Music Composition


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, 1996 – Dec. 31, 2000 for the 2002 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

Entries received between now and the January 11 deadline will be processed after that date. As stated on the 2017 entry form, please allow two months after then for us to process the entries and make notifications.  We look forward to your entries.

Judging Criteria
Excellence and originality.


Professional musical organizations, performer or performing group, conductor, critic, publisher or head of a professional music school or department.

Entry Procedure

Submission of a complete score, compact disc recording of a professional-level performance of the complete work, documentation of the premiere, $40 processing fee, supporting letter from nominator, composer’s biography, 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 2017. 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 2011 and 31 December 2015. 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:

    1. 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.
    1. 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 1/1/11 and 12/31/15. 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 ($40.00 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. Contact for instructions on payment via credit card (no bank or wire transfers, please).
        • 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.
    1. 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.
    1. Completed entries for the Grawemeyer Award must reach the University of Louisville by January 11, 2016. 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.
    1. Submissions and requests for entry forms or further information should be sent to:
      Grawemeyer Music Award Committee
      School of Music
      University of Louisville
      Louisville, Kentucky 40292
    1. Announcement will be made in December 2016 and the award will be made during April 2017.
    1. 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.
    1. No payment will be made to the estate or heirs of a deceased composer.
    1. Questions may be addressed via e-mail to

There was an error on the Entry Application form prior to 9/2/2015. Under “Entry Agreement and Release,” #10, it read, “The winner of the Award will be announced after December 1st, 2016,” not 2015.  This has been corrected, but we regret the error.

Previous Winners

2015 – Wolfgang Rihm

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.

Read More…

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.

Read More…

2008 – Peter Lieberson

“Neruda Songs”

Read More…

2007 – Sebastian Currier


Read More…

2006 – György Kurtág

“Concertante Op. 42”

Read More…

2005 – George Tsontakis

“Violin Concerto No. 2”

Read More…

2004 – Unsuk Chin

“Concerto for Violin and Orchestra”

Read More…

2003 – Kaija Saariaho

“L`amour de loin”

Read More…

2002 – Aaron Jay Kernis

“Colored Field”

Read More…

2001 – Pierre Boulez

“Sur Incises”

Read More…

2000 – Thomas Ades


Read More…

1998 – Tan Dun

“Marco Polo”

Read More…

1997 – Simon Bainbridge

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

Read More…

1996 – Ivan Tcherepnin

“Double Concerto for Violin, Cello and Orchestra”

Read More…

1995 – John Adams

“Violin Concerto”

Read More…

1994 – Toru Takemitsu

“Fantasma/Cantos for Clarinet and Orchestra”

Read More…

1993 – Karel Husa

“Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra”

Read More…

1992 – Krzysztof Penderecki

“Adagio for Large Orchestra”

Read More…

1991 – John Corigliano

“Symphony No. 1”

Read More…

1990 – Joan Tower

“Silver Ladders”

Read More…

1989 – Chinary Ung

“Inner Voices”

Read More…

1987 – Harrison Birtwistle

“The Mask of Orpheus”

Read More…

1986 – Gyorgy Ligeti

“Etudes for Piano”

Read More…

1985 – Witold Lutoslawski

“Symphony No. 3”

Read More…

2016 Recipient

Photo by Lars Skaaning

Hans Abrahamsen

let me tell you, a song cycle for soprano and orchestra, has earned Danish composer Hans Abrahamsen the 2016 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition.

Abrahamsen’s half-hour work presents a first-person narrative by Ophelia, the tragic noblewoman from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” The libretto by Paul Griffiths is adapted from his 2008 novel—also titled “let me tell you”—and consists of seven poems created using only the minimal vocabulary that Shakespeare originally scripted for Ophelia.

“My words may be poor but they will have to do,” intones Ophelia in the opening poem. Abrahamsen’s score infuses those limited words with emotional nuance and depth, said Grawemeyer award director Marc Satterwhite. Read More…

Video Interviews with Past Recipients

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

© Copyright 2015 - Grawemeyer Awards