NATS Art Song Composition Award
Advancing quality vocal literature by promoting new works for singers
NATS offers a cash award, plus a performance of the winning composition at the next scheduled NATS National Conference, to the composer of the winning song cycle, group of songs, or extended single song. This annual competition is open to any composer whose submitted work meets the prescribed requirements, and who pays the competition entry fee.
"The purpose of the Art Song Composition Award [formerly the Vocal Composition Award] program... is to stimulate the creation of quality vocal literature through the cooperation of singer and composer."
—Carol Mikkelsen, NATS Art Song Composition Award Coordinator
Pictured at the NATS 2016 National Conference are
Lori Laitman, Art Song Composition Award benefactor,
and David Conte, winner of the 2016 Art Song Composition Award.
Apply Now - check back soon
View and listen to performances of recent Art Song Composition Award winning works.
A fitting partnership
NATS is proud to collaborate with the Cincinnati Song Initiative (CSI) to provide exciting opportunities for composers. Following each annual NATS Art Song Composition Award, composers will have their winning selection programmed on a future CSI concert. This provides an invaluable repeat performance for composers’ work and introduces them to enthusiastic Cincinnati audiences. Through this partnership, NATS is expanding the impact of its Art Song Composition Award and helping CSI solidify its role as a national leader for innovating the art song genre.
The work must be:
- a song cycle, group of songs, or extended song approximately 20’ in length--
13’ to 25’ acceptable. (Genres other than the classical “art song” are discouraged.)
- for single voice and single instrument (neither synthesized)
Solo instruments, other than piano, may be used as the collaborative/accompanying instrument with the voice. The genre and style remains that of the art song. Compositions must be scored for voice and ONE accompanying instrument, i.e., voice & piano, voice & flute, voice & violin, etc. (**Compositions may not be scored for three or more instruments, i.e. voice, piano, & violin; voice, guitar, & flute; etc.")
- to a text written in English, for which the composer has secured copyright
clearance — only text setting permission necessary. (If the poem is not in the
public domain, the composer must be able to show proof that the proper
rights from the appropriate person in control of the copyright—either the
poet, the poet’s estate or the publisher — have been secured.)
- composed within the past two years (after January 1, 2020).
For U.S. publications, the following is a summary of works in the public domain:
— works published before 1923
— works with a copyright notice from 1923-1963 but with no copyright renewal
— works from 1923-1977 without a copyright
— works published without a copyright notice from 1.1.1978 through 3.1.1989 and without subsequent registration within 5 years.
Cash prizes generously sponsored by American composer Lori Laitman:
- 1st place - $2,000 plus the composer's expenses ($500 airfare reimbursement plus hotel) to the 58th NATS National Conference in Knoxville, Tennessee, June 28 - July 2, 2024, where the premiere performance of the winning composition will be given. The winning composition will also be performed on a future concert presented by Cincinnati Song Initiative.
- 2nd place - $1,000
Each entry is $30 for professionals; $15 for full-time students (payable in U.S. funds to NATS).
The Art Song Composition Award is open to anyone meeting the prescribed requirements.
Applications open June 1, 2023 and end December 1, 2023.
All applications for the Art Song Composition Award are submitted electronically via NATS.org.
IMPORTANT: All Scores, Cover Pages, and any supporting text files must be submitted in PDF format (Microsoft Word or other word processing file formats are not acceptable). All photos/headshots must be submitted in JPEG format. All Audio Files must be submitted in MP3 format (other formats such as .m4a, .wav, etc. are not acceptable.) Failure to follow these guidelines may result in disqualification. If audio files are too large (MAX file size is 12.4 MB), you will need to save them at a smaller bit-rate.
The following are required material for entry:
(1) A Cover Sheet (PDF format) containing the following information:
- Length (of each individual song and/or the complete cycle)
- Date of Composition (the actual Date(s) of composition for each piece; Copyright date does not suffice for date of composition)
- Permission Statement (sighting legal permission to set text; such as “in the Public domain”, “Permissions granted by the entity having Copyright Control – poet/publisher”, or “Lyrics written by composer”)
- (Click Here for an Example)
(2) A PDF copy of the song score(s). Copies must be neat, legible, and clearly edited, and should include:
- composition title;
- poet’s name;
- public domain status or person or agency granting text setting permission; and
- length and date of composition.
