The Washington Master Chorale's Florence Price Commission Competition offers a $5,000 choral commission to promote and celebrate Black Americans' contributions to the field of choral music. It was initiated by a generous gift from longtime singer, patron, and former Board Chair Diane Kresh. The competition is named after the first African-American woman to be nationally recognized as a symphonic composer and, in this inaugural year, especially encourages applications from Black trans women, Black cis women, and Black non-binary composers who are American citizens. The commissioned work is to be a five- to ten-minute original composition for SATB chorus, written in the classical concert music tradition. It may be a cappella or accompanied by up to two instruments. The text must be secular and pre-existing, by prominent Black American writers or poets. The work will be premiered in the Washington Master Chorale's 2023/24 season. Applicants should submit one to three original works or excerpts totaling no more than ten minutes for consideration by a panel of judges, including Artistic Director Thomas Colohan and esteemed Black musicians. Resumes, scores, and audio samples should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by June 29, 2022.
The Washington Master Chorale (WMC) is a vibrant mixed-voice chorus of 60 professional and volunteer singers, which has quickly garnered a reputation for vocal excellence and distinctive programming. Since its 2010 debut, led by Artistic Director Thomas Colohan, WMC has sung at The Kennedy Center, the Chorus America National Conference, Library of Congress, and with the National Symphony Orchestra, among other distinguished artists and venues. The Washington Post hails the ensemble's singing as "remarkable for its beauty," "seamlessly blended," and "a sound worth hearing." Equally at home singing works of American and European masters, WMC is noted for its innovative presentation of music from the 19th century onward, with emphasis on contemporary works. Composer Morten Lauridsen says: "Maestro Colohan and his splendid singers are committed to choral excellence and will enrich the lives of all who experience their artistry." The iconic Alice Parker says: "It was a pleasure to hear [this] excellent chorus. I was really impressed." In 2013, WMC released The Earth & I: New American Choral Music on the Albany label, and in 2016, This Endris Night: Christmas with the Washington Master Chorale on the ACIS label.
"An artist of many talents. His operatic bass has carried him to performances on some of the greatest stages. However, it has been in recent years that his vast gifts for composing have come into just as much prominence." - Patrick D. McCoy, LA Opera
Damien infuses classical music with various styles from the black diaspora to create music that furthers the cause for social justice. Damien's growing body of work includes chamber, vocal, and orchestral works. Some recent commissions include: Cantata for a Hopeful Tomorrow for The Washington Chorus, Invisible for Opera Theater Oregon, The Justice Symphony for the University of Michigan, and String Quartet No. 1, Neo-Soul, for All Classical Portland and On-Site Opera. His large work, An African American Requiem, will premiere in the spring of 2022 in partnership with Resonance Ensemble and the Oregon Symphony.
The book he co-authored, Music in Context: An Examination of Western European Music Through a Sociopolitical Lens, is available on Amazon or directly from the publisher, Kendall Hunt. Damien currently serves as the Artistic Advisor for Resonance Ensemble and Portland Opera. He is the owner of DG Music, Sans Fear Publishing.
D'Walla Simmons-Burke is the Director of Choral & Vocal Studies and founder of three of the five choral ensembles currently existing within the Department of Music at Winston-Salem State University (Winston-Salem State University Singing Divas, Complesso Voce', and the renowned Burke Singers). The fourth choral ensemble is the Grammy-nominated Winston-Salem State University Choir (aka WSSU Singing Rams). Her choirs have performed with local, regional, and world symphony orchestras and are sought-after for their performances of choral masterworks, social justice, spirituals, and world music. These ensembles have also performed on national stages such as Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Maestra Simmons-Burke has also performed internationally with her choral ensembles and as a guest conductor/lecturer (Prague, Czech Republic; Nassau, Bahamas; Accra, Cape Coast, & Kumasi, Ghana - West Africa; and Pilanesberg, Cape Town, and Johannesburg, South Africa). D'Walla served as one of the national conductors for the 105 Voices of History Concert Choir during their performances at The Kennedy Center and in Nassau, Bahamas. She also led within the 105 Voices of History Concert Choir as the national choral coordinator and one of three national conductors who lead them in their inaugural performance at the Grand Ole Opry.
