Roma, Roma Ma

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Competitions can be infuriating. For every winner there are scores of gracious losers, angry would-have-beens and conspiracy theorists. While no award is free from this aura of bad blood and missed opportunity, the Pulitzer Prize, a recent subject of programming at both the Caramoor Festival and our very own The New Canon, ranks among the most oft-discussed and debated. For this week's shows, I was trying to think of a sort of anti-Pulitzer, and honestly came up empty-handed. Competitions is competitions; tricks is tricks; it’s all a bit, well, competitive!

That said, the Rome Prize is pretty swell, as these things go. They aim to give their fellowships to “emerging artists and scholars in the early or middle stages of their careers who represent the highest standard of excellence.” This commitment to the not-yet-established has ensured that the artists and scholars who emerge from this process are doing real foundation work on their portfolios during the time of their fellowship. The award-self takes the form of an eleven-month sort of artist colony experience at the American Academy in Rome. Winners are given studio and living space in a communal environment with gardens and views and a canteen specializing in locally-sourced, sustainable food. Not too shabby.

There have been some pretty fab composers who’ve been fellows at the American Academy, and this week’s got a ton of ‘em, from 1931’s Roger Sessions to 2011’s Sean Friar. Listen in! There’s some great music this week. What are your feelings regarding competitions? Are they a good motivator? An exciting event? A morale-busting torture device?