Composition Competition

2017 Call for Scores

The Twin Cities Chapter of the American Guild of Organists (TCAGO) announces a competition for an unpublished work for solo pipe organ loosely based on any Baroque form. For example: a Gigue, Sarabande, Gavotte, Minuet, Bourrée. The piece can be a modern or traditional interpretation of the dance form. 

A single prize of $1500 USD will be awarded. Any person with permanent residence in North America is eligible to submit a composition that is a minimum of four (4) and no longer than seven (7) minutes in length, and which uses original material (does not incorporate any pre-existing work or melody.) The name of the composer may not appear on the score, and the Official 2017 Entry Form must be submitted with the composition. TCAGO is unable to offer receipts. There is no entry fee. Each composer may submit one score. An electronic version of the score is strongly encouraged, submitted as a PDF attachment (must be 8.5x11) to The Entry Form must be submitted as a separate PDF in the same email, so that score is one PDF and entry form is another attachment in the same message. Additionally, MP3 attachments along with PDFs are acceptable. If submitting via mail, manuscripts must be typeset on 8.5x11 white stock, not to exceed 24# paper weight. Entries not conforming to these standards shall be disqualified. The submission may have been previously performed, but must be unpublished and cannot have won a prize in any other composition. Only scores submitted with SASE shall be returned. No member of the TCAGO Board or its officers may submit an entry. If in the opinion of the judges, no entry is worthy of the prize, it shall not be awarded. 

Submissions must be postmarked before 1 May 2017. Winner will be announced 1 June 2017.

Please submit to:

AGO Composition Contest
239 Selby Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55102

2016 Composition Competition Results Announced 

Elegy (2016) by Brenda Portman is the winning entry in the 2016 Twin Cities Chapter of the American Guild of Organists Composition Competition, winning a prize of $1500 USD. Forty-five compositions from throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico were submitted of a meditative piece for solo pipe organ.

Brenda Portman is the Resident Organist at Hyde Park Community United Methodist Church in Cincinnati, where she provides music for Sunday morning services, accompanies the Wesley Choir and Cathedral Choir, and serves as Executive Director of the church’s renowned Organ Concert Series. She recently completed a Doctor of Musical Arts degree (2016) in organ performance at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, where she received a full scholarship as first prize winner of the Strader Organ Competition and served as a teaching assistant for the organ department.  She also serves on the Executive Board of the Cincinnati chapter of the American Guild of Organists.

Dr. Portman has received numerous awards in organ competitions spanning a decade: from First Place in the Arthur Poister Organ Festival in Connecticut (2006) to Finalist and Audience Prize winner in the Sursa American Organ Competition at Ball State University (2016). In October 2014 Dr. Portman was the only American woman to compete in the prestigious Canadian International Organ Competition in Montréal. Her performance there led to a collaboration with acclaimed Canadian composer Rachel Laurin and a recording on the 88-rank Casavant organ of HPCUMC Cincinnati: Pilgrimages: Organ Music of Rachel Laurin Inspired by Sacred Themes, released in April 2016 on the Raven label.  Other prizes include First Place in the Arthur Poister Organ Competition (2007), First Place in the Bank District British/American Organ Competition (2009) - performing a winner's recital at St. Paul's Cathedral, London, and Third Place in the Rodgers North American Classical Organ Competition (2012). She has also been a finalist in the Fort Wayne National Organ-Playing Competition (2010) and a semifinalist in the AGO’s National Young Artists Competition in Organ Performance (2010).

Generated from her doctoral research on minimalism and twentieth-century Dutch organ music, Dr. Portman’s article “The Eclectic Landscape of Ride in a High-Speed Train,” about a composition of Ad Wammes was published in December 2015 in The Diapason. Another article, “Minimalism or Not? A Closer Look at Ad Wammes’s Miroir,” will be published at a later date by The American Organist.

In addition to "Pilgrimages," Ms. Portman recorded a CD of organ works of Edwin T. Childs entitled, All Might and Majesty (2009) on the Schantz organ at College Church in Wheaton, IL. She commissioned Dr. Childs to write a new multi-movement organ work (Pentecost Suite) which she premiered in June 2014 for the tenth anniversary of the Organ Concert Series at HPCUMC.  As a composer, Dr. Portman writes primarily sacred choral, vocal, and organ works. Her concert settings of hymns for solo voice and piano have been acclaimed by professional singers, and three hymn preludes for organ are included in the Bayoubüchlein (published by Selah) for the 2016 National Convention of the American Guild of Organists in Houston. She also won an award in 2014 for setting a hymn commissioned for the 300th anniversary of the historic Bruton Parish in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Dr. Portman held previous positions as Organist at First Presbyterian Church in Flint, Michigan, and Director of Music Ministries at Trinity Lutheran Church and School and Jackson, Michigan. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in music education from Wheaton College and a Master’s Degree in church music and organ performance from Northwestern University. She has studied with John Behnke, Edward Zimmerman, Douglas Cleveland, Marilyn Mason, Roberta Gary, and Michael Unger.

The panel of judges expresses gratitude for the many hours of work invested by the composers. Members of the panel were Curt Oliver, Aaron David Miller, and Lawrence Lawyer.

Announcement of the 2017 Twin Cities American Guild of Organists Composition Competition may be found here on this page in the coming weeks.

Past Winners of the Twin Cities AGO Composition Competition

2015: Erik Meyer, Lydian Suite
2014: Kenneth Logan, Maestoso Jubilante: A Wedding Processional
2013: no prize awarded
2012: Craig Carnahan, Psalm 130: Out of the Depths

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