2013 American Composer Competition

Win $1,000 and a performance of your work
by The Columbia Orchestra
in Winter 2014

Postmark Deadline: July 1, 2013
Download an Application Form
Download a PDF version of these Guidelines

Dear American Composer,

Welcome to the official guidelines page for the Columbia Orchestra's American Composer Competition. It is our intention to foster the creation and performance of orchestral music by American composers. We hope that this competition will encourage and support your work, and that you will enter the competition. Please read these guidelines carefully to maximize your chances of winning. Please also consult our FAQ, which will be expanded as questions arise.

Composer Eligibility:

  • The composer must be a U.S. citizen or a ten-year resident of the United States.
  • There is no age limit.
  • The competition is not open to staff, board members, or members of the Columbia Orchestra or to members of their families.

Composition Guidelines:

  • The work must be unpublished or self-published. The Columbia Orchestra will not pay rental, performance, or any other fee in association with the performance of the winning work in Winter 2014.
  • The work should not exceed 15 minutes in duration.
  • Scoring should include, at a minimum, strings plus a significant number of instruments from other sections. Orchestration is limited to:
    4perc + timp--hp--pno/cel/synth--str.
    • 3 flutes may include piccolo and/or alto flute.
    • 3 oboes may include English Horn.
    • 3 clarinets may include e-flat clarinet and/or bass clarinet.
    • 3 bassoons may include contrabassoon.
    • 4 French horns
    • 3 trumpets
    • 3 trombones
    • 1 tuba
    • Timpani may require up to five drums of standard sizes.
    • 1 harp
    • Keyboard may include piano, celesta or harpsichord, but only one player.
    • Percussion may include any battery and mallet instruments. The composer must provide any specialized equipment required (at no expense to the orchestra)
    • Custom-made instruments are permissible but must be supplied by the composer.
    • Works that require electronic playback of a tape or CD (provided by the composer) are permissible. Works with interactive electronics or other media that require specialized equipment or personnel will not be considered.
    • There should be no choral or vocal parts, no organ part, and no concerto soloist.
    If you have any questions about acceptable instrumentation, we strongly encourage you to contact us before submitting your work (or deciding not to submit your work).
  • The work need not have been composed recently.
  • The work must not have had more than two public performances as of July 1, 2013.

Manuscript Guidelines:

  • Scores must be submitted in hard-copy. Hand-inked manuscripts and computer-generated scores are both acceptable. No preference will be given to either form. Preference will be given to scores that are legible and comprehensible.
  • If the work requires any non-standard performance techniques, they should be clearly notated and accompanied by a written explanation.
  • No markings may appear on the score that reveal or suggest the identity of the composer. A title may appear on the score.
  • In addition to the hard copy of the score, applicants may also submit a pdf image file of the score. This soft copy is not required but will be helpful to the judges. The content and file names of the pdf image file must be anonymous, that is, they must not include the applicant’s name. You may provide this file on a data CD or some other standard digital medium, or you may provide a URL pointing to the file for download.


  • July 1, 2013 - Postmark deadline for application materials.
  • September 1, 2013 - Announcement of the winner.
  • October 1, 2013 - Deadline for receipt of orchestra parts supplied by the winning composer.
  • February 1, 2014 – Performance of the winning work by the Columbia Orchestra in Columbia, Maryland. The dress rehearsal will be held the Friday, January 31, 2014.


The winner will receive a $1,000 prize. Additional local travel expense compensation will be paid if the winning composer agrees to work with the orchestra at the dress rehearsal and attend the concert (see below).

Additional Details:

  • One of goals of the Columbia Orchestra in holding the competition is to have the composer of the winning composition work with the orchestra during the dress rehearsal on the evening prior to the concert and attend the orchestra’s performance of the winning work in Winter 2014. To encourage such participation, the Columbia Orchestra will provide the winning composer with an additional $500 payment toward travel expenses associated with participation in the dress rehearsal and concert. The $500 payment is fixed and will not be adjusted if associated travel expenses are greater or less than that amount.
  • The Columbia Orchestra will not reimburse expenses for preparation of scores and orchestra parts. The Columbia Orchestra will not provide any compensation to any competition entrant other than the $1000 prize and the $500 travel expense allowance. The travel expense payment will be provided only if the winning composer participates in the dress rehearsal and February 2014 concert.
  • All Columbia Orchestra performances are professionally recorded. The winner will receive a CD recording of the performance. This recording may be used or copied for personal and promotional purposes, but may not be sold or distributed commercially.
  • There is no entrance fee for the competition.

Required Materials:

  • An anonymous score (a title may appear on the score).
  • A completed application form, which can be downloaded in PDF format for printing from the Columbia Orchestra web page at Entries with incomplete application forms will not be considered.
  • A recording (orchestral, piano, or electronic realization) of the work on CD. No markings may appear on the recording that reveal or suggest the identity of the composer. A title may appear on the recording.
  • A curriculum vitae or biography may be included, but is optional. See FAQ #7.
  • An anonymous pdf image file of the score on a standard digital medium or available for download from a specified URL may be included, but it is optional.
  • Please include a postage-paid, self-addressed return envelope with your application if you want your application materials returned to you.

Please send materials postmarked no later than July 1, 2013, to:

The Columbia Orchestra
ATTN: Composition Competition
Howard County Center for the Arts
8510 High Ridge Road
Ellicott City, MD 21043

The Postmark Deadline is July 1, 2013. No exceptions!

For any questions regarding the competition, please start by reading our FAQ . If your question is not answered there, please contact the Competition Coordinator at


The URL for this guidelines page is

The URL for the FAQ is

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