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ABA Sousa/Ostwald Award

A history of the American Bandmasters Association's annual Sousa/Ostwald Award for best new composition for symphonic band.

David R. Holsinger (1982, 1986)

1982: David Holsinger, The Armies of the Omnipresent Otserf

1986: David Holsinger, In the Spring, at the Time When the Kings Go Off to War 

David R. Holsinger (b. 1945 in Hardin, Missouri) is a member of the School of Music faculty at Lee University, where he is conductor of the Lee University Wind Ensemble and teaches advanced instrumental conducting and composition. Holsinger has earned degrees from Central Methodist University, the University of Central Missouri, and the University of Kansas.

Holsinger has served as Visiting Composer in Residence at eleven American colleges and universities, and held the Acuff Chair of Excellence in the Creative Arts at Austin Peay State University. In the spring of 2000, Holsinger conducted the Georgia Southern Symphonic Band and the Georgia Southern Symphonic Wind Ensemble in Statesboro, GA.

Holsinger has been awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award from Central Methodist College, “Excellence in Scholarship” faculty award from Lee University, and the Christian Instrumental Directors Association Director of the Year citation. He has had works commissioned by the Gustavus Band, the U.S. Air Force Tactical Air Command Band, and the Kansas Brass Quintet, among others. His works have also been premiered by the United States Air Force Band and selected for broadcast nationally on a National Public Radio Special Project on Vocal Music.

The Armies of the Omnipresent Otserf won the Ostwald Award in 1982 and was performed at the ABA that year by the Indiana University Symphonic Band. The piece is the third movement of Holsinger’s A Fobarsti Tryplych

Winner of the 1986 ABA Ostwald Award, Holsinger's In the Spring, at the Time When the Kings Go Off to War is a programmatic work based on the assault of King David’s army, as depicted in the Bible. It was commissioned by the local chapters of Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma at Stephen F. Austin State University.

Selected Recordings at SCPA

The Armies of the Omnipresent Otserf

  • ABAR3192 CD, Lake Braddock Secondary School Symphonic Band, The Symphonic Wind Music of David R. Holsinger, Vol. 6

In the Spring, at the Time When the Kings Go Off to War

  • Midwest 1995 [CD and cassette], Musashino Academia Musicae Wind Ensemble
  • ABA Archives (Bencriscutto subcollection), Musashino Academia Musicae Wind Ensemble, Vol. 7
  • ABA Archives (Hicken subcollection), Furman University Symphonic Band, In the Spring… 1994 Season Highlights

Martin Mailman (1983, 1989)

1983: Martin Mailman, Exaltations

1989: Martin Mailman, For Precious Friends Hid in Death's Dateless Night 

Martin Mailman (1932–2000) was Composer in Residence and Regents Professor of Music at the University of North Texas, Denton, Texas. A composition student of Louis Mennini, Wayne Barlow, Bernard Rogers, and Howard Hanson, he received his BM, MM, and PhD degrees from the Eastman School of Music, Rochester, New York. He was among the first of contemporary American composers chosen in 1959 to participate in The Young Composers Project sponsored by the Ford Foundation and the National Music Council.

Mailman received numerous awards, among which include two American Bandmasters Association/Ostwald prizes for composition, the National Band Association/Band Mans Company prize for composition, the Edward Benjamin Award, Composer of the Year by the Texas Music Teachers Association, and the 1982 Queen Marie-Jose Prize for composition. His works include chamber music, band, choral, and orchestral music, film scores, television music, an opera, and a requiem for chorus, orchestra, and soloist. A frequently sought-after clinician and teacher, Mailman served as guest conductor-composer at more than ninety colleges and universities across the United States and Europe. In November 2000, the UNT Board of Regents awarded Emeritus status to Mailman posthumously.

Exaltations was commissioned in 1981 by the Manatee High School band of Bradenton, Florida, conducted by Howard Lerner, and was premiered in May 1982. The piece later won the ABA/Ostwald Award in 1983, and was performed at the American Bandmasters Association convention in Kansas City, Missouri, by the United States Air Force Band, Colonel Arnald D. Gabriel conducting. 

