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Updated 2024 Rules

General

Contestants must be currently enrolled in a high school or junior high school/middle school. If a contestant is not located in the United States, the contestant must be no more than 18 years of age.

Former first-place winners of Houston Underground competitions are ineligible to compete.

 

Event Schedule and Categories

 

The Houston Underground Competition is scheduled for Saturday, May 4th, 2024, at Kerr High School in Houston, TX (8150 Howell Sugar Land Rd, 77083). The competition will commence at 8:30 AM and conclude with the final performance at 5:30 PM. This will be followed by the 2023 Winners Concert at 6 PM and a brief period for judges’ deliberation. The awards ceremony will take place immediately after the concert, around 6:30 PM. Please note that attendance at the awards ceremony is optional. If you are unable to attend, your prize or comment sheets will be mailed to you.

The competition is divided into three categories:

  1. High School Quartet (2 rounds): This category is for saxophone groups with 3-6 participants.

  2. High School Soloist (2 rounds): This category is for solo saxophone and piano (when applicable).

  3. Junior High Quartet (one round): This category is for saxophone groups with 3-6 participants in junior high.

Please refer to the competition details below for more information.

 

Application Process and Deadlines

Please be aware that application deadlines are strict. The deadline for first round applications for all categories is MARCH 29th. Finalists for the live rounds will be announced on April 5th via email and social media. Each finalist will be assigned a time slot on May 4th, between 8:30 AM and 5:15 PM. Please note that while we strive to avoid significant conflicts with school events, Houston Underground DOES NOT ACCEPT TIME REQUESTS. 

Applications will open on January 29th, 2024, and can be found on the website. The application fee is $120 for HS groups, $80 for JH groups and $65 per solo applicant, which can be paid through the online application. All application fees are non-refundable.

After March 29th, a waitlist will be created for both quartet divisions. In the event that a group is unable to perform in the live round, we will first contact groups that submitted pre-liminary round auditions and then those on the waitlist.

HS Quartet Competition Details

The competition is open to groups composed entirely of students currently enrolled in high school. Students from different schools can form a quartet to compete together. A student can participate in more than one ensemble, but changing members between performances is not allowed.

The competition consists of two rounds: a preliminary video screening and a live final round on Saturday, May 4th, 2024. The application deadline is March 29th, 2024, and all applications must be received by 11:59pm. Late entries will not be considered.

Any arrangement of four saxophones (e.g., SATB, AATB, AATT, etc.) is acceptable. Trios, quintets, and sextets are also allowed. However, contestants are encouraged to use a standard SATB arrangement. All parts must be played by one person each; doubling parts is not permitted. Groups must perform as a complete group the entire time. For example, groups may not perform as quartet for one piece and then omit a member and play a piece as a trio.

Preliminary Round

For the first round, groups must submit a 5-10 minute video recording of any repertoire of their choosing. The video must be a single take of a complete work or movement and should show all performers from head to toe from a single, front-facing angle. You may sit or stand. No overdubs, cuts, added reverb or other editing is allowed. The audio quality should be good enough to discern the performance, but it will not affect the performance score. We encourage you to use the best equipment available to you. A good quality phone that is set up correctly is acceptable. Pre-recorded parts played during the recording are not permitted; all parts must be played live, including any auxiliary players (percussion, piano etc.). The deadline for the first round is March 29th.

Live Round

If your group qualifies for the live round, it will be announced on April 5th, 2024 via email and social media. A total of 30 groups will qualify for the live round.

For the live round on May 4th, performances must last no longer than 15 minutes. Performances that exceed the time limit will be cut off by the judges with no penalty given. You may play any repertoire of your choosing (within guidelines) for the live round. You may include or omit repertoire from the preliminary round.

There is no dress code for the competition; however, performers are encouraged to present themselves professionally.

Please note: Original copies of all performance works must be owned and proof of ownership (sales receipt, score, original published physical editions, etc.) must be provided on the day of the contest in order to participate. Public domain works are acceptable if the performed parts are also public domain. Each group MUST have their own original manuscript. You will not be allowed to perform without an original.

Failure to follow guidelines will result in an immediate, automatic disqualification. 

Jr. High Quartet/Ensemble Competition

 

The Junior High division is open to groups composed entirely of junior high students. These groups will not compete against High School contestants, even though the two contests may be held in the same room. Students from different schools can form a group to compete together. A student can participate in more than one group, but changing members between performances is not allowed.

