A jazz composition competition

in cooperation with the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Spheres of a genius. 100 years of Thelonious Monk

John Beasley wins "Spheres of a Genius"

The "Spheres Of A Genius" composition competition has received great response among composers and jazz musicians. More than 100 original compositions have been reviewed by the jury. The quality of the scores reached such high standards that the jury decided to select five compositions for the final round, awarding three third prizes.

Final result
1st prize: John Beasley
2nd prize: Michael Conrad
3rd prize: Gernot Wolfgang, Christoph Cech, Julian Garvue

1st prize

The winning composition will be premiered by the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Soloists in the Golden Hall of the Vienna Musikverein on June 7th, 2018 and broadcasted as part of the Ö1 radio programme.

prize money
€ 5.000 RSO Logo

2nd prize

prize money
€ 3.000

3rd prize

prize money
€ 2.000

Idea and outline of the competition

To celebrate the occasion of the 100th birthday of Thelonious Monk, JAM MUSIC LAB - Conservatory for Jazz and Popular Music Vienna is organizing an international composition competition.

In cooperation with the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, which will be extended to include jazz soloists, the prize-winning work will be premiered on June 7th, 2018 in the Golden Hall of the Vienna Musikverein.

Thelonious Monk was one of the most innovative artists in jazz music, whose contribution opened up exciting new avenues for this music. As Monk also utilised a vocabulary that was also being used by contemporary classical composers, the competition is supported by the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Monk and the core repertoire of the RSO Wien are close to each other in many respects. JAM MUSIC LAB has developed the idea of "Spheres of a Genius" in honor of the 100th birthday of one of the most important personalities of modern jazz and is responsible for the realization of this competition.

To me Monk’s music has opened doors to new avenues of sounds, structures and ways of creating music.
He has raised my awareness towards the charming beauty of dissonance and the contradictions in the arts.
Marcus Ratka,
Founder of the composers’ competition “Spheres of a Genius”

The aim of the contest

The aim of the contest is to create music that will reflect the spirit of Thelonious Monk from a contemporary perspective; to provoke inspiration for further innovation, originality and musical communication in contemporary jazz. The composition should be intended to offer a demanding and an up-to-date podium for the exploration of exciting interrelationships of jazz in its composed, as well as improvised forms.

The "Sounds" and "Spheres" in the unmistakable musical innovations of Monk are very much prevalent in the possibilities that composed music offers us, especially when a large orchestral composition calls for the orchestra to interact with jazz idioms and jazz musicians.

The Jury

  • Christoph Becher
    General Manager, ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra
  • Cornelius Meister
    Principal Conductor and Artistic Director of ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra (RSO)
  • Bill Dobbins
    Jazzpianist, Composer, Director of the Jazz Department at Eastman School of Music, New York
  • Marcus Ratka
    Composer, General Manager of JAM MUSIC LAB, Conservatory for Jazz and Popular Music, Vienna


  • Berndorf Privatstiftung

    We offer our sincere thanks to Dr. Peter Pichler and Mag. Norbert Zimmermann, directors of Berndorf Private Foundation, for their support in making the prizes possible.

    Privatstiftung - Berndorf AG