HerVoice: The Emerging Women Composer Competition


Chicago a cappella is pleased to announce a competition and mentorship program for women composers.  A partnership with the Kansas City Chorale, this opportunity is open to women of all ages from anywhere in the world. It is intended to promote the work of promising composers and provide hands-on training to further their skills in choral composition. We are seeking composers who are eager to improve their skill at choral composition in particular. Women composers whose career is in its early stages and women composers of color are particularly encouraged to apply.

One winner will be selected to receive personal mentorship and advice on the submitted piece via virtual one-on-ones with acclaimed composers and artistic directors from the selection committee. Composer Stacy Garrop will chair the selection committee, which will also include composers Chen Yi and Zanaida Robles, Chicago a cappella Artistic Director John William Trotter, and Kansas City Chorale Artistic Director Charles Bruffy. In addition, the winner will be invited to attend an early rehearsal of the work with Chicago a cappella (virtually, if travel to Chicago is not possible), with the opportunity to receive feedback and make changes to the score. The piece will be performed by Chicago a cappella during the 2021-22 season, with a performance recording available to the composer for non-commercial use. The winner will receive a $500 stipend for work with mentors and ensemble and she may also have opportunities for performances with the Kansas City Chorale, and/or publication of the work.

In addition, all composers who submit will be invited to participate in a virtual meeting with Stacy Garrop regarding the business side of composing, and an additional informal group conversation about issues pertaining to navigating a career as a female composer.


Submit a piece for a cappella choral ensemble with no more than 10 voice parts (SSSAATTBBB). The piece should be between 3-5 minutes in length. Texts used must be public domain or have written permission from copyright holder. Submissions must be unpublished, unawarded and not previously broadcast.  Previously performed works are acceptable. Composers may submit a maximum of two pieces.


  • Submission deadline:  April 1, 2021
  • Short interviews (phone or online) for finalists:  April 1-30, 2021
  • Decision announcement:  May 1, 2021
  • Mentoring sessions, initial rehearsal, and group discussions:  between May 1-Sept. 15, 2021
  • Final version of piece completed by Sept. 15, 2021


To submit, email the following:

  • PDF of your piece (hand-written acceptable), without your name anywhere on the score. Name the file as: Title.pdf”.
  • Written permission from text copyright holder, if not public domain.  Please indicate year the text was written for all texts.
  • Pronunciation guide and/or diction recording if you believe it is useful (e.g. for languages less often seen in standard U.S. repertoire)
  • Audio file, if available. MIDI file acceptable. Name the file as “Title.pdf”. 
  • PDF of brief artist statement (without your name) describing why are you interested in this opportunity. Maximum word count 300.
  • Include your complete contact information in the body of the email; no name or contact information on the attachments, please.

Submit via email to [email protected] no later than April 1, 2021.


Performing with an ensemble of 10 singers and no conductor, Chicago a cappella has been hailed as “the area’s best unaccompanied group” (Chicago Magazine) and “the city’s liveliest, most versatile vocal ensemble” (Chicago Tribune). Founded in 1993, the group spans a repertoire from Gregorian chant to the Beatles and beyond. With more than 500 performances to its credit, Chicago a cappella produces an annual concert series in the Chicago area, and it has appeared in 13 American states and in Mexico. The ensemble has been heard frequently on radio nationally and has a catalog of nine CD recordings on the Cedille, Centaur, and Gothic labels. They have been acclaimed for their “clarity, well-balanced tone, and deep emotional involvement” (Washington Post) and “breathtaking ensemble and control” (American Organist). 

Dr. John William Trotter became Chicago a cappella's second Artistic Director in 2020, having previously served as the ensemble’s Principal Music Director and Guest Music Director starting in 2014.  He was Associate Conductor for the Vancouver Chamber Choir and has conducted more than a dozen professional choirs and orchestras on three continents. During the 2019-20 season, Trotter served as a Visiting Fellow at the University of Cambridge (UK).

