Syracuse University Women's Choir

Setnor School announces winner of inaugural Gregg Smith Choral Composition Contest; work to be premiered at SU in March

Monday, November 9, 2009

By Erica Blust • (315) 443-5891

Kala Pierson, a New York City-based composer and sound/media artist, has been announced as winner of the inaugural Gregg Smith Choral Competition Contest in the Rose, Jules R. and Stanford S. Setnor School of Music in Syracuse University’s College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA). The award, which is named for renowned composer and choral conductor Gregg Smith, is given biennially to a composer between the ages of 21 and 35 who has written and submitted a musical composition for a Setnor School choral ensemble.

Pierson won for her work “The Turning Earth,” which was selected by a committee of Setnor faculty from more than 30 entries submitted by composers in 15 states. In addition to the award, Pierson’s work will be premiered by the SU Women’s Choir on Friday, March 26, 2010, at 8 p.m. in the Rose and Jules R. Setnor Auditorium, Crouse College. Pierson will come to SU for the premiere and rehearse with the choir the day prior to the performance.

“The Women’s Choir is thrilled to honor the choral legacy and ongoing work of Gregg Smith through the premiere of the choral competition’s winning piece by Kala Pierson,” says Setnor faculty member Barbara Marble Tagg, who conducts the choir. “Her piece was the unanimous selection of the review committee.”

Pierson focuses on multi-country projects and collaborations. In 2008 and 2009, her work was performed and installed in France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, the United Kingdom and more than 20 U.S. cities; in festivals including Musica Viva, Contemporanea (Citta di Udine), Spark and Canaan Downs; and in venues ranging from a forest to a medieval fortress to the World Financial Center Winter Garden. As a 2009 finalist for the Kraft Media Prize, she was part of performances at the Smithsonian Institution’s Hirshhorn Gallery and the Phillips Collection.

Pierson co-founded Summer in Sombor, an international composition seminar held each July in northern Serbia. Her notated music has been performed by American Opera Projects, San Francisco Choral Artists (as winner of their New Voices competition), Cantate Chamber Singers (as winner of their composition competition), Nurse Kaya Sextet, Momenta Quartet, Season Quartet, the Baltimore Choral Arts Society Young Composers Project with Toby Twining’s group Mouth Music, New York Miniaturist Ensemble, Tanglewood Young Artists Chorus and many soloists and duos. For more information about Pierson, visit

The Setnor School established the Gregg Smith Choral Composition Contest as well as the Gregg Smith Graduate Choral Conducting Scholarship in 2008 with the support of an anonymous donor. Smith has a 25-year relationship with SU and the Syracuse Children’s Chorus (SCC), which was founded by Tagg. Under her direction, the SCC has premiered several major works composed by Smith for children’s choir and choir with orchestra; fully staged two of his operas; hosted the Gregg Smith Singers in performance; and, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, produced the CD “Voices of Innocence: The Syracuse Children’s Chorus Sings the Music of Gregg Smith.” Smith has also presented a master class for the SU Women’s Choir.

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