Big Band Jazz Composition Contest

Time to exercise your big band composing chops by entering our newest contest!

Write an original piece for a sixteen-piece jazz ensemble and receive your score published and promoted by Hal Leonard, Inc., one of the largest publishers in the world.

Grand prize winner will receive their score framed and signed by the top brass at Hal Leonard. The Grand prize winner will also receive a selection of Hal Leonard Jazz books worth over $250. Two runners up will receive three years of Noteflight Crescendo, our premium subscription.

Hal Leonard composers Paul Murtha and Rick Stitzel will judge the entries. Both of these gentlemen have a wealth of experience composing and arranging in all genres.

Rick Stitzel has been a jazz composer, arranger and educator for over 40 years. His compositions and arrangements are published by Hal Leonard, Inc., one of the largest publishers in the world. Rick teaches jazz studies at Tarrant County College in Fort Worth, Texas, and is in demand as a clinician and adjudicator. Rick has also been commissioned to compose jazz pieces for schools and universities around the country.

Composer, arranger Paul Murtha is a native of Johnstown, Pennsylvania where he studied jazz arranging with John Morris and music theory with Richard Napolitan. In 1983, Paul earned a B.S. degree in Music Education (with a minor in Jazz Studies) from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. While at Duquesne, Paul studied jazz arranging with John Wilson and orchestration with Joseph Wilcox Jenkins. A versatile composer-arranger, Paul is at ease in both professional and educational circles and is in constant demand in and around Washington, D.C. Paul has written music for acclaimed mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, Patti LaBelle, Kathy Mattea, Lou Rawls, Kenny Loggins and Ken Burns’s “Music of the Civil War.” He has also written extensively for some of the top high school and college marching bands in the country. Paul’s work with the National Symphony Orchestra includes arrangements for artists such as Trace Adkins, Jordin Sparks, Gloria Estefan, Gladys Knight, and Huey Lewis and the News for nationally televised events including “A Capitol Fourth” and the “National Memorial Day Concert.” From 1990 to 1996, Paul served as the Chief Arranger at the United States Military Academy Band at West Point, NY and is currently the Chief Arranger for The United States Army Band (“Pershing’s Own”) in Washington, D.C., where he writes for all elements of the United States Army’s Premier Band. Paul is published exclusively by Hal Leonard Corporation where he contributes music to many areas of the instrumental catalogue. Paul resides in Stafford, Virginia with his wife Nanette. They have three sons, Joshua, Matthew and Jacob.

DUE DATE: Monday, May 25, 2015

The fine print:

Write for standard big band instrumentation:

  • 2 alto saxophones (doubling flute or clarinet if needed)
  • 2 tenor saxophones (doubling flute or clarinet if needed)
  • 1 baritone sax (doubling bass clarinet if needed)
  • 4 trumpets (doubling flugelhorn if needed)
  • 4 trombones (trombone 4 can be bass trombone)
  • Piano
  • Guitar
  • Bass
  • Drums
  • Auxiliary percussion (optional)

Important Guidelines (please read carefully!):

  • Compositions must be original music; arrangements of copyrighted songs will not be allowed.
  • All jazz styles (swing, ballad, Latin, rock, funk, fusion, etc.) will be considered.
  • Compositions should be 3-5 minutes long.
  • Compositions will be rated on a point system based on compositional elements such as creativity, appropriate use and ranges of instruments, dynamics, articulation etc.
  • Prizes will be awarded to two runners up and one Grand Prize winner.
  • One score entry per person.
  • Each contestant must submit their own score; for example a teacher may not submit a piece on behalf of a student.
  • Contestants must be Noteflight Crescendo users or members within a Studio, Classroom, Teacher, or single-sign-on LMS-integrated Noteflight site, and pieces must be submitted as Noteflight scores via sharing or emailing a link (see instructions below).
  • Employees of Noteflight and the Hal Leonard Corporation or HLC affiliates are ineligible to participate.

How to submit your score:
Crescendo accounts: In the Sharing panel inside your score, share your score with “selected people” and enter the username JazzContest (see our User Guide for help) (be sure to hit “save” when you’re done).
Classroom/Studio/etc. accounts: please email your score to It does not have to be publicly shared.