Composer and double bassist Daniel Dean has won the Fine Music 102.5 Willoughby Symphony Orchestra Young Composer Award, the Sydney classical music radio station has announced. The annual award includes $5,000 cash and the world premiere of the winning work as part of the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra’s season at The Concourse in Chatswood, which will be recorded and broadcast on Fine Music. This year’s runner-up, Harry Sdraulig, will receive the APRA (Australasian Performing Right Association) Encouragement Award, a cash prize of $500.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to have won!” Dean tells Limelight. “I’m quite new to composition, and for my whole life I’ve always felt like I’ve been playing catch-up to my more talented friends as a musician, so to win this prize is a huge deal for me personally. I’m very happy that I have something real and constructive to show for the years I’ve spent obsessively poking through scores!”

Daniel Dean, Fine Music, Willoughby Symphony OrchestraDaniel Dean, winner of the Fine Music 102.5 Willoughby Symphony Orchestra Young Composer Award

Dean is also a regular double bass player in the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra. So is he looking forward to playing his own work? “I’m terrified!” he says. “I know most of the players in the orchestra, I hope they like it! I may sit it out – while I can play what I wrote in the privacy of my own practice room, the pressure of not screwing up my own piece might lead to some unforced errors in the concert! I’m excited to see it all come together after the intense month of writing it, but will be forever anxious about whether it goes down well with the audience and the band.”

The work is titled Quadrivial Concertino for Oboe and String Orchestra, and will appear in the WSO’s Remembrance program in June, alongside Barber’s Adagio for Strings, WSO Composer-in-Residence Nigel Westlake’s The Glass Soldier and Schumann’s Rhenish Symphony, all under the baton of Luke Spicer.

“Quadrivial refers to four roads that meet at a point, which in the piece is a set of chords I borrowed from Massenet, but you can interpret it as a very tiny little symphony, or my favourite description, as a four-course tasting menu!” Dean says. “I’ve tried to write music that’s both approachable for an audience, but (more importantly, for me) fun to play. The best concerts are when the orchestra has a good time!”

Competitions like this are incredibly important for emerging composers, Dean says. “It’s this wonderful fast-track to having your music heard live with an orchestra, and your efforts validated by your peers,” he says. “It’s just a shame there can be only one winner, I have thought often about what kinds of great moments are buried un-played in a filing cabinet of past entries sitting at the Fine Music station. I think [they’re especially important] for people in my situation, where they’re approaching composition as a self-taught enthusiast. It’s also been great as a way for the musicians in the orchestra to get to know some new composers, and get a feel for their style.”

The Willoughby Symphony Orchestra will perform Daniel Dean’s Quadrivial Concertino for Oboe and String Orchestra as part of Remembrance at The Concourse, Chatswood, June 16 – 17