Commissioned Composer Program

To encourage the creation of new music by American composers, the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) annually assists its State Associations with a Composer Commissioning Program.   Each year, WSMTA commissions a Washington State composer to write a composition to be premiered at the State Conference in June.  Commissioned composers will receive $2,500.

The composer may then submit their composition to the MTNA Distinguished Composer of the Year committee the following fall.  This committee selects one composer to be honored as the National Distinguished Composer of the Year, whose composition is then performed at the MTNA national conference. All compositions are placed in the MTNA Commissioned Works Library.

Every composer involved to date has shown excitement and enthusiasm for this project, often stating that it gives them an incentive to accomplish something they might not have done otherwise.  The composers are often asked to provide an intermediate-level composition for students to learn.

 If you have questions, please contact Commissioned Composer Committee Chair Louise Nedela.

2023 Call for Composers!

Submissions Accepted
February 1, 2022 – April 15, 2022

To encourage the creation of new music by American composers, the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) annually assists its State Associations with a Composer Commissioning Program.  Each State commissioned composition is digitally submitted to MTNA for selection of the National Distinguished Composer of the Year, which is presented in concert and receives $5000.  The composer retains ownership of the composition.

In conjunction with MTNA, the Washington State Music Teachers Association (WSMTA) is seeking candidates for the 2023 Commissioned Composer of the Year (CCOY) to prepare a new composition according to the requirements below.  The selected commissioned composer will receive $2500 when the composition is premiered at the June 2023 WSMTA state conference.  

The selected State Commissioned Composer (as well as the selected National Distinguished Composer) will be responsible for financial and logistics regarding performers, rehearsals, and performance of the selected composition at the conference, and also provide copies for archives.   To keep composer’s costs to a minimum, it is suggested that the piece be for one or two performers.

 The WSMTA 2023 composition requirements:

  • For Advanced or Professional level for any instrument or voice
  • Composer must reside in Washington State
  • Membership in WSMTA or MTNA is not required
  • Previously commissioned composers and current employees of WSMTA are ineligible to apply

For further contract responsibilities, rights of a commissioned composer, and other information contact Louise Nedela.  

To be considered, please submit the following by April 15, 2022 to Louise Nedela:  

  1. Two of your original compositions that you have in your catalog that you feel will be representative of your compositional ability for this project; format–pdf scores and mp3 recordings; (arrangements not accepted)
  2. A short bio
  3. Contact information
  4. A synopsis of your intended project that adheres to the requirements   

The selected composer will subsequently prepare a new composition as stated above.  

Please feel free to contact Louise Nedela with any questions:, phone: 360-448-8572

WSMTA Commissioned Composers Since 1975

1975David Robbins
1976William Doppman
1978Wendal Jones
1980Paul Polombo
1981Michael Young
1982Brother Ronald Hurst
1985Alan Hovhaness
1986Tomas Svoboda
1987Bern Herbolsheimer
1988William Bergsma
1989Greg Short
1990Normand Poulshock
1991James Beale
1992William Brandt
1993Roger Briggs
1994Diane Thome
1995David Jones
1996David Asplin
1997Charles Argersinger
1998Carol Sams
1999Clement Reid
2000Jonathon Middleton
2001Greg Youtz
2002Don Caron
2003Greg Yasinitsky
2004B. J. Rosco
2005Robert Lundquist
2006Valerie Roubos
2007Gail Gross
2008Meg Mann
2009Victoria Sabo
2010Keva Vaughan-McMorrow
2011Robert Spittal
2012Ryan Hare
2013Reginald Unterseher
2014Liz Nedela
2015Gay Santerre
2016Gregory Youtz
2017Brent Edstrom
2018Keva Vaughan-McMorrow
2019Bruce Stark
2021Dawn Sonntag

Commissioned Composer

of the Year


Dawn Sonntag, D.M.A.

