Young Composers Project

/Young Composers Project
Young Composers Project 2019-03-14T14:56:38+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, TSO Composer in Residence

Program Information:

The Young Composers Project is a year-long course where students learn to compose for orchestra while working alongside other young composers, orchestral musicians, conductors and contemporary composers. Musicians ages 8-18 explore the creative process of composition in the classroom and out: they attend TSO dress rehearsals and concerts, meet guest artists and composers, and work with TSO musicians. As the culminating final project, in May the TSO performs their original composition in a public reading session and students receive a live recording of their newly created work! Now in its 26th year, the TSO Young Composers Project has produced more than 400 new works by young composers.

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

2018-19 YCP Application


Young Composers Festival

A FREE festival pass gets you access to every event! Explore lectures, Q&A sessions, and TSO performances.
Fun for all ages!

Friday, May 17 

6:00 PM – Pre-concert Talk: Introducing the Young Composers Project, with
YCP Instructor Ilona Vukovic-Gay and Director of Education Alana Richardson
7:00 PM – String Quintet Reading Sessions at Tucson Symphony Center

Saturday, May 18

6:00 PM – Pre-concert Talk: Young Composers Project and the Composition Process,
with Maestro Jose Luis Gomez, YCP Instructor Ilona Vukovic-Gay, and YCP student
7:00 PM – 
Full Orchestra Reading Sessions at Catalina Foothills High School

Sunday, May 19

1:00 PM – Pre-concert Talk: The Art of Performing New Works, with Maestro
Jose Luis Gomez, YCP Instructor Ilona Vukovic-Gay, and YCP student
2:00 PM – 
Full Orchestra Reading Sessions at Catalina Foothills High School

Class Schedules and Resource pages:

Introductory YCP
Advanced YCP




Awards and Recognition:

“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.

Learn more:

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

Young Composers Project Video

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 three 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 375 new works by young composers.