Sunday, February 27, 2011


by David Katz, chief judge of The American Prize

Most of us will probably never win a Grammy Award, or a Pulitzer, a Tony or an Academy Award, or ever even be nominated. But that does not mean that the music we make is unworthy of national recognition and reward. I am proud to be chief judge of the The American Prize—because it is the national competition for the rest of us.

We all know that excellence in the arts is not restricted to the famous names, or limited to a single city on either coast, or reserved only for the top graduates of the most prestigious schools. It is not necessary to be well-connected to achieve greatness. In America, it is not location nor pedigree, but talent, love of the art, hard work and commitment that makes the difference.

During my career, I have had the privilege of guest conducting orchestras, choruses, bands and opera companies all over the country—not just professionals, but school, church and community ensembles, and not only in big cities. Whether in the deep south, the far west, the heartland, or on the coasts, I have encountered inspiring artists entertaining audiences, educating young people, enriching communities and contributing to the quality of life.

Maybe you are one of them.

If only The American Prize had existed a little earlier in my career! When I was conducting a community orchestra and a church choir in Hartford, Connecticut, I would have applied. I would have wanted to know how my groups stacked up to similar ensembles elsewhere in the country. Were we really as good as I thought we were?

When I was leading a youth orchestra in Elgin, Illinois, and a community chorus in Libertyville, I would have applied. I thought some of my programming choices were inspired. Would conductors from across the country think so, too?

When I was music director of a professional orchestra in a tiny town in Southern Michigan, I would have applied. In Adrian, my symphony roared through some of the greatest pieces ever written and the audiences roared back their approval. I wanted people all across the country to know what amazing things we were doing—how well—and where.

And for twenty-five years, I’ve also conducted an orchestra of lawyers in Chicago. Of course, I would have applied. Because, what if we had won?

What if your audience, donors or membership woke up to the news that you had just won The American Prize, judged to be the finest in the country in your category, chosen by an impartial panel of experienced professionals from all across the United States? There would be prize money, of course, but more important would be the bragging rights, to be emblazoned next year on your brochure, or printed in your church newsletter, or announced at the next faculty meeting. There would be the award certificate hanging proudly in your rehearsal room, office or auditorium lobby; there would be articles in newspapers and magazines pointing to your winning performances, and your bio and photo on The American Prize website.

If winning The American Prize might help you sell more tickets, or build your base of donors, or aid recruitment, or enhance your resume, or solidify your position, or add to your press coverage; if you have wished there were a way for your work to be recognized by someone in addition to your audience, board, parents or pastor; if winning might be the shot in the arm you and your group
needs, reminding everyone in your community that what you do every day matters profoundly—then you should apply.

The American Prize
is here to stay. It is an annual competition that is going to continue to grow in visibility and prestige. Soon, performing artists from all across the country are going to start winning The American Prize and be recognized for artistic achievement. Why not you?


David Katz is chief judge of the non-profit The American Prize. Professional conductor, playwright and actor, award- winning composer and arts advocate, he believes deeply in the mission of The American Prize to recognize and reward excellence in the arts wherever in America it is found.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Seven principles guide the administration of The American Prize, America's unique, non-profit competitions in the performing arts, insuring that the competitions are fair and valuable to all contestants.

1. The American Prize competitions adhere to strict timelines. Individuals or organizations who apply to compete for The American Prize receive timely communication from the competition office and know before they apply when semi- finalists, finalists and winners will be announced.

2. The American Prize is more than monetary. In addition to cash prizes, the competitions provide winners and finalists with professional adjudication, and recognition for achievement. Finalists will be announced and winners profiled on The American Prize website and blog, with links to winning performances. The competition office will communicate news directly to local, regional and national media on behalf of applicants.

3. The American Prize judging panel will be varied in skills and geography. The judges of The American Prize will be individuals with broad experience, from all over the country, collectively representing professional, community, faith-based and public school performing artists and educators.

4. The American Prize provides constructive adjudication. Evaluations from judges will be at all times positive, useful and respectful.

5. The American Prize application fees will remain modest. The American Prize is not-for-profit, administered by Hat City Music Theater, Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

6. The American Prize provides diversity of opportunity. The competitions will be annual events, broad enough in scope to provide opportunity to organizations and individuals who might not otherwise be invited to compete nationally. In addition to categories for professional musicians and ensembles, applications will be welcomed from community, school and faith-based musicians, organizations and artistic leaders. Neither the location nor repertoire of any qualified individual, nor the size, or make-up of any qualified organization will limit eligibility. Excellence within categories is the primary criteria for the selection of finalists and winners.

7. The American Prize will expand, when practical, to include additional performing artists and ensembles. Competitions will be added annually, as interest warrants.

This post is available as a downloadable pdf on our website 
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