2023 NOTUS Composition Contest Winners Announced
Ravaei, Barda, Mirle, and Johnson Named Winners of NOTUS Composition Contest
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, December 7, 2022
IU Jacobs School of Music – Bloomington, IN
IU Jacobs School of Music Composition students Kian Ravaei, Christian Courage Barda, Thejas Mirle, and Hunter T. Johnson have all been named winners of the 2023 NOTUS Student Composition Contest. Ravaei received the First Prize, Barda earned the Second Prize, and Mirle and Johnson both tied for the Third Prize.
First Prize winner Kian Ravaei is a composer who is currently a 1st year graduate student at Indiana University pursuing a Master of Music in Composition, studying with Professor Don Freund.
Ravaei’s work is Blue for mixed chorus, bass trombone, tuba, timpani, and percussion, a work that he is using to comment on the state of oppression in his modern Iran: “Sahar Khodayari, known to many as Blue Girl (after the color of her favorite soccer team), disguised herself as a man in a failed attempt to enter Iran’s Azadi (Freedom) Stadium and cheer on her favorite players. In Iran, women are prohibited from attending soccer games; she was detained after authorities noticed her disguise. On September 2, 2019, after she found out that she could spend six months in prison for her alleged crime, Sahar Khodayari set herself on fire outside a Tehran courthouse. She would rather die than submit to a regime that denies women freedom and equality. These lines of Hâfez, Iran’s most revered poet, sound to me like something Blue Girl may have been thinking before she committed her fatal act.”
Second Prize winner Christian Courage Barda is a composer, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, and performance artist from Indianapolis, Indiana. He attends Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, where he is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Historical Performance Voice with an Outside Field in Nonprofit Management and Leadership and a Bachelor of Music in Composition. He studies composition with Don Fruend and voice with Judith Malafronte. Barda composes music that is meditative and theatrical and that serves as a vehicle for disability advocacy. His vocal music employs a wide range of extended techniques, which he attributes to his own practice of light language. In 2021, Barda worked as an apprentice with the International Brazilian Opera Company (IBOC) under João MacDowell, and, in June 2022, was commissioned by IBOC to compose a chamber opera based off the Yeh Yung-chih incident, with performances set for Bloomington and New York City in 2025.
Barda’s Second Prize work is so much depends for SATB a cappella, a work where he sets the words of William Carlos Williams’ poem “The Red Wheelbarrow” in which Barda says that “even the mundane bears importance. … This poem is a prayer of appreciation for the little things. And so with that conclusion, I chose to set it to simple but beautiful music in a minimalistic manner.”
There was a tie for Third Prize with undergraduate composition major Thejas Mirle and Master’s composition student Hunter T. Johnson sharing the honor.
Mirle’s work is Du Silbena Datia (The Sighing Mists) for SATB chorus a cappella setting a poem of Christopher Paolini. Of the work Mirle says: “The song is a sad tale of two lovers who were separated by longing for the sea. The piece attempts to replicate the ancient modal language while still incorporating modern tonality, giving the piece a timeless, archaic feel.”
Johnson’s work is beati qui esuriunt for mixed chorus a cappella. Johnson says his work “is a reflection on hunger. hunger manifests itself in our lives every single day. hunger can be physical, emotional, or spiritual. one can hunger for grain the same way they hunger for love. hunger is felt by people in positions of power and privilege and by those who are marginalized, oppressed, and starved.”
NOTUS will give the world premiere of the works by Kian Ravaei, Christian Courage Barda, and Hunter T. Johnson on Friday, March 31, 2023 at 8pm in Auer Concert Hall as part of their concert Dynamic Equilibrium. This concert will also feature a world premiere by JSOM composition faculty member Chi Wang, Assistant Professor of Music & Associate Director of the Center for Electronic and Computer Music. Thejas Mirle’s prize-winning work will be given its premiere in a NOTUS concert during the Fall 2023 semester.
The judges also awarded Honorable Mentions this year to composer Erin Blake for There Worketh a Spell and composer Yao Hsiao for Old Pond.
The judges for this year’s competition were Jane Dutton, Professor of Music (Voice), Walter Huff, Professor of Music (Choral Conducting) and Director of Opera Choruses, and Larry Groupé, Professor of Music (Composition: Music Scoring for Visual Media).
