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Competition Finals Set for Pellicciotti Opera Composition Prize at The Crane School of Music

September 9, 2022

SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music to Present Selections from Four Finalists for Opera Composition Prize on Sept. 25 

(From top left to lower right) Evan Mack, composer; Joshua McGuire,
librettist; Timothy Takach, composer; Caitlin Vincent, librettist;
Anthony R. Green, composer and librettist; Frank Pesci, composer; Andrew
Altenbach, librettist.

SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music is preparing to host the competition finals for the 2024 Domenic J. Pellicciotti Opera Composition Prize—welcoming leading composers and librettists from around the world to campus. 

Joined by guest artists, the award-winning Crane Opera Ensemble will present commissioned scenes from four final works in free public performances on Sunday, Sept. 25 at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., to be held in the Sara M. Snell Music Theater 

One winner will be awarded a $25,000 commission to complete their work, which will premiere in full in Fall 2024.  

The Crane School of Music and our 2024 Pellicciotti selection committee are thrilled to welcome the finalists for the Domenic J. Pellicciotti Opera Composition Prize,” said Dr. Tim Sullivan, professor of music and co-facilitator of the committee. “Four finalists were chosen from a wonderfully diverse pool of submissions from around the world. We look forward to presenting excerpts from these exciting new works.” 

The prize was founded by Dr. Gary C. Jaquay ’67 to honor his life partner Domenic J. Pellicciotti, an ardent fan of opera. The award seeks to encourage and acknowledge the creation of new operas that explore themes related to social justice, diversity, equity and/or inclusion. “For centuries, operas have engaged deeply with pressing social issues,” said Dr. William Gibbons, dean of The Crane School of Music. “This competition helps ensure that legacy continues in our time, and we are honored that Crane and SUNY Potsdam can play a role in that process.” 

The finalists for the 2024 Domenic J. Pellicciotti Opera Composition Prize are: 

  • “A Nearer Mother,” inspired by the life of Ruth Coker Burks, is the story of one woman’s quest to help early victims of the AIDS epidemic end their lives in peace. Ruth must negotiate hateful intolerance, an unpredictable virus, and her young child’s future to fulfill her calling. Evan Mack, composer; Joshua McGuire, librettist. 

  • “Computing Venus” provides a fascinating glimpse into the life of astronomer Maria Mitchell, one of the earliest champions of women in STEM. The opera follows Mitchell’s efforts to cultivate the next generation of women astronomers, even as growing movements threatened to close the world of science to women forever.  Timothy Takach, composer; Caitlin Vincent, librettist.  

  • “I Was Shot by a Cop” tells the stories of 18 people fatally shot by police officers in the USA. Each story is based on true events which should have sparked drastic policy change but did not. This new opera tells human stories, aiming to enact change through collective empathy. Anthony R. Green, composer and librettist.  

  • “The Strangers”: In 19th-century New Orleans, a police chief is assassinated. With little evidence, Sicilian immigrants are tried, acquitted, but then lynched by an angry mob directed by the city’s elite. Innuendo, politics and xenophobia serve as a backdrop to a parable of immigrants coming face to face with native pride. Frank Pesci, composer; Andrew Altenbach, librettist. 

During the finals, the composers and librettists will introduce each of their pieces, and the performances will conclude with a moderated audience feedback session. Scenes from “I Was Shot By a Cop” and “The Stranger” will be presented at 1 p.m., followed by selections from “A Nearer Mother” and “Computing Venus” at 5 p.m. A post-showcase reception will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center lobby. The winning project will be publicly announced a few days after the completion of the workshop. 

Leading up to the finals workshop, there will be a panel discussion with the composers, librettists and the noted dramaturg Cori Ellison, on Friday, Sept. 23 at 4 p.m., in the Ralph Wakefield Recital Hall. There will also be open rehearsals on Saturday, Sept. 24 from 1 to 6 p.m., also in Snell Theater. 

The selection committee for the 2024 Prize includes:  

  • Dr. Erin Brooks, associate professor of music history, SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music 

  • Tom Cipullo, award-winning composer and winner of the 2018 Pellicciotti Prize for Mayo  

  • Liesl Schoenberger Doty, assistant professor of violin, SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music 

  • Dr. Carleen Graham, associate dean and director of the vocal division, Manhattan School of Music 

  • Dr. Ivette Herryman Rodríguez, assistant professor of music theory and composition, SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music 

  • Dr. Tim Sullivan, professor and co-chair of the Department of Music Theory, History and Composition, SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music 

  • Brock Tjosvold, assistant professor of vocal accompaniment and coaching, SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music 

  • Darren Keith Woods, general director of Fort Worth Opera 

For more information about the Pellicciotti Prize, visit 

The finals workshop performances will be broadcast live on the Crane School of Music YouTube channel at the concert time. To view the program and see other upcoming streaming performances, visit 

About the Crane Opera Ensemble:  

The award-winning Crane Opera Ensemble is a significant source for opera and music theatre in the North Country region of New York State. The ensemble provides exciting opportunities for students to experience all facets of opera performance and production through rehearsals, coachings and classes related to performance practices and production techniques. The ensemble’s productions have garnered awards from the National Opera Association (2018, 2015, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2003), The American Prize (2018, 2011), and the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (2010).  

About The Crane School of Music: 

Founded in 1886, SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music has a long legacy of excellence in music education and performance. Life at Crane includes an incredible array of more than 300 recitals, lectures and concerts presented by faculty, students and guests each year. The Crane School of Music is the State University of New York’s only All-Steinway institution and was one of the first Yamaha Institutions of Excellence. For more information, please visit 

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Alexandra Jacobs Wilke 315-267-2918

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