Baylor Symphony Orchestra Wins First Place in The American Prize Competition’s University Orchestral Division

  • Baylor Symphony
    Baylor Symphony Orchestra
  • Baylor Wind
    Baylor Wind Ensemble
Jan. 13, 2016

Baylor Wind Ensemble wins second in University Wind Division

Media Contact: Terry Goodrich, 254-710-3321

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WACO, Texas (Jan. 13, 2016) — Baylor University Symphony Orchestra has won first place in The American Prize competition’s orchestra division for universities and colleges — its second consecutive year to do so — while Baylor Wind Ensemble placed second in the university/college wind competition, the first time it has entered the event.

The American Prize, founded in 2009, is an annual series of national nonprofit competitions unique in scope and structure, designed to recognize and reward the best performing artists, ensembles and composers in the United States based on submitted recordings.

Winners receive cash prizes, written evaluations from judges and regional, national and international recognition. They are profiled on The American Prize website, with links will lead to video and audio excerpts of winning performances.

“I am pleased that the Baylor Symphony has received this award in back-to-back years and both times has been selected over far bigger and better known programs,” said Stephen Heyde, The Mary Franks Thompson Professor of Orchestral Studies, director of orchestral activities and conductor-in-residence. “I think it is verification of the quality of our students and the work ethic they demonstrate on a daily basis and also reflects the work of the faculty who have recruited these exceptional students and conscientiously nurtured their development. We are humbled by the recognition and encouraged to continue to work hard and to do our best to glorify God in our music making.”

The American Prize grew from the belief that a great deal of excellent music being made in this country goes unrecognized and unheralded, not only in major cities, but across the country: in schools and churches, in colleges and universities and by community and professional musicians. The honor recognizes and rewards the best America produces, without bias.

“Our student musicians do not play it ‘safe’ but rather aggressively go after the music by pouring their hearts and souls into the performances,” said Gary Mortenson, dean of the School of Music.

"The Baylor Symphony Orchestra and Wind Ensemble perform with confidence, passion, attention to detail and an infectious spirit that is always present,” he said. “I attribute these qualities to the types of students we accept here at the university and to the excellent direction and attention they get from the podium. This is true of the Baylor Symphony Orchestra, the Baylor Wind Ensemble and true of all of our fine premiere performing ensembles across the School of Music. I leave every performance here at Baylor with a smile on my face and with great music ringing in my ears.”

Mia Orosco, senior violinist and concertmaster, said that for the past four years, she has marveled at the talent, depth, integrity and passion of the Baylor Symphony Orchestra.

“It is incredibly moving to be a part of a collection of students who strive not only to sound like a professional orchestra, but the composers themselves,” she said. “Watching this music program from my hometown of Waco climb to national success is especially inspirational.”

Lindsay Smith, a second-year student in horn performance in the Master of Music program, said that “One nice thing about the BSO is that we do not put in the work for the sake of competing. Instead, we perform to show our love of music and the many gifts it can bring to the community. It is a rewarding experience to win a competition for the second year in a row, but it is a greater one to work with the people who won the award. I am so proud to be a part of the BSO not because of the award we won, but because of the leadership and community generated by this outstanding group.”

Through the years, the 90-member Baylor Symphony has worked with many distinguished performers, among them Van Cliburn, Robert Shaw, Joseph Gingold, Corey Cerovsek, Jacob Druckman, Lorin Hollander and Peter Schickele.

The ensemble appeared in a PBS special, “Christmas at Baylor,” aired nationally in more than 350 markets in 2003 with an estimated 6 million viewers. It has performed eight times at Texas Music Educators Association Convention.

In 2014 and 2015, “A Baylor Christmas,” an hour-long program produced by KWTX-TV from the performances of the orchestra and combined choirs of Baylor University School of Music, aired on Gray Media-owned television stations in Texas and nine other states during the Christmas holidays. Other significant performances include concerts at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival and at national conventions of the American String Teachers Association and the College Orchestra Directors Association. International tours include Cost Rica in 2004 and Belgium’s Flanders region in 2010.

The 75-member Baylor University Wind Ensemble is Baylor School of Music’s premier wind band, praised as “one of the flagship programs in our state, and because of that, the nation.” Performances at conferences throughout the country have been characterized as “nothing short of spectacular” and “representing the best in wind band performance.”

“It is truly an honor for the Wind Ensemble to receive this national distinction,” said J. Eric Wilson, Wind Ensemble conductor and director of bands. “Since nearly 75 percent of Wind Ensemble members perform in the Baylor Symphony, it is a double blessing. It is remarkable that both ensembles received such high recognition within the same year.

“As we travel throughout the country, our colleagues in the field frequently comment upon the transcendent quality of our ensemble performances,” he said. “Our students not only display artistic and technical skill, but they perform with passion, commitment and a spiritual connection to the music that goes beyond the notes on the page.”

Patrick Lenz, a Wind Ensemble saxophonist majoring in music composition, says the recognition is “a real honor for the Baylor School of Music. However, the recognition is not why we work to perform at such an exquisite level; we work to perform at such a high level for the glory of God and for all that music means to all of us.”

Since 2012, the Wind Ensemble has been invited (by juried selection) to perform at three of the most prestigious, national conferences in music: Texas Music Educators Association (2012), and again next month; The Midwest International Band and Orchestra Clinic (2014); and the College Band Directors National Association (2013).

Organized in 1972, the Baylor Wind Ensemble’s philosophy is to educate and expose its students and audiences to the highest quality music written or arranged for wind band and representing diverse styles and historical periods.

The Wind Ensemble has been featured on numerous recordings, particularly highlighting the music of Steven Stucky and Daron Hagen and is currently recording a compact disc featuring the music of Scott McAllister, professor of academic studies in the School of Music. Since 2006, it has collaborated with more than a dozen distinguished composers to provide compelling perspectives and inspiring interactions for Baylor students and faculty. Additionally, the Baylor Wind Ensemble has welcomed distinguished guest conductors and performers.

Wind Ensemble graduates hold distinguished teaching positions at elementary, secondary, and collegiate levels, and former group members have secured appointments in orchestras around the world as well as in leading military bands.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution, characterized as having “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University provides a vibrant campus community for approximately 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions. Baylor sponsors 19 varsity athletic teams and is a founding member of the Big 12 Conference.


The Baylor University School of Music provides transformational experiences that prepare students for careers in music. Our students thrive in a Christian environment characterized by a nurturing resident faculty, an unwavering pursuit of musical excellence, a global perspective, dedication to service, and devotion to faith. They investigate the rich musical and cultural heritage of the past, develop superior musical skills and knowledge in the present, and explore and create new modes of musical expression for the future. While preparing for future leadership roles, the students join with School of Music faculty in enhancing the quality of community life, enriching the larger culture, and making Baylor a place in which heart, mind and soul coalesce. The School of Music of Baylor University is a member of the National Association of Schools of Music and the Texas Association of Music Schools. Degree programs leading to the bachelor of music education degree conform to certification requirements of the Texas Education Agency.

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