PSU music prof awarded American Prize in Composition

September 12th, 2013 by Tim

Jonathan Santore, professor of music at Plymouth State University, has been awarded The American Prize in Composition 2013 in their  category for professional composers of choral music.

The American Prize is a series of annual national competitions recognizing the performing arts at student and professional levels. Santore, who also serves as chair of the Department of Music, Theatre and Dance, was honored for his submission of selected choral works. According to the judges, Santore’s work “displays impressive skill, expressivity and contrast in every musical selection offered in the portfolio. The listener is drawn in from the start.”

His award application contained recordings of several works, limited to 30 minutes in all. “I had the option of submitting a single work or a submitting a body of work representative of my overall work as a composer,” he said. Given his prolific output in the past several years, Santore says that the most difficult question was, “which 30 minutes shall I send that is most representative of who I am as a composer?”

In his career, Santore has composed dozens of works, performed by ensembles from around the United States and throughout the world.  His work has been recognized by organizations including the American Composers Forum, the NUVOVOX Choral Awards, and  the British Trombone Society, and he has been twice named New Hampshire Composer of the Year. He also won the 2011 Award for Distinguished Scholarship at Plymouth State University for his compositional work.

Originally a trumpet player, Santore has found much success in composing choral works while at Plymouth State. “Working with words has always been of interest to me. Poetry was my first real artistic creative interest.” He has found musical inspiration in a variety of texts from ancient and modern sources and even a few Granite State authors, including PSU English Professor Liz Ahl.

His most frequent collaborators, however, are those who happen to be closest to him. “I’ve been very fortunate here in Plymouth in that almost every member of the [Music, Theatre, and Dance] faculty has worked with me or interacted with me as a composer,” he says. “They’ve used music I’ve written, they’ve asked me to write music for them, they’ve performed music I’ve written for them.”

Much of Santore’s work has been commissioned by the New Hampshire Master Chorale, which Santore serves as composer in residence, and its music director Dan Perkins, PSU’s director of choral activities. Santore’s American Prize submission included recordings of his work performed by the Master Chorale. ”What has been so fantastic about working with Dan and the Master Chorale is that their levels of artistry and performance are so high. It’s wonderful to hear performances of my work that meet and exceed my internal imagination of how they would sound.”

While Santore is a composer and performer, he is also a teacher and administrator. He says it is important for faculty members, regardless of subject, to remain active in their disciplines. “Your position in the institution where you teach should not be confused with your position in your wider field. The greatest college professors are always out there, pushing themselves to greater accomplishment in their fields of endeavor.”

This is also a good example for faculty to set for students. “It is easy for younger artists in all fields to believe ‘I finished a bachelor’s degree, and therefore I am an accomplished artist, playwright, composer, performer, poet,’ and that is not true – for most of us in the creative arts, a bachelor’s degree is just the beginning of a lifetime of artistic maturation.”

Santore advises students to “persevere and persist” as their work is often rejected as much as it is accepted. “If you believe in your work, and you have people whose opinion you trust who also believe in your work, then you just have to keep sending your work out there.”

“Dan Perkins and the New Hampshire Master Chorale believed in my work,” he says. “They solicited my work and they kept programming it. I had their quality performances of my work to send to [musical] juries.”

Santore appreciates the external validation that receiving The American Prize gives to his work. “Every creative and performing artist everywhere values the good opinion of peers in their field, and I’m both proud and humbled to have received this honor.”


Two works by Jonathan Santore

IV–The Song of Kuk-ook, the Bad Boy  “The Song of Kuk-ook, the Bad Boy”   Written for the PSU Chamber Singers as part of a project on Native American culture by colleagues Drs. Dan Perkins and Trish Lindberg. This performance is by the PSU Chamber Singers, conducted by Dan Perkins.

Ut Prosim  “Ut Prosim”   Commissioned by the Pemigewasset Choral Society for the 125th anniversary of PSU. This performance is by the Pemi Choral Society, conducted by PSU faculty colleague Dr. Robert Swift.

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