The American Prize semi-finalist in three categories!

I received the great news that I’ve been selected as a semi-finalist in three divisions of The American Prize composition competition: instrumental chamber music for my work “Submerged Worlds,” vocal chamber music for “Emily’s Garden,” and Opera/Theater/Film division for my mini-opera “All That Glitters,” on the libretto of Michelle Alexander! All three works were written during my time as a Masters student in composition at SMU, and I was still studying there at the time of my application, so I applied in the student division (my last opportunity to do that!) The American Prize will be announcing finalists soon. Wish me luck! You can learn more about this prestigious national competition here: or follow the news on Facebook: or Twitter:

Conducting All-Virginia Guitar Orchestra

I am excited to be traveling yo Virginia tomorrow, where I will be conducting the 2017 All-Virginia Guitar Orchestra! I will be conducting three of my guitar ensemble works (Ninochka, Incantation and Rain, and Cattywampus Rompus), in addition to Fantasia de los Ecos by Leo Brouwer, Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Aria from Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 with soprano Meagan Sill, and Derrick Horne’s Quintango. Looking forward with the best high school guitarists from the state of Virginia!

Olga named Irving Symphony Orchestra Composer-in-Residence 2016-17

March 6, 2017

CONTACT: Victoria Winkelman


Irving Symphony will premiere her Cattywampus Rompus for orchestra on April 8, 2017

DALLAS (SMU) — Olga Amelkina-Vera, a master’s student in the music composition program at SMU Meadows School of the Arts, has been named the 2016-17 Student Composer-in-Residence with the Irving Symphony Orchestra.

Launched in 2011, the student composer-in-residence program is a unique partnership between SMU Meadows and the Irving Symphony Orchestra (ISO). Each year, an undergraduate or graduate Meadows music composition student is selected to serve as a composer-in-residence with the orchestra and to create a commissioned work to be premiered by the ISO. It is the only known program of its kind between a professional orchestra and a university music department.

An annual competition to select the winner is held by a committee composed of two members of the SMU composition faculty and ISO Music Director Hector Guzman, who earned a Master of Music in instrumental conducting at SMU in 1983.

Amelkina-Vera won the honor with her piece Cattywampus Rompus (Texas Tarantella). The five-minute composition features bright orchestration and witty gestures that give the ancient musical “tarantella” form a modern, Texas twist. The piece began as an award-winning work for guitar quartet, but for this commission it has been expanded into a full work for orchestra. It will be premiered by the ISO during its regular season concert on April 8, 2017.

In addition to working closely with Maestro Guzman, Amelkina-Vera is participating in ISO educational outreach programs and other orchestra activities as part of her residency.

“I feel fortunate and grateful to SMU composition faculty members and Maestro Guzman for selecting me for this honor,” she said. “It is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about writing for orchestra in a ‘hands-on’ way. I am also enjoying having an inside look at the behind-the-scenes work of rehearsals and outreach with the ISO. Having my work premiered by them will be an invaluable experience!”

“For many professional composers, an orchestral residency is the ‘golden ring’ they aspire to, with only a few getting the opportunity even once,” said Robert Frank, associate professor of composition at SMU Meadows. “For our students to gain this professional experience and to have a work performed in a concert season by a wonderful orchestra is beyond anything I am aware of at any other university. Olga came to us already holding her D.M.A. in guitar performance, so she has already established a professional performing career as a soloist. This residency gives her the chance to break across disciplines into the composer side of her career, which we have enjoyed helping her develop during her studies in Meadows.”

Amelkina-Vera is the fifth SMU student selected for the ISO Student Composer-in-Residence program. The first was Vince Gover, whose “Let Us Begin Anew…” (a quote from John F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech) premiered in November 2011 at an ISO concert honoring the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s inauguration. The second winner, Alvin Trotman, premiered Jubilee in November 2012, followed by Jesus Martinez’s Harmonic Tremor in February 2014. Last year’s winner, Michael van der Sloot, premiered a piece titled Cascade in March 2016.

A native of Belarus who moved to the U.S. in 1997, Amelkina-Vera earned a B.A. from the University of St. Thomas in Houston and M.M. and D.M.A. degrees in guitar performance from the University of North Texas. At SMU, she has studied with Xi Wang, Lane Harder, Robert Frank and Kevin Hanlon. Her comic micro-opera All That Glitters was premiered at SMU in 2015. Last year, her thesis composition Submerged Worlds, written for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and percussion, was premiered by the Meadows new music ensemble SYZYGY. Her guitar quartets have won multiple awards, including first prize in the Austin Classical Guitar Society Composition Competition in 2009 and 2012 and first prize for Cattywampus Rompus in the Japan Guitar Ensemble Composition Competition in 2013. Her compositions are published by Productions d’Oz, and have been performed and recorded by Matt Palmer, Adam Holzman, Valerie Hartzell and many other ensembles and soloists. As a performer, she maintains a busy touring and teaching schedule with Kithara Duo, her guitar duo with Fernand Vera. Kithara Duo’s critically acclaimed recordings Beings and Lingua Franca feature some of her original compositions and transcriptions for guitar duo. She is currently a faculty member at Collin College in Plano, where she teaches music history, music theory, composition and guitar.

The Irving Symphony Orchestra is a professional orchestra that provides signature performances for North Texas and regularly features renowned guest artists. Under the music direction of Maestro Guzman, it annually presents six concerts in its subscription season, four multi-media free youth concerts for more than 6,000 fifth and seventh graders, and free family, community and educational events. In addition to Amelkina-Vera’s work, the April 8 concert will feature the music of Bizet’s famed opera Carmen. For more information about the ISO’s 2016-17 season, visit

Lecture at Collin College Guitar Festival

On March 14, I presented a lecture on my composition The Heaven’s Hundred for solo guitar at the Collin College Guitar Festival in Plano, TX.  Matt Palmer, for whom the work was written, was there and played excerpts from the piece as I was talking about them, and did that beautifully. Matt playing passages from HH Olga's Lecture photo 1-7 photo 2-9

Collin College Guitar Festival to feature a performance of The Heaven’s Hundred

On Friday, February 13th, American guitar virtuoso Matt Palmer will be performing my composition The Heaven’s Hundred, commissioned by him in 2013 and premiered at the Guitar Foundation of America Convention in Fullerton, CA. The weekend festival will also include my composition lecture about this work, and Matt will join me to play excerpts of the work and talk about the commissioning process. For more information on the festival, please see the event page on Facebook.