Hildegard Competition

The Hildegard Composer Competition is our mentorship initiative highlighting outstanding trans, female, and nonbinary composers in the early stages of their careers, supporting them with a commission, visionary mentorship, and access to a network of leading working collaborators.

“It’s been an amazing experience being welcomed into such a strong community of adventurous music-makers that National Sawdust comprises, and the support they give through the Hildegard competition is extremely important to up-and-coming composers.”
—Bergrún Snæbjörnsdóttir

“Winning this competition, working with the musicians and staff, and all the additional resources that come along with it almost feels like becoming part of a new family.”
—Niloufar Nourbakhsh

“This community is unique in its support and warmth and I value its dedication to a wide range of genre and sound. As a composer whose career and artistic practice is defined by current social, political, and aesthetic dialogues I have found a much needed well of knowledge and practice of collective learning here.”
—inti figgis-vizeuta

In addition to a $7,000 cash prize, a commission for Pierrot-plus ensemble, a professional performance, and a live recording, the three winning composers will receive one-on-one mentorship with established figures in the field who also serve as judges for the competition, led by Paola Prestini, Composer, Co-Founder and Artistic Director at National Sawdust, and including composer and vocalist Joan La Barbara, composer and sound artist Gavin Rayna Russom, and composer and multi-instrumentalist Angélica Negrón. Following this period of mentorship, the commissioned works will be performed at National Sawdust in June 2020 by conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya and the National Sawdust Ensemble, led by Jeffrey Zeigler, cellist and former Kronos Quartet member, and recorded live in our state-of-the-art hall for an album that will be released on National Sawdust Tracks.

Details for Submissions:

  • The deadline for submissions is Friday, November 29th, 2019 at 6pm EST
  • Proposed works must be written for a combination of Pierrot-plus instrumentation (flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, percussion), plus up to four voices and electronics as additional options.
  • International applicants are encouraged to apply, but please note that we do not have a budget for travel or accommodations beyond the winners’ fee. 
  • Winning composers will be notified in late December 2019
  • All winners must be available to attend both rehearsals and the performance at National Sawdust during the first and second week of June 2020.
  • For detailed application instructions please see the submission form below. 

The Hildegard Composer Competition is generously supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.

2020 Judges & Mentors

Du Yun

Born and raised in Shanghai, China, currently based in NYC, Du Yun * is a composer, multi-instrumentalist and performance artist. Her music exists at an artistic crossroads of orchestral, chamber music, theatre, opera, orchestral, cabaret, storytelling, pop music, visual arts and noise.

Hailed by The New York Times as a leading figure in China’s new generation of composers, Du Yun’s music is championed by some of today’s finest performing artists, ensembles, orchestras and organizations. Selected commissions include the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Mann Center for the Performing Arts, American Composers Orchestra, Berkeley Symphony, Whitney Museum of American Art, Fromm Foundation, Meet the Composer/ Commissioning USA, Chamber Music America, and Shanghai Electronic Music Week.  Du Yun’s music has also been presented by Festival d’Avignon (France), Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ (The Netherlands), Musica Nova Helinski (Finland), Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music (Norway), Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik Darmstadt (Germany), Festival Internacional Cervantino (Mexico), Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, BAMNextWave, violinist Hilary Hahn, cellist Matt Haimovitz, and flutist Claire Chase, Trinity Wall Street, Festival of New Trumpet, Ecstatic Music Festival, 21c Liederabend, the San Francisco Contemporary Chamber Players, and many more.
August 28, 2017/by Zan Emerson

Gavilán Rayna Russom

Gavilán Rayna Russom is a New York based multimedia artist and composer of electronic music. Using the analog and digital synthesizer, she has produced a body of extremely influential art and music over the last 15 years. She is perhaps best known as the synthesist in the critically-acclaimed band LCD Soundsystem. Much of her work is informed by her deep relationship with the analog synthesizer, a tool she has applied herself to not only as a composer and player, but also as a designer and builder since 1999.
July 11, 2018/by becki

Paola Prestini

Paola Prestini’s music has been commissioned by and performed at Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, BAM, and Barbican Centre, by Brooklyn Rider, LA Philharmonic, NY Philharmonic, Choir of Trinity Wall Street, and others. Her current commissions include a new opera with Robert Wilson and a new opera with Minnesota Opera. She is the founding Artistic Director and co-founder of National Sawdust.
September 21, 2018/by Zan Emerson

Angélica Negrón

Puerto Rican-born composer and multi-instrumentalist Angélica Negrón writes music for accordions, robotic instruments, toys and electronics as well as chamber ensembles and orchestras. Her music has been described as “wistfully idiosyncratic and contemplative” (WQXR/Q2) and “mesmerizing and affecting” (Feast of Music) while The New York Times noted her “capacity to surprise” and her “quirky approach to scoring”. Her music has been performed at the Bang on a Can Marathon, the Ecstatic Music Festival and the 2016 New York Philharmonic Biennial and she has collaborated with artists like Sō Percussion, loadbang, American Composers Orchestra and Face the Music, among others. Angélica is currently a doctoral candidate at The Graduate Center (CUNY), where she studies composition with Tania León. She’s a teaching artist for New York Philharmonic’s Very Young Composers Program and Lincoln Center Education working with learners of all ages on creative composition projects. Angélica was the 2014-2015 Van Lier Fellow at American Composers Orchestra and was recently selected as one of the recipients for NYFA’s 2016 Artists’ Fellowship Program.
September 21, 2018/by Zan Emerson

Joan La Barbara

Composer and vocalist Joan La Barbara is renowned for developing a unique vocabulary of experimental and extended vocal techniques that have influenced generations of other composers and singers.
October 17, 2019/by Zan Emerson