Decorah Student Wins High School Division of Iowa Student Composition Competition

Posted: July 16, 2019

Decorah Student Wins High School Division of Iowa Student Composition Competition

Results from Iowa Composers Forum annual competition

Jesus Peña, a member of the class of 2020 at Decorah High School, has been awarded first place in the 19th annual Iowa Composers Forum (ICF) Student Composition Competition. The first place winner in each division receives a cash award, and selected winning compositions will be performed at an ICF Festival of New Music in the fall of 2019. Judges this year included Warren Gooch, ICF member and Professor Emeritus of Music Theory-Composition and former chair of the Music Graduate Program at Truman State University in Missouri as well as Jonathan Wilson, freelance composer and ICF member.

The winning piece, “Sinfonia in B minor, Color Symphony” was a project Peña completed as part of an independent study of music composition. He spent a semester writing and revising the music, preparing the parts and leading rehearsals of the music prior to its premiere performance in early June at the Decorah High School Orchestra’s outdoor concert. Teacher Nicole Cody commented: “I’m so proud of the work that Jesus did on this composition. He wanted to learn about the way Mozart wrote music. He was constantly generating and refining new ideas and then built them into a cohesive work that is full of artistic meaning, while honoring the forms and styles of Mozart.”

The Iowa Composers Forum was founded in March of 1987 in Des Moines by seven composers who wished to create an environment for the performance and dissemination of music composed by Iowans. Over the intervening years, the ICF has presented more than 100 concerts and tour recitals of works by member composers. These concerts have featured the performances of over 800 works of new music, including works by student composers from the elementary, middle, high school, and collegiate level. The ICF has commissioned many new works, both unilaterally and in partnership with other organizations such as the Iowa Music Teachers Association and the Iowa Choral Directors Association. The ICF sponsors its own annual student composition competition, open to students studying at the collegiate level and earlier.

Each year, the ICF offers the following:

  • a concert event in the fall.
  • a multi-concert new music festival, stretching over multiple days, in the spring. These are almost always held on Iowa college campuses. Recent festival sites have included the University of Northern Iowa, Luther College, Iowa State University, and the University of Iowa.
  • a student composition competition, open to students studying at the middle school through collegiate level. Winners receive premiere performances and prize money.
  • a quarterly newsletter for its members, containing member news, concert reviews, calls for scores, and other professional opportunities.

The Forum extends its congratulations and encouragement to all the entrants. More information about the Iowa Composers Forum and the next call for scores can be found at All entrants receive a one-year membership to the Iowa Composers Forum.