Exterior of Esber Recital Hall at dusk.

2023 Ballora-Wang Young Composers Award announced

The Penn State School of Music and Composition Program has named three winners and four finalists of the 2023 Ballora-Wang Young Composers Contest.

The winners are Isaac Bolan from Kingston, Pennsylvania; Ravi Nguyen form Westford, Massachusetts; and Marvel Roth from Los Angeles, California.

Each of the winning composers will receive a $100 prize and a one-hour composition lesson and career consultation with a Penn State composition faculty member.

The Penn State 2022 Ballora-Wang Young Composers Contest was announced in August 2022 and received 55 submissions from young composers around the United States. The contest was open to students at the high school level (9th-10thgrade) or equivalent. This year marks the fourth annual Penn State young composers contest.

Isaac Bolan’s Composition is titled “A Dance of Silhouettes.” Bolan began playing piano when he was 7, and really got into making electronic music when he was 13. Bolan was a composer at the 2022 summer camp at the Eastman School of Music where “A Dance of Silhouettes” received its world premiere. Bolan’s works range from electronic music to full orchestra. Other notable works of Bolan’s include “Winds that Whistle” (concert band and electronic playback), “Arctic Insomnia” (solo piano) and “This Too Shall Pass” (full orchestra). Bolan is a senior at Wyoming Valley West High School and plans to study music composition in college next year.

Ravi Nguyen’s Compositions is titled “Collage.” Nguyen is a 17-year-old composer and baritone singer from Westford, Massachusetts. He writes plays and conducts his music at the Walnut Hill School for the Arts in Natick. In his work, Nguyen juxtaposes contrasting ideas to create a novel listening experience. He frequently writes jarring harmonies, inspired by composers like Bartók and Schoenberg, and lyrical melodies, which he attributes to his vocalism. Nguyen’s primary mentors are William Cooper, Teresa Blume and Whitman Brown.

Marvel Roth’s composition is titled “An Immense Heart, Bitterly Bleeding Slowly.” Roth is a 16-year-old composer based out of Los Angeles. She has been a fellow in the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Composer Fellowship Program since 2021, where she composes for members of the philharmonic under the mentorship of Andrew Norman, Sarah Gibson and Daniel Allas. Roth performs a wide range of music including playing French horn in the Colburn Youth Orchestra under Maxim Eshkenazy, participating in the Stanford Jazz Institute, and music directing and conducting for stage productions and musicals. She has performed with the Grammy Award-Winning National Children’s Chorus at prestigious venues including Lincoln Center, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Royce Hall, and the Wiener Musikverein. She has won numerous awards as a pianist at regional and state levels. Roth is the Vice-President of her school’s chapter for NAFME’s National Music Honors Society, Tri-M. When not composing music, Roth enjoys tutoring and playing with her dog. She hopes to become a film composer.

2023 Penn State Young Composers Contest Finalists 

– Brandon Joung, Aurora, Colorado, “An Octernity of Absurdo-Surrealist Haikus,” Op. 7: Movements I -III, VIII

– Evan Kessler, High Park, Illinois, “Transcendence”

– Lili Masoudi, Cranford, New Jersey, “2222”

– Sam Sentivan, Rutledge, Pennsylvania, “The Step”

Past Winners

2022- Zixuan Chen, Zhejiang, China; Chris Dorner, Bentonville, Arkansas; and Adah Kaplan, Dresher, Pennsylvania.

2021- Sointu Aalto, Edmonton, AB, Canada; Luca Bardelle, Adria, Veneto, Italy; and Jackson Hunt, Monaca, Pennsylvania.

2020- Owen Johnson, Greensburg, Pennsylvania; Ash Paris-Carter, Winston-Salem, North Carolina; and Rohan Srinivasan, Portland, Oregon.

About the Penn State Music Composition & Technology Programs

At Penn State Composition & Music Technology, we are creators & innovators. Part of ROARS(Research of the Arts, Recording, and Sound),we are engaged with first-rate studios, cutting-edge curricula, and a cooperative & interdisciplinary artistic culture.

The School of Music offers the following degrees in Composition and Technology: Bachelor of Music in Music Composition, Master of Music in Music Composition, Bachelor of Arts in Music Technology, Minor in Music Technology, PPC in Music Composition and Technology.

The Music Composition program provides students with a comprehensive training including composition of concert music, songwriting, and electroacoustic music. Acoustic and electronic composition courses, private lessons, weekly seminar meetings, and master classes comprise the core of study. Several concerts devoted to presenting student compositions take place each year and student works are regularly performed by the school’s many ensembles.

In addition to composing works for solo, chamber, large-ensemble, and computer-music genres, composition students carry out a series of career-building projects focused on music business, as well as core study, listening assignments, and reading assignments. Music Technology students learn to construct & use recording studios, electronic instruments, music software & hardware, as well as use computers to inform their work as a performer, composer, musicologist, acoustician, music theorist, mathematician, artist, or engineer.

For majors, this training takes place in weekly seminars, live concerts, studio recording sessions, and courses in audio engineering, music programming, acoustics, and the history & culture of electroacoustic music. Music tech majors are encouraged to deepen their understanding of their specific areas of interest, creating projects that will serve as their calling cards when they leave Penn State. Contact Dr. Baljinder S. Sekhon II, bss5477@psu.edu Assistant Professor of Composition.