J. Samuel Pilafian Composition Contest

North Dakota State University is pleased to announce the formation of a composition contest in memory of the late Sam Pilafian. The winning composer will receive a commission to compose a new work as a memorial to the work of Sam Pilafian in his time as a guest faculty member at NDSU as well as his contributions to the music world.


J. Samuel Pilafian had a remarkable career in music through a variety of areas, including his role as a founding member of the Empire Brass Quintet and later a member of the Boston Brass; as an internationally renowned tuba and brass pedagogue at several universities; and as a composer and arranger for a large library of solo and ensemble works. Along with the Boston Brass in his final days, he forged a relationship with North Dakota State University in developing a new approach to teaching music in the universities that would include all areas of preparation in music towards creating a stronger music student. His untimely death in 2019 robbed the music world of a truly remarkable, diverse musical talent.

As part of its commemoration of the memory of Sam Pilafian, North Dakota State University is establishing a composition contest that focuses on Sam’s first love: the tuba. The competition is structured to develop an original composition in his memory that promotes new, original music for the tuba as well as potentially providing composers a forum for increasing awareness of their work.

Application Procedures/Process

  • Only one application per composer
  • Application Fee is $30, payable via NDSU Marketplace
  • Final Award: $3,000 and a commission to compose a work for tuba and piano as described below.
  • Composers will submit an application (via this link), including:
    • Three anonymous scores (in PDF form) composed within the last seven years (2013-2020), with accompanying recordings (in MP3 form).
      • Of the works submitted, one should be indicative of the composer’s writing for brass instruments.
    • Accompanying recordings (in MP3 form).
      • Recordings of performers are preferred; midi realizations are acceptable with the least “midi-like” sounds as possible.
    • A brief description of your compositional style
  • Any composer except those directly affiliated with North Dakota State University is eligible to enter.