Composition Competition

The third annual Darkwater Womxn in Music Festival is pleased to announce a call for compositions from female and/or non-binary composers for our second Compostition Competition.

Deadline : May 15, 2021

First Prize : $500

Second Prize : $350

Third Prize : $200


Compositions for Soprano and Bb Clarinet

Performed by Whistling Hens


Darkwater is a festival that celebrates womxn in music through papers, panels, and performances. The word "darkwater" is the literal Carolina Algonquian meaning of Lumbee, the American Indian tribe that built Pembroke and UNCP. By calling ourselves the Darkwater Festival, we tie ourselves to our place in North Carolina and to the Lumbee, a matriarchal culture with many strong women in its history.

The Program Committee invites compositions by female and/or non-binary composers. The Committee will select 3-5 compositions to be performed at the Darkwater Festival on September 24-25, 2021. First, second, and third prize will be given.

There is no submission fee for this proposal. At this time, we are unable to confirm whether our 2021 festival will have an opportunity for in-person engagement due to COVID-19. Regardless of our ability to host in-person gatherings, Darkwater will have opportunities for online engagement. We hope to decide our full offerings by July 2021. 

Works should be written in standard notation for soprano and Bb clarinet, and will be performed by duo Whistling Hens in the final round. Works should be no longer than 10 minutes. Works do not need to be premieres but should not be previously published. Composers may choose their own text, but text may not be openly hateful or discriminatory. Profanity and nonsense words/sounds are acceptable in text selection. 

Soprano part should be composed mainly within C4-A5. Composers may use Bb5-C6 occasionally as an extended range if necessary. Sprechstimme and other extended techniques are allowed given that the composer includes clear performance instructions.

Bb clarinet part should be composed within written E1-G4 (concert pitch D3-F6); occasional extensions up to written C4 (concert Bb6) are acceptable. Extended techniques such as quarter tones, fluttertongue, some singing and playing, and circular breathing are allowed. Multiphonics are allowed given that the composer includes suggested multiphonic fingering(s). All clarinet parts should be written in treble clef.

Completed submissions will include a PDF score, a recording or midi file, and a short bio (200 words or less). PDF parts must be immediately available when asked. Please email proposals to Sarah Busman at with the subject “Composition Submission.”

Composers must be eligible to receive payment in the United States. Composers must identify as female, womxn, and/or non-gender binary; we invite you to clarify your pronouns when submitting. PDF parts must be immediately available when asked but do not need to accompany original submission. Should composers attend in-person offerings, composers agree to incur all travel costs. Composers selected agree to attend the festival at their own expense, including the registration fee which will be paid by August 1. 

About the performers:

Whistling Hens was founded by Jennifer Piazza-Pick (soprano) and Natalie Groom (clarinet) with a vision to celebrate and advance the artistic accomplishments of women through an ensemble performing all female-composed music. Inspired by a quote from a male music critic who said of Lili Boulanger, "women composers are at best whistling hens,” the Whistling Hens duo was hatched, and they have since commissioned five new works and numerous transcriptions to expand the soprano/clarinet duo repertoire. Learn more at