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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.

Timothy Mahr (1991, 1992)

1991: Timothy Mahr, The Soaring Hawk

1992: Timothy Mahr, Endurance

Timothy Mahr (b. 1956) is a professor of music at St. Olaf College, where he conducts the St. Olaf Band and teaches music education, conducting, and composition. Mahr received his bachelor’s degrees from St. Olaf College and his master’s and doctorate from the University of Iowa.

Mahr was president of the North Central Division of the College Band Directors National Association from 1999 to 2001. He also served on the board of directors for the National Band Association and the Minnesota Band Directors Association and is a member of the American Bandmasters Association. A composer of over 50 works, Mahr has received commissions from many notable ensembles and associations, including the Music Educators National Conference, the Kappa Kappa Psi/Tau Beta Sigma National Intercollegiate Band, the American School Band Directors Association, and the United States Air Force Band.

The American Bandmasters Association awarded Mahr the 1991 Ostwald Award for his work The Soaring Hawk, commissioned by the University of Iowa Symphony Band for its appearance at the 1990 ABA National Convention. The piece was inspired by the composer’s reflections on the experiences in the life of a hawk and the perspective of the earth when seen from above.

Mahr received the Ostwald Award again in 1992 for Endurance, the first composition resulting from the ABA Commissioning Project. The composer describes the work as “a musical reflection upon the infinite endurance of the human spirit, the religious spirit, and the spirit of the earth.”

Recordings at SCPA

The Soaring Hawk

  • ABAR3194 CD, Rutgers Wind Ensemble, Reflections
  • ABA C-392 UNCG CD-104, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro Wind Ensemble, Begian!
  • ABA WCD 29626, The St. Olaf Band, Celebrating the Classics


  • ABA WCD 29623, The St. Olaf Band, A Musical Observance Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of World War II

Ron Nelson (1993, 1994)

1993: Ron Nelson, Passacaglia (Homage on

1994: Ron Nelson, Chaconne (In Memoriam...)

Ron Nelson (b. 1929 in Joliet, Illinois) served as a professor and chairman of the music department at Brown University from 1960 to 1993.

Nelson earned a bachelor’s of music, masters of music, and doctorate of musical arts in composition from the Eastman School of Music, where he studied with Louis Mennini, Bernard Rogers and Howard Hanson. In 1954-1955 he received a Fulbright Grant to study composition in France at the Ecole Normale de Musique and at the Paris Conservatory.

In 1991, Nelson was awarded the Acuff Chair of Excellence in the Creative Arts, the first musician to hold the chair. The John Philip Sousa Foundation awarded him the Medal of Honor in 1994.

Nelson has received numerous commissions, including those from the National Symphony Orchestra, the Rochester Philharmonic, the United States Air Force Band and Chorus, Musashino Wind Ensemble, Aspen Music Festival, and numerous colleges and universities. He has also received grants and awards from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Howard Foundation, ASCAP, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

In 1993, his Passacaglia (Homage on B-A-C-H) was the first piece to win all three major wind band composition prizes during one period: the National Band Association Prize, the American Bandmasters Association Ostwald Award, and the Sudler International Prize. The piece is a set of continuous variations using counterpoint, moving seamlessly from darkness to light.

Nelson won the Ostwald Award in 1994 for Chaconne (In Memoriam…), a piece commissioned by the ABA and premiered by the U.S. Air Force Band. The elegiac work contains variations built on a repeated chord progression.

Selected recordings at SCPA

Chaconne (In Memoriam...)

  • ABAR3854 CD, Dallas Wind Symphony, Holidays & Epiphanies

Passacaglia (Homage on B-A-C-H)

  • ABAR3854 CDDallas Wind Symphony, Holidays & Epiphanies
  • ABAR 3715 CD [Box Set], U.S. Marine Band "The President's Own," Bicentennial Collection
  • ABA MCD-1810 C-389, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro Wind Ensemble, Sforzando!

Anthony Iannaccone (1995, 1996)

1995: Anthony Iannaccone, Sea Drift

1996: Anthony Iannaccone, Psalms for a Great Country

Anthony Iannaccone (b. 1943 in Brooklyn, New York) taught at Eastern Michigan University until his retirement in 2013. In addition to teaching composition at the university, he conducted the Collegium Chamber Orchestra and Chorus.

Iannaccone received a master’s degree from the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied with Aaron Copland, David Diamond, Vittorio Giannini, and Ludmila Ulehla, and earned a doctorate from the Eastman School of Music, where he studied with Samuel Adler.

His music has been performed by major orchestras and chamber ensembles, and he has conducted numerous regional and metropolitan orchestras in the United States and in Europe. Iannaccone has won first prize from the National Band Association, has been awarded numerous grants and commissions, and was a finalist in the 2001 London Symphony Orchestra Masterprize Competition.

