NextNotes High School Composition Awards is a national program designed to nurture the next generation of creative voices in music composition – in any genre! Students in grades 9-12 are invited to apply with a single composition in any genre or style. Applications are submitted electronically through an on-line process. *NOW ACCEPTING SUBMISSIONS FOR THE 5TH ANNIVERSARY SEASON*

Each year, six NextNotes Composers receive: mentorship from professional composers and musicians over a two-day workshop, flights to/from the workshop, room/board during the workshop, a public concert of the winning works, a scholarship of $1,000 to be used for formal composition studies, a recording of the culminating concert and also be eligible to receive up to $500 in “bring it home” funds to share their accomplishment with their hometown. Thanks to a partnership with MakeMusic Inc., the six NextNotes winners will also receive free Finale software and be eligible to nominate one teacher to receive the NextNotes Music Teacher Award. Recipients of the NextNotes Music Teacher Award will each receive a free one-year subscription to SmartMusic.

Up to thirty applicants will be chosen as an Honorable Mention and will receive written feedback on their composition from the panel of judges.

All entrants who submit all required materials and are deemed eligible applicants will receive a free one-year American Composers Forum student membership and a free one-year subscription to Noteflight Premium.

2018 Winners

Isaac Applebaum (MD)
Elise Arancio (GA)
Benjamin Ballmer (IL)
Michael Gaspari (NJ)
Nimah Nayel (MD)
Esther Ollivier (CA)
Isaac Santos (FL)
Photo Highlights




Learn more about the 2018 winners here and get to know the teachers that shaped who they are here. 





Program Partners

PDF: 2019 NextNotes Guidelines
Download a printable 11×17 poster for your classroom or locker here.

The American Composers Forum (ACF) is pleased to announce the fifth anniversary season of the American Composers Forum NextNotes® High School Composition Awards. Whether you write for voices, electronics or instruments, are a singer/songwriter or improviser, hip-hop artist or sound designer… if you create original, creative music and are in high school, we want you to apply!



  • Entries must be submitted electronically via SlideRoom by 11:59pm CST, Monday, January 7, 2019.
  • Entries will be judged by a panel of professional composers with diverse musical backgrounds.
  • Finalists will be notified of their status by April 15, 2019, at which time they will be sent and required to submit the following documents:
    • NextNotes Release for Use of Photo, Audio and Video
    • NextNotes Code of Conduct
    • NextNotes Emergency Contact/Medical Information
    • NextNotes Release from Liability

If ACF staff is unable to reach a Finalist within 24 hours or the abovementioned documents are not received by ACF staff within 48 hours of notification, the entrant will be disqualified and an alternate awardee will be selected.

  • The names of the NextNotes Composers will be announced by the end of the day on April 22, 2019.
  • Each NextNotes Composer will have the opportunity to work with a composer mentor (over the phone or internet) to refine their piece in May 2019.
  • The six NextNotes Composers will be flown to Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota for a two-day workshop that will take place on Friday and Saturday, June 21-22, 2019 (with flights on June 20 and 23).
  • The awards ceremony and culminating concert will take place on the evening of June 22, 2019. NOTE: Participation in the workshop/concert is mandatory for the six NextNotes



In addition to the mentorship, workshop and concert, each NextNotes Composer will:

  • Receive a scholarship of $1,000 to be used for formal composition studies to be applied towards one formal composition study program such as a summer composition program or a semester of individual instruction. These funds will be made payable directly to the educator or institution and must be used within 18 months of notification of the award.
  • Receive an archival recording of the culminating concert.
  • Receive Finale® notation software for continued writing.
  • Be eligible to nominate an influential music educator to receive a one-year SmartMusic Educator Subscription for classroom use.
  • Be eligible to receive up to $500 in “bring it home” funds to share their accomplishment with their hometown. These funds may be used to present the winning composition (i.e. hire musicians or sound technicians for a public concert), duplicate CDs of awardees music, etc. NextNotes Composers may request funds, use of which must be approved by ACF. Funds will not be made payable directly to NextNotes Composers, but rather to the performers, venues, sound technicians, CD duplication company, etc., who are hired to present the music of the NextNotes “Bring it home” funds must be used within 12 months of notification of the award.

Up to 30 of the entrants will be selected as “Honorable Mention” and will receive written feedback from the judges.

All entrants who submit all required materials and are deemed eligible applicants will receive a free one-year American Composers Forum student membership and a free one-year subscription to Noteflight Premium.

