The Margaret Guthman Musical Instrument Competition, an annual event to find the world’s best new ideas in musical instrument design, engineering, and performance, is held at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Sponsored by the Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology, the School of Music, and the College of Architecture, the competition selects 20-25 semi-finalists from all over the world each year to come to Georgia Tech to compete for $10,000 in prizes (including a $5,000 First Prize).

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The Guthman Musical Instrument Competition is designed to show how extraordinary ideas have the potential to change the way music is made and experienced. Entries are varied and creative, challenging the way instruments and music making have traditionally worked. Past entries have included a multimedia timpani, an electromagnetic textile suit, interactive light-emitting blocks, an iPhone Choir, and a keyboard that moves in and out as well as up and down. More unusual instruments have been submitted as well, including a flame-driven glass-tube organ, submersible percussion, a tongue-based controller, and a partially edible toy piano. The contestants, equally diverse, come from dozens of countries and reflect a broad range of interests and professions. Participants have included innovative creators/performers, full-time inventors, creative consortia, research groups, students, faculty, and dedicated hobbyists. All preliminary and final performances are open to the public, encouraging a wide audience to take part in the future of music technology. Each year, the panel of judges includes internationally acclaimed musicians, engineers, designers, performers, composers, and visionaries.

The Margaret Guthman Musical Instrument Competition has become a major event in the world of new instrument design. Wired.com has called it the “X-Prize for music,” and contestants have likened it to a TED Conference for new musical instrument designers. Peter Kirn of Create Digital Music observed that in “the crowded world of new instrument design, the Margaret Guthman Musical Instrument Competition has emerged as a key prize for the best work, with creations battling fiercely for attention.”