Oregon is known for its bountiful crops, but beyond the luscious pears, apples, cherries and delectable wines, the state also boasts a wide variety of artistic fruits, as well.
The Columbia Gorge Orchestra Association, a long-established nonprofit organization supporting classical music performance in the Gorge, has just added to the local musical harvest.
On Aug. 8, CGOA announced that Eugene-area composer Seth Stewart has been awarded the first-ever CGOA Composition Prize for his orchestra work, "Quest for Avalon."
In addition to receiving an honorarium, the CGOA Sinfonietta will present the world premiere of Stewart's work this fall as part of the competition award.
Established to encourage young Oregon composers and introduce local audiences to fresh, new voices, CGOA created the composition competition this past spring and sought out new works to be considered for performance.
According to Sinfonietta conductor and director Mark Steighner, Stewart's piece was selected from a field of "nine outstanding, interesting" submissions.
"All of the submissions were good," Steighner said, "but Seth's piece fit most closely the instrumentation and abilities of the Sinfonietta, as well as having audience appeal."
The first concerts of the Sinfonietta's 2011-12 season will be entitled "Made in Oregon," to be performed Oct. 21 and 23 at the Hood River Middle School auditorium.
Along with Stewart's prize-winning piece, the October concert selections will include music by local composer and pianist Sydney Stevens, PSU composer Tomas Svoboda and Ernst Bloch, famed classical composer who lived his later years in Agate Beach, Ore.
Stewart is a graduate composition student at the University of Oregon and the director of the Eugene Contemporary Chamber Ensemble. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Utah.
"As student of medieval literature and longtime Arthurian enthusiast, I chose the theme of Avalon in this orchestral work to represent a quest; an inner journey of the individual," said Stewart. Avalon is the mythical Celtic island where the fabled King Arthur went to die.
The CGOA prize is not the first for Stewart, who is also a recipient of a Barlow Endowment commission and winner of the Portland Vocal Consort's Best of the Northwest Young Composers competition.
Stewart's music has been performed widely by such acclaimed ensembles as the Portland Vocal Consort, Convergence Vocal Ensemble in Austin and the Canyonlands New Music Ensemble of Salt Lake City.
Steighner anticipates that the CGOA Composition Prize competition will continue as an annual event, offering further opportunities for up-and-coming composers.
To listen to Seth Stewart's music, samples are available on his website at www.SethStewartMusic