The American Composers Forum encourages applicants from the full range of musical styles, and is committed to supporting a diverse pool of artists whose work demonstrates strong artistic merit. Accordingly, awards for our programs will represent, as far as possible, artists and projects that are diverse in genre, gender, race, ethnicity and geography.



Who May Enter:

  • Applicants who are at least 14 years old OR enrolled in 9th grade, and not older than 18 years old OR in 12th grade (or home-school grade equivalents) by September 30, 2018, are eligible. (A 14-year-old 8th grader, a 13-year-old 9th grader, a 17-year-old college student, and a 19-year-old 12th grader are all eligible to apply.)
  • Applicants must be living in the 50 United States at the time of the workshop and concert.
  • Applicants must be available to attend events in Minneapolis-St. Paul on June 21-22, 2019. Awardee travel expenses to and from, and food/accommodations in Minneapolis-St. Paul will be covered by ACF, as will the costs of the workshop, concert, mentors and supervisory counselors.
  • Applicants do not have to be formally studying composition and/or music to be eligible.
  • 2018 NextNotes Winners are not eligible to apply.
  • Employees and board members of the American Composers Forum, and the immediate families thereof, may not apply to this program.
  • You do not have to be a member of the American Composers Forum to apply.

Entry Details:

  • Vocal, instrumental, electronic or any combination thereof will be considered. Works must be written for 0-8 performers and no more than 10 minutes in length. Acceptable entries may include (but are not limited to) works for: voice and guitar, recorded electronics, string quartet, solo piano, brass quintet, live electronic performance, instrumental ensemble with electronic backing track, percussion ensemble, etc.
  • Applications must be submitted electronically via the following link:
  • Each applicant may submit only one composition for consideration in the program. If more than one composition is submitted, only the first entry will be considered.
  • Compositions co-written by two people will be considered if both composers are eligible entrants. If the composition is co-written by two composers, their composition must be the sole creation of their collaboration and the two composers will be treated as a single applicant (e.g., if John Smith and Jane Doe write a piece together, they together are considered a single applicant, and neither may apply with any other entry.)
  • Compositions written by more than two individuals, groups, etc., are not eligible.
  • If the composer applicant partnered with a lyricist to write the piece, but wrote the music on his/her own, only the person who wrote the music is eligible to apply.
  • Compositions must be original and the sole creation of the applicant or pair of applicants. Entries must not be plagiarized or violate copyright laws.
  • If the entry includes a produced backing track of beats or other music, it must be the original creation of the applicant or pair of applicants.
  • If text is utilized, proof of public domain or author’s written permission for use of text is required. (Note: Most modern translations of the Bible are protected by copyright.)
  • There is no fee to apply.

Entry Materials:

In addition to the written information requested online, each applicant will be asked to submit:

  • An audio recording (up to 30 MB) or video (up to 60 MB) of entry, no more than 10 minutes in duration.  Recording does not have to be professional quality, MIDI realizations are accepted, but they must be converted to another audio format. Entries will not be judged on the quality of the recording. Acceptable audio formats are: .mp3, .wma, .ogg, .flac
  • OPTIONAL: If applicable, a PDF (up to 10 MB) score of entry.  Scores may be graphic notation (i.e., representation of music through the use of visual symbols) or standard notation.  Handwritten scores are accepted, provided they have been scanned and submitted in PDF form.
  • If applicable, proof of public domain or author’s/publishers written permission for use of text.

Application Deadline, Award, and General Information:

Applications must be submitted electronically on or before 11:59pm CST, January 7, 2019. Late applications will not be considered.

  • All performance, copyright, and royalty rights of the winning pieces remain with the composers.
  • The decision of the NextNotes jury will be final.
  • The finalists will be announced by April 22, 2019 and posted on the American Composers Forum website.
  • Scholarship monies must be utilized for one educational composition program within 18 months of the notification of receipt of the award. If not utilized within 18 months, award monies will be forfeited. These funds will be made payable directly to the selected educator or institution. In the case of individual instruction, ACF reserves the right to require proof that the educator selected is a qualified instructor and may, in its discretion, determine if that individual instructor may or may not receive payment of NextNotes scholarship funds.
  • “Bring it home” funds must be utilized for one event/project within twelve months of the notification of the award.
  • No form of cheating or, in the case of NextNotes Composers, violation of the Code of Conduct, will be tolerated. Any persons found cheating or otherwise violating the rules, as determined in the sole discretion of ACF, will be immediately disqualified from the program. NextNotes Composers who are found to have violated the Code of Conduct during their time in Minneapolis/St. Paul will immediately be sent home and any expenses incurred by doing so will be the responsibility of the NextNotes Composer or their parent/guardian.
  • For additional information about NextNotes, read the NextNotes FAQ at ACF reserves the right to modify or update the Guidelines and FAQ at any time and will have no obligation to announce or publicize such additions or clarifications.

