Young Composers Project

/Young Composers Project
Young Composers Project 2012-02-28T08:33:17+00:00

“I know of no other educational program in America quite like the Tucson Symphony Orchestra’s Young Composers Project.  It is remarkable enough that students are afforded an opportunity to hear their first works brought to life by a professional orchestra.  Even more impressive is the fact that the TSO nurtures the young composers with lessons in orchestration, form, and notation throughout the school year.”

—Dan Coleman, Music Alive Composer in Residence, 2002-03

This excerpt provides a brief overview of the learning experiences and skills gained throughout the course of the Young Composers Project. The video features personal accounts, the learning environment, and interactions between students, musicians, and teachers. Firehouse Pictures produced a 25-minute video of the Young Composers Project class of 2011 as an in-kind gift. This excerpt was created in March 2011.

This exceptional program and national model teaches elementary through high school students to compose for orchestra. This unique and nationally recognized program uses the Orchestra as a living laboratory for the young composers, providing interaction between students and professionals to explore the creative process of composition. Participants meet twice per month from September through May, culminating in two public reading sessions by the Tucson Symphony Chamber Orchestra and the TSO String Quintet. These reading sessions produce study recordings of the young composers’ newly created pieces. Since 1993, the TSO Young Composers Project program has produced more than 200 new works by young composers.

2016-17 YCP Application (PDF)

Class Instructor: Ilona Vukovic-Gay, TSO Assistant Principal Violist

First class meeting:

Friday September 9, 2016 – Intro: 4:30 PM-5:30 PM

Saturday September 10, 2016 – Advanced: 1:00 PM-3:00 PM

At the Tucson Symphony Center.

Reading session dates:

Friday May 12, 2017 at 7:00 PM, TSO String Quintet at the Tucson Symphony Center

Saturday May 13, 2017 at 7:00 PM, Tucson Symphony Orchestra at Catalina Foothills High School

Sunday, May 14, 2017 at 2:00 PM, Tucson Symphony Orchestra at Catalina Foothills High School

Program Information:
Learn to compose for orchestra while working alongside other young composers, orchestral musicians, conductors and contemporary composers. In this living laboratory, you’ll explore the creative process of composition and interact with guest artists and TSO musicians as well as attend TSO dress rehearsals and concerts. In May, the piece you’ve composed will be performed in a public reading session by either the Tucson Symphony Orchestra or the TSO String Quintet. After the reading sessions, you’ll receive a study recording of your newly created work! Now in its 20th year, the TSO Young Composers Project has produced more than 300 new works by young composers.

The Advanced Young Composers Project covers the principals of harmony, voice leading, form, score reading and ear training. You’ll compose short works for each class which are played by visiting TSO ensembles. The final project is an orchestral work performed by the Tucson Symphony Orchestra at the Young Composers reading sessions in May. Many graduates from this program have continued to pursue composition at the undergraduate and graduate level at universities and conservatories across the United States.

In the Introductory Young Composers Project you’ll learn the fundamentals of music theory and composition needed to succeed as a composer: melodic construction, development of motives, form and introductory instrumentation. The final project is a string quintet composition performed by the TSO String Quintet at the Young Composers reading session in May.

“This program has had an incredible effect on me.  Not only have I gained a large understanding of all the instruments of an orchestra, but I have discovered a passion for composition.”
—Nicolas Mariscal, 6 year YCP participant, 2009 winner of ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Award

In 2009, the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers Foundation (ASCAP), honored Nicolas Mariscal with a Morton Gould Young Composer Award.  Only 39 awards were given this year from a field of 680 applicants.  Nicolas just completed his fifth year in the TSO’s Young Composers Project.  Ben Nead, a second year participant, was a finalist.  The award provides recognition and cash awards to gifted young composers of concert music.

For more information about the TSO Young Composers Project program, please contact the Education Programs Manager, Alana Richardson, at or (520) 620-9167.