There is no preliminary round for the Junior High competition, and quartets will be admitted on a first-come, first-serve basis. The application deadline is also March 29th.

Any arrangement of four saxophones (e.g., SATB, AATB, AATT, etc.) is acceptable. Trios, quintets, and sextets are also allowed. However, contestants are encouraged to use a standard SATB arrangement. All parts must be played by one person each; doubling parts is not permitted. Groups must perform as a complete group the entire time.

Performances must last no longer than 15 minutes. Performances that exceed the time limit will be cut off by the judges with no penalty given. You may perform any repertoire of your choosing.

There is no dress code for the competition; however, performers are encouraged to present themselves professionally.

Please note: Original copies of all performance works must be owned and proof of ownership (sales receipt, score, original published physical editions, etc.) must be provided on the day of the contest in order to participate. Public domain works are acceptable if the performed parts are also public domain. Each group MUST have their own original manuscript. You will not be allowed to perform without an original.

Failure to follow guidelines will result in an immediate, automatic disqualification. 

Solo Competition

 

The Solo Competition is open to all current high school students, and will have two rounds. The first round will consist of an online video screening, and the final round will happen live on Saturday, May 4th, 2024.

 

The Solo Competition deadline for applications is March 29th; Houston Underground must receive all applications by that date. Late entries will not be considered.

 

First Round: Students are required to choose ONE work from the following list:

Performed on Alto or Baritone Saxophone

 

  • Paul Creston – Sonata – Movement I

  • Paule Maurice – Tableaux de Provence – Movement V

  • Darius Milhaud – Scaramouche – Movement I

  • Jacques Ibert – Concertino da Camera – Movement I

OR

Performed on Tenor Saxophone 

  • James DiPasquale – Sonata – Movement I

  • Heitor Villa-lobos – Fantasia – Movement I

  • Eric Ewazen – Concerto – Movement I

In addition to one work from the required list, students can choose other works to perform, up to a total of 10 minutes. Performances must include a live piano (when appropriate) and be uploaded to platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, Google Drive, or any other file-sharing or video-streaming platform. The video URL link must be provided during the application process. A panel of judges will review the videos and announce the live-round qualifiers on April 5th.

All recordings must be video recordings (audio and video) and consist of a single take of a complete work or movement. The video must show the performer from head to toe from a single, front-facing angle. No overdubs, cuts, added reverb or other editing are allowed in the recordings. Recordings can be made from live performances or studio performances, with or without an audience. The audio quality should be good enough to discern the performance, but it will not affect the performance score. Pre-recorded piano tracks are not permitted. Recordings from a previous year’s preliminary round cannot be reused.

 

Final Round Details

The top 30 contestants will advance to the final round, which will take place on Saturday, May 4th, 2024, at Kerr HS, 8150 Howell Sugar Land Rd, Houston TX 77083, starting as early as 8:30 AM. Final round contestants will be announced on April 5th via email and social media.

Finalist performances must not exceed 15 minutes. While there is no minimum time requirement, performances that go over 15 minutes will be cut off by the judges. There is no penalty for exceeding the time limit, but we ask that you keep your program at or under 15 minutes. The repertoire for the final round can include music from the first round, but there is no required repertoire for this round.

All contestants in the Solo Competition must provide piano accompaniment for any appropriate works. Contestants must arrange for pianists on their own. Houston Underground will NOT be providing pianists for contestants. However, contact emails of recommended pianists are available upon request from Houston Underground.

There is no dress code for the competition; however, performers are encouraged to present themselves professionally.

Students are allowed to compete in both the Quartet and Solo Competition. Although they occur on the same day, every effort will be made on behalf of the competition to avoid schedule conflicts.

Please note: Original copies of all performance works must be owned and proof of ownership (sales receipt, score, original published physical editions, etc.) must be provided on the day of the contest in order to participate. Public domain works are acceptable if the performed parts are also public domain. You will not be allowed to perform without an original.

Failure to follow guidelines will result in an immediate, automatic disqualification. 

Prizes

High School Quartet

1st - $1000 + Sponsor Items + Winner's Concert

2nd - $500 + Sponsor Items

3rd - $300 

People's Choice - $200

High School Solo

1st - $500 + Sponsor Items + Winner's Concert

2nd - $300 + Sponsor Items

3rd - $200

Junior High Quartet 

1st - $250

2nd - Sponsor Items

3rd - Sponsor Items

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