PDF: 2019 Program Guidelines

Can you provide a quick overview of NextNotes®?

NextNotes® is music composition award program for high school students.

Applications are accepted via an online submission process and judged by professional composers.

Six entrants will be selected to receive the top prize, up to thirty applicants will be chosen as an Honorable Mention, and all eligible applicants will receive a free one-year student membership to the American Composers Forum and a free one-year subscription to Noteflight Premium.

For full details and application information, Guidelines can be found at

Who is eligible to enter?

Anyone in 9th-12th grade (aged 14-18) who writes music of any style is eligible.

What if I wrote my composition with a partner?

Two composers may submit a piece together, but groups larger than 2 are not eligible to apply. In the case of a pair submitting together, both entrants must meet eligibility requirements.

What if I wrote the music and a partner wrote the words?

If your partner wrote the words and did not help write the music, only you (the composer) is eligible to apply. If your partner wrote the words and also helped craft how the singer or rapper should perform those words, then you are both eligible to apply, as long as you both meet all other eligibility requirements.

May I apply more than once per application round?

No. Each applicant may only apply one time with only one composition. If you wrote your piece with a partner, you and your partner may NOT apply again as individuals.

What if my composition is still “in process?”

Only completed compositions are eligible for consideration. Consider submitting an alternative completed composition.

What type of music is eligible?

All styles of music are eligible. Your submission may be for any voices, instruments and/or electronics. The total number of performers may not exceed eight.

What about rap and hip-hop?

All styles of music are eligible. If you’re a rapper, the beats or music you rap over must be written by you or written by a partner with whom you are applying. If you are using beats or a track that someone else wrote, your piece is not eligible for NextNotes.

What about electronic music?

All styles of music are eligible. There is no limit to how many layers your electronic composition can have, but remember, the piece must be able to be controlled by a maximum of eight performers.

What if I improvise?

Improvisation is welcome! If you wrote a piece that others are asked to improvise on, please provide the instructions they were given or a score to show your compositional input on the piece.

Can you explain copyright and the public domain?

Copyright is very complex. If you did not write a text or a piece of music (even just a short excerpt), you need to make sure it is legal for you to use it. That means you need to have permission from the author, composer or publisher to use the work. Some things are so old that they are in the “public domain” and don’t have copyright restrictions, but some old texts are still under copyright because they’ve been translated more recently – like some translations of the bible. Here’s a resource with some more information about copyright law:


It’s important that if you are thinking about using a text, you do some research and find out if it is legal for you to use it! If it’s in a book, look up the publisher and contact them to get permission. If you found the text online, it may take some research.

How do I submit an entry?

Applications must be submitted electronically via the following link:

Entries submitted by mail or means other than the official electronic process will not be eligible for consideration.

What do I need to submit?

In addition to filling out the submission form online, you are required to submit a recording of your piece. It can be an audio (up to 30 MB) or video (up to 60 MB) recording – whichever you wish. If you also want to submit a score, you may do so via PDF (up to 10 MB). Acceptable audio formats are: .mp3, .wma, .ogg, .flac

Do I need to have a professional recording prepared for my submission?

Your recording doesn’t have to be high-tech or professional. You can use a smart phone to record the performance or send a MIDI realization that has been converted to an acceptable audio format (see above). Your composition will not be judged on the quality of the recording itself.

How will my submission be judged?

A panel of professional composers with diverse musical backgrounds will review the submissions.

Compositions will be evaluated according to four broad criteria: Originality (25%), Creative Potential (25%), Overall Musical Effect (25%), and Compositional Technique (25%).

Is there a fee to apply for NextNotes?

No. It is free to apply.

What do I win?

