Cheltenham Composer Academy 2018

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The 6th Cheltenham Composer Academy is now open for applications!

Apply for FREE from 15 January – 30 March 2018

The 6th Cheltenham Composer Academy will run from Sunday 8 – Sunday 15 July 2018.

What is the Composer Academy?

Early-career composers are invited to apply for a course which has proved, in its first five years, to be hugely stimulating, wide-ranging and influential. Participants will 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 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 Kerry Andrew, Joseph Phibbs, Matthew Kaner, Colin Riley, Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Sarah Rimkus, Bethan Morgan-Williams, Eddie Parker, Brett Dean, Toby Hession, Nico Muhly, Michael Berkeley and Ken Hesketh.

When is the Composer Academy?

Participants will arrive on Sunday 8 July and depart on the evening of Sunday 15 July. There is also optional additional attendance on Saturday 7 July when participants will have the chance to watch two world premiere performances. Public showcases of works created during the Composer Academy will take place on Saturday 14 July and Sunday 15 July.

Who will I be writing for and working with?

Academy composers will have the choice of writing one piece for either female vocal trio (Juice Vocal Ensemble) or fixed media and live electronics with instrumentalists (Dr Scott Wilson and Xenia Pestova, Carla Rees and Heather Roche Trio – flutes/clarinets/piano; music can be written for any combination of instruments/electronics). 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 with cost tbc in due course (we keep rates as low as possible). 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).

Which composers’ works will I hear?

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

Colin Riley’s In Place is a multi-media song-cycle; 10 songs each setting new texts and mixing live performance, field recording and electronics. The work explores a sense of place in the British Isles; how it informs our cultural identity; shapes our language and dialects; provides both solace and stimulation, and contains histories both universal and personal.

The King’s Singers present Gold, a programme conceived specially for the majestic spaces of Tewkesbury Abbey, in celebration of their 50th Anniversary. With a series of new works written for the group (including Bob Chilcott, Toby Hession, Nico Muhly and John Rutter) this will be a stunning tour of a cappella repertoire.

• We welcome the Ligeti Quartet (the 2017 Composer Academy quartet in residence) for a concert of world premieres by Michael Zev Gordon, Bethan Morgan Williams (RPS Composition Winner 2017/18), Sarah Rimkus (Composer Academy 2017 alumni) and cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson. This concert will be followed by a panel discussion on diversity in composition.

• The premiere of Debussy Mirrored, produced by eminent jazz musician Eddie Parker. Inspired by Dutch Master Hendrik Sorgh’s ‘The Guitar Player’ and Spanish painter Juan Miro’s transformation of it, this project explores the impact of Debussy’s compositions on jazz music and improvisation, re-imagining and re-composing his works for the present day.

• The Berkeley Ensemble with pianist Charles Owen perform a programme of works by Debussy and Ravel, alongside the world premiere of Ken Hesketh’s The Singing Bone and his new arrangements of Debussy piano works. Michael Berkeley also joins the programme with his Nocturne.

• Nova Musica Opera present the world premiere of Joseph Phibb’s Juliana, a chamber opera based on Strindberg’s play Miss Julie; a tale of love, life and survival of the fittest.

• Participants also have the opportunity to arrive in Cheltenham a day earlier in order to attend two world premieres; Richard Blackford’s Kalon with BBC NOW conducted by Martyn Brabbins, paired in a programme with Elgar’s Introduction and Allegro and a dark new interpretation of Hansel & Gretel (strictly not for kids!), with music by Matthew Kaner and words by poet Simon Armitage.

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 30 March, 12 noon.

When will I find out if my application is successful?

We aim to contact all applicants by 27 April, and will ask for delivery of scores for the Academy by 16 June.

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.

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

Robin Haigh
Composer Academy Alumnus & BASCA Award Winner 2017

The Cheltenham 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 Alumna & 2018 Cheltenham 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 Alumnus & Future Blend Project Winner 2017

Please contact our Music Festival team with any questions at

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