CCM composer Knehans wins prestigious award

The American Prize National Nonprofit Competitions in the Performing Arts – David (Volosin) Katz, founder and chief judge – has announced winners, runners-up and honorable mentions of the Ernst Bacon Memorial Award for the Performance of American Music, 2021, in the solo and composer divisions.

Among the many contests of The American Prize, the Ernst Bacon Memorial Award for the Performance of American Music is unique. It recognizes and rewards the best performances of American music by ensembles and individual artists worldwide, based on submitted recordings. Applications are accepted from professional, college/university, community and high school age solo artists, chamber ensembles or conducted ensembles, competing in separate divisions, and from composers with excellent recordings of their works. In 2017-18, categories were expanded to encompass performances of American music in practically any instrumentation or genre, with very few repertoire restrictions.

Focused exclusively on works by American composers from any period and in any style, the contest not only judges performances, but in the case of new or unfamiliar works, the music itself. 

Ernst Bacon (1898-1990) was one of that pioneering generation of composers who, along with Thomson, Copland, Harris, and others, found a voice for American music. Winner of a Pulitzer Scholarship (for his Symphony in D minor) and no fewer than three Guggenheim Fellowships, Ernst Bacon set out to create compositions that expressed the vitality and affirmative spirit of our country. It is fitting, and with honor, that The American Prize creates an annual award in the memory of Ernst Bacon, recognizing the finest performances of American music worldwide.

Learn more about the music and legacy of Ernst Bacon: Ernst Bacon Society.

The American Prize 

The American Prize winner:
Douglas Knehans, Cincinnati, Ohio
Backwards from Winter” 

Acknowledging the award on Facebook, Knehans thanked his collaborators:

“Thank you to the American Prize, and heartfelt thanks also to my partner in this work, librettist Juanita Rockwell. And to the Center for Contemporary Opera, Jim Schaeffer, and Foundation IHOS Amsterdam, Constantine Koukias, and the Dark Mofo Festival for their world premiere and Australian premiere seasons in separate productions, the New York production, directed by (CCM grad) Jennifer Williams, and the Australian season directed by Constantine Koukias. Huge thanks to the amazing performers who collaborated with me as well: Jeffrey Krieger, electric cello and Anke Briegel, soprano (New York) and Judith Weusten, soprano and Antonis Pratsinakis, electric cello (Australia). Massive thanks also to my audio engineers Howie Kenty (New York) and Greg Gurr (Australia). The live recording was mastered by the ever-amazing Silas Brown.”

“Backwards from Winter” is an hour-long operatic monodrama exploring a single woman’s reflection on a love relationship as seen through various elemental filters of seasons, color, nature, emotion and memory, and told through live voice, live electronic/computer music and multiple video streams.

Jeffrey Krieger, electric cello, and Anke Briegel, soprano in “Backwards from Winter”


— Colin Clarke, Fanfare Magazine

Winner of prizes, awards and recognitions for his compositions and recordings, Douglas Knehans’ (b. 1957) work has been awarded by the 2019 ISCM World Music Days; The American Prize; The Kennedy Center; Clouzine International Music Awards; Independent Music Awards; Global Music Awards Multi-Gold Medalist; The Australia Council for the Arts; The Ohio Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts; Meet the Composer; New Music USA; The American Music Center; Carnegie Hall and many others. His compositions feature at concert halls globally including Carnegie Hall and Steinway Hall in NYC and equally well regarded venues in Europe, Asia and Australia. 

Nature and natural forms deeply influence Knehans’s style prompting The New Yorker to remark “…the sounds of nature course through the orchestral pieces… with a primitive force and melodic insistence that recall Stravinsky.” 

Knehans is the Norman Dinerstein Professor of Composition Scholar at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.

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