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Billy Strayhorn Song Writing Contest

Deadline:  11:59 pm - Monday, October 15, 2012


Who Can Enter?

•  Any current high school student under the age of 19
•  Resident of Cook, Lake or DuPage County
Note:  Winners must be present at the Billy Strayhorn Festival concert Sunday, October 28, 2012.

•  Songs must be in a Jazz style
•  Songs must be at least 12 bars, and not more than 32 bars in length (excluding optional introduction & coda)
•  Lyrics Optional
•  Songs must be in lead sheet format with treble melody line and chord symbol changes
•  Song titles and/or musical content must reflect on or relate to the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.


Jury and Prizes
Jury: Dr. Mark George, Audrey Morrison and Alyce Claerbaut
Winner’s notifications will be sent no later than October 21.
Each winner receives two free passes to all Billy Strayhorn Festival events (October 26-28, 2012), plus:

1st Place - $500 scholarship
for any Music Institute of Chicago program and live performance of song

2nd Place - $300 scholarship
for any Music Institute of Chicago program

3rd Place - $150 scholarship
for any Music Institute of Chicago program

How to Enter
Submit your application and song online

Contact Audrey Morrison, Director of Jazz Studies:  847.905.1500, ext. 576



Billy Strayhorn is acknowledged as one of the most influential composers of the twentieth century.  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.  Throughout his career, Strayhorn overcame several stigmas, not the least of which being an African American artist in a society dominated by whites and a gay man in a culture where homosexuality was considered a crime.

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, we are proud to present the Billy Strayhorn Song Writing Contest.

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