Since the debut performance in 1982, the Kansas City Chorale has provided audiences with a high caliber of choral artistry, performing a diverse repertoire of new and traditional music. Under Charles Bruffy’s leadership the choir has garnered international recognition for artistic merit, having been praised for its refined sound, phrasing and flawless intonation. As a cornerstone of the Kansas City performing arts community, the Chorale creates concert programs and recordings that educate, engage, provoke, and inspire listeners. The Chorale’s ongoing outreach efforts facilitate the development of local talent, while providing students and their instructors with the opportunity to learn from world-class vocalists.  The Kansas City Chorale has an award-winning collection of albums with Chandos Records, Naxos Records, Nimbus Records, and 2Foals Records.  The Chorale's album Life and Breath: Choral Works of René Clausen, won the Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance and Best Engineered Album, Classical.  ​Together with the Phoenix Chorale, the ensemble recorded Rachmaninoff: All Night Vigil, which won the Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance.

Stacy Garrop is an award-winning composer with over five dozen choral works to her credit.  Her catalog also includes numerous works for orchestra, opera, oratorio, wind ensemble, art song, chamber ensembles, and solo instruments. She served as the first Emerging Opera Composer of Chicago Opera Theater’s Vanguard Program (2018-2020) and held a 3-year composer-in-residence position with the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra.  Garrop is a Cedille Records artist with pieces currently on ten CDs; her works are also commercially available on ten additional labels.  She has received an Arts and Letters Award in Music from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Barlow Prize, and prizes from competitions sponsored by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Omaha Symphony, Boston Choral Ensemble, and Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble.  Recent commissions include works for Grant Park Music Festival Orchestra, Chicago’s Music of the Baroque, and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. Other notable commissions include works for the Kronos Quartet, Chanticleer, and the San Francisco Choral Society. She has upcoming commissions with The Crossing and the Soli Deo Gloria Music Foundation among others. She taught composition and orchestration at Roosevelt University (2000-2016) before leaving to launch her freelance career. She earned degrees in music composition at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor (B.M.), University of Chicago (M.A.), and Indiana University-Bloomington (D.M.).

Dr. Zanaida Stewart Robles is a fierce advocate for diversity and inclusion in music education and performance. Born, raised, and educated in Southern California, she is in demand as a vocalist, conductor, clinician and adjudicator for competitions, festivals, and conferences related to choral and solo vocal music. She serves on the national board of the National Association of Negro Musicians and is chair of the board of directors of Tonality, a non-profit organization that promotes peace, unity, and social justice through choral music performance in Los Angeles. She holds degrees from the USC Thornton School of Music (D.M.A.), CSU Northridge (M.M.), and CSU Long Beach (B.M.).  As a performing arts instructor, Dr. Robles conducts numerous choral ensembles at Harvard-Westlake Upper School in Studio City, CA. She served for five years as music director for “Project Messiah” with Street Symphony, an organization that engages communities directly affected by homelessness and incarceration through performances, workshops and teaching artistry.  Her compositions have been performed by the L.A. Master Chorale and Tonality and recent commissions include the California Choral Directors Association All-State Honor Choir.

As a prolific composer who blends Chinese and Western traditions, transcending cultural and musical boundaries, Dr. Chen Yi is a recipient of the Ives Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2001. She has been Lorena Cravens/Millsap/Missouri Distinguished Professor at the Conservatory of Music and Dance in the University of Missouri-Kansas City since 1998. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2005, and the American Academy of Arts & Letters in 2019. Born in China, Ms. Chen received bachelor and master’s degrees from the Central Conservatory in Beijing, and the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Columbia University in New York. She has served as Composer-in-Residence for Chanticleer and taught composition at Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University. Her music is published by Theodore Presser Company, performed worldwide, and recorded on over 100 CDs.  Recent premieres have included works performed by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, the Grossman Ensemble, China Philharmonic in Beijing, and the Hawaii Symphony in Honolulu.