The American Prize in Composition awarded to alumnus Sturdivant Adams

Alumnus Sturdivant Adams (MPhil 2016-2018) has been awarded The American Prize in Composition (2023, professional division) for Instrumental Chamber Music for his piece Redwood.

Sturdivant studied with Professor Robert Saxton at Worcester College and is currently an active film composer. His score for adventure romance feature Prisoners of Paradise (2024) was recorded at Abbey Road Studios, and he works closely with film composer Benjamin Wallfisch, recently composing additional music on Sony/Marvel's Kraven The Hunter (2024). In addition to his MPhil in Music Composition from Oxford University, he holds an MM in Screen Scoring from the USC Thornton School of Music ‘19, and a BA magna cum laude from Columbia University ’16.

Sturdivant Adams is a recipient of a 2020 ASCAP Morton Gould Award, a two-time nominee of the Hollywood Music in Media Awards, winner of the 2020 ScoreLive Composer of the Year Award, and the winner of the Royal Northern Sinfonia’s 2018 “New Year, New Music” Award. His Symphony 2 was commissioned by Warsaw’s Polin Museum, premiering in 2019 by the Sinfonia Varsovia Orchestra. He has also composed for the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra, the Royal Northern Sinfonia, London’s Orchestra for the Earth, and Brightwork Newmusic/LA HearNow Festival. 

You can listen to a recording of Redwood using the mp3 player below.




Sturdivant writes:

Redwood is an homage to Muir Woods, the primeval forest of coastal redwoods located in my hometown of Mill Valley, California. I grew up amongst these trees and they've always been a part of the tapestry of my life. They're ancient sentinels of our natural world that have lived for over a thousand years, imbuing them with a mysterious, proud quality I wanted to capture in the piece.

Recording and producing this piece was also an interesting technological experiment, as the musicians were located in 3 different cities across the US. The instrumentation was fairly large for a chamber ensemble, consisting of 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, harp, vibraphone, celesta, synth celesta, piano, 2 celli, 3 double basses, and a solo cello part brilliantly performed by Alex Mansour.

To make the recording work, I used some techniques we often use in film scoring to ensure everyone is playing together across multiple recording sessions. I made a video of myself conducting the piece, and then overlaid the video with streamers and punches (visual cues we use in film scoring to indicate where important beats must fall) so that each musician who recorded on the piece could tell exactly where they needed to be across shifting tempi and rubato sections. I then used a special convolution reverb engine to place all of the recorded instruments in the "same" room to create a unified sense that everyone is playing together at once in the same studio.