Spheres of a genius. Honoring Leonard Bernstein

A jazz composition competition
by JAM MUSIC LAB

in cooperation with the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Call for scores

Spheres of a Genius 2020 – Honoring Leonard Bernstein

A jazz composition competition by JAM MUSIC LAB University (JMLU) in cooperation with the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra (RSO). The prize-winning work will be premiered on October 8th, 2021 in the Grand Hall of the Konzerthaus Vienna under the direction of chief conductor Marin Alsop. The concert will be recorded by ORF and broadcasted on the Ö1 program.

RSO and JMLU are continuing their first collaboration from 2017/18. The composition competition "Spheres of a Genius" was based on the 100th birthday of the jazz composer and pianist Thelonious Monk.

This time "Spheres of a Genius" pays tribute to Leonard Bernstein.

Join the competition


Download the PDF
Call for scores (English)

1st prize

The prize-winning work will be premiered on October 8th, 2021 in the Grand Hall of the Konzerthaus Vienna under the direction of chief conductor Marin Alsop. The concert will be recorded by ORF and broadcasted on the Ö1 program.

prize money
€ 5.000 RSO Logo

2nd prize

prize money
€ 3.000

3rd prize

prize money
€ 2.000

Idea and outline of the competition

As an artist, Bernstein built bridges in Vienna, and in great cities everywhere. His intelligence, charm, wit, and unimpeachable musical instincts brought people together – musicians and music lovers alike. He mediated between different musical worlds - borrowing freely from contemporary styles like jazz, blues and popular music - then shaped a “classical” sound that became his signature.

Because of his Jewish background, Bernstein held ambivalent views towards Vienna. He forged positive experiences with artists and orchestras, ever mindful of the city’s history with National Socialism.

The task of the composition competition relates to the role of Leonard Bernstein as a composer. The winning piece shall succeed in transferring the impulses given by Bernstein towards composed music beyond stylistic barriers into a demanding musical language of the 21st century and shall especially consider the ways in which Bernstein discussed jazz in the concert hall and included jazz elements in his own works.

As an artist, Bernstein built bridges in Vienna, and in great cities everywhere. His intelligence, charm, wit, and unimpeachable musical instincts brought people together – musicians and music lovers alike. He mediated between different musical worlds and shaped a “classical” sound that became his signature.
Marcus Ratka, Founder of the composers’ competition “Spheres of a Genius”

The aim of the contest

The composition competition relates to the role of Leonard Bernstein as a composer.

Competitors should aim to create music that reflects the spirit of Leonard Bernstein, his innovation, originality and expressiveness. Special consideration should be given Bernstein’s views on reaching across stylistic borders, expanding the language through the use of jazz elements.

The call directs composers to create work that is original, and not quoting from Bernstein. The winning composition must bare evidence of inspiration, rather than imitation."

The Jury

  • Marin Alsop
    Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra (RSO)
  • Christoph Becher
    General Manager, ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
  • Bill Dobbins
    Jazzpianist, Composer, Professor of Jazz Studies and Contemporary Media at Eastman School of Music, University of Rochester
  • Marcus Ratka
    Composer, Rector of JAM MUSIC LAB, Private University for Jazz and Popular Music, Vienna

Join the competition

  1. Subscribe today by filling in the online form below and download the official call for scores here
    Call for scores (English)
  2. Submit your composition by March 20th 2021 via e-mail to bernstein@jammusiclab.com.