Composer Academy

Cheltenham Composer Academy 2017

The 5th Cheltenham Composer Academy is now open for applications!

The 5th Cheltenham Composer Academy will run from Sunday 9 July – Sunday 16 July 2017.

What is the Composer Academy?

Early-career composers are invited to apply for a course which has proved, in its first four years, to be hugely stimulating, wide-ranging and influential. Participants will have their compositions workshopped, performed and recorded, attend a range of premiere performances at the Cheltenham Music Festival, and have access to industry professionals in a series of panel talks that will discuss craft and contemporary aesthetics along with career development. Workshops will be steered by a range of composers whose new works are being heard during the Festival.

Michael Zev Gordon

We are delighted that Michael Zev Gordon, Professor of Composition at the University of Birmingham, is the Director of the Cheltenham Composer Academy from 2016-18.

Other composers whose music you will hear, and many of whom you will meet during the Academy, include Joby Talbot, Mark Simpson, Elena Kats-Chernin, David Matthews, Daniel Kidane, John Casken, Owain Park, Ryan Wigglesworth, Joseph Phibbs, Darren Bloom and Mark Anthony Turnage.

When is the Composer Academy?

Participants will arrive on Sunday 9 July and depart on the evening of Sunday 16 July. Public showcases of works created during the Composer Academy will take place on Saturday 15 July and Sunday 16 July.

Who will I be writing for and working with?

Academy composers will have the choice of writing one piece for either percussion, with optional performer-operated electronics (workshopped and performed by Joby Burgess) or string quartet (Ligeti Quartet). Both groups will be in residence for the duration of the Academy, and will workshop the piece alongside tuition from Michael Zev Gordon. The target duration of the piece is around six minutes, and composers will be asked to submit a ‘work-in-progress’ score in June for the ensemble to prepare.

How much will it cost?

Heavily subsidised by a number of generous funders (trusts and individuals), course fees are kept low – at only £225. This includes coaching, seminars, concert tickets and lunch every day. Single room bed and breakfast accommodation is available at £37 per person per night or £250 for the full 7 nights. Applicants who are not selected as full Academy participants will be invited to attend as observer composers at a rate of £20 per day (plus accommodation, see rates above).

Which composers’ works will I hear?

Alongside rehearsals, workshops and seminars, you will attend the following events:

• The ensemble Counterpoise and renowned bass John Tomlinson perform the World Premiere of Kokoschka’s Doll by John Casken, a melodrama for singer/narrator and small ensemble

William Howard presents his Love Songs project, a collection of new compositions for solo piano by Howard Skempton, Nico Muhly, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Piers Hellawell, Elena Kats-Chernin, Joby Talbot, and others

• London Music Masters’ executive director Robert Adediran chairs a discussion on diversity in classical music, following a concert by Chineke! Orchestra, featuring a new work commissioned by Cheltenham Music Festival by 2015 Composer Academy alumnus James Wilson.

Tenebrae performs Joby Talbot’s Path of Miracles and a new work by Owain Park, Footsteps, in Tewkesbury Abbey

The Marian Consort presents an evening of music by Gesualdo incorporated into a semi-staged drama about the life of the composer

• Ensemble Court-Circuit premieres four new works by Birmingham and Lyon Conservatoire students, alongside contemporary French and British works

The Hallé give the UK Premiere of Ryan Wigglesworth’s Clocks from ‘A Winter’s Tale’, and Roderick Williams joins the orchestra for Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen

How do I apply?

Click here to fill out an application form. You will be asked to tell us a bit about yourself, why you’d like to take part, what you’d like to write and upload some examples of your recent work. Please note that you don’t have to submit what you would like to have workshopped if selected. The closing date for applications is 18 April, 12 noon.

When will I find out if my application is successful?

We aim to contact all applicants by 5 May.

What will I gain from taking part in the Academy?

As well as intensive tuition and development of your composition in a series of workshops culminating in a high-quality performance and recording of your new work, you will enjoy contact with specialists in the performance of new music, world-renowned composers, and those working in the industry. Above all, the Composer Academy offers a chance to discuss ideas, issues and questions with like-minded peers.

The composer academy was a great experience, and really helped me to know the goals I should aim for as an emerging composer. I am still in awe and admiration of how impressive the quality of the composing was.

Joe, 2016 Participant

This has been the most extraordinary five days. I have been provoked to listen really hard, think really hard and respond coherently. I have been part of a wonderful group of composers – all trying to organise sound in a whole-hearted and fully-engaged way.

2015 Composer

Please contact our Music Festival team with any questions at

Supported by John Mumford and Penny McCracken, The Marychurch Fellowship and The Michael Tippett Musical Foundation.