THE COMPOSER’S NAME MUST APPEAR ANYWHERE ON THE SCORE or THE AUDIO FILES.
(3) Digital audio file(s) of composition(s).
Recordings may be performance or working quality, but must be with live voice and accompanying instrument (neither synthesized*). Title(s) of composition(s) should be the only labeling on recordings. (Upload time may take a few minutes depending on file size). Maximum file size is 12.4 MB. If your recording is larger than 12.4 MB, please break it up into no more than four movements and upload these as separate files. (If audio files are too large, you will need to save them at a smaller bit-rate.) The song order, if multiple songs, on the recording(s) and score(s) must be the same, and must be edited so that the recording(s) reveal(s) accurately what is in the score(s).
*COVID-19 - If a recording cannot be safely made due to COVID restrictions, MIDI files may be submitted along with PDFs of the score. (updated 5/27/20)
(4) Headshot of the composer(s); JPEG or PNG format.
If you have any questions, contact Dr. Carol Mikkelsen at .
Recent Art Song Composition Winners
2023 Art Song Composition Award Winner:
Rene Orth: "Weave Me a Name" is a set of seven songs for soprano and piano featuring the poetry of Jeanne Minahan.
2022 Art Song Composition Award Winner:
Ericcson Hatfield: “God’s World” work is a set of four songs for mezzo-soprano and piano featuring the poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay.
Video performance: “God’s World”
2021 Art Song Composition Award Winner:
Jeffrey Ryan: “Everything Already Lost” is an art song cycle for baritone and piano featuring the poetry of Jan Zwicky.
Video world premiere performance: "Everything Already Lost"
2020 Art Song Composition Award Winner:
Kurt Erickson: “Here, Bullet (Song Set for Baritone and Piano)” based on poems written by Brian Turner during his time serving in the Iraq War.
Video performance: "Here, Bullet"
2019 Art Song Composition Award Winner:
Philip Lasser: Elemental Earth, a cycle of songs for voice and piano on poems by Robert Frost
Click here to listen to recordings of Philip Lasser’s “Elemental Earth” and second prize winner Zachary Wadsworth’s “Parlo(u)r Songs” on SoundCloud.
2018 Art Song Composition Award Winner:
Benjamin C.S. Boyle for Spirits in Bondage, based on the poetry of C.S. Lewis and arranged for Baritone and Piano (Read More)
Click HERE, or below, to watch the performance video (cued to 16:25).
Click here to listen to audio tracks of all of the 2018 Winners and Finalists on SoundCloud.
2017 Art Song Composition Award Winner:
Matt Boehler for Foursquare Cathedral (Read More)
Poems by Todd Boss
- My House is Small and Almost
- The Wallpaper
- What Yesterday Appeared a Scar
- Another Hand
Click HERE, or below, to watch the performance video.
Click here to listen to audio tracks of all of the 2017 Winners and Finalists on SoundCloud.
2016 Art Song Composition Award Winner:
David Conte for American Death Ballads
- Wicked Polly
- The Uniquet Grave
- The Dying Californian
- Captain Kidd
Click HERE, or below, to watch the performance video. Click HERE to read the program note.
2014 Art Song Composition Award Winner:
Robert Patterson for American Pierrot: A Langston Hughes Songbook
Performed July 7, 2014 at the National Association of Teachers of Singing National Conference in Boston. Sung by Robert Wells, Allen Henderson and Tod Fitzpatrick, with collaborative pianist Michelle Beaton.
2012 Art Song Composition Award Winner:
Melissa Dunphy for Tesla's Pigeon
A performance of the winning piece of the 2012 NATS Art Song Composition Award, "Tesla's Pigeon" by Melissa Dunphy, performed by Collen Gray, soprano, and Nanette Solomon, piano. View the text on the official Tesla's Pigeon website.
2010 Art Song Composition Award Winner:
David Sisco for Missed Connections (Text from Craigslist.com)
Please enjoy the performance of the winning composition of the 2010 Art Song Composition Award, with an introduction of the winning composer, David Sisco, by Carol Mikkelson. Missed Connections is performed by Elizabeth Mondragon and accompanied by Dr. Andrew Adams. You may view this video at http://youtu.be/loyND9gzvG0.