UAB music students named finalists in Alabama Young Composers Competition

Cameron Johnson and John Richardson are among five students in the state who were honored; they were recognized for their original compositions “After the Dust Has Settled” and “Cyber Megatropolis,” respectively.

University of Alabama at Birminghammusic composers both 2022John Richardson, left, and Cameron Johnson, right, are among five students in the state who were honored; they were recognized for their original compositions “After the Dust Has Settled” and “Cyber Megatropolis,” respectively. students Cameron Johnson and John Richardson have been honored by the Alabama Music Educators Association Young Composers Competition.

The College of Arts and SciencesDepartment of Music students were among five in the state who were selected as finalists for the competition.

Johnson, of Hoover, Alabama, is a sophomore studying instrumental music education and is a member of the UAB Honors College’s Global and Community Leadership Honors Program. He submitted his first full concert band work, titled “After the Dust Has Settled,” which was inspired by the question “What will remain afterward?” A member of the UAB Trumpet Studio led by Associate Professor of Trumpet James Zingara, DMA, he also credits Cara Morantz, Ed.D., who was “a massive inspiration for why I decided to study music education here at UAB and helped me in reviewing the piece before submission back in October.” 

Johnson’s audio score can be heard online. It is a MIDI realization of the piece, created using composition program Sibelius and the sound engine NotePerformer. MIDI, an acronym that stands for musical instrument digital interface, is a way to connect devices that make and control sound — such as synthesizers, samplers and computers — so they can communicate with each other.

Richardson, of Huntsville, Alabama, studies music education at UAB and is part of the UAB Wind Symphony and the UAB Clarinet Studio. His composition is titled “Cyber Megatropolis.” He credits Sean Murray, Ph.D., director of Bands at UAB, and Denise Gainey, DMA, professor of clarinet, for helping him develop his skills as a composer. In high school at Randolph Upper School, he was taught by two “amazing” band directors: Sue Samuels, Ph.D., former director of Bands at UAB, now at Furman University, and Randolph band director Erin Charles.

“Both have helped tremendously to foster my musical talent in becoming a composer,” Richardson said. “In fact, I originally wrote the piece I submitted to the AMEA Young Composers Competition for the Randolph band to play this spring. I heard about the competition through Cameron and decided to finish the piece early to enter it.”

A graduate of Hoover High School, Johnson was a member of the Hoover Band. Growing up in the church and being exposed to gospel music at a very early age sparked his fascination and passion for jazz and classical music. Now many years later, he says he has “fully fallen in love with” writing music.

The students were recognized Friday, Jan. 21, at the AMEA Awards Ceremony in the BJCC Theater. 

The AMEA Young Composers Competition was created to encourage Alabama’s developing student composers by providing professional-level review and consideration. By recognizing outstanding student compositions, this process will support Alabama music teachers by recognizing their efforts to incorporate the National Association for Music Education standards. It is also hoped that this kind of professional recognition will provide a showcase for the composition talents of these young Alabama musicians, according to the AMEA website.