Baylor Symphony Orchestra Wins The American Prize for Fourth Consecutive Year

Baylor Symphony Orchestra
July 27, 2018

Media Contact: Terry Goodrich, 254-710-3321
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WACO, Texas (July 27, 2018) — Baylor Symphony Orchestra, led by Baylor Conductor-in-Residence Stephen Heyde, has received The American Prize in Orchestral Performance in the college/university category, making this its fourth consecutive year to win first place.

The orchestra also is the first ensemble in any of the competition’s categories to win first place four times in a row, not just the first university to do so. This is significant because there also are categories for professional, community and youth ensembles in various musical disciplines, according to competition officials.

“Winning The American Prize four consecutive times is validation of the sustained commitment to excellence by the students of the Baylor Symphony Orchestra, their talent, discipline, professionalism and hard work,” said Heyde, The Mary Franks Thompson Professor of Orchestral Studies at Baylor's School of Music.

“It is also a reflection of the constant commitment of the faculty who recruit these amazing young people and work every day to develop their gifts, the generosity of the Baylor School of Music.

School of Music donors and the consistent support of the School and University administration to provide the structure and resources necessary to maintain a quality program,” he said. “I am deeply humbled by this national recognition of our team effort and greatly appreciative of the opportunity to work with these exceptional students and colleagues in service to God through the great art of music.”

The American Prize, the national nonprofit competition in the performing arts, has honored 22 American orchestras nationwide for musical excellence within their divisions, for community outreach and educational enrichment. The honorees include ensembles in professional, community, college, university, youth and high school divisions, representing 10 U.S. states.

“The Baylor Symphony Orchestra is a treasure among all collegiate-level orchestras nationally or even internationally,” said Gary Mortenson, D.M.A., dean of the School of Music at Baylor. “Under Maestro Heyde’s guidance, the orchestra is fully capable of performing all of the major repertoire passed down through music history as found in the orchestral realm.

“To have a university orchestra that can perform the music of Bach, Vivaldi and Handel from one major historical era; Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms from another era; and Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Copland and Bernstein from more recent times sets this orchestra apart,” Mortenson said. “The fact that the adjudication panel from The American Prize has recognized the Baylor Symphony as representing the highest levels of attainment for four years in a row is testament to the consistency of direction and instruction the orchestra receives here at Baylor University.”

The first place (winning) orchestra in each division receives a cash award, certificates, written professional adjudication and regional, national and international recognition based on recorded performances.

The contest does not include live competition. In addition to written evaluations from judges, winners are profiled on The American Prize websites, which link to video and audio excerpts of artist performances. The American Prize has awarded more than $50,000 in prizes in all divisions since 2009 and is presented annually in many areas of the performing arts.

Baylor Symphony Orchestra is Baylor’s flagship orchestra, dedicated to the quality performance of the orchestral repertoire and to the professional and artistic growth of its members. Initiated in 1946, the Baylor Symphony has had only two permanent conductors. Founding director Daniel Sternberg passed the baton to Stephen Heyde in 1984. In a typical semester, 90 to 100 Baylor students, hailing from more than two dozen states and several foreign countries, perform in the ensemble. The Baylor Symphony has an extensive performance schedule on and off campus, annually presenting four to six concerts of standard orchestral repertoire, a full opera production and other events such as concerto accompaniments, new music readings and choral/orchestral collaborations. The orchestra also presents a series of concerts each year to an audience of more than 6,000 Waco area schoolchildren, an annual tradition since 1946.

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.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 17,000 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.


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. Baylor’s School of Music 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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