The Western Michigan University Symphony Orchestra has been named to the No. 3 spot nationally in the 2015 American Prize competition's college/university orchestra division.

WMU SymphonyOrchestra
Photo: Western Michigan University; used by permission

Results for the annual competition were announced Dec. 30 by the Connecticut-based nonprofit organization that has awarded the prize since 2009. The American Prize is a series of national competitions in the performing arts provides cash awards, professional adjudication and regional, national and international recognition for the best recorded performances by ensembles and individuals each year in the United States at the professional, college/university, church, community and secondary school levels.

The WMU orchestra is under the direction of Bruce Uchimura, cellist and professor of music. The WMU group placed third in its division, with the Baylor University Symphonic Orchestra capturing first place, and the Peabody Conservatory of Music Symphony Orchestra placing second.

Uchimura notes the WMU orchestra made the semifinals in the competition in 2014 and says he's delighted with this year's outcome and pleased to see his students' hard work rewarded with such an honor. This year's stiff competition included semifinalists from Florida State, Cornell, Utah State and Georgia Tech universities as well as the College of William and Mary.

"The ensembles that place or win the American Prize, get a LOT of bragging rights," he says.

Competition results are based on audio recordings of orchestra performances. Uchimura says all of the works submitted for WMU were recordings of live performances at Chenery Auditorium, Miller Auditorium or the Dalton Center Recital Hall. They included compositions by Bernstein, Revueltas, Beethoven, Dvorak and Tchaikovsky.

Uchimura says the jury is a "good mix of professional conductors, college music educators and other qualified musicians and all give written and very candid comments to all semifinalists." Composer and conductor David Katz served as chief judge.

The WMU Symphony Orchestra is not the first WMU ensemble to earn an American Prize placement. In 2013, the WMU Chorale, conducted by Kimberly Dunn-Adams, took second place in the college/university chorus category.

Founded in 1945, the WMU Symphony Orchestra has had just seven conductors in its 70 years of existence. Made up of both graduate and undergraduate students, the ensemble features internationally recognized and WMU faculty soloists, and collaborates with the WMU Grand Chorus and Department of Dance to present a six-concert season in Miller Auditorium and the Dalton Center Recital Hall.

WMU Symphony Orchestra alumni can be found on the stage with such groups ranging from the New York Philharmonic to the Honolulu and San Antonio symphony orchestras.

Source: Western Michigan Univ.

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