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Semifinalists announced for M-Prize, U-M's annual chamber arts competition

By Marilou Carlin

Medicinal Garden, University of Michigan Matthaei Botanical Gardens; Photo by Austin Thomason.

M-Prize, the international chamber arts competition with the largest prize pool in the world—more than $200,000, including a $100,000 grand prize—has announced the semifinalists who will compete to win the world’s largest chamber music prize.

A complete list of the competitors can be found at

The second annual competition takes place May 1-4 at the University of Michigan, with semifinal and final rounds held at the Earl V. Moore Building, 1100 Baits Drive. All competition performances are free to the public.

The Hill Auditorium stage.

The Grand Prize Gala Concert takes place at 5:30 p.m. May 4 at Hill Auditorium. The concert will present the Senior First Place Laureates in the strings, winds and open categories, one of whom will be named the $100,000 M-Prize winner by a jury of internationally renowned chamber artists.

As part of the prize package, the winner will also appear on the 2017-18 Chamber Arts Series presented by the University Musical Society. In addition, each of the top three Senior First Place Laureates will enjoy a residency at the U-M School of Music, Theatre & Dance in the 2017-18 academic year.

The gala concert will be livestreamed by Detroit Public Television and made available to PBS stations across the country. Visit to secure a free ticket to the performance.

In year two of M-Prize, the contest administrators at SMTD report a huge uptick in international applications, with ensemble members hailing from 41 different countries. Each group is vying for a semifinalist spot in one of three categories (strings, winds and open) in two divisions: senior (average age 35) and junior (under age 18). The open category can feature any instrumentation, including percussion, voice or technology, and music that contains a significant amount of improvisation such as jazz, bluegrass and world music.

“It is such an honor to help provide a platform for these diverse, talented ensembles who will be traveling from all over the globe to compete in Ann Arbor,” said Matt Albert, artistic director of M-Prize, chair of the SMTD Department of Chamber Music, and former founding member of Eighth Blackbird. “We’re thrilled that M-Prize allows all varieties of ensembles to showcase their artistry. It provides a forum for a conversation about the impact of not only performative excellence, but also curatorial vision across the greater chamber arts field.”  

Grand prize winners and senior strings winners from the M-Prize 2016 Competition, the Calidore String Quartet, perform at the grand prize gala at Hill Auditorium.

In the end, the 2017 M-Prize competition will feature 29 ensembles representing eight countries: Austria, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Russia, Slovenia, Switzerland, and the United States. The U.S. ensembles hail from California, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York and South Dakota.

The institutional representation of applicants was also vast, with applications coming from ensembles trained at America’s most esteemed conservatories and performing arts schools, along with such venerable international institutions as the National Opera Vienna, London’s Royal Academy of Music and Tokyo’s Geidai University.

New this year is an interview round in which the Senior First Place Laureates will be interviewed by the judges prior to the Grand Prize Gala Concert. Each interview will begin with a 6-8 minute presentation from the ensemble to illustrate their curatorial vision. This element of the competition was added to help with the difficult task of adjudicating performances by ensembles that are distinctly different in style and instrumentation, with the main similarity being excellence.

A screening jury, representing expert academics and performers, chose the semifinalists in all categories and divisions. The jury included Rohan De Silva, piano (Juilliard School); Joshua Gindele, cello (Miró Quartet); Andrew Jennings, violin (U-M SMTD); Alex Klein, principal oboe (Chicago Symphony Orchestra); Timothy McAllister, saxophone (U-M SMTD); Charles Villarubia, tuba (University of Texas Butler School of Music); Andrew Bishop, multi-instrumentalist/composition (U-M SMTD); Lisa Kaplan, piano (Eighth Blackbird); and Evan Ziporyn, clarinet/composition (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).

M-Prize is sponsored by U-M’s Office of the Provost and received additional support from an anonymous donor. The goals of the competition are to provide a world-class performance and adjudication platform for chamber arts; to launch and advance the careers of chamber ensembles through prizes, visibility and professional development opportunities; and to evolve the breadth and depth of the chamber arts landscape and associated professional opportunities for exceptional ensembles.

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