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School of Music

  • Founders photo



SAVVY Chamber Competition

A chamber music competition for ensembles that reimagine the concert experience
$14,500 in prizes, including a $10,000 grand prize / residency at the University of South Carolina

The winner of the 2020 SAVVY Chamber Music Competition: FOUNDERS

Thanks to all applicants to the competition, and congratulations to all three of our superb finalists:  Beo String QuartetRighteousGIRLS and Founders

A quintet from New York playing a program that used Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time as a jumping-off point, Founders returned to the Big Apple with both the Audience Choice and $10,000 Grand Prize awards. They will join us in Columbia for a week-long residency and solo Southern Exposure show in 2020-21.

The SAVVY Chamber Competition at the University of South Carolina, established in 2013, is the nation’s first chamber music contest to evaluate both artistic excellence and creative, innovative, event design. Our 2020 competition featured three finalist ensembles each performing 20-minute sets in a public concert on the nationally recognized Southern Exposure New Music Series


$10,000 Grand Prize / Residency
$1,500 prizes guaranteed all three finalist ensembles
Audience Choice Award

Competition Performance Date and Venue

Saturday, February 22, 2020, 7:30 p.m.
School of Music Recital Hall
University of South Carolina
813 Assembly St., Columbia SC

Ensemble and Repertoire Criteria

  • Groups of two or more artists may apply; interdisciplinary groups are welcome
  • Any instrumentation and genre of music within the wide umbrella of classical / indie classical / world music / jazz / roots / experimental music is acceptable, provided the program includes at least one work written since 1980.
  • Minimum age of all performers is 18; no maximum age
  • Previous winners are not eligible to apply
  • Ensembles must be tour-ready, with an ensemble website and the commitment to play regularly with the same members that perform during the competition finals

Adjudication Criteria

Artistic Excellence: Artistic performance at the highest level; compelling and engaging programming
Creative Event Design: Programs that stretch, expand or reimagine the traditional concert format in meaningful ways. Aspects of creative event design may include, but are not limited to:

  • Substantive thematic programming
  • Meaningful interdisciplinary elements and connections
  • Use of multi-media, choreography, costuming, narrative and/or theatrical elements to enhance the music and concert experience
  • Outstanding audience engagement
  • Substantive and compelling new works written for or by the ensemble
  • Imaginative arrangements or adaptations of existing repertoire developed by the ensemble

To Apply

Check back with us in spring 2022. 

Recital Hall Performance Space

  • The UofSC School of Music Recital Hall is an intimate, resonant space with room for approximately 200 patrons
  • Equipped with extensive audio and video systems (professional sound and lighting engineers are provided, though groups are welcome to bring their own)
  • Includes two Steinway grand pianos and a two-manual Lynn Dobson pipe organ
  • The hall includes basic lighting capability; groups should keep in mind that this is a recital hall rather than a theater. Selected colors and some spatial lighting effects are possible; advanced lighting design (follow spots etc.) may be difficult or impossible to achieve. There is no backstage area inside the hall.


Contact Michael Harley, artistic director, Southern Exposure New Music Series

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.