submission details

submission details

Competition is CLOSED.


PRIZE: $2500

DEADLINE: July 15, 2018 (midnight EST)

HOW IT WORKS: 1) All submissions are screened by the Artistic Director and a panel of composers from previous competitions. 8-10 compositions are selected for the event. 2) In the First Round of the event, the audience votes on whether they want to hear the piece again. Pieces that persuade 50% of the audience are dubbed ‘contenders’ and go on to the Second Round. 3) In the Second Round, the audience hears the contenders again and chooses a winner. The concert will take place in the early fall 2018 in New York City. It will be streamed live with remote voting. Exact date TBD.

STYLE: Mainstream classical. ‘Mainstream’ means that it has a good chance of appealing to the general public. ‘Classical’ means that it would fit logically on a program with Bach, Chopin, Prokofiev, etc., and wouldn’t fit better on a concert of another established style (e.g. pop, jazz, ‘new music’).

DURATION: 5min (max)

INSTRUMENTATION: piano; string 4tet; string ensemble; piano + solo; strings + solo; piano + strings; any solo instrument; no vocal music at this time.

AGE RESTRICTION: No upper limit. Composers under 18 need to submit a waiver from a legal guardian.


MATERIALS TO SUBMIT: 1) pdf of score 2) demo recording (MIDI is ok if you feel it gives a fair representation; piano reductions are fine).


SUBMISSION LIMIT: 2 compositions


*Please read carefully. For each submission, include the score and audio file in one email. Do NOT paste a link to a website. Make the subject line of the email the title of the piece. Send to


The Ear is looking for music that has a chance of getting millions of streams. We believe this would have been the aspiration of Mozart and Debussy (they actually do get millions of streams). We also understand this to be perfectly congruous with the writing of excellent music. But we also acknowledge that it is possible to care ONLY about being popular, and to achieve some temporary success through cheap tricks. No parameter or declaration of integrity can settle the difference. It’s a matter of execution and depth of taste in the composer. And we also know from experience that our audience prefers deep to cheap.

Nevertheless! One thing – and one thing only – seems to be required for success on a wide scale, both for good and dubious music. It is the presence of a ‘hook’.

Classical composers wrote the greatest hooks of all times. They didn’t call them that…or anything. ‘Main motif’ is the closest, but doesn’t quite do it. The missing element is the concept of connection to audience. A hook is almost always a short melodic statement –  3-12 notes, plus or minus – that is sure to draw in/satisfy/enthrall/grab the attention of – in short, ‘hook’ – the listener.

If you really want to know what a hook is, ask the fish.

Write zany music, write non-zany music, write tonal/atonal/poly-tonal music, write minimalist/maximalist/middlemalist music, write traditional-sounding music, write mind-bendingly original music, write high classical music, write pop-inspired music. Write anything under the generous, non-dogmatic umbrella of ‘mainstream classical’.

But we are looking for music that hooks the listener. And the way to do that seems to be with ‘hooks’.


Daniela Holban is our Artist Relations Manager. Daniela will be happy to answer all your questions.