True Concord Voices & Orchestra is launching a composing contest next fall to honor the late composer Stephen Paulus.

The professional ensemble will start soliciting applications in January for the inaugural Stephen Paulus Emerging Composer Competition. The winner will receive a nominal cash prize and the chance to have True Concord premiere the piece.

“It’s a really wonderful way of honoring and remembering Stephen,” said True Concord Music Director Eric Holtan.

True Concord’s patron Dorothy Dyer Vanek put up the seed money for the composing project.

The competition is open to composers 40 and younger from throughout the country. Entries will be judged by a panel of nationally-recognized composers, Holtan said.

Holtan said the theme for the first competition is “Mother Earth,” following the theme of True Concord’s season-opening concert next fall.

“Each year would follow a different theme” tied to a concert, he said.

True Concord will advertise the contest through social media, composing websites and university music schools. Holtan said he is hoping that with Paulus’s name attached, the contest will draw attention around the country.

Paulus was from Minnesota but many people here considered him a Tucsonan. He spent a year as composer in residence with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra during the 1998-99 season and composed a piece for Arizona Friends of Chamber Music amd several for True Concord including “Prayers and Remembrances,” which Vanek commissioned in 2011 on the 10-year anniversary of 9/11. True Concord recorded the piece on “Far In the Heavens,” a CD the ensemble released in September that is up for two Grammy Awards.

Paulus died in October 2014 after suffering a stroke a year earlier. One of his last big professional projects was working with Holtan and True Concord on the CD, which features several Paulus works.

“We wanted to do something that would honor him and his amazing legacy of composing in an ongoing way,” Holtan said. “It’s a really wonderful way of honoring and remembering Stephen. He was special to us, special to the TSO and special to Tucson.”

Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at cburch@tucson.com or 573-4642. On Twitter @Starburch.

I cover music for the Arizona Daily Star.