BMI Student Composer Awards Rules

co-sponsored by BMI and the BMI Foundation

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In order to be eligible for the competition, all applicants must be:

  1. Citizens of a country in the Western Hemisphere.
  2. Engaged in the study of music with a recognized and established teacher (other than a relative). 
  3. Born on or after February 2, 1990. Applicants must be age 27 or younger, as of the competition deadline on February 1, 2019.
  4. Potential first-time winners or prior winners of this award no more than two times. Any composer having won this award three times previously is not eligible to enter the contest again (Honorable Mention excluded).


Applications must be submitted online no later than Thursday, February 1, 2019, 11:59pm EST. Incomplete or mailed applications will be disqualified. Before beginning an application, please read these guidelines thoroughly:

  1. A composer may enter no more than one composition, which need not have been composed during the year of entry.
  2. The composer must warrant that he or she is the sole composer and owner of the composition; that it is an original work; that it has never been published (other than self published), recorded commercially, or received any prize or award, and that he or she has the full right and authority to enter the composition into the competition.
  3. Your score and its file name must be anonymous. DO NOT INCLUDE ANY of the following:
    1. Composer Name
    2. City, State of completion (check your double bar)
    3. Composer Pseudonym
    4. Publishing Company Name or Logo
    5. Personal Logo
    6. Performing Rights Organization (PRO)
    7. Commission Information
    8. Dedications
    9. Premiere Information
    Your submission will be disqualified if ANY of the above identifiers are included. Please carefully check each page. No exceptions will be made. A number will be assigned to the application upon submission, to identify the score with the individual. SCORES SUBMITTED WITH ANY IDENTIFYING INFORMATION SUCH AS COMPOSER NAME, CITY AND STATE, NAME OF SCHOOL OR NAME OF PUBLISHER WILL BE DISCARDED AND WILL NOT BE CONSIDERED.
  4. If any text, lyric, or libretto (or a translation of any of these) is used in the composition, the composer must submit to BMI along with the entry either:
    1. Written permission from the copyright holder of the text, lyric, or libretto or translation for its use in the composition -OR-
    2. Information as to the source from which the text, lyric, libretto or translation was taken, with evidence that it is in the public domain. Please note, it is solely your responsibility to determine the copyright status of the source prior to submission of the entry. Potential resources to determine the current copyright status of a source include the U.S. Copyright Office and the Copyright Term and Public Domain in the United States Chart provided by Cornell University. If the composer is the author of the text, a statement to that effect must be included with the entry. Entries involving text submitted without this information will be discarded, and will not be considered. All submitted works must have only one composer of the music. Co-composed works are no longer accepted to the BMI Student Composer Awards.
  5. All submitted works must have only one composer. Co-composed works are no longer accepted to the BMI Student Composer Awards.


Prizes totaling $20,000 and ranging from $500 to $5,000 will be awarded at the discretion of the judges. The judges shall have the right to determine the amount of each award to be given and the number of such awards to be made, as well as the right to make no awards or to make awards totaling less than such full amount. The William Schuman Prize will be given to the score judged “most outstanding” in the competition. This prize is given in memory of the late William Schuman, who served for 40 years as the chairman and then chairman emeritus for the BMI Student Composer Awards. The Carlos Surinach Prize is awarded to the youngest winner in the competition, in honor of the late Carlos Surinach, a premier composer of the twentieth century and generous supporter of the BMI Foundation’s programs for young classical composers.


The contest will end as of 11:59 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on February 1, 2019. Winners will be notified in May, and a press release announcing the winners will be posted online at


No fewer than three judges of competence shall pass on the merits of compositions submitted. The decisions and conclusions of the judges shall be final.


Compositions will be judged on evidence of true creative talent. Academic finesse, while not disregarded, will be considered secondary to vital musicality and clarity of expression of the composer’s work. There is no limitation whatsoever on style. The judges will take into account:

  1. Formal content of the composition: this concerns the continuity and coherent expression of the composer’s ideas.
  2. Melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic idioms: all will be judged solely in terms of their consistency and suitability for the intent of the particular composition.
  3. Instrumentation, orchestration, and vocal writing: all will be judged on the suitability of the choice and use of instruments or voices to the ideas presented in the composition.
  4. Age of the composer at the time of completion of the manuscript: when two compositions are of equal merit in the opinion of the judges, but there is an age disparity, preference will be given to the younger applicant.


Please address all inquiries to:

Deirdre Chadwick, Director
BMI Student Composer Awards
7 World Trade Center, 250 Greenwich St.
New York, NY 10007-0030

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