Vermont Symphony Orchestra

MasterClef Competition 2024

Congratulations to our 2024 MasterClef participants and winners!
2024 Grand Prize: Louis Napolitan
2024 Runners up: Maaike Dam and Callum Robechek

L-R: Nico Muhly (guest composer/adjudicator), Katherine Marthage (Grade 11, Manchester), Maaike Dam (Grade 12, Kirby), Louis Napolitan (Grade 9, Burlington), Callum Robechek (Grade 12, Montpelier), Samuel Kafferlin (Grade 10, Williston),  Jeremy Holzhammer (Grade 10, East Middlebury). At bottom: Moira Smiley, Matt LaRocca (adjudicators)


The Vermont Symphony Orchestra is excited to announce our third annual MasterClef Competition for Vermont students in grades 6-12. The competition is in partnership with internationally-acclaimed, Vermont-raised composer Nico Muhly, who will join the VSO in Burlington in May for the world premiere of his new concerto for piano and orchestra, based on Justin Morgan hymn tunes.

Students of all musical genres — from classical, pop and rock to indie, house and beyond — and any musical instrument or voice are invited to arrange, perform, compose, produce or improvise a new work based on a selected melody featured in Muhly’s piece.

Finalists will join Muhly, along with adjudicators singer/songwriter Moira Smiley and VSO’s Artistic Advisor Matt LaRocca,  in Burlington on May 3 to workshop their music. On May 4, they will attend the VSO concert at the Flynn featuring Muhly’s piece. Cash prizes will be awarded to one grand prize winner and two runners-up on May 3.

Learn more about composer Nico Muhly

Submission guidelines, deadlines and examples are provided below.


All students enrolled in a Vermont middle or high school, or home–schooled, in grades 6 through 12, as of September 1, 2023.  


  • One grand prize winner will receive a $300 cash prize.
  • Two runners-up will receive a $150 cash prize.


The deadline for submission is March 31, 2024 at 11:59pm.

The submission must be an audio recording no less than 1 minute and no more than 3 minutes long, in which the 2024 MasterClef theme is used. We invite you to transform this theme in any way you like, as long as we can still recognize that what you have created is derived from it.


2024 MasterClef Theme

This year’s theme is a portion of Justin Morgan’s shape-note hymn tune “Montgomery,” which Nico Muhly uses in his piano concerto.  We are proud to feature all Vermont composers in this year’s MasterClef: Justin Morgan, Nico Muhly, and you!

Student compositions may include any musical instrument or group of musical instruments, in any musical style or genre and in any language (if words are used).  

Optional: If you wish, you may choose to draw inspiration from the shape-note musical tradition and/or the original harmonization of “Montgomery,” however, no preference will be given to students who do or do not borrow ideas from these traditions or harmonizations.

A complete application includes three parts: 

  1. Completed application form | Click here for application form
  2. Audio recording, to include either
    • A recording of a live performance of the composition, OR
    • An electronically-produced audio file of the composition (e.g. MIDI, .wav, etc)
  3. Supporting materials to explain your process and the musical work.  You must include at least one of the following, whichever is most relevant to your work: 
    • A PDF of your musical score if one exists, and/or
    • A process statement describing how you created the work, and/or
    • Another format of your choice that is suitable for your work and describes its creation

Please include parts 2 and 3 as attachments to one email, sent to no later than March 31, 2024 at 11:59pm.


Finalists will be decided by a jury selected by the Vermont Symphony Orchestra.

Finalists will be announced publicly and informed in writing on April 15, 2023. Finalists and their parents/guests will be invited to Burlington for the May 3 masterclass and May 4 concert.  One grand-prize winner and two runners-up will be announced on-site at the conclusion of the May 3 masterclass.

For finalists who are not located within driving distance of Burlington, VSO will provide housing in Burlington for the nights of May 3 and 4; minors must be accompanied by an adult. 


The masterclass in music composition will take place on in the early evening on May 3 at Burlington City Arts with composer Nico Muhly, Moira Smiley, and Matt LaRocca. The masterclass will be open to the public and may be recorded; no advance registrations are required. The first-place winning composition and runners up will be announced at this event. All young musician finalists (and their accompanying adults, if any) will be provided with tickets to the VSO concert at the Flynn on May 4 at 7:30 p.m. 


Submit your composition and supplemental materials via email to Hannah Hansen, VSO Education Coordinator, at no later than March 31, at 11:59pm.  Please be sure you have also completed the Application Form.


We welcome and encourage applicants from a wide range of backgrounds and musical interests.   Here are a few examples of what is possible.  We look forward to hearing what you create!

2022 MasterClef theme


2022 MasterClef Grand Prize:

Maaike Dam, 11th grader from Kirby

“From Light…Despair!”

2022 Second Place:

Callum Robechek, 11th grader from Montpelier

“trying to wake up”

2022 Third Place:

Jonathan Kafumbe, 9th grader from East Middlebury




MasterClef 2024 is generously sponsored by: