Classical Evolve 2022

As part of Maestro Stilian Kirov’s vision to encourage the development of new musical voices, Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra is proud to host our 4th annual composer competition – IPO Classical Evolve – aimed at expanding the canon of classical music for current and future generations.

Classical Evolve’s mission is to facilitate an expanded canon of classical music for current and future generations.  In an innovative and artistically fulfilling process, three finalists will have their new, original 7-10 minute score workshopped and performed LIVE to IPO audiences on Thursday, September 22, 2022.  After a voting by Maestro Stilian Kirov and three highly acclaimed judges, a winner will be declared. The winning composer will be named IPO “Composer-in-Residence” and have the opportunity to compose three orchestral works during the 2023/24 season.

The 2022 Classical Evolve Finalists are:
Oswald Huynh
Aaron Mencher
Max Vinetz

Oswald Huynh is a composer and bassoonist from Portland, Oregon. His works navigate Vietnamese aesthetics and tradition, language and translation, and the relationship between heritage and identity. Huỳnh writes music extensively for instrumental forces to create evocative soundscapes that convey underlying narratives and emotions. His orchestral work Gia Đình calls to this by exploring the impact of intergenerational trauma, cultural inheritance, and what is lost between eras. As a composer, Huỳnh has collaborated with artists such as the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Akropolis Reed Quintet, Tacet(i) Ensemble, Fear No Music, Del Sol String Quartet, [Switch~ Ensemble], deaf rabbit duo, percussionist Payton MacDonald, and composer/clarinetist Yoshiaki Onishi, among others. Huỳnh’s music has been presented at the New Music on the Bayou Festival, Powell Hall, Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, International Composition Institute of Thailand, Arts Letters & Numbers, Ear Taxi Festival, Constellation, Oregon Bach Festival, Northwestern University New Music Conference, The Sheldon Concert Hall, and Wintergreen Music Festival. Additionally, Huỳnh is a resident composer for the 2022 Mizzou International Composers Festival and a fellow for the inaugural Akropolis Chamber Music Institute. He is the recipient of the Rena J. Ratte Memorial Award, Black Bayou Composition Award, and was a finalist of the 2022 Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra Classical Evolve Composer Competition. Upcoming projects include a new sinfonietta for Alarm Will Sound; two repeat performances of Gia Đình with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra as part of their 2022-23 season; an international collaboration with the Netherlands-based Nefelibata New Music Collective; a commission from the Akropolis Reed Quintet. Huỳnh holds a Bachelor of Arts from Lewis & Clark College and a Master of Music from the University of Missouri. His principal teachers include Stefan Freund, Carolina Heredia, Texu Kim, and Michael Johanson.

Aaron Mencher writes “sophisticated and compelling” (Boston New Music Initiative) contemporary classical music. Currently, his music focuses on the concepts of utopias, hyperreality, and multimedia collaboration. His artistic practice frequently includes electronic components such as generative scores, DIY hardware electronics, and spatialized audio. Recently, the Mivos Quartet premiered his piece “Articulate Particulate” for string quartet and generative score in collaboration with geologist Dr. Emily Chin. As a part of an ongoing collaboration with poet Brandy Hoang Collier, Tarsus Ensemble (Australia) will premiere his song cycle “Atmospheres of Night” with soprano Rachel Mink this fall. Aaron has additional premieres scheduled with Palimpsest Ensemble, violist Caleb Henry, and flutist Adeline DeBella. Previous collaborators include the St. Louis Symphony, Albany Symphony, Alarm Will Sound, violinist Patti Kilroy, cellist Dave Eggar, and many others. Aaron has also received recognition from organizations such as ASCAP, The American Modern Ensemble, The Boston New Music Initiative, NAfME, the European-American Musical Alliance, the American Prize, and the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra of New York. In addition, he has worked on a variety of dramatic projects. Aaron scored a documentary directed by Katie Schnell, and the short film Maggephah directed by Atlanta-based filmmaker Brad McGaughey. Previously, he worked at the Dancing Goat Theater as the composer and sound designer for many shows including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Anne of Green Gables, Twelfth Night, and The Tempest.  Aaron is currently a PhD student at the University of California San Diego. His previous teachers include Marcos Balter, Oscar Bettison, and Carolina Heredia.

Max Vinetz is a Jewish-American composer and sound artist whose work draws inspiration from various intersections between improvisatory, popular, and classical forms and aesthetics. His recent and upcoming projects are primarily concerned with the relationships between narrative, object, and artifact as they relate to music and other media, structures that circumvent linear narratives, the various interconnectivities between memory, desire, and the self. Max is a recipient of ASCAP’s Morton Gould Award (2018 + 2020), a Fromm Foundation Commission (2020), the Paul and Christiane Cooper Prize, and the Gardner Prize from the American Viola Society. He was the 2019-2020 Emerging Composer Fellow for Musiqa, a chamber music organization based in Houston, Texas. He has received additional recognition and awards from loadbang, the Hausmann Quartet, New York Youth Symphony, BMI, Danbury Music Center, Yale University, and the Shepherd School of Music. His music has been featured at numerous festivals, including Norfolk New Music Workshop, Sō Percussion Summer Institute, Fontainebleau (FR), New Music On the Point, Brevard Music Center, California Summer Music, Red Note New Music Festival, Nebula Ensemble Summer Festival, nief-norf, Valencia International Performance Academy, and highSCORE. As a Yale undergraduate, Max won the Beekman Cannon Friends Prize, awarded for a “musical composition exhibiting unusual originality and promise,” the Abraham Beekman Cox Prize awarded to the “most promising and gifted composer” in the junior class, and was also awarded the Lewis P. Curtis Fellowship, the Tristan Perlroth Prize, and the R.J.R. Cohen Fellowship for Musical Performance (2017, 2018).  A graduate of both Yale and Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, Max is currently pursuing his PhD Composition at Princeton University as a Naumburg Doctoral Fellow.


The 2022 Classical Evolve competition will be judged by three celebrated, award-winning composers and leading industry professionals: James StephensonHans Thomalla and Lita Grier. Previous judges have included: Kyong Mee Choi,  Augusta Read Thomas, Henry Fogel, and Tonia Ko.