The Contest is an initiative of Dominick DiOrio, Professor of Music and Director of NOTUS: IU Contemporary Vocal Ensemble. DiOrio did not take part in the judging panel. The submission of scores was anonymous and the judges did not see names or identifying information until after final decisions were made. The annual competition is open to all current undergraduate and graduate composition students at the Jacobs School of Music.
Whether composing piano preludes inspired by mythical creatures, flute melodies that mimic the songs of endangered birds, or a string quartet that draws from the Iranian music of his ancestral heritage, composer Kian Ravaei (b. 1999) takes listeners on a spellbinding tour of humanity’s most deeply felt emotions. Ravaei has collaborated with performers and ensembles such as Eliot Fisk, Bella Hristova, Salastina, and Juventas New Music Ensemble, and has served as a Copland House CULTIVATE Fellow and a Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra Composer Teaching Artist Fellow. In recent months, Ravaei was featured on an episode of Performance Today, America’s most popular classical music radio program. His string quartet Family Photoshas garnered numerous awards, including First Prize in the Spectrum Chamber Music Composition Competition, Second Prize in the instrumental chamber music division of the American Prize, and Honorable Mention in the Tribeca New Music Young Composer Competition. DJs know Ravaei as the go-to person for creating orchestral versions of dance songs, including Wooli & Codeko’s “Crazy feat. Casey Cook (Orchestral).” Ravaei counts celebrated composers Richard Danielpour, Derek Bermel, and Tarik O’Regan among his teachers. He is an alumnus of UCLA and the Curtis Institute of Music Young Artist Summer Program.
Christian Courage Barda is a composer, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, and performance artist from Indianapolis, Indiana. He attends Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, where he is currently pursuing bachelor’s degrees in both composition, as a student of Don Freund, and historical vocal performance, as a student of Judith Malafronte. Barda composes music that is meditative and theatrical and that serves as a vehicle for disability advocacy. His vocal music employs a wide range of extended techniques, which he attributes to his own practice of light language. In 2021, Barda worked as an apprentice with the International Brazilian Opera Company (IBOC) under João MacDowell, and, in June 2022, was commissioned by IBOC to compose a chamber opera based off the Yeh Yung-chih incident, with performances set for Bloomington and New York City in 2025.
Hunter T. Johnson (he/him) is a dynamic young composer with a rapidly growing catalog of choral works, art songs, and chamber pieces. He takes inspiration from issues of social justice and conflict, working to give voice to sentiments and ideas that he feels are ignored in everyday life. In composing vocal works, he seeks poetry and texts that range from those that explore nature and beauty to those that examine social issues such as self-harm, suicide, and other traditionally avoided topics. He has completed commissions for art songs and choral works, including several works for Grammy Award-winning soprano Christine Brewer. Other commissioning ensembles include Emmanuel Episcopal Church and the Lindenwood University Concert Choir directed by Pamela Grooms. An active choral musician, hunter has performed with and conducted groups in concerts across the United States. He is a co-founder and the conductor of the choral ensemble catenary. Hunter’s composition Stars was awarded the 2017 Missouri Choral Director’s Association Opus Award. Hunter’s composition a beautiful boy was recently premiered by Choral Arts Initiative as part of their 2022 Project|PREMIERE Festival. Hunter is pursuing a Master’s of Music Degree in Composition at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music where he has studied with Dr. Han Lash and Dr. Don Freund and holds a B.M. in Composition from Webster University, where he studied with Dr. David Werfelmann and Kim Portnoy.
Thejas Mirle (b. 2004) loves to tell stories through music. He is fascinated with creating narratives through sound, transporting his audience to new worlds. He has collaborated with performers and ensembles from UCLA Extension, THS Symphonic Band, Jazz Ensemble, Trumpet Choir, and Marching Band. His concert band piece, A Christmas Wish has won numerous awards including recognition by the Royal Oak Musicale, and the THS Leonard Bernstein Musicianship Award. He is also the founder and CEO of Jambo Studios LLC, a company that creates compositions for various films and projects reaching audiences worldwide. Thejas counts celebrated composers and musicians Susan Mutter, Gordon Simmons, Brian Nutting, Ian Krouse, and Don Freund among his teachers. He is currently studying Composition at the Jacobs School of Music.