History of YCA

Dr. Ben Steinberg, founder of the YCA award.

In 1990, Ben Steinberg, in an effort to replenish the numbers of aging composers of serious Jewish Music at the time, as well as emphasize the importance of traditional, adult music in worship services, created “The GTM Young Composer’s Award.” The project, which encouraged young Jewish composers to produce fully realized solo and choral works for the synagogue and bring a new generation of classically trained creative musicians into the field of Jewish music, has produced many beautiful works from gifted young composers and attracted a number of these composers to become active contributors to synagogue music. The Award continues to grow in stature and currently offers a $2,500 prize to the winner and the opportunity to premiere his/her new work at the ACC/GTM Convention during the year of their win.   The winning piece is also considered for publication by Transcontinental Music Publications , the world’s largest distributor of music for the  Jewish worship.

The award is scheduled annually but is only given to those pieces deemed by the selected jury to be worthy of the award.  There have been 5 years where no winner was announced and one in which two have received the prize.

Such was the case in the Award’s 1991 inaugural year when the YCA announced its first winners – David Lefkowitz (who continues to be actively involved in the award as a juror) and Elaine Broad Ginsberg who both won for settings from Psalms.  Since then, the award has been given to fourteen composers (some winning twice) and several of the pieces have become beloved favorites regularly used in congregational worship.

Shortly after the creation of the award, efforts were put forth towards making it easier for TMP to publish the compositions.  Dr. John Planer (GTM President at the time),  Dr. Ben Steinberg, then Director/Senior Editor of TMP Dr. Judith Tischler, and Burton Zipser (long time member of GTM and Director of Detroit’s International Jewish Music Archive) used a generous gift from Burton Zipser to create an endowment for the YCA  providing funds for publication of winning pieces, with Transcontinental Publications’ agreement. The Zipser Endowment allows for additional funds to be collected and the URJ Development Department oversees all  contributions.

After 20 years  as head juror and administrator of the Award, Ben Steinberg stepped down and handed the reins to twice- winner of the YCA, David Shukiar.  “This is a project I hold very close to my heart,” says Mr. Shukiar, “as it was my entry into composition for the synagogue.  Without the YCA, I would not have had an avenue into this important field, In strengthening Ben’s and GTM’s vision for the award we can help to ensure that serious synagogue music will always have a place in our worship.”