Senior Garth Neustadter recently earned an extraordinary honor. He was chosen to receive the 2010 Morton Gould Young Composer Award, a prize sponsored by the American Society for Composers, Authors and Publishers. The Morton Gould award, named after the Pulitzer Prizewinning American composer, is meant to recognize and reward young talent in the world of American concert music. The ASCAP judges chose 37 winners from a field of 730 submissions. The winners share in $45,000 worth of scholarship awards, receive a copy of Sibelius music notation software and travel to New York in May for official recognition at the ASCAP Concert Music Awards. This honor caps off a long series of accomplishments for Neustadter during his time here at Lawrence. In 2007, he earned firstprize honors in Turner Classic Movies’ Young Film Composers Competition. As a result of that success, TCM commissioned Neustadter to write the score for a restoration of “The White Sister,” a 1927 silent film. But all of this is old news. What makes Neustadter’s story particularly fascinating is that, despite his considerable achievement in the world of composition, his undergraduate degree from the Conservatory will be in violin and vocal performance. Since arriving at Lawrence, Neustadter has achieved high honors in both of those areas. He has served as concertmaster of the Lawrence Symphony Orchestra, and in 2007, he performed Paganini’s “Violin Concerto No. 1″ as a winner of the LSO’s concerto competition. Neustadter has starred in several staged opera productions and opera scenes. He most recently appeared as the governor in Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide.” Neustadter displayed multiple musical talents from an early age. Like many string players, he got an early start on his instrument. He began Suzuki violin lessons at the age of four, and started learning to play the piano around the same time. A little later, Neustadter began playing saxophone and singing. Neustadter credits his jazz experiences as the catalyst for his early forays into composition. His first efforts were for small jazz combos, and then big bands. Beginning in the later years of high school, Neustadter started writing in a “classical” or “concert” idiom. Over the past few years, Neustadter has become particularly interested in the intersection between concert and film music. He cites as influences the neo-Romantic émigré composers – many left Europe because of World War II – who wrote during Hollywood’s “Golden Age”: Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Miklós Rózsa and Max Steiner, among others. Of the film composers active today, Neustadter admires people like Hans Zimmer who bridge the gap between concert hall and soundtrack and demonstrate mastery of multiple idioms. “I appreciate people like him who have the chops, [who] know what they’re doing,” Neustadter said. For the ASCAP competition, Neustadter submitted a work for full orchestra and choir. The piece – in four movements and lasting approximately 15 minutes – is a setting of texts by a 16th century Spanish mystic poet, St. John of the Cross. In this case, the compositional process took about five months, and it involved many third-party contributions. Junior Rodrigo Ruiz – an aspiring conductor and a piano performance major – helped Neustadter with the act of text setting, giving advice on Spanish language details. In addition, members of the LSO and Concert Choir performed on the recording that Neustadter submitted to ASCAP. Neustadter cites Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies Fred Sturm as a particular mentor, someone he has worked closely with during his time at Lawrence. Although Neustadter’s three diverse areas of interest exert an extreme demand on his time, they also complement each other in unique ways. In orchestra, for instance, Neustadter finds that his compositional efforts lead him to “listen with a much different ear to different sections.” One would imagine that Neustadter’s extensive experience as a performer allows him to write with an unusual degree of sympathy for his subjects. Although he has yet to write a major work for violin solo, he has done much writing in the genre of art song, generally for baritone, Neustadter’s own voice type. “I just naturally gravitated toward that,” said Neustadter. Like many composers throughout history, Neustadter prefers to work at the piano. He sketches ideas out and then completes the orchestration later on in the compositional process. Although Neustadter sometimes has to work at the computer for the entirety of a work’s conception because of time constraints, he prefers to work by hand. “I’m still kind of a pencil and paper guy,” he said. Currently, Neustadter has several ongoing projects. He is putting together a piece for studio orchestra to be read and recorded by the LSO and Jazz Ensemble later this spring. He is also hard at work on his second film score commission, this time for a 90-minute documentary on John Muir that will premiere in 2011 on PBS’s American Masters series. Next fall, Neustadter will attend Yale University to pursue a Master of Music in composition.