Four Emerging Women Composers Named Winners of the 2024 HerVoice Competition - Chicago a cappella

HerVoice competition winners (l. to r.): Taja Astar, Agustina Crespo, Lindsey Cotter, and Emma Wilde.  

CHICAGO — Chicago a cappella is thrilled to unveil the winners of the organization’s 2024 “HerVoice” competition and mentorship program, showcasing the talents of emerging women composers. Now in its fourth year, the program once again received an overwhelming response, with 66 submissions from composers in 12 countries.  

The four winners will each receive personal mentoring from one of the program’s acclaimed composer panelists, Stacy Garrop, Zanaida Robles, and Chen Yi.  The winners will also receive a $500 cash award. Each piece will be workshopped and performed by either Chicago a cappella under the direction of artistic director John William Trotter, who created the program; the Vancouver Youth Choir under the direction of artistic director Carrie Tennant; or the Santa Fe Desert Chorale under the direction of artistic director Joshua Habermann.  

The 2024 winners are:

Taja Astar, Pitea, Sweden (originally from Finland)  

Astar’s composition Cranes Coming Home will be workshopped and performed by The Santa Fe Desert Chorale, in the summer of 2025 and she will work with mentor composer Stacy Garrop. Finnish composer Taja Astar holds Master’s degrees in composition and piano. She came to music-making through her love for opera and has seen her music played across the globe, most notably in the Nordic countries, the UK, Canada and the U.S. She has been a finalist and/or winner in several composition competitions, including the Special Prize “Radio Classic FM” at the Third International Syn(es)thesis Composition Competition in Bulgaria (2023). She has developed her unique musical language in a modern tonal paradigm that is both elaborate yet reasonably accessible for listeners of various backgrounds. In her works, she often turns to complex and painful social and personal issues and likes to interlace her music with intertextual references that strive to build bridges between different arts, genres and epochs. 

Agustina Crespo, Buenos Aires, Argentina  

Crespo’s composition Haiku will be workshopped and performed by Chicago a cappella, and she will work with mentor composer Zanaida Robles. Agustina Crespo is a composer, singer and university professor. She completed her studies in composition at the Argentinean Catholic University, graduating with honors in 2008. In parallel she studied music production and singing at the Argentinean National University of the Arts. Currently, she is on track to complete the Higher Diploma in Contemporary Music, specializing in composition and singing, at the Manuel de Falla Conservatory in Buenos Aires, while also working on her doctoral thesis in composition. Crespo holds teaching positions at two national universities in Argentina and serves as the conductor of the Untref Vocal Ensemble. Throughout her career, she has garnered awards and scholarships, with her compositions being recorded and performed in prestigious concert venues across Argentina and globally, including Colombia, Uruguay, France, Germany, Spain, and the United States. She currently works as a mezzo-soprano in the Música Inaudita Vocal Ensemble. 

Lindsey Cotter, Edinburgh, Scotland 

Cotter’s composition Cairn will be workshopped and performed by The Vancouver Youth Choir, and she will work with mentor composer Chen Yi. Lindsey Cotter has been making choral music since she was six years old. Growing up in rural Northern Scotland, she was fortunate to find a thriving musical community which led her through several choirs including the National Youth Choir of Scotland. She performed in several societies and festivals, earning a certificate in voice and percussion. Electing to pursue her love of science at university, she continued to participate in several choirs in Edinburgh The isolation of the pandemic inspired her to start creating her own choral music with the support of her friend and musical director, who sadly passed away before the lockdown was lifted. Since then she has found her own career as musical director for a range of choirs across the city and has begun her journey as a composer. Becoming a mother in 2019 and being diagnosed with autism in 2023 has further shifted her sense of identity and connection with the world around her, which she hopes to explore with her music

Emma Wilde,  Morelia, Mexico  

Wilde’s composition Light is Withheld will be workshopped and performed by Chicago a cappella, and she will work with mentor composer Stacy Garrop. Emma Wilde was born in Manchester, United Kingdom in 1991 and is currently based in Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico, where she forms part of the academic faculty of the Bachelor’s Degree in Music and Artistic Technology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. She was awarded the McMyn scholarship to pursue doctoral studies in composition at the University of Manchester from 2014-2017. Her music has been described as “skillfully organized” by The Financial Times and “technically well done” by The Times. She composes instrumental, vocal, and audiovisual music and is currently exploring the use of audiovisual formats to create musical narratives inspired by Mexican landscapes and archeological zones. Her works have been performed at festivals in the United Kingdom, Mexico, Australia, the USA and Europe and has been broadcast by the BBC. She was a composer selected for the London Symphony Orchestra’s prestigious Panufnik Composers Scheme in 2017. Her most notable commissions include El Blanco Día for the London Sinfonietta, premiered at The Queen Elizabeth Hall, London in 2018 and El Hilo del Tiempo for The Royal Northern Sinfonia, performed at the New Year New Voices Festival 2018 at Sage, Gateshead, UK.  

HerVoice was conceived by Chicago a cappella artistic director John William Trotter to promote the work of promising women composers and provide hands-on mentoring to further their skills in choral composition. In addition to the mentoring, workshop, and performance opportunities for the four winners, all composers who submitted works will be able to participate in virtual gatherings with the conductors and composer mentor panel to learn about the business side of composing and to discuss issues pertaining to navigating a career as a female composer.   

2023 HerVoice winner Devon Gates’ composition Meditation on 1 Corinthians 13 will be workshopped and performed by Chicago a cappella in their spring 2025 program Jazz A Cappella 

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 is heard frequently on radio nationally and has a catalog of nine CD recordings on the Cedille, Centaur, and Gothic labels.  


The American Choral Director Association is a sponsor of HerVoice 
HerVoice is partially supported by a grant from The Cliff Dwellers Arts Foundation. 

American Choral Directors Association

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