The Composition Contest for the USA International Harp Competition (USAIHC) takes place prior to the triennial performance competition and was established as part of the USAIHC’s mission to inspire composers to write new works for the harp. The 6th Contest received 90 applications submitted by composers from 33 countries. 

The USAIHC is pleased to announce the winner of the 6th Composition Contest: 

Life is flashing before my eyes and I realize that it all started with a blackbird
for Live Harp and Soundtrack

by Uno Alexander Vesje
Oslo, Norway

photo credit: Camilla Storvollen

photo credit: Camilla Storvollen


Uno Alexander Vesje (1989) is a Norwegian harpist and composer. He studied harp performance at the Manhattan School of Music in New York City and at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo, where he received his Master’s degree. He also earned a Masters in Composition at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology with the project “Harp – from solo to bigger format.” As a composer, Uno’s awards include a grant from the Norwegian Arts Council and third prize in the International Edvard Grieg Composition Contest. In 2018, his harp concerto, Bragi’s Harp, was selected to be performed with the Bergen Philharmonic Youth Orchestra at the final gala concert of the Young Nordic Music Festival.

 Mr. Vesje has participated in the USAIHC Composition Contest many times. Upon hearing he was this year’s winner, he replied, “This competition has for so many years been one of my biggest inspirations for writing new solo pieces for the harp.” Regarding his piece Life is flashing before my eyes and I realize that it all started with a blackbird, Mr. Vesje shared,

“The piece La Volière Magique by Marcel Tournier was a big inspiration for this composition and led to asking myself, how would I write music about a magical aviary? What are the feelings from the birds captured inside - magical and beautiful? There is something about this duplicity that you find everywhere in this world: the captured and the free, the natural and artificial, life and death. The inner battle of one’s duplicity is what I have wanted to explore in this composition.”

Mr. Vesje’s first place prize for the winning composition includes:

  • $2,000 – American Harp Society Prize (sponsored by the American Harp Society, Inc.)

  • Inclusion in 11th USA International Harp Competition's Stage 3 required repertoire - performances by all semi-finalists in the 2019 Competition.

  • Performance by 2019 Gold Medalist at debut concerts.

  • Score published by Lyon & Healy Publications.

Life is flashing before my eyes and I realize that it all started with a blackbird will be published by Lyon & Healy, Inc. and will be available for purchase on their website, The piece will be required repertoire for Stage III of the 11th USA International Harp Competition. The harpist with the best performance of the piece will be awarded the $1,000 Margaret Louise Smith & Nancy Smith Taylor Memorial Prize. In addition to Life is flashing before my eyes and I realize that it all started with a blackbird, a selection of other Composition Contest entries, including the finalists, will be presented at a Composition Forum during the Competition in July.

The jury wishes to acknowledge and congratulate the following composers whose works were also in the final round: 

  • Lament by Maxwell Lafontant (USA)

  • Flamboyant by Marc-Henri Cykeirt (Belgium)

  • Northern Wind by Uri Brener (Israel)

  • Ar Lan y Môr by Ceiri Torjussen (USA/UK)

  • Design by Mingwei He (China)

  • Cogitation by Natalie Wong (Australia)

The international jury for the 6th Composition Contest consisted of: Composer, Paul Patterson (UK), and the following distinguished harpists: Catherine Eisenhoffer-Meyer (Switzerland), Dr. Ruth K. Inglefield – Jury Chair (USA), Baltazar Juarez (Mexico), Willy Postma (Norway), Katryna Tan (Singapore), and Irina Zingg (Russia).

The USA International Harp Competition wishes to congratulate Mr. Vesje and to extend grateful thanks to the jury members and to Sonja Inglefield, Competition Secretary, for taking time out of their busy schedules to make this contest possible.