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M-Prize chamber arts competition: Apply now for $100,000 grand prize

By Marilou Carlin

M-Prize 2017

ANN ARBOR—The University of Michigan’s second annual M-Prize chamber arts competition is now accepting applications for the 2017 competition, with a deadline of Feb. 1, 2017.

The event—officially the largest competition of its kind in both number of applicants and the grand prize of $100,000 offered—takes place May 1-4, 2017, at the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance, with the grand finale concert at Hill Auditorium. Application instructions are available at  

Supported by the U-M Office of the Provost and an anonymous donor, M-Prize also awards an additional $109,000 in prize money divided among the winning small ensembles in both junior and senior divisions in three categories: Strings, Winds and Open (comprising any instrumentation or genre).

Created by SMTD Dean Aaron Dworkin, the competition’s goal is to “evolve the breadth and depth of the chamber arts landscape and associated professional opportunities for exceptional ensembles.”

This year’s M-Prize brings new additions: recently appointed artistic director Matt Albert, founding violinist/violist of the groundbreaking ensemble Eighth Blackbird and chair of SMTD’s new Department of Chamber Music; an interview round for first place Laureates (senior division winners) to present and advocate for their ensemble’s curatorial vision; and an increased prize pool.

The international jury includes former New York Philharmonic concertmaster Rodney Friend, Juilliard String Quartet cellist Astrid Schween, Swiss saxophonist Lars Mlekusch, renowned flautist Carol Wincenc, multigenre cellist Jeffrey Zeigler and Grammy Award-winning soprano Dawn Upshaw.

The Calidore String Quartet won the inaugural M-Prize last May, which spurred controversy and conversation surrounding the difficult task of adjudicating a string quartet versus a new music ensemble.

New music isn’t better than old,” Albert said. “We feel there’s a place for it all, and we want to be the prize that rewards groups for both performing well and demonstrating their curatorial vision: how their way of performing well will sustain itself—why it’s valid, interesting, appealing, compelling and necessary; why we should listen; and why we should present it for others to hear.”

The M-Prize winners also receive performance and residency opportunities with prestigious presenters including the University Musical Society, Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Interlochen Presents, Krannert Center for the Performing Arts at Illinois and Rockefeller University. In addition, the winning ensemble returns to SMTD for a residency to work with students.

The Grand Prize Gala Concert in May, in which the top ensembles in the three senior categories compete, will be livestreamed by Detroit Public Television and made available to PBS stations.

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