For Precious Friends Hid in Death's Dateless Night was premiered in 1988 by the University of North Texas Wind Ensemble, conducted by Robert Winslow. The work was the first to be awarded both the National Band Association/Band Mans Company Prize for composition and the ABA Ostwald Prize. With the exception of the second movement, the titles of the piece and the remaining movements are taken directly from lines of Shakespeare's sonnets.

Recordings at SCPA


  • Digital file, Oklahoma City University Wind Philharmonic, November 9, 1997
  • Digital file, University of North Texas Concert Band, February 24, 1994

For Precious Friends Hid in Death's Dateless Night

  • ABAR3853 CDNorth Texas Wind Symphony, Dialogues & Entertainments

James Curnow (1984)

1984: James Curnow, Symphonic Variants for Euphonium and Band

James Curnow (b. 1943 in Port Huron, Michigan) currently lives in Nicholasville, Kentucky, where he is Composer-in-Residence (Emeritus) at Asbury University. He is also president, composer, and educational consultant for Curnow Music Press, Inc., and editor of all music publications for the Salvation Army in Atlanta.

Curnow received his bachelor’s from Wayne State University and his master’s from Michigan State University, where he was a euphonium student of Leonard Falcone and a conducting student of Dr. Harry Begian. His studies in composition and arranging were with F. Maxwell Wood, James Gibb, Jere Hutchinson, and Irwin Fischer.

Curnow has taught in all areas of instrumental music, both in the public schools (five years) and at the college and university level (26 years). He has won several awards for band compositions, including the ASBDA/Volkwein Composition Award in 1977 (Symphonic Triptych) and 1979 (Collage for Band), the ABA Ostwald Award in 1980 (Mutanza) and 1984 (Symphonic Variants for Euphonium and Band), the 1985 Sixth International Competition of Original Compositions for Band (Australian Variants Suite), the 1994 Coup de Vents Composition Competition of Le Havre, France (Lochinvar), and many annual ASCAP awards.

Symphonic Variants for Euphonium and Band was commissioned by Harry Begian and the University of Illinois Symphonic Band, with Philip Franke from the U.S. Marine Band playing the solo part at the premiere.

Recordings at SCPA

  • ABAR3855 CD, Bastien Baumet and Paris Wind Ensemble, Art of the Euphonium
  • Midwest 2004 [CD and DVD], Lake Braddock Secondary School Symphonic Band (Selected excerpts)

Joseph H. Downing (1985)

1985: Joseph Downing, Symphony for Winds and Percussion

Joseph Downing is an associate professor at the Setnor School of Music at Syracuse University, where he teaches composition, music theory, and musicology. He has previously served on the faculty of Northwestern University and the professional staff of DePaul University.

Downing received his DM from Northwestern University and has been commissioned by many organizations including the American Guild of Organists and the Barlow Foundation. His Symphony for Winds and Percussion won the 1985 Ostwald Award.

Recordings at SCPA

  • Midwest 1995 [CD and cassette], Waubonsie Valley High School Wind Ensemble

David Sartor (1987)

1987: David Sartor, Synergistic Parable

David Sartor (b. 1956) is an adjunct professor of composition at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tennessee. Sartor holds degrees from the Blair School of Music at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and from the University of Tennessee, where he studied composition with John Anthony Lennon and David Van Vactor.

Sartor has won more than three dozen notable awards for his compositions, including the ABA Ostwald Award, the National Fine Arts Award, a New Music for Young Ensembles composition prize, twenty-six consecutive ASCAP awards for compositions of unique prestige value, and a “highly commended” award in England’s Oare String Orchestra's Third Annual International Music for Strings Composition Contest. He received double honors in composition in both the 2012 and 2013 American Prizes, and in 2014 was one of only five composers nationwide named as an "Honored Artist" of the American Prize, in recognition of "sustained excellence" over a number of seasons in the national competitions. In October of 2013 Sartor was named as the First Prize Winner of the New Haven Oratorio Choir's Composition Contest, with a premiere of his winning work by the choir occurring in December 2013.

