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Composer wins award

June 17, 2008

Congratulations to Thai composer Narong Prangcharoen, who has brought fame to Thailand by winning the Annapolis Charter 300 Young Composers Competition.

A total of 111 international candidates submitted their musical scores and recordings - all anonymously, for total unbiased judgement - to the judging panel of the 2007-2008 competition, and in April, four finalists were announced: Dan Visconti, 25; Jacob Bancks, also 25; Kristin Kuster, 33 (all from the US); and 33-year-old Narong from Thailand.

Each of the four finalists was awarded a $5,000 (166,000 baht) commission to write one new orchestral piece for the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra (ASO) in celebration of the City of Annapolis's Charter tricentenary this year.

After the commissioned works were presented during the ASO's 2007-2008 concerts, a second round jury process determined the winner. This was determined by the most votes from music experts, musicians and audiences.

Narong received six of a possible seven votes to win. Among the judges were ASO music director Jose-Luis Novo and Baltimore Symphony Orchestra music director Marin Alsop. He also won both the musician and audience votes. Interestingly enough, he was the only one of the four who hadn't visited Annapolis before the works were performed.

As the overall winner, Narong won himself an additional $5,000 cash prize, and, more importantly to Narong himself, the opportunity for his winning composition - a nine-minute work called Tri-Sattawat (Three Centuries) - to be included in a special commemorative Charter 300 Commemorative Recording by the orchestra that will include works by leading composers representing the different centuries: Arcangelo Corelli (1708), Ludwig van Beethoven (1808), Joseph-Maurice Ravel (1908), and Narong Prangcharoen (2008).

According to ASO president Lee Streby, it was a very tight competition, which makes it even more remarkable for Narong.

Narong will be making the recording of Tri-Sattawat during two live concerts in Annapolis in November, coinciding with the tricentenary of the Charter, which was signed in November 1708.

In fact, winning awards is nothing new to Narong. According to his web site, his previous prizes include the Alexander Zemlinsky International Composition Competition Prize, the 18th ACL Yoshiro IRINO Memorial Composition Award, the Pacific Symphony's American Composers Competition prize, and the Toru Takemitsu Composition Award.

"His music has been performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Pacific Symphony, the Grant Park Orchestra, the Nagoya Philharmonic, the Melbourne Symphony, the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic, the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra of Thailand, the Ensemble TIMF, the New York New Music Ensemble and the Imani Winds, as well as by pianist Bennett Lerner, in Asia, America, Australia and Europe, and has been broadcasted by ABC Classic FM-Australia's classical music network. Mr Prangcharoen recently received prestigious Silapathorn Awards or Thailand Contemporary National Artist 2007 from the Thai Government," it goes on to say.

Narong is currently on a full scholarship to study for a doctoral degree in composition at the University of Missouri in Kansas City, after two years of training in music composition under Dr Narongrit Dhammabutra. His love of composition evolved from playing the trumpet during high school, switching to piano in his third year at Srinakharinwirot University. Such was his determination that he practised six hours a day, and within one year, he managed to pass the Trinity Guildhall Grade 6 certificate.

Ironically, endless hours of practise made him lose interest in the piano, and that's when he switched to music composition, and he has never looked back.

With all the accolades under his belt, Narong has become quite a phenomenon in the US, and has been called by the L.A. Times "a composer with a gift for creating orchestral colour".

On top of his work as a composer and PhD candidate, Narong also teaches at the Community Music and Dance Academy, Conservatory of Music, University of Missouri-Kansas City. He is also winding up a recording project with his orchestral and wind symphony works, which is expected to be released by Albany Records later this year.

Thailand should be proud to have yet another of its musicians join the international world of orchestral music. It shows that the talent and the opportunities are out there, if only people have the determination, discipline and perseverance to achieve success.