Iannaccone won the ABA Ostwald Award in 1995 for Sea Drift, whose three movements draw their titles and inspiration from poems in a collection by Walt Whitman also called Sea Drift. Psalms for a Great Country, commissioned by ABA and premiered by the U.S. Marine Band, won the Ostwald Award in 1996.

Recordings at SCPA

Sea Drift

  • ABA TROY 280 (CD), Rutgers Wind Ensemble, Fanfare for Rutgers
  • ABAR3193 CD, Clarion Wind Symphony, Sea Drift: The Music of Anthony Iannaccone

Psalms for a Great Country

  • ABA Archives (CD), U.S. Marine Band "The President's Own," 62nd Annual ABA Conference, 1996

Dan Welcher (1997, 1998)

1997: Dan Welcher, Zion

1998: Dan Welcher, Circular Marches

Dan Welcher (b. 1948) teaches music composition at the University of Texas at Austin Butler School of Music, where he also serves as Director of the UT New Music Ensemble. He served as the assistant conductor of the Austin Symphony Orchestra from 1980 until 1990.

Welcher earned degrees from the Eastman School of Music and the Manhattan School of Music, studying bassoon, piano, and composition. He served as the principal bassoonist in the Louisville Orchestra while teaching composition and theory at the University of Louisville. While a composer-in-residence with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra from 1990 to 1993, he conducted more than 30 concerts with the group, began a series of new music concerts entitled Discoveries, and hosted a weekly radio series called Knowing the Score.

Welcher has won awards and prizes from many institutions, including the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Reader's Digest/Lila Wallace Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the American Music Center, and ASCAP. His orchestral music has been performed by more than 50 orchestras, including the Chicago Symphony, the St. Louis Symphony, and the Atlanta Symphony.

Winner of the 1997 ABA Ostwald Award, Welcher’s Zion for concert band grew from his study of the music and worship of the Mormon pioneers of Utah.

In Circular Marches, which won the Ostwald Award the following year, Welcher draws on the music of the Shakers, including their well-known hymn Simple Gifts.

Selected recordings at SCPA


  • ABA Archives 1997, U.S. Navy Band, ABA 63rd Annual Conference
  • ABAR 3344 CD, U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own," ABA 70th Annual Convention, 2004
  • ABAD3006 CD, Brigham Young University Symphonic Band
  • ABAD3032 CD, Brigham Young University
  • ABAD3033 CD, Brigham Young University Wind Symphony

Circular Marches

  • ABA Archives 1998, U.S. Air Force Band, ABA 64th Annual Conference
  • ABA BOL9902, U.S. Air Force Band, Evolution

Donald Grantham (1999, 2000)

1999: Donald Grantham, Southern Harmony

2000: Donald Grantham, Fantasy Variations

Donald Grantham (b. 1947) is professor of music composition at the University of Texas at Austin Butler School of Music, where he is the Frank C. Erwin, Jr. Centennial Professor of Music. In addition to his studies at the American Conservatory in France under Nadia Boulanger, Grantham holds music degrees from the University of Oklahoma and from the University of Southern California.

Grantham has written commissioned works for many ensembles, including the symphony orchestras of Atlanta, Cleveland, and Dallas. He also collaborated with fellow composer Kent Kennan to author the textbook The Technique of Orchestration.

Grantham has received numerous awards and prizes in composition, including the Prix Lili Boulanger, the Nissim/ASCAP Orchestral Composition Prize, First Prize in the Concordia Chamber Symphony's Awards to American Composers, a Guggenheim Fellowship, three grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, three First Prizes in the NBA/William Revelli Competition, and First Prize in the National Opera Association's Biennial Composition Competition.

Southern Harmony, commissioned by the Southeastern Conference of Band Directors and awarded the ABA/Ostwald Award in 2000, draws on an 1835 collection of American songs, including “Wondrous Love” and “The Soldier’s Return.”

Fantasy Variations, winner of the 1999 ABA/Ostwald Award, is an original composition inspired by George Gershwin’s 1936 Prelude II for solo piano.

Selected recordings at SCPA

Fantasy Variations

  • ABA Archives, U.S. Army Field Band, ABA 65th annual conference, 1999
  • ABA 2001, University of Southern Mississippi Wind Ensemble, University of Southern Mississippi Wind Ensemble - Live In Italy 2000, GR 01-1201

Southern Harmony

  • ABA Archives, U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own," ABA 66th Annual Convention, 2000
  • ABAD2964 CD, Brigham Young University Wind Symphony, [April 3, 2002]
  • ABAR3327 CD, Musashino Academia Musicae Wind Ensemble (ABA Bloomquist subcollection)