Under Simmons-Burke's baton, her choral ensembles have performed for and/or with regional, national, and international dignitaries. She has been the recipient of several teaching, community service, and performance awards for her national achievements in music and research. She is listed in Outstanding Young Women of America and holds memberships in several professional organizations such as the Music Educators National Conference, American Choral Directors Association, Chorus America, National Association for the Study & Performance of African-American Music, National Association of Negro Musicians, Intercollegiate Music Association, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, The Moles, and The Links. Simmons-Burke serves as the musical consultant for the Stacey V. Gibbs & Just Music Vocal Ensemble. She has made numerous guest appearances as a conductor and adjudicator for high and middle school All-State/All-County festivals and collegiate choral festivals/workshops. She is often sought-after as a choral music clinician and lecturer.
Adolphus Hailstork received his doctorate in composition from Michigan State University, where he was a student of H. Owen Reed. He had previously studied at the Manhattan School of Music under Vittorio Giannini and David Diamond, at the American Institute at Fontainebleu with Nadia Boulanger, and at Howard University with Mark Fax.
Dr. Hailstork has written numerous works for chorus, solo voice, piano, organ, various chamber ensembles, band, orchestra, and opera. Significant performances by major orchestras (Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York) have been led by leading conductors such as James de Priest, Paul Freeman, Daniel Barenboim, Kurt Masur, Lorin Maazel, and Jo Ann Falletta. This March, Thomas Wilkins conducted his An American Port of Call with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
The composer's second symphony (commissioned by the Detroit Symphony) and second opera, Joshua's Boots (commissioned by the Opera Theater of St. Louis and the Kansas City Lyric Opera), were both premiered in 1999. Hailstork's second and third symphonies were recorded by the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra (David Lockington) and were released by Naxos. Another Naxos recording, An American Port of Call (Virginia Symphony Orchestra) was released in the spring of 2012.
Hailstork's newest works include The World Called (based on Rita Dove's poem Testimonial), a work for soprano, chorus, and orchestra commissioned by the Oratorio Society of Virginia (premiered in May 2018), and Still Holding On (February 2019), an orchestral work commissioned and premiered by the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He is currently working on his fourth symphony and A Knee On a Neck (a tribute to George Floyd), for chorus and orchestra. Dr. Hailstork resides in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and is Professor of Music and Eminent Scholar at Old Dominion University in Norfolk.
STANLEY J. THURSTON
Stanley J. Thurston is a conductor and composer residing in the Washington, D.C., area. He has appeared as guest conductor with many symphony orchestras in the region and country, including the National Symphony Orchestra. Choruses under his direction have performed with the National Symphony Orchestra, Alexandria Symphony Orchestra, Washington Symphony Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and Joffrey Balley, among others. Mr. Thurston is well-known as a pianist, composer, and arranger. His orchestral arrangements have been performed by the symphony orchestras of Baltimore, New Jersey, and the National Symphony Orchestra.
He recently served as panelist for the D.C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities, guest conductor with the Choral Arts Society of Washington's Martin Luther King, Jr., Tribute Concert, and guest conductor with the Cathedral Choral Society. As Artistic Director for Washington Performing Arts Society's Men, Women, & Children of the Gospel Choirs, he has appeared with such well-known artists as Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, Denyce Graves, Kathleen Battle, Canadian Brass, Sweet Honey in the Rock, and jazz legends Ramsey Lewis and Wynton Marsalis, as well as on NBC's Today Show.
Mr. Thurston was commissioned by the 2009 Presidential Inaugural Committee to compose and conduct a special musical tribute for President Obama's National Prayer Service, sung by the WPAS Choir at the Washington National Cathedral. He is the founding Music Director of The Heritage Signature Chorale. A graduate of the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen, he made his European opera conducting debut in Verdi's La Traviata with Romania Opera Constanta, returning to conduct Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor. Previous positions have included Music Director of the National Symphony Orchestra's NSO In Your Neighborhood concert series, guest conductor for the National Endowment for the Arts' America Sings, choirmaster and guest clinician conductor for the D.C. Commission on the Arts' D.C. Choral Masterpieces workshop. He currently serves as Director of Music at Foundry United Methodist Church, Washington, D.C.