The six NextNotes Composers will receive: mentorship from professional composers and musicians over a two-day workshop, flights to/from the workshop, room/board during the workshop, a public concert of the winning works, a scholarship of $1,000 to be used for formal composition studies, a recording of the culminating concert, Finale® music notation software, be eligible to nominate a music educator to receive a one-year SmartMusic Educator Subscription, and be eligible to receive up to $500 in “bring it home” funds to share their accomplishment with their hometown.

Up to thirty applicants will be chosen as an Honorable Mention and will receive written feedback on their composition from the panel of judges.

All entrants who submit all required materials and are deemed eligible applicants will receive a free one-year American Composers Forum student membership and a free one-year subscription to Noteflight Premium.

Is the award split if my co-composer and I are selected as winners?

Yes. You and your co-composer will split the scholarship funds ($500 each) and the Bring-it-Home funds ($250 each). You will both get to travel to Minneapolis-St. Paul and participate in all NextNotes activities.

What are the benefits of an ACF membership?

Who are the Composer mentors?

The composer mentors are professionals who are chosen for their high skill level as composers and strength as educators. The 2018 NextNotes Mentors have not yet been selected. The 2018 NextNotes Mentors were: Carol Barnett, Joshua Clausen, and Joseph Horton.

If I win, who will perform my composition?

If you are chosen as one of the six NextNotes Composers, we will ask you what your vision is for your piece – our goal is to help that vision come to life at the final concert. Did you write it for other musicians to play? If so, we’ll hire professionals to perform your piece. Did you write it to perform it yourself? If so, you will!

What will happen during the June workshop?

The workshop days will be filled with mentorship, music, and fifth anniversary special events! The tentative schedule is below:


Thursday, June 20, 2019

Travel to Minneapolis-St. Paul

4:00 – 6:00 PM             Private lessons with mentors

7:00 PM                       Orientation and dinner


Friday, June 21, 2019 – Day I

8:00 AM:                      Breakfast and introduction to speaking about work

10:00 AM-1:00 PM:       Rehearsal and individual feedback sessions with mentors

12:45 -2:00 PM:            Lunch and speaking about your work, cont.

2:00 – 6:00 PM:             Rehearsal, cont.

5:00 – 6:45 PM              Rest/time off

7:00 – 10:00 PM           Dinner/attend arts event TBD


Saturday, June 22, 2019 – Day 2

7:30 AM:                      Breakfast

8:30 -10:30 AM:            What composers do and how they do it

10:30 -11:30 AM:          Lunch & What’s next for you?

12:00 – 3:30 PM:           Dress rehearsal/sound check

3:30 -5:00 PM               Rest/time off

5:15 -7:00 PM               Dinner

7:30 PM                       Concert


Sunday, June 23, 2019

8:00 AM:                      Breakfast and debrief with mentors

Travel home

Where will the Workshop and Concert take place? Where will I stay if I win?

Locations for 2019 have not yet been finalized. The 2018 workshop was held at the University of Minnesota School of Music with the performance at The Lab Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The NextNotes composers were also housed on the University of Minnesota for the duration of the June 2018 workshop period.


What is the purpose of NextNotes?

The purpose of NextNotes is to: encourage and recognize the creativity of high school composers (students grades 9-12); award outstanding talent with mentorship and a performance of their work by professional musicians and scholarship funds; bring fresh relevance and ownership to the word composer; and raise awareness of the American Composers Forum.

Still have questions?

If you’ve read the Guidelines and the FAQ (found at and still have questions, you may contact Laura Krider at the American Composers Forum to learn more. (651) 251-2840 or



Stephanie Chow (IL)
Alistair Coleman (MD)
Nathaniel Heyder Headshot
Nathaniel Heyder (VA)
Natsumi Osborn (TX)
Sammy Sussman (NY)
Evan Tiapula (CA)


Michael Cabrera
Ángel Jochi (Josh) Hernandez-Camen (PA)
Lucy McKnight
Molly Monahan (MI)
J.P. Redmond (NY)
Karalyn Schubring (AZ)



Aiyana Braun (PA)
Evan Caplinger (CA)
Quinn Mason (TX)
April Lasken (IL)
Katya Richardson (CA)
Ian Underhill-Cady (MN)


Anderson Alden (private instructor), teacher of Lucy McKnight

“Anderson helps me work through my ideas and understand different ways to expand and develop them. He exposes me to great music, using other compositions as examples for notation, musical development, and sounds. When we discuss the music I’m working on, his advice is objective and freeing yet also pushes me to be clear and precise in my thoughts and intentions. Most importantly, he reminds me that I am not alone in my composer craziness.” -Lucy (2016)


