Cheltenham Composer Academy - Postponed until Autumn 2020

It is with sadness and regret that the 2020 Cheltenham Music Festival has been cancelled, due to the continuing impact of COVID-19. Read our statement. We are working to re-arrange the 2020 Composer Academy to take place during the second half of October and will provide full details in the coming weeks. As a result, we will be extending our FREE application deadline until 1 July 2020.

Apply for FREE from 3 March – 1 July 2020

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What is the Composer Academy?

Composer Academy forms part of Cheltenham Festivals Spotlight Talent Development Programme. Spotlight aims to support artists at all stages of their careers to take the next step. Composer Academy specifically supports early-career composers (aged 18+ years) who are looking to gain professional advice and mentoring to further their career. The programme is stimulating, wide-ranging and has proved highly influential in its first seven years. During the programme the eight participants have their compositions work-shopped, 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 discuss craft and contemporary aesthetics along with career development.

Composer Academy Evolves: Changes during 2019-20

In 2020 Composer Academy will last for five days. All participants will receive professional advice and support, in consultation with the course Director and our Ensemble-in-Residence, both in advance of the residential days and on site in Cheltenham.

Following the success of this new feature in 2019, the final day of Composer Academy will run alongside, and as part of, Composium, a conference style day for composers, publishers, artists, managers and members of the public, comprising talks, panel discussions, performances and networking opportunities. All eight compositions will be premiered at Composium, providing an exciting platform for Academy participants, with an audience comprising influential music industry members. In 2020 these performances will be followed by a brief Q&A session with the audience allowing composers to receive first-hand thoughts and feedback on their works.

Who will I be writing for and working with?

We are delighted to announce that Daniel Kidane will be the Composer Academy Director for 2020. The Festival’s relationship with Daniel goes back to 2013 when he was a member of our first ever Composer Academy. In 2019 the BBC Symphony Orchestra premiered his work Woke at the Last Night of the Proms, and Daniel’s commissions range from Mahan Esfahani (harpsichord) to the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and Cheltenham Music Festival.

Participants will have the choice of writing one piece for an ensemble of four musicians handpicked by Chi-chi Nwanoku from Chineke! The Chineke! musicians will be in residence for the duration of the Academy and will workshop each piece alongside tuition from Daniel Kidane. The target duration of the piece is around 5 minutes and composers will be asked to submit an initial draft score in mid-September for the ensemble to prepare.

How much will it cost?

Heavily subsidised by a number of generous funders (trusts and individuals), and due to the reduced, intensive nature of the experience, course fees are kept low – in 2020 the course will cost £90. This includes coaching, talks, concert tickets and lunch each day. Single room bed and breakfast accommodation is available and paid for separately by participants, with cost tbc in due course (we keep rates as low as possible, at around £30 per night). Applicants who are not selected as full Academy participants will be invited to attend as observer composers at a rate of £50 per person (plus accommodation).

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 1 July 2020, 5pm.

An initial selection panel will choose a long-list of applicants with a 50/50 gender balance. These applications will then be submitted to the final selection panel, who will make a blind choice entirely based on merit.

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What will I gain from taking part in the Academy?

As well as intensive tuition and development of your composition in 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.

Cheltenham Composer Academy was a fantastic opportunity for me that I’m really thankful for and would recommend to anybody.

Robin Haigh, Composer Academy Alumni & BASCA Award Winner 2017

The Cheltenham Music Festival Composer Academy allowed me to work more closely with expert instrumentalists than I ever have had the opportunity before. It was an excellent learning and professional development experience.

Sarah Rimkus, Composer Academy Alumni & 2018 Music Festival Commission

The immersive nature of Composer Academy was fantastic – working and socialising with such good musicians and composers over the course of the week was, aside from being great fun, fabulously developmental to my practice. The extra sessions (alongside the core activity of composition workshops) were an unexpected bonus too.

Arthur Keegan-Boyle, Composer Academy Alumni & Future Blend Project Winner 2017

Please contact our Music Festival team with any questions at