Alumnus wins The American Prize in piano performance

June 25, 2012

Nathaniel May

Nathanael May has been making some noise in the music world since he graduated from UW-Whitewater and hasn't stopped yet.

May is this year's winner of The American Prize in piano performance at the professional level, solo division. He is an assistant professor of piano at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Mo.

May said he believes being chosen for The American Prize reflects growing acceptance and support for new music created by living composers.

"It is a challenge to cultivate audience appreciation for music that is trying to say something new," May said. "As much of my career has focused on presenting performances of newly written and composed music for the piano, none of which is considered mainstream, it is a great honor for me to have been chosen for this award."

May played three pieces for evaluation: "Pinch" by Brian Hulse, "Uninterrupted Rests" by Toru Takemitsu, and "Piano Variations" by Aaron Copland.  "Pinch" was written recently for May.  Contestants submit recordings of their performances.

May graduated from UW-Whitewater in 1996 with a bachelor's degree in music with an emphasis in performance.

"I was inspired by all my piano professors at Whitewater. The music faculty were always setting an example of what it meant to be a professional musician. What impressed me most was their collective concern for students," May said.

May earned his master's degree in piano performance in 2001 from the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, New York. He received a doctor of musical arts degree with honors from the University of Kansas in 2009.

An avid supporter of new music, May has conducted research on modern piano music in Serbia and Cyprus. He also founded and serves as the artistic director for soundSCAPE, a summer festival held annually in Italy celebrating the creation and performance of new classical music.

This year May was awarded the Dr. James Scanlon Service-Leader Award at his university for creating the "Hands on 4 St. Joe" program, which brings free music-making opportunities on the piano to children in the St. Joseph community. He also received UW-Whitewater's Outstanding Recent Alumni Award in 2011.

The American Prize is a series of nonprofit, national competitions to recognize and reward America's finest performing artists.  Established in 2009, The American Prize grew from the belief that a lot of outstanding music created in the United States goes unheard. The American Prize is awarded annually to individuals and ensembles across the country at the professional, amateur, university, church and school levels. Winners receive cash prizes, professional evaluation, and national recognition.


Sara Kuhl

Jeff Angileri