Dawn Sonntag is a multi-faceted Olympia-based composer. Her music, which includes opera, art song, and chamber, choral, and orchestral music, has been performed by the Delgani Quartet, the Amphion Quartette, the Almeda Trio, Concert Black, the Fairbanks Arts Festival Orchestra, and the Hiram College and Community String orchestra, the Portland Choral Arts Ensemble, the Cleveland Chamber Choir, and numerous university, community, and church choirs across the U.S. and in Germany, France, and Norway. Her operas have been performed by the Cleveland Opera Theater, ContempOpera Cleveland, the Hartford Opera Theater, and at the Opera from Scratch festival in Halifax. Her new opera “For Life” will be premiered in May 2021 at the Cleveland Opera Theater’s New Opera Works festival. She has won numerous competitions and awards, including a American Scandinavian Foundation creative artist grant, a 2019 Swedish government intercultural exchange residency grant, the Inge Pitler prize for lied performance in both voice and piano, and the Kenwood Symphony Masters Aria Competition. She was the 2010 Ohio Music Teachers’ Association’s Distinguished Composer of the Year.  She is a lecturer in composition at Pacific Lutheran University and has also taught at Gonzaga University in Spokane, the University of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Hiram College, where she chaired the Music Department from 2015 – 2019. She received her doctorate in composition and vocal performance at the University of Minnesota and completed masters’ degrees in choral conducting, collaborative piano, and voice at the Ohio State University, the Hochschule für Kirchenmusik, Heidelberg, Germany and Antioch University’s McGregor School of the Arts in Tübingen, Germany.

For this project, Sonntag composed a three-movement sonata for violin and piano inspired by both the experience of isolation and the heightened awareness of diversity that has arisen during this challenging period in our history. Drawing from the Baroque concepts of rhetoric and affect, she used techniques such as counterpoint, bi-tonality, poly-rhythms, multi-meter, and Western and non-Western melodies to create dialogue between the instruments. The three movements’ themes are isolation and connection, fear and hope, and diversity and joint purpose.  Each is based on quotations from three prominent figures in the history of the United States.

Sonntag’s new sonata premiered at the annual WSMTA State Conference in June 2021.  The recital is available to conference attendees through December 2021!

Commissioned Composer

of the Year


Bruce Stark

The music of American composer Bruce Stark (born in San Diego) reflects the varied elements of his musical upbringing: studies in percussion, jazz piano, and classical composition. He completed a masters degree in composition at the Juilliard School as a student of Roger Sessions and Vincent Persichetti, thereafter residing in Tokyo for more than 20 years, producing a collection of works that reveal a compelling musical voice. In 2013 he returned to the U.S. and joined the music faculty of DigiPen Institute of Technology as professor of composition and music theory.

From piano and chamber works to choral and orchestral pieces, Stark’s music has been performed on the concert stages of four continents, recorded on numerous CDs and broadcast on radio programs worldwide. Recent commissions include Friends of Today’s Music, trombonists Megumi Kanda and Don Lucas, pianist Kai Schumacher and Eastern Standard Trio. Awards include First Prize in the Composers Guild Contest, Second Prize in the Barlow International Competition, ASCAP composer awards and others. His compositions have been featured in the National Flute Association Convention, American Piano Festival, International Trombone Festival, Canberra International Chamber Music Festival, and the BluePrints series in New York City. Performances of his Symphonic Dances include the Baton Rouge Symphony, Music School Festival Orchestra at Chautauqua and Jakarta Symphony, and his Overture to New Beginnings by the Hong Kong Philharmonic, Rapides Symphony and English Northern Philharmonia. Performances of his chamber works include flutist Paula Robison, the Westwood Wind Quintet and numerous pianists. Recordings of his works have been released by Victor Entertainment, Hanssler Classic, Centaur Records, Red Kite Records and many others.

published scores available online at:

premiered at the
Young Composers Project and Commissioned Composer Recital
at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma
June 20, 2019 at 2:15 p.m. in Schneebeck Hall
Stark’s Sonata for Piano received an Honorable Mention in 2019 from the MTNA Distinguished Composer Committee.
Sonata for Piano
I. Allegro
II. Andante
III. Presto
Sonata for Piano was composed in the spring of 2018 for a commission from the Washington State Music Teachers Association. The fast and rhythmically propelled first movement unfolds in sonata form with jazz-influenced, syncopated material followed by a more lyrical theme, both of which are utilized in the development section, returning in reverse order in the recapitulation. The second movement is a meditative tapestry in 7/8 meter in which a sparce, singing motive is heard through a texture of layered elements. A flourish of activity awakens the music at one point, then the piece returns, somewhat transformed, to the initial texture and fades to its conclusion, like an echo. After a brief introduction, the third movement dances with a bright, rhythmically-propelled momentum in compound meter as it drives the piece to an energetic, optimistic conclusion. Following the initial material, a fugato appears with a subject derived from themes of previous movements, leading to a finish incorporating many of the piece’s motifs as the piece culminates.