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
I don’t know what the secret recipe is here in Tucson, but it is magic.
Yo-Yo Ma, Internationally-Renowned Cello Soloist

The Young Composers Project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts

National Endowment for the Arts

About the Young Composers Project

Tucson Symphony Orchestra’s Young Composers Project is a hands-on learning experience that guides students from understanding basic music theory through the creation of a new work for symphony orchestra. Students will dive into the creative process of composition as they learn about orchestral instruments and diverse musical genres and composition techniques from the best musicians and composition instructors in Southern Arizona.

As a student in the Young Composers Project, you will have the unique opportunity to work directly with professional TSO musicians, observe closed dress rehearsals, meet renowned guest artists and work with professional composers—privileges granted only to Young Composers Project students! At the end of class, you will leave with an original score you wrote, printed, and bound yourself and a professional audio recording of your composition. The class culminates in the Young Composers Festival each May, during which the Tucson Symphony Orchestra performs your original work.

The Young Composers Project is a course from September to May for young musicians ages 8–18. Now in its 32nd year, the Young Composers Project has produced more than 445 new works by young composers.

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Who Can Apply?

All music students age 18 or under are encouraged to join the Young Composers Project. Student applicants must have a basic ability to read music, either as an instrumentalist or a vocalist, but students do not need to have any prior composition experience. We welcome students from all experiences and musical backgrounds, and formal classical music training is not required. In the past, students that are self-taught, singers, or play non-orchestral instruments have been successful in the Young Composers Project, as well as those that are classically trained. If you are not sure if you or your student is eligible, please contact education@tucsonsymphony.org.

Application Process

First, complete the application form. The form will ask for basic student and contact information, as well as musical background and composition experience (if any). Upon submission of the application form, you will receive a copy of your responses by email. This is confirmation that your application was received.

Within the form, you will be asked to select a class level. Our goal for class placement is to identify where you or your student will best achieve success within our challenging curriculum. If you are not certain for which class you should register, please make your best guess based on the guide below, and contact education@tucsonsymphony.org for further guidance. Final decision on class placement will made by the instructors after an initial assessment questionnaire on the first day of class.

Class Level Guide

  • Introductory Class: if you recently learned to read music, have never composed before, or are an elementary student, this is likely the right class for you.
  • Intermediate Class: if you have studied some music theory, have composed some but only for one or two instruments, or have completed the Introductory Class, this is likely the right fit for you.
  • Advanced Class: if you have completed at least one year of the Intermediate Class and are ready to move up, or have extensive composition experience, this most challenging class may be the right fit for you.

After completing the application, each new student will need to submit two letters of recommendation from people who are familiar with their musical abilities. For example, a school music director, private teacher, choir leader, etc. Please send these in by email to education@tucsonsymphony.org. Returning students who have participated in the Young Composers Project recently do not need to submit letters. If this step of the process presents a significant barrier to application, please contact education@tucsonsymphony.org to discuss potential accommodations.

Application Deadline: August 18, 2023. All materials must be received by this date, including letters of recommendation. Once all materials are received, students will be notified of acceptance into the program. If classes have reached capacity, students will be notified that they are on the waiting list, and will be contacted if a spot opens up.

Classes begin in early September, and students have until October 1 to switch class levels or drop the class. The full schedule for each class, with deadlines, will be posted in July.

Tuition payment can be sent as soon as your application is complete, and must be paid in full by October 1 in order to continue class. Tuition covers classes September through May (two semesters), including a professional performance and recording of each student’s final composition project. Tuition: Introductory ($350), Intermediate ($450), Advanced ($500).

Financial aid is available in the form of needs-based scholarships. Generous funding by TSO donors allows us to provide partial or full scholarships to a small number of Young Composers students. Please indicate on your application form that you are interested in applying for financial aid, and staff will contact you with the aid request form.

Classes will take place in person at the Tucson Symphony Center, 2175 N. Sixth Ave, Tucson AZ 85705.

Please contact education@tucsonsymphony.org if you have any further questions about the application process.

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Orchestrating the Future: Tucson Symphony’s Young Composers Project

Experience the Young Composers Project through this short documentary featuring four student composers as they progress through the class, their composition process, and the Young Composers Festival.

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 had 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.

American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers
Young Composers Project is supported by funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.
National Endowment for the ArtsNational Endowment for the Arts

Young Composers Festival – May 19–21, 2023

The Young Composers Festival marks the culmination of a year of hard work and dedication from the student participants of the Young Composers Project. This event is an opportunity for the student composers to have their original scores performed by the musicians of The Tucson Symphony Orchestra, receive comments from musicians, teachers and Maestro José Luis Gomez, and to present their works to the concert audience for the first time.

All Young Composers Festival reading sessions are free and open to the public, but tickets are required since space is very limited. Donations are appreciated.

All sessions take place at Tucson Symphony Center, 2175 N. Sixth Ave.

Strings & Winds

Intro & Intermediate Classes
Fri., May 19, 2023 at 7:00 p.m.

Strings & Brass

Intro & Intermediate Classes
Sat., May 20, 2023 at 7:00 p.m.

Full Orchestra

Advanced Class
Sun., May 21, 2023 at 2:00 p.m.

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Learn more:

For more information about the Young Composers Project, please contact education@tucsonsymphony.org.