Morristown High senior among winners of Student Harmonium Composer Competition

From the Harmonium Choral Society:

The Harmonium Choral Society is thrilled to announce the winners of its 25th Annual High School Essay Contest.

by Asher Shectman room By day won first prize and will be sung at the Harmonium open hearts concerts Friday, June 3, 2022, 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, June 5, 3 p.m., both at Our Lady of Sorrows, 217 Prospect St., South Orange.

The entries were so good that there was a three-way tie for second place; the winners are Alexander De Stefano, Katie Nieto and Lux Onigman.

Artistic director dr. Anne Matlack says: “I am in awe of the talent of our student composers and delighted to have supported them for 25 years. The first four pieces were so outstanding that we had to declare a three-way tie for second place this year. I wish time would allow us to perform them all, and I look forward to great things from all of these young composers.

In addition to making its debut with the winner of the competition, the Harmonium Choral Society open hearts concerts will include two other world premieres – love will be reborn by Mark Millerand by Amanda Harberg This! – as well as works by Eric Whitacre, Daniel Pinkham, Moses Hoganand more.

Selected chamber singers will perform Why do you think I fought at Omaha Beach by Melissa Dunphy. Guest musicians include Christine Lamb on the flute and Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil on the harmonica. Tickets are on sale here.

Student composers

Grand Prize Winner Asher Shecman is a senior at Cranford High School. He is a pianist, bassist, guitarist, drummer, arranger and self-taught composer. He plays percussion and leads his school’s bands and marching bands, and also participates in the concert choir, madrigal choir, jazz band, musicals, and a cappella band. Asher won the 2021 competition with his piece Alchemywhich was played in March Resilience concert. He will study composition at Berklee College of Music in the fall.

Alexandre DeStefano (second place) is a senior at Holy Spirit High School in Absecon, NJ and the winner of the 2021 Young Musicians Piano Competition, Collegiate Division and the grand prize winner of the 2021-2022 New Jersey Young Composers Competition for his piece No more, not yet. He won first place for piano performance in the 2021 Ester Weil Ocean City Pops Student Music Competition and the prestigious statewide Algonquin Rising Star Classical Music Competition in 2018 and 2019. Alexander was also a winner from the 2021 State Teen Arts Festival and the Atlantic County Teen Arts. Festival. Alex is a member of Holy Spirit’s Tri-M Music Honor Society and is its conductor. He will attend Rowan University as an Honors College Fellow and major in Music Education next fall.

Katie Nieto (second place) is a performer and composer specializing in musical theater and is currently a senior at Kinnelon High School. Katie has performed in county, regional and statewide ensembles (including the New Jersey All State Mixed Chorus) since she was in 6th grade and has ranked in the top five as a soprano 1 several times. As musical director and arranger, Katie co-founded the Breaking Barriers Theater Company and assisted them in their production of Spring Awakening. As a composer, she wrote the book, lyrics and score for an original musical titled Waiting for Tuesday about LGBTQ+ self-acceptance. She plans to attend Berklee College of Music in the fall.

Lux Onigman (second place) is a senior at Morristown High School. Last year they tied for second place in the Harmonium composition competition with their piece Invictus. They were also recently commissioned to write a new song, A welcome thought, by the Crossing Chorale at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Washington Crossing. A solo vocal piece Lux wrote in 2020 was purchased by the National Youth Rights Association for posting on its website. Lux sings in several choirs, including but not limited to the New Jersey Youth Chorus, Kol Dodi, and the Harmonium Choral Society itself! Lux will be attending Smith College in the fall.

Our judges worked hard to select the winners, basing their decision on the extent of sound and composition. by Amanda Harberg many commissions include those from the Philadelphia Orchestra Association, the Juilliard School, and the New World Symphony. Awards include three NFA Newly Published Music Awards, two New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowships, a Fulbright/Hays Fellowship, and Juilliard’s Peter Mennin Award for Outstanding Achievement. She currently teaches composition at Rutgers University and Interlochen Arts Camp.

Matthew Harris’ choral music is performed and recorded worldwide by large groups as well as school and community choirs. His A Child’s Christmas in Wales for choir and orchestra was commissioned and premiered by the Harmonium Choral Society 20 years ago. He is currently writing a work for the German vocal ensemble Ensemble Nobiles for a premiere at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig.

Judge Sarah Rimkus earned her bachelor’s degree in music composition from the University of Southern California in 2013, where she developed a love of choral music while studying with Morten Lauridsen. She obtained her doctorate at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, studying with Paul Mealor. She has received numerous awards, including the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award. Harmonium commissioned and created its multilingual In the Beginning was the Word in 2019.

Harmonium hosted Dr. Trevor Weston, professor of music and chair of the music department at Drew University, on the jury last year. Dr. Weston’s many accolades include the George Ladd de Paris Award from the University of California, Berkeley; a Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; and residencies at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the MacDowell Colony. In 2021, Weston received the Arts and Letters Award in Music from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Harmonium invites the public to support and encourage young composers by attending concerts. Concerts are accessible and safe for all spectators; accessibility information is available on the website. Support requests or large print programs can be submitted here or by calling 973-538-6969.

Funding was made possible in part by Morris Arts through the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, an agency partner of the National Endowment for the Arts.


Harmonium Choral Society, based in Morris County, is one of New Jersey’s premier choral arts organizations. The 100-voice choir has been recognized for its musical excellence and innovative programming, and has commissioned and premiered works by Amanda Harberg, Matthew Harris, Elliot Z. Levine, Sarah Rimkus, and Harmonium Composers-in-Residence Mark Miller and Martin Sedek. , among others.

Comments are closed.