Princeton University Concerts

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Engaging with Music

It all started in February 2015, when over one hundred undergraduate and graduate students signed up for the first ever Creative Reactions Writing Contest. Conceived by the Student Ambassadors of Princeton University Concerts, this writing contest gave students a free ticket to attend a Princeton University Concert in the legendary Alexander Hall, in return for a creative written response to the performance—and a chance to win a cash prize. The wonderfully diverse group of submissions brought together judges from many corners of the Princeton community, including professors in the Creative Writing Program and Music Department, the owner of Labyrinth Bookstore, and long-standing community audience members.

The enthusiastic response to this novel initiative made clear that students were eager to extend the concert experience beyond the walls of Alexander Hall, and to share their passion for or curiosity about music with the community at large. Princeton University Concerts (PUC) has developed the Creative Reactions Program in order to provide such an opportunity to all Princeton University students. While continuing the Creative Reactions Contest on an annual basis, now expanded to include other art forms, this program will also present various other means through which students will be able to harness their creative talents in their engagement with music on campus. This includes a student-designed and student-written season brochure, opportunities for writing to be included in printed programs, and more.

The Creative Reactions Contest, dedicated to the memory of Vera Sharpe Kohn

Hosted by the Student Ambassadors of Princeton University Concerts


Held annually, the CRC is a creative competition for Princeton students that uses the PUC series as inspiration. The contest has two categories: one for creative writing and one for the visual arts. Information about the visual arts category will be released later this term. Prizes will be awarded to Princeton students who, after attending a Princeton University Concert, best capture their personal experience of hearing live classical music through an art form of his/her choice. The CRC seeks to further PUC's mission by connecting students to the arts and celebrating classical music's unique contributions to campus. This season's contest includes TWELVE eligible events for the creative writing category. All currently enrolled Princeton students may enter, except for previous first-prize winners.

What's the prize?

The Frist Prize winners of the Creative Reactions Contest will each receive $500.  A smaller cash prize for up to three honorable mentions is possible, in both categories. The winning works will be widely distributed online and in print. The winning works will also be read aloud or displayed at our final concert of the season on May 3, 2018. The Prizes will be awarded by a selection committee composed of distinguished members of the Princeton faculty and the community. Previous judges have included poet C.K. Williams, Musicologist Scott Burnham and Owner of Labyrinth Books Dorothea von Moltke.

How do I participate?

Step One: Choose your concert. Entrants are offered one free ticket to the concert of their choosing below, pending availability. Concerts sell out quickly; tickets are limited. Participants are welcome to submit more than one entry on any and all of the eligible concerts; however, they must obtain their own tickets beyond the one ticket allotted by the contest. New for the 2017-2018 season, participants may also attend a Live Music Meditation.

Step Two: Sign Up Online. All participants must sign up to participate in the contest. At the time of sign up, students will be asked to give their 1st and 2nd preferences for the one free concert ticket of their choice. Tickets to each event are limited and will be assigned on a first come, first served basis. Due to the limited ticket availability, early sign up is highly advised. Once you have signed up, you will receive an email confirmation which will contain your personal ID number, an essential part of your submission. <SIGN UP HERE>

Step Three: Enjoy the music! Attend the concert. All participants must sign-in when picking up their ticket at the hall at the Creative Reactions table. Creative writing participants are welcome to take notes at the event. 

Step Four: Submit a creative reaction about that concert for a chance to win up to $500! Submission deadlines are two weeks after the concert attended, as outlined below. The winning pieces will also be widely distributed in a publication and displayed at the final concert of the PUC 2017-18 Season, on Thursday May 3, 2018. 

Submission Instructions: Attach your submission AS A PDF in an email to Dorothy Shrader of Princeton University Concerts. All submissions must be accompanied by a short paragraph that says something about the specific connection between the music and the “creative reaction,” giving the judges a sense of the process for each participant. Please put "CRC Submission [PERSONAL ID #]" in the subject line of the email and as the title of the electronic file, and include the Personal ID # on the top right-hand corner of the attached document. Writing must be submitted as a PDF document and should not be more than 1000 words. Submissions will be evaluated anonymously.  The attached submission should not identify its author in any way, but the body of the e-mail should contain the writer’s full name, graduation year/graduate student status, netID, personal contest ID number, and telephone number. Entrants agree to follow Princeton's honor code, detailed in the Academic Integrity Booklet.

Submission Deadlines:

Emerson String Quartet, "Shostakovich and the Black Monk": October 12, 2017

Barokksolistene: October 19, 2017

Quatuor Mosaïques: October 26, 2017

Live Music Meditation - Tabea Zimmermann, viola: November 9, 2017

Tabea Zimmerman, viola & Thomas Hoppe, piano: November 9, 2017

Benjamin Grosvenor, piano: November 23, 2017

Cristina Pato, Galician bagpipe (audience on stage): November 30, 2017

Jennifer Koh, violin: February 22, 2018

Live Music Meditation with Jennifer Koh, violin: February 22, 2018

Brentano String Quartet with Jonathan Biss, piano: March 1, 2018

Have Questions?

For all questions, please contact Dorothy Shrader of Princeton University Concerts.


2017 Contest

First Prize Winners ($500)

Anna Leader ’18 "love songs between balconies" inspired by Mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton
David Ting '17, "El barrio(lage) desconocido” inspired by pianist violinist Augustin Hadelich & guitarist Pablo Sáinz-Villegas

Honorable Mentions ($125)

Isabella Bosetti ’18 - “Translation/Aphasia, inspired by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir
Xin Chua GS -  “The Future Age,” inspired by the Takács String Quartet
Kirit Limperis ’19 - “With the Percussionist,” inspired by percussionist Colin Currie

2016 Contest

First Prize Winners ($500)

Anna Leader ’18,  "Untitled," inspired by the Arcanto String Quartet
David Ting '17,  "Journey Between Worlds," inspired by pianist David Greilsammer

Second Prize Winners ($250)

Magdalena Collum ’18, “Ritual, in four parts,” inspired by pianist Igor Levit
Emily Tu ’16, “Voice,” inspired by pianist Igor Levit

2015 Contest

First Prize Winner

Susannah Sharpless ’15, "Space and Time," inspired by violinist Stefan Jackiw and pianist Anna Polonsky

Second Prize Winners

Trevor Klee ’15, “Untitled,” inspired by pianist Marc-André Hamelin
Lucas Mazzotti ’17, “Untitled,” inspired by the Brentano String Quartet and Joyce DiDonato

Honorable Mention

Benjamin Goodman ‘17, “Piety,” inspired by pianist Marc-André Hamelin
Rachel Stone ‘17, “In B-flat,” inspired by Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time,” played by violinist Stefan Jackiw and Anna Polonsky