The 21CM + I CARE IF YOU LISTEN “New Voices” Essay Contest Returns

Downloadable announcement available here!

Are you a college student who loves to put your passion for music into words? Are you a musician who’s bursting with ideas about how to reinvent the concert experience? We want to hear from you!

Last year, I CARE IF YOU LISTEN partnered with 21CM, the National Outreach Program of DePauw School of Music to create the “New Voices” Essay Contest. Now, the contest returns! Students currently enrolled in undergraduate or graduate programs are invited to submit short essays on the theme of the 21st Century Musician. The winning essays will be published on both and In addition, winners will receive a signed copy of Mark Rabideau’s book, “Creating the Revolutionary Artist: Entrepreneurship for the 21st-Century Musician,” as well as competitive compensation for the rights to publish their work: The first-place winner will receive $500, second place will receive $350 and third place will receive $200.

To enter, be sure that you meet the requirements below, then submit your essay and proof of enrollment to [email protected] by November 1, 2019. Winners will be notified in December, and the winning essays will be published in January 2020.


  • There is no age requirement, but entrants must be currently enrolled either full-time or part-time in an undergraduate or graduate degree program. Students participating in graduate certificate and artist diploma programs also qualify. You must include proof of enrollment with your submission, such as an unofficial copy of your transcript or a dated photo of your current student ID.
  • Essays should be 400-750 words in length. Essays that do not fit within the word requirement will be disqualified.
  • Essays must reply to one of the provided prompts. Include the text of the prompt you used at the top of your essay.
  • Essays should be journalistic in nature. If you choose to interview someone for your essay, you may include quotes from the interview. Your essay should be free of any grammatical or spelling errors. The discovery of any factual errors or plagiarism will result in disqualification.
  • Essays must be original and unpublished. 21CM and I CARE IF YOU LISTEN retain exclusive rights to publish.
  • Entries must be new. Essays submitted for last year’s contest are not eligible.
  • Previous winners are not eligible to re-enter. This does not include honorable mentions.
  • Email your entry with the subject line “New Voices Submission.” In the body of your email, please include your name, age, degree program and school. Include essays and proof of enrollment as attachments. Name essay files as FullName.NewVoices.Prompt#. Example: AmyBeach.NewVoices.Prompt2b.


What is the 21st Century Musician? There are many ways to define one, but some of the traits they have in common include: going their own way, creating their own opportunities by embracing a spirit of entrepreneurship and viewing their audience as an active partner in their success. As you write, keep this innovative spirit in mind so you can develop ideas that contribute to the advancement of music as an art form. (In other words, winning essays will not include reviews of standard church basement senior recitals.)

Craft your essay in response to one of these prompts:

1) Is there a particular musician, organization or musical production that recently inspired you—maybe even changed the way you think about art? Write a profile on this person or a critical response to this project. Describe the ways in which you were affected by this person and/or project, as well as the impact you think this work might have—or already has had—on the larger artistic landscape.

2) Being a 21st Century Musician is all about reinventing the way we engage with our audiences, whether that’s from the stage, within our communities or across digital platforms.

  1. Do you have an idea about how musicians can better engage with their listeners? Describe your idea, how it would work and why it’s important.
  2. Maybe you’ve witnessed an initiative that was very successful in engaging audiences in a unique way. Report on this initiative, telling the story of how it came to be, and offer your analysis on why you think its work is important.

3) In our current political climate, more and more musicians are explicitly using their art as a vehicle for social commentary. While this concept is not new, many artists believe there is a particular urgency to address the contemporary issues facing our world. To what extent do you believe artists have a responsibility to facilitate conversations about political and/or social issues? In your response, use concrete examples of initiatives you have either witnessed or participated in.

4) Historically, Western classical music has been an artform reserved for people in positions of privilege, and systemic barriers to entry still exist today. However, the expanding definition of contemporary classical music covers a wider range of genres and stylistic influences, and therefore comprises many artists who have not taken the traditional conservatory path to a career in music. If you are pursuing a career in music via an unconventional point of entry, or if you have ever faced a barrier to entry, describe how this has shaped your current artistic path.


The judges for this contest are Amanda Cook, editor-in-chief of I CARE IF YOU LISTEN; Zoë Madonna, music critic for the Boston Globe; and Elizabeth Nonemaker, managing editor of and freelance music critic for the Baltimore Sun.