A Female Composers’ Competition Announces Its First Winners

A Female Composers’ Competition Announces Its First Winners


Emma O’Halloran is a winner of the first Hildegard Competition.

Courtesy of National Sawdust

National Sawdust, the performance space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, announced the winners of its first Hildegard Competition for rising female and non-binary composers. The winners, Emma O’Halloran, X. Lee and Kayla Cashetta, will each receive $7,000, mentoring from prominent artists and a performance at National Sawdust on June 12.

The winners were selected from 140 submissions from around the world; the judges, all composers, were Paola Prestini, the co-founder and artistic director of National Sawdust; Du Yun, the winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize; and Angélica Negrón. The judges, who will also serve as the winners’ mentors, sought to reward composers at the start of their careers, prioritizing artists who had never received a large commission, released a commercial recording or composed for a professional ensemble.

“I am deeply moved by the volume of responses to the Hildegard Competition,” Ms. Prestini said in a statement. “The future of composition is bright and the need for opportunity, vast.”

Ms. Cashetta is based in the Bay Area; X. Lee, in Los Angeles; and Ms. O’Halloran is Irish. On June 12, their works will be performed by the Refugee Orchestra, along with pieces by five runners-up.

Since National Sawdust opened in 2015, it has been committed to presenting work by female composers and other underrepresented voices. Its current season includes fifteen female composers; a New York Philharmonic program there last month, for example, featured five works by women.

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