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Strayhorn Song Writing Contest Winners Announced

Billy Strayhorn Songwriting Contest Winners

First Place:  “Battle Cry” by Michael Werner  | $500 MIC scholarship
Michael Werner, age 14, is a freshman at Evanston Township High School and a trumpet student of Chris Hasselbring at the Music Institute of Chicago.

Artist Statement: 
About four months ago my favorite trumpet player was Woody Shaw. Woody Shaw is a trumpet player who you can't describe; he transcends styles and genres. Listening to him caused me to think of this melody, and I recorded it as a possible song idea. Recently I was going through recordings and I found it, wrote it down, and decided on the chords. I chose the name "Battle Cry" because the melody reminds me of a battle. The Emancipation Proclamation was significant because it was the end of the battle that was slavery. This piece represents that battle. Also, the intervals in the melody combined with the minor chords make the song sound powerful, which describes the people uniting against slavery. I wrote the melody in the lower register because I wanted it to always be present like the constant idea of freedom in the minds of slaves.




Second Place:  Kyle Lueptow  | $300 MIC scholarship
Kyle Lueptow, age 17,  is a senior at Evanston Township High School.  He is a musical theater student at the Music Institute of Chicago under the director of Matt Boresi and Mike O’Mara. He has studied piano for ten years and over the past three, has begun writing his own music.



About the Contest

Billy Strayhorn, the primary collaborative partner of Duke Ellington for 28 years, created a compelling musical language that transcended Ellington.  His innumerable contributions to the jazz canon create a formidable legacy for musicians from all genres.  Strayhorn’s deep knowledge of both classical and popular music enabled him to create a unique approach to song writing.  Elements of his harmonic sophistication and voicing techniques have become emblematic of excellence in the jazz repertoire.

In addition to his musical achievements, Billy Strayhorn has become identified with the struggle for civil rights. In 1963, Billy Strayhorn came to Chicago to serve as music director of Duke Ellington’s My People, a work composed on the 100th anniversary of the “Emancipation Proclamation” and performed as part of the "A Century of Negro Progress Exposition" at the Arie Crown Theater at McCormick Place.

In tribute to Billy Strayhorn and the upcoming 150th anniversary of the “Emancipation Proclamation,” the Music Institute presented the Billy Strayhorn Song Writing Contest for. high school students in Cook, Lake and DuPage Counties.

Submission were judged by MIC President and CEO Mark George, Jazz Studies Director Audrey Morrison and Billy Strayhorn Songs Inc. President Alyce Claerbaut.


Learn more about the Billy Strayhorn Jazz Festival >>

See All Music Institute of Chicago Contests & Competitions >>

Reverón Piano Trio

Friday, February 17 at 7:30 pm Venezuelan virtuosos return to Nichols Concert Hall to feature world and Chicago premiere performances not to be missed >>