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Cedille Records | Emerging Artist Competition

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Emerging Artist Competition

Cedille Records has been building the careers and legacies of Chicago’s finest classical music performers and composers since the label’s founding in 1989. Cedille is now looking towards the next generation of artists through its second Emerging Artist Competition.

Cedille Records announces its second Zell Family Foundation-sponsored Emerging Artist Competition designed to augment its mission of supporting Chicago’s finest classical music artists. Applications for the Emerging Artist Competition will be available on February 15, 2024, with the competition’s live rounds taking place May 17–18, 2025. The competition is open to individual musicians (instrumental and vocal) and ensembles of up to six people that reside in or are originally from the Chicago metro area. The winner will get to record their featured debut album on Cedille Records.

James Ginsburg founded Cedille Records in 1989 with the vision of making classical recordings featuring outstanding Chicago-area musicians; to this day, Cedille continues to fulfill its mission of recording original programs developed by artists, including Jennifer Koh, Rachel Barton Pine, Eighth Blackbird, the Pacifica Quartet, Third Coast Percussion, Will Liverman, and Anthony McGill. Their recordings are regularly honored with the highest accolades, including GRAMMY® awards — to date Cedille has received 33 GRAMMY® nominations and 8 awards.

The first competition’s winner, saxophonist Julian Velasco, released his debut album, As We Are, on Cedille in August 2022 to critical acclaim. The Chicago Tribune wrote: “As We Are is a bird’s-eye view of Velasco’s range, both as an infectiously joyous interpreter of new music and a monster improviser.” Velasco has premiered over 50 new works, collaborating and performing with a wide range of artists including Ron Carter, Billy Childs, Jimmy Cobb, Annika Socolofsky, Christian McBride, Rufus Reid, PRISM Quartet, Zhou Tian, Rodney Whitaker, and the Bang on a Can All-Stars. In addition to his solo career, he is also soprano saxophonist of ~Nois saxophone quartet. Of the opportunity to release a fully funded album on Cedille, Velasco said: “It’s an investment in [my] future and it’s an investment in the future of [my] career, but also, the future of [my] artistic presence . . . I couldn’t be more grateful.”


After applications are screened by a panel of Cedille Records board members, the competition semi-finals and finals will take place as live rounds on May 17–18, 2025 in Chicago. These performances will be open to the public. Semi-finals will include up to 10 contestants who will prepare an hour of music from which judges will select 15 minutes to be performed. The final round will include up to five contestants playing 30 minutes of music total, including two contrasting works, selected by the contestants themselves. Semi-final and final performances will be judged by a panel of five judges, to be named at a later date, comprising prominent musicians and industry professionals.


Individual performers and ensembles (sextet or smaller) who have not appeared as the featured performer on a commercially released CD are eligible to apply; the competition is not open to composers or conductors. The maximum age limit for individual performers is 35-years-old as of the application open date. For ensembles, the average age of ensemble members should not exceed 35 and no individual player may exceed 40 years of age. There is no minimum age limit. All individual performers and at least 50% of ensemble players must reside in or come from the Chicago metro area (defined as the following counties: Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will). No individual may appear on more than one application; for example, if applying as a soloist, an individual may not also apply as a member of an ensemble.


Applications will open February 15, 2024 and close September 1, 2024, please check back here for more information at that time.

For questions relating to the competition, please email competition@cedillerecords.org or call (773) 989-2515.

If you are interested in sponsoring or supporting the competition, please contact Julie Polanski at julie@cedillerecords.org or call (773) 989-2515.

For technical questions, please visit the Acceptd Help Desk.