Summit Music and Arts Young Composer Competition winners announced |

Summit Music and Arts Young Composer Competition winners announced

Students receive certificates for the 2015 Young Composers Competition. This year, the competition received more than 30 entries.
Special to the Daily |


What: 2016 Young Composer Concert

When: Thursday, April 28 at 6 p.m.

Where: Summit Middle School Auditorium in Frisco

Cost: Free

The Official 2016 Young Composers Winners List — including Division, and Category:

Division 1A First Place, Grant Morgan for “Finnegans Fall”; 2nd Place, Alinnea Christiansen for “Interplanetary”; 3rd Place, Priya Subberwal for “Laramie - 1998”; and Honorable Mention, Zachary Elsass for “Quebec Limerick”. Division 2A First Place, Andrew Vargas for “Phantasms”; 2nd Place, Lily Windsor for “Mystical Valley”; 3rd Place, Sophia Elsass for “Cosmic Journey”; and Honorable Mention, Corey Johnson for “The Ballad of Lancelot”. Division 2B Honorable Mention, Katherine Pue for “Melody in D - Dorian”. Division 3A First Place, Piper Salazar for “Waltz for Keesha”; 2nd Place, Marianna Rodriguez for “The Question”; 3rd Place, Isaac Webster for “The Diamond On The Crown”; and Honorable Mentions, Alessi Batista for “Softly”; Parke Chapin for “Mixed Emotions”; Cathy Contreras for “Golden Meadows”; Emily Koetteritz for “Swaying Nature”; and Natalie Scott for “Summer Storm”. Division 3B First Place, Abigail Wineland for “Animal Dance”; 2nd Place, Alex Morano for “Lily Pad Lake”; and 3rd Place, Carson Culbreuth for “Fireball”.

Summit Music and Arts announced the winners of the 2016 Young Composers Competition. The public is invited to attend a concert featuring the winners of the competition on Thursday, April 28, to hear original compositions from young musicians ages 10-18.

“The concert is an opportunity to expose your soul — here’s my piece of music and what are they going to think of it?” said Len Rhodes, artistic director and artist in residence for Summit Music and Arts.

The concert will present 20 Summit County musicians and their work starting at 6 p.m. at the Summit Middle School auditorium.


This is the second year for the competition in Summit County, although its roots go back decades. In 1995, Rhodes founded the Pikes Peak Young Composers Competition (PPYC) in Colorado Springs — where he was living at the time — in response to many young musicians in Colorado seeking professional help and support with their original music. What started as a program offered through the Pikes Peak Library District grew to receiving entries from residents throughout Colorado. After National Public Radio did a broadcast about the competition, awareness spread throughout the country and abroad, attracting musicians from the UK, Europe and the Far East. During its 17-year history, the competition received more than 1,200 entries.

“It grew and became bigger than we ever anticipated,” Rhodes said.

Last year, Rhodes resurrected the idea of the concert in Summit, opening up the competition to the county and surrounding areas. Entries increased this year from 25 in 2015 to 34, and all of the entries were from kids in Summit County. Rhodes said the students who entered the competition are musicians looking to take their music study beyond learning a piece to creating a piece.

“It’s no different in a way to the guy in bands who aren’t doing covers, they are actually writing their own stuff,” he said. “It has its origins obviously of all the great composers of the 15th, 16th, 17th, 18th centuries, but these young people have been given the opportunity and incentive to try and write something for themselves, so they are not just playing another Mozart piece, they are playing something they’ve created.”

For several of the students, this is their second time entering the competition. Grant Morgan, a sophomore at The Peak School in Frisco, entered last year with the first composition he’d ever written. This year, he placed first in Division 1A with his piece “Finnegans Fall.” It was inspired by a scene in a book he was reading called “Finnegans Wake” by James Joyce.

“”I’ve been playing piano for six or seven years, and last year for the contest my piano teacher encouraged me to enter,” he said. “I did pretty well and was pretty happy with that, and I really enjoyed it. I’m actually interested in pursuing music as a career and writing music for movies as a career. … I just really enjoy that medium.”

Morgan is thinking about entering his work in other Colorado and national competitions. He looks forward to playing it at the concert on Thursday, and also said he is appreciative of Summit Music and Arts for providing him the opportunity.

“I’m really excited for people to hear it, I really enjoyed writing it and I hope they’ll enjoy hearing it too,” he said. “It’s always really cool to see everyone else’s compositions, because they are all always so amazing.”

Corey Johnson, a seventh-grader, won honorable mention in Division 2A with “The Ballad of Lancelot.” It is also his second time entering the competition, after his piano teacher encouraged him last year. He said his piece was inspired by the character Lancelot from the third “Night at the Museum” movie. Johnson has been playing the piano since second grade, and said the competition has been beneficial to him as a musician.

“It’s definitely helped me learn how to write,” he said. “The judge Len … has taught me a lot from telling me what I did wrong and what I did right on my piece. It’s definitely a learning experience, and I can tell I’m a lot better of a writer than last year.”

Sophia Elsass, a seventh-grader, wrote her fourth composition, “Cosmic Journey,” which placed third in Division 2A. She has been playing piano for four years, and her composition was inspired by space. She also entered the competition last year after encouragement from her teacher. She said the competition has taught her to be a better songwriter, and she is looking forward to the concert next week.

“Getting over stage fright of playing in front of people — I remember last year I was really nervous, so that is another thing (the competition) has helped me with,” she said.

Her brother, Zachary Elsass won an honorable mention in Division 1A for “Quebec Limerick,” which he said is inspired from a limerick by Rudyard Kipling. This is his first time entering the competition. He said the competition is helpful because it encouraged him to put something out there “that you made, not knowing if it is going to succeed or not, but doing it anyway.”

Lily Windsor, an eighth-grade home school student, won second place in Division 2A with “Mystical Valley.” She has been taking piano lessons for nine years, and although she’s participated in over 20 recitals, she said she was really excited about this one because it will be her first performance for placing in a contest.

“It is a good experience to enter in a contest, whether you win or not,” she said. “I also enjoyed creating my own song and to get to perform it in front of a large audience is really exciting.”


Rhodes is the judge of the competition, and said he looked for several things when it came to the compositions. He looks for uniqueness in how the musician takes an idea and does something with it in a score, and if there is a beginning, middle and end to it. Other things are if the piece represents the title chosen, and creativity in naming of the piece of music. Rhodes looks for correct musical grammar, and elements of general creativity, so it doesn’t sound like everything else.

“It’s trying to encourage that creative aspiration in these young people, that’s the whole point of it,” he said.

As part of the Summit Music and Arts educational programming, funding for Rhodes’ instruction within the schools, judging and evaluation has been provided in part by The Summit Foundation. Rhodes said the concert on Thursday will be an opportunity for the community to come out and support the students, and hear their original work.

“Here are 20 young people saying here is what I’ve created, what do you think of it?

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