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Students, Faculty + Alumni

Yoshi Onishi ’07MM, ’08AD wins Gaudeamus Prize

Composition alumnus Yoshiaki Onishi ’07MM, ’08AD won the 2011 Gaudeamus Prize, it was announced yesterday. The prestigious prize was awarded after the closing concert of the Gaudeamus Music Week at Museum Speelklok in Utrecht, The Netherlands.

The international jury unanimously selected Onishi, born 1981 in Japan, from the thirteen nominees. The prize was awarded by Aleid Wolfsen, the mayor of Utrecht. The jury consisted of Tadeusz Wielecki (Poland), Miguel Azguime (Portugal) and Rozalie Hirs (The Netherlands).

"Winning the prize was the last thing I was expecting at the Gaudeamus Muziekweek," wrote Onishi in an email. "I was focused on a fruitful collaboration with the Nieuw Ensemble, which played my piece with vitality and intellect. With thirteen nominees and their thirteen completely different stylistic traits, I thought anybody could win. Hearing my name announced at the award ceremony seemed almost too surreal."

He continued, "Nobody knows what a prize may bring to his/her life. But in accepting this prize, I feel that I am given a reminder and a huge responsibility to fulfill in the coming years. That is, I must keep learning, improve my métiers as a musician, and become a better person."

The Gaudeamus Music Week, an international festival for new music, is a meeting place for numerous young composers. 385 compositions from over thirty countries were submitted for consideration; thirteen compositions were nominated for the prize and were performed during the festival. Onishi's Départ dans… was performed last Friday night by the Nieuw Ensemble. 

Two years ago, YSM alum Ted Hearne ’09MMA won the 2009 Gaudeamus Prize for selected movements from his piece Katrina Ballads.

The jury stated that Onishi

“is a master of the material, and also continuously shows the ‘drive’ to really make music. The winning piece was written from a strong, creative driving force. In his work he created his own world with its own rules and sounds, a seemingly inescapable form with an extraordinary musical interaction between the musicians. The jury is looking forward to discover how this remarkable talent will develop."

The Gaudeamus Prize of €4,550 is intended as a commission for a new work to be performed at the Gaudeamus Music Week 2012. For many composers, this prize brings international recognition and provides a stepping stone to launch their careers. Read the original announcement here.

About Yoshiaki Onishi

Born in Hokkaido, Japan in 1981, Yoshiaki Onishi is active both as a composer and a conductor. He received the Artist Diploma (2008) and the Master of Music degrees (2007) in music composition from Yale School of Music. Before Yale, he studied music composition, clarinet and conducting at University of the Pacific, Conservatory of Music (Stockton, California), where he graduated in 2004 with highest honors. He is currently studying composition at Columbia University, where he also teaches courses in Music Humanities. His most recent project is a piece for violinist Ari Streisfeld from the JACK Quartet, as part of a cycle of pieces for string instruments.

His principal teachers in composition have been Fabien Lévy, Fred Lerdahl, Tristan Murail, Michael Klingbeil, Martin Bresnick, Aaron Jay Kernis, François Rose and Robert Coburn. His composition teachers at seminars and summer music courses also include Toshio Hosokawa, Toshi Ichiyanagi, Anders Hillborg, Marco Stroppa, and Luca Francesconi. Additionally, he studied clarinet performance and conducting.

Onishi’s music has been performed worldwide by such ensembles as the JACK Quartet and Next Mushroom Promotion. His music has been heard in Europe, Asia, and the United States. New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini called him “a composer who can draw such varied, eerily alluring sounds.”

As a conductor, Onishi is in great demand. He has conducted the Talea Ensemble, Wet Ink Ensemble, Yale Philharmonia, Iktus Percussion, Mantra Percussion, Dither Quartet, and PMF Academy Ensemble, among others, and he has collaborated with composers such as Zosha Di Castri, Curtis K. Hughes, Philip Schuessler, Bryan Jacobs, Wang Lu, Kate Soper and Matthew Ricketts.