The  American Composers Forum is seeking to expand our reach by identifying and supporting artists who typically operate outside our known circles. The Minnesota Emerging Composer Awards (MECA) were created with the following goals in mind:

  • To engage Minnesota-based makers of original music who otherwise might not apply to ACF programs.
  • To provide these artists with funds to support a project that promises to have a significant boost to their career.
  • To send a message to a broader section of local music creators that ACF is interested in their work, and to see how ACF might support their needs as artists.
  • To encourage risk-taking and support the creation of quality new music.

Current Participants

Jen Bluhm
Jarrelle Barton
Alex Bissen

MECA supports individuals working in a variety of non-commercial genres, including electronic, improvised, jazz, experimental, traditional, and world musics.

The nomination process is simple: go to the weblink provided in the Nominate Here tab above and point us to a variety of work samples and background information on the artist, along with your endorsement. We will take it from there.

Nominations Open From 7/30/18 – 9/16/18

The nomination process will be open to the public Monday, July 30, 2018 – Sunday, September 16, 2018 11:59 PM (Central).

Whom to Nominate/Nominee Eligibility

  • You may nominate anyone with whom you have personal experience, even if they are friends, family members, coworkers, or simply artists you admire.
  • You may repeat the process and nominate more than one artist.
  • Self-nominations are not accepted.
  • No formal musical training is required.
  • Open to emerging artists who are just starting out in their career, up-and-coming, under-recognized, with no national reputation, few professional accolades, and no more than a handful of paid commissions.
  • Arrangers, Lyricists, and Producers are ineligible.
  • Bands and groups are ineligible unless all works are collabortively created.
  • Artists may create collaboratively but the work sample descriptions must make clear their individual role in the creative process
  • Nominees must reside in Minnesota
  •  Currently-enrolled students may not be nominated.
  • Previous MECA winners may not be nominated again. See list of previous MECA winners below.
  • ACF membership of the nominator and nominee is not required for nomination.
  • Staff and board of the American Composers Forum and immediate family members are not eligible to nominate nor can they be nominated.
  • Staff and board of The Jerome Foundation, as well as immediate family members of foundation arts program staff are not eligible to nominate nor can they be nominated.
  • Nominees who have applied for ACF program support in the past (as determined by ACF staff) are ineligible.


The identity of the nominators will be kept confidential to the judging panel. We prefer you do not let your nominee know that you are nominating them.

Selection Criteria

  • Quality of musical materials, showing singular artistic voice and vision.
  • Nominated artist that take risks in their music making process.
  • Significance of the award to the artist’s career.
  • Potential for artistic growth.
  • A record of seeking opportunitites to advance their artistic career, which could lead the candidate to apply/participate in other ACF programs.
  • The final pool will reflect a range of artists and projects, diverse in genre, gender, race, ethnicity, and geography.

Selection Process

ACF staff reviews all applications for eligibility and completeness. After the initial nominations, a diverse panel of artists familiar with a range of contemporary music will have access to web links submitted. Panelists convene in St. Paul to rank the nominated candidates based on the program criteria, identifying potential winners and runner-up candidates.

ACF will then contact the potential winners and invite them to submit a project idea. In a project plan form we will ask, “If you were given $3000, what project would you be able to do that would advance your career to the next level?” (The project must include the creation of new, original music, but all other aspects of how they would like to advance their career are up to the candidate.) The simple, one-page project plan will then be evaluated by the ACF staff, and if the proposal is in line with the goals of the MECA program, the nominee will receive $3,000 to implement their project within the following year. If a potential winner’s project ideas are not in line with the goals of the MECA program and can’t be improved with discussion, ACF will invite a runner-up candidate to submit a proposal.

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.

Panelists remain anonymous until after the results are announced in late November 2018.

2017 MECA Recipients

Queen Drea
Queen Drea
Holly Hansen
Holly Hansen
Ian Vaver
Ian Vaver

2016 MECA Recipients

Lynn O'Brien
Lynn O’Brien
Jay Afrisando
Jay Afrisando
Zacc Harris Press Photo By Benny Moreno
Zacc Harris

2015 MECA Recipients

2014 MECA Recipients

2013 MECA Recipients

2012 MECA Recipients

2011 MECA Recipients

2010 MECA Recipients

2009 MECA Recipients

  • James P. Hungelmann
  • Kevin Washington
  • Yilma Woldemedhen