Every year is different but the main activities in an NYO composers’ year might include:
• Short workshops with the full NYO symphony orchestra
• Writing music for large and/or small groups of NYO instrumentalists
• Writing music for the composers to play themselves
• Learning about instrumental writing from excellent young musicians
• Writing electronic music (even if you’re a beginner!)
• Listening to and discussing a broad range of exciting new and recent music
• Watching and listening to the orchestra rehearse (you can learn a lot from watching this amazing orchestra preparing their repertoire)
The first stage of the NYO composer application is to send us a portfolio of some of your recent work. You will need to send it to our office (see this page for our address).
Please include a stamped, address envelope with your portfolio if you would like us to return it to you.
We read your portfolios and on this basis invite you to an interview. This is what we are looking for at this stage:
• That you have imagination (the most important feature for a potential NYO composer)
• That your music shows potential
• That you can skilfully write notated music for instruments
We are mainly looking for imagination and potential! The NYO course is hard work and of course we are looking for instrumental writing skills. However, we are most excited to have imaginative composers who are keen to learn. We invite young composers to interview who may not show such strength yet in technical writing skills, but we believe have the flare and passion to join the section.
Sometimes we feel that the young composers who apply have an expectation of what we want to see and hear. You might be surprised. We are certainly interested in composers who have engaged with new and recent classical music (and a passion for classical music, given it’s the NYO, makes sense). If you love the piece by the big names in ‘contemporary classical’ music and are inspired by them (for example György Ligeti, Kaija Saariaho, Harrison Birtwistle, Steve Reich and/or Unsuk Chin) then great. If you’ve never heard of these composers or anyone like them that doesn’t matter at all. In your portfolio we want to see what you’re passionate about. You could submit imaginative pop songs, a new piece for jazz ensemble, string quartets or music for other classical ensembles, pieces for a strange mixture of instruments, solo pieces or anything else for that matter.
It’s impossible to give a comprehensive list of what to put in your portfolio; everyone is different. However, here are a few dos and don’ts.
If we’ve invited you to an interview and the workshop then we like your music and we want to know more. We will talk about your music but this is not the most important feature of this stage. We’re building a section – the composers spend a lot of time together – so we’re looking for personalities that can work together and represent composition in the NYO.
The main things we’re looking for are:
We don't have any particular expectations here. We want to know what you're passionate about, whatever it may be. Think about the music you listen to most and how this affects what you write.
Composing can be pretty lonely...but not at NYO. We work together, sometimes even on pieces, and the feedback from the teaching staff and your fellow section musicians is very important in this environment. Not everyone wants this. There is no right or wrong way to compose but we are looking for people who we believe will thrive in the NYO environment.
We're likely to ask you this outright and there will also be a short workshop. We're not going to tell you what that workshop is. We write pieces quickly on short courses. Do you think you can do this?
We provide plenty of opportunities for NYO composers to write and be heard. We also ask you to take the initiative for these projects. We want to see how the music you’ve heard and the skills you’ve learnt about on the NYO residencies has affected your music elsewhere.
If you don’t have any then this wont mean you can’t join the section and we don’t audition composers on their playing. However, we would like to know what instruments you have and how well you can play them. Be honest! We might be able to make some great music with some rudimentary skills or record sounds from your instruments for electronic music. As well as traditional orchestral instruments it could also be synths, guitars, toy instruments, electronic gadgets, mouth organs, hand held percussion… anything you can think of.
In terms of preparing for the audition, listen to some new music and be prepared to talk about some new musical discoveries. What other new music does this connect to? What was the last score you looked at?
We would like as many people to apply and if you’re not sure about anything above, don’t let it put you of - just go for it!