The BMI Student Composer Awards were established in 1951 to encourage young composers in the creation of serious music and, through cash prizes, to aid in continuing their musical education. There are no limitations as to instrumentation, style or length of work submitted. The prizes, which range from $500 to $5,000, are awarded at the discretion of the final judging panel. Eleven former winners have gone on to win the coveted Pulitzer Prize in Music including Stephen Albert, Dominick Argento, William Bolcom, George Crumb, Mario Davidovsky, John Harbison, Aaron Jay Kernis, Donald Martino, Christopher Rouse, Joseph Schwantner and Charles Wuorinen.
The 2004 competition is open to students who are citizens of the Western Hemisphere (North, South and Central America, the Caribbean Island Nations and the Hawaiian Islands) and who are under 26 years of age on December 31, 2003. Compositions are judged completely under pseudonyms. Milton Babbitt is the awards chairman.