Call for Applications: New Competition for Composers and Their Collaborators


Deadline: 15 may 2020


Prize-winning work promoting democratic values will receive performance by Curtis’s Ensemble 20/21 and $10,000 USD

PHILADELPHIA—April 8, 2020—In a new partnership, the Curtis Institute of Music and the Purple Project for Democracy announce an international competition to create a new work for Ensemble 20/21, Curtis’s contemporary music ensemble. Together, the two organizations have launched a call for proposals from composers and their collaborative partners, to be received by May 15, 2020. The winning selection will receive a cash prize of $10,000 USD and a performance of the new work by Ensemble 20/21 in Curtis’s 2020–21 season.

Through this competition, the partnering organizations aim to explore how art can increase engagement with democracy. Ensemble 20/21—a multi-instrumental ensemble of Curtis students, faculty, and alumni, which explores social issues through works from the 20th and 21st centuries in much of its programming—will contribute to the prize by recording and performing the realization of the winning proposal to audiences in Philadelphia in April 2021.

“All of those involved are delighted by this opportunity for composers and their collaborators to create new art. And we would like to thank Purple Project organizer and Wharton School professor Jerry Wind for initiating and supporting this competition,” says David Serkin Ludwig, artistic director of Ensemble 20/21 and chair of composition studies at Curtis. “Composers will hear their music played at the highest level by the extraordinary young artists at Curtis, and receive a top-level performance and recording. But more importantly, the world will get a new work that shines a light on democratic issues that affect us all, and hopefully mends bridges and builds new dialogue where it didn’t exist before.”

All proposals and work samples must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. ET on Friday, May 15, 2020. Proposals will be reviewed by a committee of judges for artistic merit, practicality, performability, and their contribution to the Purple Project for Democracy’s mission. Application, competition details, and frequently-asked questions are available at

Flexible in size and scope, Ensemble 20/21 performs a wide range of music from the 20th and 21st centuries, including works by Curtis students and alumni. The ensemble has appeared at major U.S. venues such as the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, and the Miller Theatre, as well as international venues, including the Intimacy of Creativity festival in Hong Kong. The ensemble has presented concert portraits of iconic composers in residence Unsuk Chin, John Corigliano, George Crumb, Krzysztof Penderecki, Augusta Read Thomas, and Chen Yi, among many others. Of the ensemble’s Joan Tower portrait program, the New York Times wrote, “Ms. Tower could hardly have hoped for more passionate performances.”

The Purple Project for Democracy is a non-partisan coalition, campaign, and movement that spans the breadth of American society to rediscover and recommit to democratic values and institutions. Purple seeks to enhance people’s understanding and appreciation of, and engagement with, democracy and democratic values, and will be the leading edge of a movement to promote and reward citizen engagement in communities at every level. Learn more at

In the 2019–20 school year, the Curtis Institute of Music celebrates 95 years of educating and training exceptionally gifted young musicians to engage a local and global community through the highest level of artistry. With a small student body of about 175, Curtis provides each young musician with an unparalleled education alongside musical peers, distinguished by personalized attention from celebrated faculty and a “learn by doing” philosophy. To ensure that admissions are based solely on artistic promise, Curtis makes an investment in each admitted student so that no tuition is charged for their studies. Curtis students hone their craft through more than 200 orchestra, opera, and solo and chamber music offerings each year in Philadelphia and around the world.

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