Luke Carlson (private instructor), teacher of Ángel Jochi (Josh) Hernandez-Camen

“Dr. Luke Carlson gives really solid ideas and advice which I don’t always follow but I do realize how just thinking about what he says has enabled me to write more powerful music than I would have otherwise. I am truly thankful that he has been my teacher for the past three years.” -Josh (2016)




Sue Colgan-Borror (Orchestra Director at the Fox Lane High School), teacher of Sammy Sussman

“Mrs. Borror has been instrumental to my growth as a composer. About two months into my freshman year I shared with her my first-ever composition and she was willing to rehearse it with my school’s advanced orchestra and then present it on our winter concert. She encouraged me to arrange a couple of pieces for the orchestra every year. As a long time member of the New York City Ballet Orchestra, she recommended pieces and recordings that she had performed based on what I was currently composing or currently interested in. Having grown up without any exposure to classical music, this became my basis of my exposure to classical music. She even invited me to conduct the freshman orchestra (and run the rehearsals) because she sensed my developing interest in conducting and my impatience at having to wait to conduct until I entered college.” -Sammy (2017)

Derek David (Instructor at New England Conservatory of Music), teacher of Evan Tiapula

“Dr. David has and continues to provide me with the tools required to bring honest music to fruition and for that I am extremely grateful. He is a good friend and guides my thinking and actions with ease and “tough-love.” He is a selfless and thoughtful human being and an incomparable musician. Thank you, Derek!” -Evan (2017)




Andrew Eason-McGill (Orchestra Director at Auburndale Senior High School), teacher of Michael Cabrera

“Mr. Eason helped me grow as a composer by allowing me to arrange the Beatle’s “Fool on the Hill” for the school’s orchestra concert, and often looked over pieces I composed for string intsruments.” -Michael (2016)

Carrie Eyler, (Choir Director, Richard Montgomery High School), teacher of Nimah Nayel

Gary Geiger (Artistic Director, Evanston Children’s Choir), teacher of Benjamin Ballmer

“I’ve been taking piano lessons with Gary Geiger since 5th grade, and he is without a doubt one of the kindest and most supportive artistic mentors someone could ask for. Throughout the years, his careful attention to my playing and meticulous and organized teaching methods helped perfect my technique and smooth out any struggles I had in playing. Outside of the classical piano I was being taught, I would bring in compositions I was working on and he would give me advice and help me refine the notation to be more easily playable. He’s provided me with opportunities in the world at large as well, letting me work with his choir and others as a guest composing workshop leader. But most of all, his lessons and studio have felt like a second home for me, always there when I need it.” -Benjamin (2018)


Daniel Knaggs (Director of Music at St. Martha Catholic Church, teacher of Natsumi Osborn

“Mr. Knaggs is one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever known. His music is not only well-crafted but strongly communicates with his audiences in a way that I strive to achieve one day. Under him, my writing has grown stronger- I’ve learned to write with so much more intention and clarity. He has given me invaluable guidance in everything I do! However, his influence goes beyond the score. I could always go to Mr. Knaggs to talk about quwstions, doubts, intrigues about music… just about anything. It is all of this that makes him such an incredible mentor! Music has turned into something so meaningful to me, and I can never thank him enough for everything he’s done to help me get where I am now. He is nothing short of admirable. I am grateful to have the opportunity to study with him!” -Natsumi (2017)

Thomas Liddle (Choral Director at Takoma Park Middle School), teacher of Alistair Coleman

“Mr. Liddle was my middle school chorus teacher, who encouraged me in 6th grade to write a piece for my middle school’s choir. He provided me the tools and the support to take a risk and compose a short piece for mixed choir and piano. To write something new and have it performed by the choir for our parents and community was an experience that helped ignite my passion for composing.” -Alistair (2017)



Kimberly McCord (Music Education professor at Illinois State University), teacher of Stephanie Chow

“Since meeting her in fourth grade, Dr. Kim McCord has always been one of my greatest supporters in music. From nurturing my interest in jazz to opening up opportunities to share my music with others (without her effusive encouragement, I was too timid to submit my first pieces anywhere let along Downbeat or ACF), she has been vital to my growth as a musician and I certainly would not be here without her. Dr. McCord’s passion for granting everyone the benefit of music shines through in her many projects from forming music ensembles for people with disabilities to leading her self-titled “Granny band” of middle-aged-and-older music novices! Her kind spirit and inclusive philosophy to music inspired me to try and become not only a more honest musician, but a person who can inspire similar kindness in others.” -Stephanie (2017)”

Dr. Richard Prior, (Conductor, Emory Youth Symphony Orchestra), teacher of Elise Arancio

“Over the six years I have spent with Dr. Prior as his private composition student and the three years as a member of the youth orchestra that he conducts, he has been instrumental in my growth as a composer and musician. His passion for music is infectious, and his dedication and benevolence has made him a role model for not only myself but countless others. His devotion to education manifests itself in his tireless efforts to bring out the best in each and every student and provide them with the skills they need to reach their full potential. From thoughtful advice and constructive criticism to good-natured jokes and encouragement, he has been an incredible mentor for me from the very beginning, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without his guidance and support. I am truly blessed to have had someone like him in my life to help me realize and pursue my passion for creating music.” -Elise (2018)


Jonathan (Daniel) Puckett, (Jazz Band Director, Eastern Middle School), teacher of Isaac Applebaum

“When I joined Eastern Middle School’s Jazz Band as a 7th-grader, I had no idea what jazz was and had no way of knowing that this decision would change my life. Meeting every Monday before school, Jazz Band brought me into contact with Mr. Jonathan Puckett, the school Band Director and one of the most outstanding teachers I’ve ever met. Mr. Puckett sparked my love of jazz and its aural tradition by playing and talking about his favorite records. Some, like Sonny Rollins’ “Saxophone Colossus”, are still among the ones I love the most. He taught me to play jazz piano by meeting me before rehearsals and writing out voicings for each chord, then explaining how jazz standards’ harmonic and melodic ideas worked together with the help of his tenor saxophone. He also encouraged me to write my first jazz compositions, helped me refine my work, and even had the band perform and record several of my pieces. Most importantly, Mr. Puckett always took the time to show his students he cared about them and believed they could succeed, helping us to eventually achieve the potential he saw in us before we recognized it ourselves. Without his inspiration, commitment, talent for education, and genuine humanity, I would never have become the musician, composer, or person I am today.” -Isaac (2018)

Randall Reid, (Band Director, South Broward High School), teacher of Isaac Santos

“Mr. Randall Reid, band director at South Broward High School, has played a vital role in my progression as a musician and composer. He has been there to guide me through my application process of colleges and to the Next Note High School Awards. I really appreciate the work he’s done along with the assistant band director Mr. Esquilin has left a lasting impact in my life.” -Isaac (2018)



Gary Shields, teacher of Esther Ollivier

“Gary Shields is the most meaningful and dedicated teacher a student could ever hope to have. He has been so incredibly helpful from the start, many years ago, when he offered to give me composition lessons after I showed interest. And since then, he’s been passionately working with me through the processes of each piece I write. Gary has taught me to always work hard to take each piece to a whole new level and to give strong intent and meaning to my works. He’s shown me how to “steal” effectively from some of my favorite composers and apply what I’ve learned to my own pieces. Gary’s love for music has definitely rubbed off onto me and I cannot thank him enough for everything he has done for me.” -Esther (2018)


Matt Van Brink (Composition Faculty at Concordia Conservatory), teacher of J.P. Redmond

“Dr. Matt Van Brink is an outstanding teacher, and he has molded me as a composer since the beginning when I was 10. Also, Matt introduced me to the wonderful world of music theory and exposed me to great repertoire of the past and present, which has profoundly impacted my development. He has a clever wit, and he knows both to to challenge and encourage me at the same time. I am very grateful to Matt for being an exceptional, understanding, challenging, and fun teacher.” -J.P. (2016)


Cynthia Van Maanen (Instructor of Music Composition and Music Theory at Interlochen Arts Academy), teacher of Molly Monahan

“Dr. Van Maanen taught me not only how to compose, but also how to be a composer. If I hadn’t studied with Dr. Van Maanen (or DVM, as I call her), I wouldn’t know the repertoire I know, or understand development like I do now, or know how to write an email to a professor, or how to conduct a rehearsal, or how to act professionally during interviews. Also, DVM has gone the extra mile to be there for me as a person. She’s always been there for me, answering my late night texts of future questioning and taking me off campus on particularly bad days (boarding school life can be tough sometimes) and not only does she do all of this for me, but also for the other thirteen composition majors in my studio. She has helped me and countless others more and I can ever know, and there’s nobody I can think of that would be more fit for this award.” -Molly (2016)

