Central Ohio Native Wins Columbus Symphony's SCORE! Competition

Brittany Moseley
Ramsey Sadaka

When Ramsey Sadaka began taking piano lessons at age 8, he never expected to study composition, much less have one of his pieces performed by a professional orchestra. Turns out, childhood dreams do come true sometimes.

Sadaka is one of six composers who won the Columbus Symphony’s first SCORE! competition. Launched last summer, SCORE! aims to support composers with ties to Ohio. All of the 55 composers who submitted original compositions were from Ohio, current residents, current students or graduates of an Ohio college or university. The winning six compositions were selected by the Columbus Symphony’s music director Rossen Milanov and a panel of judges. 

The Symphony will perform the six compositions in front of the winners and the public at a free Happy Hour concert Wednesday. The performance is sponsored by the Johnstone Fund for New Music. Founded by Jack and Zoe Johnstone, the fund supports contemporary concert music in Central Ohio.

“It’s super exciting because it’s not always so easy to get these sort of opportunities, and I’m just so grateful to the Johnstones , first of all to make this opportunity possible for people and to younger composers because this sort of thing really gives visibility,” Sadaka says . “A bunch of people I know and really care about in Ohio get to see and hear my work and see where I am now.”

Sadaka grew up in New Albany and is the only winner originally from Central Ohio. (The other five are: Nabil Abad, student at Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music; Martin Hebel and Charles Peck, both graduates of University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music; Jiří Trtík, student at Cleveland Institute of Music; and Meng Wang, student at University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music.) 

Sadaka studied composition and cello performance at Ohio State University. After completing his undergraduate degree, he attended the University of Oregon where he earned a master’s in composition. He is currently a fellowship doctoral student studying composition at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

“They all feed my creativity: my composition, my performance, conducting—and actually I’m studying electronic music as well,” Sadaka says of his varied musical interests. “When I do think about all these things, I get the most satisfaction from composition, and that’s where I see myself in music, in a sense … It is the place in music where I feel like I have the most to contribute.”

Sadaka’s winning piece, “Andromeda Fantasy,” was written in 2016 and inspired by a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago. While there, he saw Odilon Redon’s painting, “Andromeda,” which depicts the Greek princess chained to a rock in the sea while the monster Cetus looms behind her. “There’s something about this painting that struck me,” Sadaka says. In his piece, he sought to  evoke the sense of foreboding and danger the painting depicts.

Sadaka is looking forward to hearing the Columbus Symphony perform “Andromeda Fantasy” Wednesday, but he’s also looking forward—literally—to what this competition means for Ohio musicians.

“It’s not every day that a composer has an opportunity … to work with an orchestra, and with a great orchestra like the Columbus Symphony,” Sadaka says. “It’s sort of beyond myself. Yes, it’s great for me that I’m getting this opportunity, but it’s really showing how Ohio, and specifically Central Ohio, is working hard to put itself in that sort of spotlight.” 


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Wednesday, Jan. 9

7 p.m.

Ohio Theatre (39 E. State St.)

Admission is free.


SCORE! Happy Hour