FAQ for the Columbia Orchestra’s
American Composer Competition

The following is a list of frequently asked questions regarding the competition. If your question is not answered, please contact the competition coordinator at compcomp@columbiaorchestra.org or by the address and phone number at the bottom of this page.

  1. I have a really, really, really good reason why I was not able to get my entry postmarked by the postmark deadline. May I still submit a work?

    In order to maintain fairness and adhere to our timetable, we are unable to accept works postmarked after the postmark deadline. We are also unable to accept works delivered in person, by courier, or by any other means. If you missed the deadline, we invite you to bookmark our site and watch for future competitions that we hope to hold in upcoming seasons.

  2. How many works may I submit?

    Each composer may submit one composition. If you have several suitable works and would like assistance deciding which one to submit, feel free to contact compcomp@columbiaorchestra.org.

  3. I cannot figure out how to print out the application form. Help!

    If you are unable to print a copy of the application form, please contact compcomp@columbiaorchestra.org and we will mail one. If you have no access to the internet, write or call (address and phone at the bottom of this page) and we will mail you a form.

  4. What will happen if I fill out the application form incorrectly or incompletely (for instance, by not answering questions 1, 2 or 4)?

    The application won't be considered unless a complete application form is received. If it is incomplete, the competition coordinator will contact you and ask you to fax or mail us a completed one. The application form is the document in which you attest that your submission is eligible for this competition, so we really need to have all the information.

  5. Do you have a preference for computer-generated scores over hand-written manuscripts, or vice versa?

    We really have no preference. We understand that not everyone has access to Finale or Sibelius, or to expert copyists. We do have a preference for scores that are legible and comprehensible. Neatness counts! Be aware that it is as easy to create an incomprehensible score with a computer as with pen and paper.

  6. Recordings used to be optional, but now they're required. What happened?

    Experience from the first two American Composer Competitions has taught us that the recordings, even the electronic realizations, are extremely helpful to the judges. We expect at least 175 applications. Our judges donate their time. They will need every possible resource to help them perform their task in a timely manner.

  7. You say that a curriculum vitae is optional. Don't you want a CV or biography?

    The judges will see nothing but the anonymous scores, so submitting biographical information will not affect your chances of winning. All CVs and biographies will be separated from the scores and used solely to help us understand what sort of applicants we attract and improve planning for future competitions. Of course if you win, we would love to display your photo and biography on our web site.

  8. Must I have a degree in composition to win this competition?

    No. The judges won't know who you are, so all that matters is the quality of the work you submit.

  9. What sort of orchestra is The Columbia Orchestra?

    The Columbia Orchestra is a well-established community orchestra which began in the fall of 1977. It is a full-sized orchestra (typically 80-96 players onstage) comprised of talented musicians, many of whom are free-lance professionals, who volunteer their time in exchange for the opportunity to play outstanding literature under an inspiring conductor. To get a sense of the level of difficulty of music that the orchestra performs, look at the programs for the current or previous seasons by clicking the Past Seasons link here or by clicking the Current or Past Seasons links on the “Concerts and Tickets” tab at the top of this page. Please peruse the entire website to get a better sense of the organization as a whole.

  10. My work calls for a non-standard instrument. Is that instrument allowed?

    The following instruments have been asked about and are acceptable: bass trombone, piccolo trumpet, saxophone. If you have a question about another instrument, please contact compcomp@columbiaorchestra.org (see below).

  11. My work was performed by the same orchestra multiple times during a single weekend?  Does this count as one performance?

    For our purposes, a work performed multiple times in a short period of time by the same ensemble counts as one performance.

  12. You specify 4 percussion plus timpani. Does that mean one timpanist plus four in the battery?

    We have five percussionists, including at most one timpanist. The timpanist can be asked to play other instruments when not playing timpani.

  13. What do you mean by hard-copy of the score?

    A hard-copy is a physical copy of the score on paper that we can hold in our hands and look at. Electronic versions of the score in any format, sent via email, floppy disk or data cd are not acceptable substitutes for the hard copy of the score.

  14. What do you mean by ten-year resident of the U.S.?

    This is a person who has lived legally in the United States as his or her primary place of residence, regardless of type of visa, since July 2003 and who will still be living in the United States at the time of the postmark deadline.

  15. My work has been performed publicly twice and has been recorded by a different ensemble. Does the recording session count as a performance?

    For our purposes, a recording session does not count as a performance.

  16. My work has been performed publicly more than twice, but one of the performances took place outside of the United States. Is this work eligible?

    The location of the performances doesn't matter. If the work has been performed publicly more than twice, it is not eligible for this competition.

  17. Must the composition be unpublished?

    We cannot afford to pay rental or any other fees in association with the performance of the winning composition on top of the expense of sponsoring the competition. If you have self-published your work, or if you have an arrangement with your publisher by which you can waive all fees, we can work with you on this issue.

  18. I want to submit a work on behalf of a deceased composer. The work meets your criteria in every way, except for the implied assumption that the person making the application is the same as the composer of the submitted work. Can I do this?

    In 2004 we were honored to receive an application from the widow of an undeservedly neglected American composer. If you are considering such an application you must show us that you are authorized to allow performances of the work and you must demonstrate that you are engaged in a substantial, long-term effort to promote the works of the composer.

  19. I still have questions. Whom do I contact to ask questions, get clarifications, or make comments about the competition?

    For any questions regarding the competition, please contact our competition coordinator at compcomp@columbiaorchestra.org. E-mail is by far the fastest way to get a response. He may also be reached by phone (410-465-8777) or U.S. mail:

    Columbia Orchestra
    Howard County Center for the Arts
    8510 High Ridge Road
    Ellicott City, MD 21043