Dan Cavanagh, director of the School of Music, won The American Prize in the “Composition, 2023, Social Justice related” category for his composition Even if the Last Bullet Hits My Chest. A work for wind symphony, the piece reflects on the patterns of war and hope, and its impact on human beings.

“Some number of years ago, I was listening to the BBC World Service on the radio, and through an interpreter, a Yemeni farmer was being interviewed about the civil war there,” Cavanagh wrote in program notes. “He said something so profound: ‘Even if the last bullet hits my chest, we must end this war.’ To me hearing that was like a flash of human connection across the globe, from a man I will never know, from a completely different culture. That has stuck with me ever since.”

The piece was also awarded second place earlier this year in The American Prize Wind Symphony Composition division.

“I’m glad I was able to tackle themes of war and cultural connection through this piece and I’m grateful that it continues to spread that message,” Cavanagh said.

The University of Texas at Arlington Wind Symphony premiered the piece, with a subsequent professional debut by the Dallas Winds. 

According to the organization, 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. The American Prize was founded in 2010 and is awarded annually in many areas of the performing arts.