70th Annual Student Composer Award Winners Announced

Published: 05.18.2022

Above: Photo by Jennifer Taylor for BMI

NEW YORK, NY ― May 18, 2022 ― The BMI Foundation (BMIF), in collaboration with Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI), has announced seven young classical composers, ages 19 to 28, as winners of the 70th annual BMI Student Composer Awards. This year’s ceremony was held on Tuesday May 17th at Tribeca 360 and winners were announced by the Chair of the BMI Student Composer Awards, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich.

“Celebrating these young composers is the highlight of our year at BMI Classical,” said Deirdre Chadwick, President of the BMI Foundation. “As emerging artistic voices, it’s so important for them to receive recognition and encouragement, and we are thrilled to honor their achievements.”



The 2022 award winners are:


●      Cheng Jin Koh, 26; awarded the William Schuman Prize for most outstanding score; student of Elizabeth Hoffman at New York University,

●      Oliver Kwapis, 25; student of Jeffrey Stolet at Oregon University School of Music and Dance

●      Alan W. Mackwell, 24; student of John McDonald at Tufts University

●      Abel M.G.E., 28; student of Julian Anderson

●      Sehyeok (Joseph) Park, 19; student of Abigail Richardson-Schulte at the University of Toronto; awarded the Carlos Surinach Prize honoring the youngest winner of the competition

●      Nina Shekhar, 27; student of Donnacha Dennehy at Princeton University

●      Kari Watson, 24; student of Augusta Read Thomas at the University of Chicago


Cheng Jin Koh received the William Schuman Prize for most outstanding score, and Sehyeok (Joseph) Park was awarded the Carlos Surinach Prize, given to the youngest winner in the competition. Three additional composers received an honorable mention this year: Malcolm Xiellie, 15, a student of John Syzygy; , Apoorva Krishna, 26, a student of Bruno Råberg, and Lucy Chen, 17, a student of Yiming Wu. Chen received honorable mention in the 2021 competition as well.


Alexandra du Bois, Carlos Carrillo and Jeremy Gill served as preliminary panelists this year. The final judges were Oscar Bettison, Han Lash, José Serebrier and Matthew Evan Taylor.  The BMI Student Composer Awards recognize superior musical compositional ability with annual educational scholarships totaling $20,000. This year, nearly 500 online applications were submitted to the competition from students around the world, and all works were judged anonymously. BMI, in collaboration with the BMI Foundation, has awarded over 600 grants to young composers throughout the history of the competition.


About the Winners


Cheng Jin Koh As a Singaporean composer and Yang Qin performer, Cheng Jin’s works strive to unify and reinvent Western, Chinese, and Southeast Asian musical idioms. Upcoming major premieres will be at this year’s Singapore International Violin Competition and Singapore International Festival of Arts. She has written music for members of the Ensemble InterContemporain, Metropolis Ensemble, Society of New Music, Singapore Symphony Orchestra, Singapore Chinese Orchestra, and Ding Yi Music Company among many others. A recipient of the Mirror Visions Ensemble Prize, Society of New Music Brian Israel Prize, Palmer Dixon (for most outstanding composition) and Gena Raps Chamber Music Prizes from Juilliard among others, she is deeply grateful to all her pedagogues—Robert Beaser, Melinda Wagner, Kelly Tang, Louis Karchin and Elizabeth Hoffman. She is currently a first-year MacCracken PhD Fellow at New York University (College of Arts and Science).


Oliver Kwapis  is a composer-performer whose music has been performed by a diverse range of ensembles and artists, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic (through the LA Phil’s Composer Fellowship Program), National Children’s Chorus, Wet Ink Ensemble, Calder Quartet, Atlantic Brass Quintet, Jacobs School of Music Concert Orchestra, Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, and pianist Eric Huebner. He holds a B.Mus. from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and an M.Mus. from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. He is currently pursuing a D.M.A. in the Performance of Data-driven Instruments at the University of Oregon’s School of Music and Dance.


Alan W. Mackwell Described as "an original composer with new ideas and a command of complex symphonic writing" (BroadStreet Journal), New Zealander-American is an award-winning composer and banjo-player based in Boston, Massachusetts. In his work, Alan seeks to explore the mountains of the American West he grew up with using a highly resonant and bluegrass-influenced musical language. The Rocky Mountains in particular are a constant source of inspiration for Alan’s music, and he strives to celebrate them through his compositions, banjo performance, and reading of environmental literature. Alan’s music has been played by high-performing groups such as The Austin Symphony Orchestra, The Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, The Boston Conservatory Contemporary Music Ensemble, and Hub New Music.


Ábel M.G.E. is a Hungarian-American composer of electronic music, opera, film music, and contemporary classical music. He works predominantly in collaboration with other artists, most commonly choreographers, writers, and filmmakers. Narrative is a major source of inspiration for him and, whether scoring a documentary or remixing an interview, it is the stories and the act of retelling them which germinates and brings life to Ábel’s music. When working with nonfictional stories Ábel seeks to exemplify or comment on their unspoken elements: their cultural implications and the overlap or conflict between the storyteller’s beliefs and experiences and his own


Sehyeok (Joseph) Park is currently in the first year of his undergraduate composition degree at the University of Toronto Faculty of Music. He studied composition with Abigail Richardson-Schulte and piano with Younggun Kim. His music is primarily concerned with organic development of musical ideas and cultivating a personal musical language by examining traditions of classical music in novel and unique ways. His influences include composers such as Bartok and Ravel.


Nina Shekhar explores the intersection of identity, vulnerability, love, and laughter to create bold and intensely personal works. Described as “tart and compelling” (New York Times), “vivid” (Washington Post), and “surprises and delights aplenty” (LA Times), her music has been performed by the LA Philharmonic, Albany Symphony, New World Symphony, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Eighth Blackbird, International Contemporary Ensemble, and Alarm Will Sound. Her work has been featured by Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Kennedy Center, and the Library of Congress. Current projects include performances by the New York Philharmonic, LA Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra, Grand Rapids Symphony. She is a PhD student at Princeton University and serving as Composer-in-Residence of Young Concert Artists.


Kari Watson is a composer and sound artist working between the mediums of contemporary concert music and electroacoustic music. Motivated by a passion for narrative and musical drama, Watson works to create music that is clear, tactile, and emotionally driven. With roots in vocal study and performance, her work is informed by the vocal line and often incorporates text. Watson holds a BM from Oberlin Conservatory in Composition, with a minor in TIMARA (technology in music and related arts) and is currently a 2nd year Ph.D student at the University of Chicago.