Sartor has been commissioned by many notable ensembles and organizations, including the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, the Delta Omicron Foundation, and the Johnson Commission, and his music has been featured at the Tanglewood Music Festival, the Aspen Music Festivals, the International Double Bass Festival, the Percussive Arts Society International Convention, the International Music Festival in San Jose Costa Rica, the World's Largest Organ Concert, the Sewanee Summer Music Festival, and at Carnegie Hall.

Synergistic Parable, which won the Ostwald Award in 1987, was written for John P. Paynter and the Northwestern University Symphonic Wind Ensemble. It features thematic components that evolve synergistically into part of the total vocabulary of the work.

Recordings at SCPA

  • ABAR3856 CD, TRN Band CD #11, Northwestern University Band

Dana Wilson (1988)

1988: Dana Wilson, Piece of Mind

Dana Richard Wilson (b. 1946) is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Music at Ithaca College (NY), where he teaches music composition. Wilson holds a doctorate from the Eastman School of Music, where he studied composition with Samuel Adler, as well as a master’s from the University of Connecticut and a bachelor’s from Bowdoin College.

Wilson has received grants from many organizations, such as the National Endowment for the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, New England Foundation for the Arts, New York State Council for the Arts, Arts Midwest, and Meet the Composer. He has also received several notable awards, including the International Trumpet Guild First Prize, the Sudler International Composition Prize, and the Ostwald Award, and has held fellowships at the Yaddo artists’ retreat in Saratoga Springs, the Aspen Institute, and the Society for Humanities at Cornell University, among others.

Wilson's music has been commissioned and performed by many ensembles including the Chicago Chamber Musicians, Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings, Buffalo Philharmonic, Memphis Symphony, Washington military bands, Netherlands Wind Ensemble, Syracuse Symphony, the Hope College Wind Ensemble, and the Tokyo Kosei Wind Orchestra. He is coauthor of Contemporary Choral Arranging and has published other works on diverse musical subjects and his own compositional process.

Piece of Mind, which won the 1988 Sudler International Wind Band Composition Competition and the 1988 ABA/Ostwald Prize, is Wilson’s representation of the workings of the human mind. It contains four movements: “Thinking,” “Remembering,” “Feeling,” and “Being.”

Recordings at SCPA

  • ABAD3026 CD, Brigham Young University Wind Symphony, December 3, 1997
  • ABAD3076 CD, Brigham Young University Wind Symphony, March 7, 1990
  • Midwest 1989, cassette 18, Vandercook College Concert Band

Gregory Youtz (1990)

1990: Gregory Youtz, Fire Works

Born in 1956 in Beirut, Lebanon, Gregory Youtz is a professor of music at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington, where he teaches composition, theory, history, and ethnomusicology. He received his BM in composition from the University of Washington in 1980 and his DMA in composition from the University of Michigan in 1987. His principal teachers have included Leslie Bassett, William Bergsma, William Bolcom, and William Albright. Youtz has studied Native American music and has traveled abroad to study the music of China and Trinidad and Tobago.

Youtz won a Charles Ives Award in 1984 from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and has received several annual awards from ASCAP since 1990. He won the 1984 National Bandmasters Association contest and the 2003 Composer of the Year award from the Washington State Music Teachers Association. A choral work, If We Sell You Our Land, based on the famous speech by Chief Seattle, was the subject of a story on National Public Radio's Morning Edition show in 1987.

Youtz won the 1990 ABA Ostwald Award for Fire Works, a work commissioned by the Wisconsin College Band Association. The composer wrote that he treated “the entire wind ensemble as a giant drum set” in this percussive piece.

Recordings at SCPA

  • ABA Archives (Bencriscutto subcollection), Musashino Academia Musicae Wind Ensemble, Vol. 7
  • Midwest 1990, cassette 11, Oconomowoc High School Wind Symphony