NATS Art Song Composition Award

Advancing quality vocal literature by promoting new works for singers

NATS offers a cash award, plus a performance of the winning composition at the next scheduled NATS National Conference, to the composer of the winning song cycle, group of songs, or extended single song. This annual competition is open to any composer whose submitted work meets the prescribed requirements, and who pays the competition entry fee.

“The purpose of the Art Song Composition Award [formerly the Vocal Composition Award] program… is to stimulate the creation of quality vocal literature through the cooperation of singer and composer.”
—Carol Mikkelsen, NATS Art Song Composition Award Coordinator

NATS is proud to collaborate with the Cincinnati Song Initiative (CSI) to provide exciting opportunities for composers. Following each annual NATS Art Song Composition Award, composers will have their winning selection programmed on a future CSI concert. This provides an invaluable repeat performance for composers’ work and introduces them to enthusiastic Cincinnati audiences. Through this partnership, NATS is expanding the impact of its Art Song Composition Award and helping CSI solidify its role as a national leader for innovating the art song genre.


The work must be:

  1. a song cycle, group of songs, or extended song approximately 20’ in length–13’ to 25’ acceptable. (Genres other than the classical “art song” are discouraged.)
  2. for single voice and single instrument (neither synthesized)
    Solo instruments, other than piano, may be used as the collaborative/accompanying instrument with the voice. The genre and style remains that of the art song.  Compositions must be scored for voice and ONE accompanying instrument, i.e., voice & piano, voice & flute, voice & violin, etc.  (**Compositions may not be scored for three or more instruments, i.e. voice, piano, & violin; voice, guitar, & flute; etc.”)
  3. to a text written in English, for which the composer has secured copyright clearance — only text setting permission necessary. (If the poem is not in the public domain, the composer must be able to show proof that the proper rights from the appropriate person in control of the copyright—either the poet, the poet’s estate or the publisher — have been secured.)
  4. composed within the past two years (after January 1, 2020).

For U.S. publications, the following is a summary of works in the public domain:

  • works published before 1923
  • works with a copyright notice from 1923-1963 but with no copyright renewal
  • works from 1923-1977 without a copyright
  • works published without a copyright notice from 1.1.1978 through 3.1.1989 and without subsequent registration within 5 years.


Cash prizes generously sponsored by American composer Lori Laitman:

1st place – $2,000 plus the composer’s expenses ($500 airfare reimbursement plus hotel) to the 58th NATS National Conference in Knoxville, Tennessee, June 28 – July 2, 2024, where the premiere performance of the winning composition will be given. The winning composition will also be performed on a future concert presented by Cincinnati Song Initiative.
2nd place – $1,000


Each entry is $30 for professionals; $15 for full-time students (payable in U.S. funds to NATS).


The Art Song Composition Award is open to anyone meeting the prescribed requirements.


Applications open June 1, 2022 and end December 1, 2022.


All applications for the Art Song Composition Award are submitted electronically via

IMPORTANT: All Scores, Cover Pages, and any supporting text files must be submitted in PDF format (Microsoft Word or other word processing file formats are not acceptable). All photos/headshots must be submitted in JPEG format. All Audio Files must be submitted in MP3 format (other formats such as .m4a, .wav, etc. are not acceptable.) Failure to follow these guidelines may result in disqualification. If audio files are too large (MAX file size is 12.4 MB), you will need to save them at a smaller bit-rate.

The following are required material for entry:

(1) A Cover Sheet (PDF format) containing the following information:

  • Length (of each individual song and/or the complete cycle)
  • Date of Composition (the actual Date(s) of composition for each piece; Copyright date does not suffice for date of composition)
  • Permission Statement (sighting legal permission to set text; such as “in the Public domain”, “Permissions granted by the entity having Copyright Control – poet/publisher”, or “Lyrics written by composer”)
    (Click Here for an Example)

(2) A PDF copy of the song score(s). Copies must be neat, legible, and clearly edited, and should include:

  • composition title;
  • poet’s name;
  • public domain status or person or agency granting text setting permission; and
  • length and date of composition.

(3) Digital audio file(s) of composition(s).

Recordings may be performance or working quality, but must be with live voice and accompanying instrument (neither synthesized*). Title(s) of composition(s) should be the only labeling on recordings. (Upload time may take a few minutes depending on file size). Maximum file size is 12.4 MB. If your recording is larger than 12.4 MB, please break it up into no more than four movements and upload these as separate files. (If audio files are too large, you will need to save them at a smaller bit-rate.)  The song order, if multiple songs, on the recording(s) and score(s) must be the same, and must be edited so that the recording(s) reveal(s) accurately what is in the score(s).

*COVID-19 – If a recording cannot be safely made due to COVID restrictions, MIDI files may be submitted along with PDFs of the score. (updated 5/27/20)

(4) Headshot of the composer(s); JPEG or PNG format.

If you have any questions, contact Dr. Carol Mikkelsen at [email protected].