Cynthia Van Maanen (Instructor of Music Composition and Music Theory at Interlochen Arts Academy), teacher of Nathaniel Heyder

“I have had the privilege of working with her for the past 3 years and I owe much of my success as a composer to the insight she has shared with me over this time period. While studying with her, I have learned to trust her judgement and the advice she gives me and the result is always a favorable outcome, Dr. Van Maanen has a way of teaching that I feel is essential for all young composers to be exposed to. She remains insistent on my understanding of certain fundamentals of composition while at the same time offers a lot of freedom when it comes to the projects, pieces and styles that I choose to explore. During my time as her student, I have been exposed to many opportunities and experiences in the field of composition thanks to her teaching and guidance.” -Nathaniel (2017)


Brian Williams, (Choral Director, Robbinsville High School), teacher of Michael Gaspari

“The teacher I have chosen to be honored with the NextNotes teacher award is Mr. Brian Williams, Choral Director of Robbinsville High School in NJ. Mr. Williams and I have had a relationship that began during his first year of teaching music when he became the choral director for Pond Road Middle school in our town. I was in 7th grade at the time. I have been involved with Mr. Williams since then as an accompanist to the choir, choir member, and participant in various productions. Our relationship continued in my freshman year of high school, when Mr. Williams, as I like to say, followed me to Robbinsville High School. That year he was appointed the choral director for the high school and became more and more a mentor to me. Our relationship has now spanned six years. Mr. Williams provided me, as young musician, opportunity after opportunity to do things that could utilize my skills as an artist and performer. As a teacher he saw my dedication to composing and performing music. He made it possible for me to use my abilities at my high school and helped me to form a confidence and identity there that formed the person I am today. I will always remember and cherish Mr. Williams guidance both academically, and socially, through those six formative years.” -Michael (2018)


Tomoko Yonemaru (Instructor at East Valley Yamaha Music School), teacher of Karalyn Schubring

“Tomoko Tonemaru was my composition teacher from when I was nine years old until I was fifteen. Tomoka is an incredible pianist, improvisor, and well-rounded musician, and she introduced me to several styles of music I was unfamiliar with, opening up a whole new world of musical possibilities for me. I give her the credit for establishing a strong compositional backbone in me, which has allowed me to explore several other genres of music. I am forever indebted to her for all of the long hours she spent with me, patiently helping and guiding me to become the music that I am today.” -Karalyn (2016)



  • Dr. Daniel Deutsch – Composer, Chair of NAfME’s Council for Music Composition; Composition/Improvisation Chair of New York State School Music Association
  • Dr. Michele Kaschub – Professor of Music and Coordinator of Music Teacher Education & Graduate Studies, University of Southern Maine; Past President, Maine Music Educators Association.
  • Jeffrey S. Kimpton – President, Interlochen Center for the Arts
  • Dr. Libby Larsen – Composer and composition teacher
  • Dr. Tom Lopez – Director of Contemporary Music Division, Associate Professor of Computer Music and Digital Arts, Chair of the Technology in Music and Related Arts, Oberlin; Director, Computer Music Program, The Walden School Young Musicians Program
  • Sky Macklay – Composer and composition teacher, The Walden School Young Musicians Program and the Brooklyn College Preparatory Center for the Performing Arts
  • Dr. David Myers – Professor and Director, University of Minnesota School of Music
  • Dr. Lewis Nielson – Director, Oberlin High School Composition Workshop; Professor of Composition, Composition Department Chair, Oberlin
  • Dr. Daniel Ott – Composer, Composition Program Director, New York Summer Music Festival; Assistant Professor of Music Theory and Composition, Fordham University; Faculty, Juilliard School
  • Dr. Janice Smith – Associate Professor of Music Education, Aaron Copland School of Music, Queens College C.U.N.Y.
  • Dr. Janika Vandervelde – Composer and composition teacher, Perpich Center for Arts Education; Hamline University

Knight Foundation is the founding sponsor of the NextNotes® High School Composition Awards. Additional funding provided by The Augustine Foundation, the Rosemary and David Good Family Foundation, the Dr. Fred Noah Gordon Charitable Fund of The Minneapolis Foundation and by partnership with MakeMusic, Inc., makers of Finale and SmartMusic software.