Summerville Orchestra awarded national prize

The American Prize in Orchestral Performance is coming to the Lowcountry

Wide shot of the Summerville Orchestra in concert black and on stage, posed with their instruments.

The Summerville Orchestra—Wojciech Milewski, music director—is the 2023 winner of The American Prize in Orchestral Performance, community division. The Summerville Orchestra was selected from applications reviewed recently from across the United States.

The American Prize National Nonprofit Competitions in the Performing Arts is the nation’s most comprehensive series of contests in the performing arts. The American Prize is unique in scope and structure, designed to recognize and reward the best performing artists, directors, ensembles and composers in the United States at professional, college/university, community and high school levels, based on submitted recordings. Now in its 13th year, The American Prize was founded in 2010 and is awarded annually in many areas of the performing arts.

Thousands of artists from all 50 states have derived benefit from their participation in the contests of The American Prize, representing literally hundreds of communities and arts organizations across the nation. Information about the 2024 season of contests is available on the prize’s website.

Serving the Lowcountry of South Carolina, the Summerville Orchestra is the epitome of community serving community. Originally founded in 2003 by a small group of musicians who wanted to play for the pure joy of it, the Summerville Orchestra has transformed into one of the largest community orchestras in the nation, programming full-scale professional repertoire while also being a “rogue traditionalist” by adding newer works, different works, and creating both a classical and non-classical music experience at each concert. Directed by Wojciech Milewski, the orchestra has blossomed into transforming the community it serves by adding five large concert performances, more than 10 chamber performances, a 10-part adult educational series titled “Music Chats with Wojciech,” a podcast, live-streaming opportunities, and as of 2022, a new youth orchestra. For more information about the orchestra, check out

About the American Prize

The American Prize National Nonprofit Competitions in the Performing Arts grew from the belief that a great deal of excellent music being made in this country goes unrecognized and unheralded, not only in our major cities, but all across the country: in schools and churches, in colleges and universities, and by community and professional musicians.

With the performing arts in America marginalized like never before, The American Prize seeks to fill the gap that leaves excellent artists and ensembles struggling for visibility and viability. The American Prize recognizes and rewards the best America produces, without bias against small city versus large, or unknown artist versus well-known.

David Katz is the chief judge of The American Prize. Professional conductor, award-winning composer, playwright, actor and arts advocate, he is author of MUSE of FIRE, the acclaimed one-man play about the art of conducting. Joining Katz in selecting winners of The American Prize is a panel of judges as varied in background and experience as we hope the winners of The American Prize will be. Made up of distinguished musicians representing virtually every region of the country, the group includes professional vocalists, conductors, composers and pianists, tenured professors, and orchestra, band and choral musicians.

“Most artists may never win a Grammy award, or a Pulitzer, or a Tony, or perhaps even be nominated,” Katz said, “but that does not mean that they are not worthy of recognition and reward. Quality in the arts is not limited to a city on each coast, or to the familiar names, or only to graduates of a few schools. It is on view all over the United States, if you take the time to look for it. The American Prize exists to encourage and herald that excellence.”

By shining a light on nationally recognized achievement, winners of The American Prize receive world-class bragging rights to use in promotion right at home.

“If The American Prize helps build careers, or contributes to local pride, or assists with increasing the audience for an artist or ensemble, builds the donor base, or stimulates opportunities or recruitment for winning artists and ensembles, then we have fulfilled our mission,” Katz said.