as a performer have taken him to Belgium, South Africa, Italy, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand, and he has released three albums over the past five years: Portrait in Black & White with saxophonist Jean Charles Richard, Love & Bananas Are Here with the Culpo/Richard/Herbert Trio and the newly released Fresh Frozen with clarinetist/saxophonist Achille Succi and tubist Oren Marshall.

2011 Competition Winner – Christopher Culpo2017-06-07T18:50:11-05:00

2010 Composition Competition Winner – Carl Schimmel

The winner of ClefWorks Composition Competition for 2010 was Carl Schimmel from Bloomington, Illinois. Carl’s work, The Pismirist’s Congeries, was selected by the Fireworks Ensemble from New York City. Fireworks performed the score in Montgomery during ClefWorks’ 2011 season, ClefWorks Ignited!

Carl rehearsed the work in Montgomery with Fireworks before presenting his original work to local audiences. Winner of Columbia University’s Joseph Bearns Prize and the 2010 Lee Etttelson Award, Carl has received honors and awards from many organizations, including the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Copland House, the Seoul International Composition Competition, the National Federation of Music Clubs, the New York Youth Symphony First Music Awards, NACWPI, SCI, and ASCAP.

He holds a Ph.D in Music Composition from Duke University, where he studied with Sydney Hodkinson, Stephen Jaffe, Anthony Kelley, and Scott Lindroth, and he earned a Master’s degree in composition from the Yale School of Music, where his teachers included Ezra Laderman, Martin Bresnick, Evan Ziporyn, and Ned Rorem. Carl has taught at the Yale School of Music, Duke University, Northern Illinois University, and Grinnell College. He is currently Assistant Professor of Music Theory and Composition at Illinois State in Normal, Illinois, where he resides with his wife and two children. Fireworks also named Alexandra Gardner (Washington, D.C.) and Andrian Pertout (Australia) as second place finalists. Jonathan Newman (New York) was selected as the third place finalist, while Robert Honstein (New York) and Stephen Felgenbaum (Massachusetts) were named fourth place finalists.

2010 Composition Competition Winner – Carl Schimmel2017-06-07T18:50:44-05:00

2009 Competition Winner – David Crowell

New York City-based composer and instrumentalist David Crowell’s score “The Open Road” was selected by the JACK Quartet as the 2009 winner from more than 150 entries representing 14 countries, 32 states and the District of Columbia. Crowell’s composition was performed by members of JACK on January 30, 2010 in Montgomery during ClefWorks’ five-day festival, Do you know JACK? Crowell joined the quartet on stage to discuss the score’s nuances and introduced the composition to the audience.

David is active in diverse genres of composed and improvised music. While a woodwinds player with the Philip Glass Ensemble, he has performed such classic works as “Music in 12 Parts” and the concert version of “Einstein on the Beach”. His chamber works have been performed in a variety of venues in the United States and Mexico, including MASS MoCA, University of North Texas, University of Kentucky and Brooklyn College. He was a featured composter at the 2009 MATA Festival, a New York City forum for presenting the new music of emerging young composers from around the world, and was named the 2009 1st prize Brian M. Israel Award recipient by the Society for New Music for his percussion piece titled “The Day After.” He was also a finalist for the 2008 and 2009 ASCAP Young Composer Awards in Concert Music.

Other 2009 Competition finalists were Patricia Alessandrini (New York), Matthew Barnson (New York), Trevor Christian Bjorkland (New York), Richard Carrick (New York), Nicholas Deyoe (California), Ulrich Kreppein (Germany), Daniel Pesca (Illinois), Valery Voronov (Germany) and Charlie Wilmoth (California).

2009 Competition Winner – David Crowell2017-06-07T18:51:11-05:00

2008 Competition Winner – Scott Robbins

The 2008 winner was Scott Robbins of Spartanburg, SC, whose “Quartet for Violin, Viola, Cello, and Piano” (1999/2008) was performed during the final ClefWorks’ Dream On concert in January of 2009. The work demonstrates a compelling harmonic language and engaging musical narrative with striking and expressive use of the string instruments. Robbins’ adjudicators were the members of the internationally famous Penderecki String Quartet, who chose his composition from among more than 120 entries by accomplished composers from all over the world.

Scott Robbins (Associate Dean, Professor of Composition and Musicology, Petrie School of Music at Converse College) began his musical training as a drummer and guitarist in rock bands. Robbins’ compositions are widely performed and professionally recognized, having received over 50 awards, including the Second International Sergei Prokofiev Composition Competition, Yale University’s Norfolk National Composition Prize, NACUSA Young Composers Award, ASCAP Foundation Grant to Young Composers, American Music Center Composer Assistance Award, Florida Individual Artist Fellowship, and multiple awards from ASCAP and commissions from the SC Music Teachers Association. Among those who have performed, commissioned or commercially recorded Scott’s works are the Czech Radio Symphony, Warsaw National Philharmonic, Moyzes Quartet, Ensemble Radieuse, Gregg Smith Singers, and the Dale Warland Singers. The Clearing, a film for which Scott composed the soundtrack, received the CINE-Eagle award and has been broadcast on Bravo and HBO.

Honorable mention was given to two other works of remarkable technical excellence: “Caged Symphonies” (2008) by Vasco Mendonca of Lisboa, Portugal and “Four Flash Fear” (2007) by Nicolas Tzortzis of Paris, France. Other composers with works in the final round of judging were: Alexander Lu of San Francisco, California; Nolan Stoltz of Hartford, Connecticut; Marcus Karl Maroney of Houston, Texas; Andrew Martin Smith of Bowling Green, Ohio; Steven Snowden of Westminster, Colorado; Lansing McLoskey of Miami, Florida; and Edward Green of New York City.

2008 Competition Winner – Scott Robbins2017-06-07T18:51:38-05:00