Music Composition

2019 nominations are closed

Nominations for the 2019 Music Composition Award are closed. Information about the 2020 cycle will be available in September, 2018.


Music has the ability to inspire, to bring joy to those who hear it and those who create it. It can convey great emotion in just a few powerful notes. There is, perhaps, no greater expression of the human spirit. For this reason, the Grawemeyer Award in Music Composition honors those who bring beauty and inspiration into the world.

The University of Louisville offers an international prize in recognition of outstanding achievement by a living composer in a large musical genre: choral, orchestral, chamber, electronic, song-cycle, dance, opera, musical theater, extended solo work and more. The award will be granted for a work premiered during the five-year period prior to the award deadline (i.e. time period Jan.1, 2014 – Dec. 31, 2018 for the 2020 award).

Prize Amount
The Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition is accompanied by a prize of $100,000, which is presented in full during the awards ceremony.

Musical works including, but not limited to, choral, orchestral, chamber, song-cycle, dance, opera, musical theater, extended solo.


In 1983, Charles Grawemeyer met with Dr. Jerry Ball, dean of the University of Louisville School of Music, to discuss establishing a prize in music, but Mr. Grawemeyer wasn’t sure what it should honor. So they talked and settled on composition, with Mr. Grawemeyer concluding, according to Dr. Ball, “If we did something like this perhaps we could find another Mozart.”

Music composition became the first of the five Grawemeyer award categories. Being first, it took almost two years to work out all the details of the program. The Nobel process was studied and incorporated in part. But Mr. Grawemeyer wanted what he termed a more “democratic” judging, eventually involving three levels: the U of L music faculty, an international jury of professionals and a lay (non-professional, but knowledgeable) panel.

In 1985, the first Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition went to Witold Lutoslawski, a Polish composer, for his Symphony No. 3.

Since then the Grawemeyer Award has achieved international recognition as the premier music composition award, regularly attracting between 150 and 200 entries from around the world.

“Charlie Grawemeyer could have gone to any school in the country, to any orchestra, any opera company, any place he might want to go to offer this prize. It’s wonderful that he kept it at home and honored his university,” said Ball.

The Nomination Process

Nominations closed for 2019

While nominations for the 2019 Grawemeyer Award in Music Composition are now closed, information about the 2020 award will be available beginning in September, 2018. Please check back at that time for additional details and instructions.

Judging Criteria
Excellence and originality.


Any organization or individual with a reasonable professional connection to the nominee and the nominated work. Examples would include professional musical organizations, performers or performing groups, soloists, conductors, critics, publishers or heads of professional music schools or departments.

Entry Procedure

NOTE: Information below pertains to the 2019 award (nominations now closed). However, since the process changes very little from year-to-year, future nominees may find this information useful.

Submission of a complete score, compact disc recording of a professional-level performance of the complete work, documentation of the premiere, $50 processing fee, supporting letter from nominator, composer’s biography and picture, and the completed entry form signed by both composer and nominator.  Submission details follow and also are included on the entry form. The entry form includes an agreement that the score and recording will be kept by the University for archival purposes and spells out other requirements.

The University of Louisville School of Music is pleased to announce the University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition 2019. The University will offer an international prize in recognition of outstanding achievement by a living composer in a large musical genre: choral, orchestral, chamber, electronic, song-cycle, dance, opera, musical theater, extended solo work, etc. The award will be granted for a work premiered during the five-year period between 1 January 2013 and 31 December 2017. The amount of the award to the composer will be one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000.00).

The Grawemeyer Music Award Committee invites the submission of scores by outstanding composers throughout the world and has established the following rules and procedures for its selection of the winning work:

Each entry for the Grawemeyer Music Award must be nominated by a professional musical organization or individual (performer or performing group, conductor, critic, publisher, or head of a professional music school or department). A composer may not submit his or her own work. No more than one work of any composer may be submitted, and entries from previous winners of this award will not be considered.

Each entry must include the following:

    • One bound copy of the full score. (For works with non-English text, it is recommended that an English translation or English synopsis be submitted.)
    • One excellent quality recording of the complete work. Send only standard audio compact disc(s) – no mp3s or other types of sound file; please do not send DVDs or other media. If possible, please provide separate tracks for each movement of multi-movement works. Please omit tuning, opening applause, spoken commentary such as radio interviews or conductor’s remarks, or any other extraneous material at the beginning of the CD.
    • Documentation of the premiere public performance of the work between 1/1/13 and 12/31/17. A radio broadcast or sound recording does not constitute a premiere. The printed program (or a photocopy thereof) from the premiere performance is preferred. However, if this is not available, another form of documentation, such as a published review, or a newspaper or magazine article, will be accepted.  Only one form of documentation should be included. Works may be resubmitted during the period of eligibility.
    • Program notes in English
    • Supporting letter in English from the nominator of the entry, which must state nominator’s relation to the submitted work and nominator’s belief in the outstanding qualities of the work
    • Composer’s photograph: high-res digital file on disc preferred but hard copy acceptable
    • Composer’s biography in English, which should briefly outline the composer’s total achievement and recognition
    • Non-refundable handling fee of forty dollars ($50.00 in U.S. currency). Payment may be made by check drawn on a or by international money order, payable to the Grawemeyer Music Award Committee, or by credit card. To pay by credit card, click here.
    • In the case of resubmission, entrants need not resubmit scores or recordings as these will be retrieved from the Grawemeyer Collection. However, all other required materials must be resubmitted and the handling fee paid.
    • All materials, including the handling fee, must be labelled with the name of the composer.
    • Please send only materials requested. Do not include press kits, reviews, articles, recordings of other works, etc.

