UnCaged Toy Piano Composition Competition

2011 4th UnCaged Toy Piano Call for Submissions: Toy Toy Toy!

Thanks to everyone who submitted pieces.

Winner: Rusty Banks, Babbling Tower-to-Tower for toy piano and cell phones

Most Ingenious Combo Award: James Joslin, Fur Enola for toy piano and jack-in-the-box

Honorable Mentions:

Dante De Silva: Scratch Record for two toy pianos, toy glockenspiel and toy percussion

Naftali Schindler: Norfolk in Summer for toy piano and melodica

Please visit our new website,, for more details on the pieces and festival!

Deadline: July 15th 2011

The UnCaged Toy Piano Composition Competition was founded in 2007 as a call-for-scores to expand the music for toy piano. This competition was formed to encourage composers to write for this unusual instrument that has rapidly gained attention and interest from many pianists, composers and artists in the last decade.  As an instrument with no set boundaries or pre-conceived ideas on how it should be played, the toy piano is an untapped musical medium for artists to explore new compositions and multi-media works without being tied to any set genre or tradition.
Invented in 1872, the toy piano was mostly considered an educational toy for children. It was not until John Cage’s seminal work, “Suite For Toy Piano” in 1947 that single-handedly turned the toy piano into a concert instrument. In recent decades, a growing number of musicians and audience members have embraced this instrument for its freshness, un-assuming yet quirky quality.
The toy piano quickly became an instrument that saddled between many other instruments familiar to us—it looks like a miniature full-sized “string” piano, and has the range of many new electronic midi keyboards. As an acoustic instrument, it is made of metal rods and reminds people of a glockenspiel, xylophone, gamelan, music box, a poor man’s celesta,harp, mbira, guitar, bells, and many others. Through time, the UnCaged Toy Piano hopes to develop idiomatic repertoire for the instrument so that it becomes its own artistic entity, giving attention to a relatively unknown instrument with a unique sound and voice.
Through history, instruments have changed depending on the imagination of composers and the potential they found in them.  UnCaged Toy Piano hopes to create an opportunity for musicians, artists and composers to discover and develop its inherent language while promoting it in concerts, recordings, and festivals.   By holding a call-for-scores annually, the UnCaged Toy Piano encourages composers and artists of any age, gender, ethnicity, and background to create works for this instrument.
One of the most intriguing, puzzling and problematic issues many people have grappled with concerning the toy piano is the fact that it is called a “toy.”  After reflecting upon the many kinds of toys there are from play dolls to board games, stuffed animals, bee bee guns, box cars, train sets and toy instruments, one may realize that there is a toy version of everything in life. In different cultures, toys are realized in different forms, sometimes in much more remedial ways than the mass-produced commercial colorful toys we have in this country.( Toys could be anything…I remember my nephew visiting a park and finding bark on trees to be the most interesting thing to play with.) Either way, toys are objects that then have another function; They become an invitation to a make-believe world, whether it be for children or adults. I have found that the toy piano has also inspired that level of “play” and “fantasy” for many musicians today.

The theme for the 4th UnCaged Toy Piano is Toy Toy Toy! Music for Toy Piano and Toy Instrument(s).  Here are the rules for this year’s competition:

1. Pieces written for toy piano and any toy instrument is strongly encouraged, but must be able to be played by a solo performer. Some of these toy instruments include (but are not limited to) melodica,toy drums, toy cymbals, toy gongs, two toy pianos, toy xylophone, or toy handbells.
2. Electronics is optional, but must work for a Mac OS X with an Intel processor
3. Pieces can be of any length
4. Pieces for solo toy piano are also acceptable

The UnCaged Toy Piano is open to composers of all ages and nationalities.

Phyllis Chen, Margaret Leng Tan, Angelica Negron

Unlike previous UnCaged Competition performances, the winning works this year will be performed at our 1st  UnCaged Toy Piano FESTIVAL scheduled to take place in the Fall of 2011, New York City. The top selection will be awarded an honorarium of $800. Aside from this top prize, other winning works will be chosen to be performed as part of the festival and each composer will receive a studio recording of his/her piece. For the UnCaged Toy Piano Festival, other artists, musicians, composers, improvisers from New York and abroad will be joining in the Toy Toy Toy festivities!

For all scores that are sent to UnCaged Toy Piano, a copy of your score will also be sent to the Toy Piano Collection located at UC San Diego Geisel Library. In May of 2001, the Library of Congress issued a subject heading and call number for toy piano scores because of the activities  at the library. Even if your piece is not chosen for the festival, we hope that your piece finds its rightful performer by being placed in an organized catalog of toy piano music.

For your submission, you may either  EMAIL your score, mp3(if available), short bio, and contact information to Or MAIL to:

P.O. BOX 2341

Deadline: July 15, 2011 (results announced August 15)

3rd UnCaged Toy Piano: Duo Edition

I am delighted and honored to be collaborating this season with the brilliant German-based cellist, Johannes Moser. The two of us will be touring throughout the United States in January 2010 performing on piano, toy piano, cello, electric cello and electronics. We are looking for new works written specifically for us and our instrumentation. To find out more about our tour and collaboration, please view our short video.

Here are the rules for the UnCaged Duo Edition:
1. Pieces must be under 7 minutes
2. Pieces must be written for toy piano and either cello or electric cello
3. Pieces can use the “regular” piano/prepared piano along with the toy piano
4. We welcome the use of electronics

Composers of any age or nationality are welcome to apply. There is no application fee.

1. Scores in pdf format
2. Mp3’s are not mandatory but helpful
3. Short composer biography

Please submit these materials by EMAIL to
Feel free to email me with any other questions.

Deadline: December 1st, 2009

1st UnCaged Toy Piano Competition (2007-8)

2nd UnCaged Toy Piano Competition (2009-10)

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