Nicola Swinburne
Achille Bocus

  San Francisco Mandolin Orchestra New Music Competition 2012  
  This is the original announcement describing our competition. For updates please visit our news page.  

The San Francisco Mandolin Orchestra announces a competition for new compositions for the orchestra in celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the building of the Golden Gate Bridge. SFMO is one of several partner organizations participating in this community tribute (see  We are asking composers to write a new piece as a tribute to this magnificent structure.  Pieces should be composed for plucked string orchestra and arranged for the San Francisco Mandolin Orchestra. Entries are accepted until January 31, 2012. The three composition finalists will be played by the orchestra in April and at four concerts in May and June, 2012.  The winning piece will be performed on Crissy Fields On May 27th, 2012 as part of the general celebrations and will be recorded for circulation to various media including radio and television.


Our Competition and How to Enter
Please read all of this page before submitting your composition. When you are ready: Click here to enter!

August 1, 2011   Competition launched
November 2011 to January 31, 2012   Entries Accepted
January 31, 2012    Deadline for receipt of entries
February 1 to March 31, 2012     Panel of judges reviews entries
April 2, 2012      Panel of judges announces winning 3 entries
April to May 2012   SFMO rehearses entries
May 2012 (date tbd)   SFMO members vote for 1st/2nd/3rd ranking
May 2012 (date tbd)   SFMO perform winning entries in concert series

Much of the music our orchestra plays was written several centuries ago by people who told us about their lives and their world using emotions captured by the music.  We want to show how it can capture today’s sensations about events in our lives, and be performed on the instruments we play today.

Our Orchestra and Our Music
The San Francisco Mandolin Orchestra is 20 to 25-member strong community orchestra, with a mixture of mandolins, mandolas, octave mandolins, mandocello, guitar, bass, and occasionally harp. It is a plucked string orchestra with its own identity and the instruments have their own unique qualities and techniques of expression, the tremolo being one. However, much of the music we have played is classical music written for bowed string orchestra and we have arranged it to take advantage of the additional chordal and rhythmic capacities of the instruments. Please read the pages arranging for SFMO, and listen to concert recordings of past seasons’ repertoire.

Entrants will complete an Applicant Statement Form to be sent to the Committee Secretary. The form consists of a cover sheet for contact information, a page for the Golden Gate Bridge Narrative (see information below), and permission to grant performance rights to the San Francisco Mandolin Orchestra. The entry will be assigned a number and only the score and narrative description will be passed to the judges. The entry form is at the bottom of this page. Please read all this information before you download it.

Composition Format
The initial submission is a musical score for the requested combination of instruments. (See how to arrange for SFMO.)  We strongly encourage composers to use a musical notation program from which parts can be easily edited if necessary, and later be extracted to make parts, if requested by the judges. The score should be saved as a PDF and submitted electronically. If this is not possible, we will accept legible handwritten scores. Please do not send recordings, live or electronic. 

Piece Duration
Pieces should generally be between 3 and 8 minutes in duration.

Golden Gate Bridge Narrative
The score will be accompanied by a written narrative that describes how the piece is relevant to the theme of the Golden Gate Bridge and its 75th Anniversary. To learn more about the bridge and this event, see

Judging Criteria
The chosen pieces will be memorable, enjoyable for the average audience, but with sufficient depth and musical sophistication to have lasting value.  Pieces will be composed and arranged for the San Francisco Mandolin Orchestra with the expressive capacities of our instruments in mind.  It is important to us that the piece is composed especially for us and is centered on the theme of the Golden Gate Bridge and its 75th anniversary and we will assess this by reading the narrative.  Compositions that were written previously, or that fail to demonstrate the connection to the theme, will not be selected. Judges' decisions are final and are not subject to scrutiny.                       

Judging Panel
Our judges are: Tony Kaye, Keith Harris, and Carlo Aonzo. We will make biographies about our judges available shortly. Compositions will be assigned a number by the composition organizers and they will be judged anonymously. After the the top 3 pieces have been chosen, on the basis of the composition, as submitted, judges have the discretion to ask for minor changes in the arrangement of the piece to suit the orchestra players.

Judging by Orchestra Members
After the three winning pieces have been rehearsed by the orchestra, the orchestra members will vote on the final winner.  The winner will be announced either prior to, or during, one of the end-of-season concerts.

Prizes will be awarded as follows: $1200 (1st prize); $300 (2nd prize); and $100 (3rd prize).

Performances and Recordings
The three winning pieces will be performed by the orchestra at concerts in May and June, 2012 (see performance dates and venues). There may be other performances that will be announced nearer the time and some of these may be recorded.

Composers will be asked to make a statement on the Applicant Statement that their work is original, and to grant San Francisco Mandolin Orchestra unlimited performance rights to the music. Fees for recordings will be by subsequent arrangement.

The Organizers
If you have questions and would like to know more about the competition organization, please email the competition secretary Nicola Bocus at Please also visit this page of Questions and Answers about the competition.

Mailing List
We are using this list to contact everyone who has expressed an interest in the competition. As we know that you may have queries, and we need to give you all the same answer, we ask you to sign up for the competition mailing list below by putting your email and name in the boxes and clicking submit. We may clarify some of the information on this page, and add more specifics in the Questions and Answers (Q&A) section, then we will email you these updates.


Application Form
Please use our online entry form. We suggest that you prepare the Golden Gate Narrative in advance and paste it into the form and add your contact information. If you have problems, you can also download an entry form to print, sign, and scan and email to us. Note that you can't save information typed into the form. Send your composition to Nicola Bocus, SFMO New Music Secretary at

We are looking forward to hearing from you!