After an initial screening, the Grawemeyer Music Award Committee will appoint a jury of three internationally recognized music professionals: normally a composer, a conductor and a critic. Each juror will select, from the qualifying scores, up to three works they deem worthy of the Award. These selected works are then submitted anonymously to the Final Committee to be judged by listening only. The Final Committee will then recommend one of these works to the President of the University of Louisville. Upon the recommendation of the President, the Board of Trustees of the University of Louisville will grant the Award. Final approval of the Grawemeyer Award winners is subject to approval by the University of Louisville Board of Trustees and the Trustees of the Louisville Presbyterian Seminary.

Completed entries for the Grawemeyer Award must reach the University of Louisville by January 16, 2019. The Grawemeyer Award Committee will acknowledge receipt of all entries by email only. Please allow a month after the deadline for such notification. Late or incomplete entries will not be considered.

Submissions should be sent to:
Grawemeyer Music Award Committee
School of Music
University of Louisville
Louisville, Kentucky 40292

Announcement will be made in December 2018 and the award will be made during April 2019.

The University of Louisville will retain all entered scores and recorded materials for inclusion in the Grawemeyer Collection of New Music, a part of the Library of the School of Music.

No payment will be made to the estate or heirs of a deceased composer.

Questions may be addressed via e-mail to

Previous Winners

2017 – Andrew Norman

In three movements, “Play” explores the relationship of choice and chance, free will and control.

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2016 – Hans Abrahamsen

“let me tell you,” a song cycle for soprano and orchestra, presents a first-person narrative by Ophelia, the tragic noblewoman from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”

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2015 – No Award Given

2011 – Louis Andriessen

“La Commedia,” a multimedia opera by Dutch composer Louis Andriessen, has won the 2011 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition.

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2009 – Brett Dean

“The Lost Art of Letter Writing,” a four-movement concerto for violin and orchestra by Australian composer Brett Dean, earned the 2009 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition.

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2008 – Peter Lieberson

“Neruda Songs”

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2007 – Sebastian Currier


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2006 – György Kurtág

“Concertante Op. 42”

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2005 – George Tsontakis

“Violin Concerto No. 2”

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2004 – Unsuk Chin

“Concerto for Violin and Orchestra”

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2003 – Kaija Saariaho

“L`amour de loin”

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2002 – Aaron Jay Kernis

“Colored Field”

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2001 – Pierre Boulez

“Sur Incises”

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2000 – Thomas Adès


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1998 – Tan Dun

“Marco Polo”

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1997 – Simon Bainbridge

“Ad Ora Incerta — Four Orchestral Songs from Primo Levi”

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1996 – Ivan Tcherepnin

“Double Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra”

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1995 – John Adams

“Violin Concerto”

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1994 – Toru Takemitsu

“Fantasma/Cantos for Clarinet and Orchestra”

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1993 – Karel Husa

“Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra”

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1992 – Krzysztof Penderecki

“Adagio for Large Orchestra”

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1991 – John Corigliano

“Symphony No. 1”

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1990 – Joan Tower

“Silver Ladders”

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1989 – Chinary Ung

“Inner Voices”

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1987 – Harrison Birtwistle

“The Mask of Orpheus”

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1986 – Gyorgy Ligeti

“Etudes for Piano”

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1985 – Witold Lutoslawski

“Symphony No. 3”

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2018 Recipient

Bent Sorensen

Danish composer Bent Sorensen has won the 2018 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for a triple concerto. The piece, L’isola della Città (The Island in the City), is for violin, cello and piano soloists and is played continuously in five movements.

Sorensen composed the work for the Danish ensemble Trio con Brio and The Danish National Symphony Orchestra. It premiered in Copenhagen in January, 2016.

“In all five movements the ‘island’ (the trio) tries to escape the shadows of the orchestra. This is most evident in the last movement, in which the trio ever so silently and without attracting any attention, simply glides away from the orchestra’s noisy shadows,” Sorensen wrote.

Marc Satterwhite, award director and faculty member at the University of Louisville School of Music, said, “It is not a virtuoso showcase, but rather integrates the soloists smoothly into an ever-evolving orchestral texture. Often they feel more like ‘first among equals’ rather than traditional soloists, but at other times really come to the fore. Although it has its larger moments, on the whole it is one of the gentler, more introspective, winners of this award.”

Sorensen, 59, studied composition with Ib Norholm and Per Norgard in his native Denmark. His music is widely performed around the globe.

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Video Interviews with Past Recipients

Trio tries to escape shadows of the orchestra in L’isola della Città
2018 Music Composition Recipient Bent Sorensen

‘Play’ Explores Choice and Chance, Free Will and Control
2017 Music Composition Recipient Andrew Norman

Adding Emotional Depth and Nuance to Limited Words
2016 Music Composition Recipient Hans Abrahamsen

Music has the Power to Make our Lives Better
2014 Music Composition Recipient Djuro Zivkovic

An Innovative Fusion of Musical and Visual Art
2013 Music Composition Recipient Michel van der Aa

Eclectic Influences and Distinct Personality
2012 Music Composition Recipient Esa-Pekka Salonen

Multimedia Opera Drawn from Dante
2011 Music Composition Recipient Louis Andriessen

Inspired by Music, Love
2010 Music Composition Recipient York Hoeller

Interview With Brett Dean
2009 Music Composition Recipient Brett Dean

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