Kenneth Davenport National Competition for Orchestral Works Announces Winner

NEW PALTZ — The School of Fine & Performing Arts at SUNY New Paltz is pleased to announce that Mr. Christopher J. Wills of Whittier, California is the winner of the 2001 Kenneth Davenport National Competition for Orchestral Works. Wills will receive a $5,000 prize, serve as Composer-in-Residence in the SUNY New Paltz Department of Music, and his composition Fingerprints: An Orchestral Odyssey will be performed by the Hudson Valley Philharmonic, conducted by Randall Craig Fleischer on the weekend of November 16-18, 2001.

Image available at 45 entries from 17 states, this year’s Davenport Competition drew many engaging compositions. Competition judges referred to Fingerprints as “impressionistic” and “imaginative,” and “possessing a beautiful orchestration which creates a vivid effect.”

The public is invited to meet Christopher Wills at a Composer’s Forum at SUNY New Paltz on Tuesday, November 13 where he will discuss the winning work. This event is free and open to all. It begins at 8 pm in the Nadia and Max Shepard Recital Hall. A public reception follows in the Honor’s Center. For further information call 845-257-3872.

Fingerprints: An Orchestral Odyssey is featured on the Hudson Valley Philharmonic’s concert “Symphony Series II: From Mozart to Modern.” Performance schedule is:

Friday, November 16 Julien J. Studley Theatre, SUNY New Paltz – 8pm

Saturday, November 17 Bardavon, Poughkeepsie – 8pm

Sunday, November 18 Aquinas Hall, Mount Saint Mary College, Newburgh – 2pm

Tickets to all performances are available by calling the Bardavon at 845-473-5288.

Christopher Wills’ thoughts on “Fingerprints: An Orchestral Odyssey”

Christopher Wills, a composer of dramatic orchestral film and concert music, chose the evocative title because “symbolically, a fingerprint connotes the work of a craftsman, the indelible and unmistakable evidence of a designer behind a design; literally, the design of a fingerprint is characterized by a certain symmetry, with spiral-like patterns that emanate from a central axis.” The composer desired to take the listener on an musical journey of organic growth — from infancy to maturity.

“An analogy that may illustrate this idea is that of an entire tree with its roots, branches, and fruit, all of which have sprouted from a single seed. This seed contains all of the genetic information (its fingerprint) needed to generate the entire organism. Although the seed may seem simple and small, it carries the potential to establish a large and elaborate structure.”

Wills’ primary objective in “Fingerprints” was to create dynamic and propulsive motion through the employment of musical structures that were essentially static due to their symmetrical nature. These structures embody every dimension of the music: formal balances and sectional proportions, rhythmic durations, linear (melodic) intervals, vertical (harmonic) construction, thematic and motivic materials. The composer also desired to create a structure of organic unity and integrity and to refine an idiomatic orchestral style.

“‘Fingerprints’ is a synthesis of many influences: the impressionistic spontaneity and phrase structure of Debussy, the rich and meticulous orchestration of Ravel, the organic, intervallic unity and melodic fragmentation of Stravinsky, the structural symmetries and use of Golden Section proportion in Bartók and Webern, the mirrored rhythms of Messiaen, and the use of static combinational blocks in Ralph Shapey.

“I believe that all effective music – whatever its tonal, harmonic, rhythmic, or formal language – must have an identifiable center of some kind; subjectively speaking, it must possess a type of axis, a point to which matter can gravitate and to which reference can be made, and which serves as a single unifying thread that is woven throughout.

Wills’ other awards include two ASMAC Irwin Kostal Scholarships in 1998 and 2000 at the Golden Score Awards in Beverly Hills, CA; the Herb Alpert Scholarship; CSU Long Beach Annual Composition Award; and placement as a finalist for the BMI Pete Carpenter Fellowship. His current projects include “Americana Suite,” a commission by the Capistrano Valley Symphony; scoring for a Japanimation series and USC student films; music preparation for the Latin jazz band “Tolu” (with Alex Acuna), composer/big band leader Chris Walden, and session bassist Abraham Laboriel; and producing childrens educational music CDs.

As a multi-faceted performer he has served as a keyboardist for artists such as Justo Almario, Marsha Skidmore of the Maranatha! Singers, and the Latin group Escenas, as well as for a number of recording projects with rock and jazz bands and for university concerts and recitals; Wills has also served as a symphonic oboist and clarinetist.

A History of the Davenport Competition

In 1985, the School of Fine & Performing Arts at SUNY New Paltz and the Davenport Family inaugurated the Kenneth Davenport National Competition for Orchestral Works in honor of the generous philanthropist and advocate for regional and national music and culture. This major competition for United States composers invites submissions of new, unrecorded works. In 2000, expanded venues and a new collaboration with the historic Bardavon 1869 Opera House in Poughkeepsie, New York increased the national exposure of the annual Davenport Competition. The collaboration of the School of Fine & Performing Arts, the Bardavon, and the Hudson Valley Philharmonic marks a new chapter in the history of this important national competition dedicated to featuring new works by United States composers.

An image of Mr. Wills can be viewed or downloaded from For more information about the Davenport Competition or Chris Wills call the School of Fine & Performing Arts 845-257-3872. For tickets to the concerts, please contact the Bardavon Box Office at 845-473-5288. A complete listing of upcoming Arts Events at SUNY New Paltz is available on the Internet:

– 30 –