Two years ago, Canberra guitarist Matt Withers launched his own composition competition, and this year he is doubling the prize money. The aptly named Matt Withers Australian Music Composition Competition now has over $3,000 on offer in prize money, with $1,000 cash plus performance and recording opportunities for the outright winner. Applicants can be of any age and need to submit an original musical composition for solo classical guitar of 4-6 minutes based on the painting ‘Forest’ by Queensland artist Sue Needham.
Withers, who is a member of Guitar Trek and Brew Guitar Duo, says “There is a lot of great talent amongst composers around Australia, and as a country we have experienced a renaissance in new music for guitar. Nigel Westlake has shown us what can be done with the instrument, and along with him other composers such as Richard Charlton, Ross Edwards and Phillip Houghton”.
Withers says a major factor in bringing about this resurgence of interest in classical guitar music was the pioneering work of Australian maker Greg Smallman. His guitars, made famous by John Williams in the early 1980s, employed a thinner soundboard and lattice bracing as opposed to the traditional fan bracing, Smallman’s guitars “introduced a more sustaining and less percussive sound,” explains Withers.
The inspiration for creating the Australian Music Composition Competition, says Withers, came from his mentor for six years, Tim Kain. Over a four-decade long career of teaching and performing, he has helped build a substantial body of new Australian guitar music. Says Withers: “It was an absolute honour for me to have studied with him for six years and to be continuing his work in commissioning and performing new works for the guitar”.
Adjudicators in the competition this year will be Withers himself and Robert Davidson, head of composition at University of Queensland. The winning entry will be performed at the National Arboretum Canberra in November, along with a new work by Davidson.
Entries close at the end of June; further details can be found here.
In the nearer future, Withers performs Westlake’s Antarctica Suite and Rodrigo’s Aranjuez with the National Capital Orchestra in Canberra – details of that concert here.