Rhinegold Photo credit: Nick Rutter
2019 Composer Competition Final Concert

Harriet Clifford

Composer competition launched for state-school aspiring composers

12:56, 13th October 2020

ORA Singers has announced that applications are now open for its 2020/21 Composer Competition, inviting secondary state-school students to submit a personal statement along with any complete or incomplete musical work. 

With a goal of supporting young people who have not yet had access to specialist tutoring due to funding cuts and the current pandemic, the competition is designed to nourish and develop young talent that may otherwise be overlooked. The competition is lead-adjudicated by the group’s president Stephen Fry, and ten state-school students will be selected and paired with a composer, who provides up to 10 hours of guidance and teaching. Each student will work with their mentor to write an original choral work.

The competition launched in 2019, but this year the ensemble has added a secondary tier of successful applicants. Twenty ‘ORA Apprentices’ will receive behind-the-scenes access to the competition, including a workshop and professional advice to help them develop as composers. 

Emily Pedersen, 2019 Competition winner, said, ‘It wasn’t just a competition, it was also an incredible growth opportunity. Out of everything I did last year, being a finalist for the ORA Singers Youth Competition was the thing that helped me grow the most as a musician and helped me going forward. The combination of the mentoring (something I hadn’t had before) and working with incredible professional musicians nurtured me as a composer and also built my confidence.’ 

After winning the first ORA Singers Composer Competition, Emily has gone on to study composition at the Royal Northern College of Music and has also been selected as a finalist for the National Centre for Early Music’s Young Composers Award and as a participant for the Royal Philharmonic Society of Women’s Conductors Course in Manchester 2020. 

Natalie Docherty, ORA Singers project manager of the competition, said, ‘We are so immensely proud of all of our young composers and what they have been able to achieve since the first competition. This is why we are delighted to be repeating the scheme and even expanding the mentoring further with the addition of our ORA Apprentices. The uncertainty of COVID-19 has its challenges, but whether in-person or virtually, we are utterly confident in the delivery of this programme. 

‘The main focus of this competition is the mentoring; education is so vital for the development and future of these young musicians. And we want to give hope, for the future of these young composers and music-making at a time when everything is in the balance.’

Applications are open for young aspiring composers born on or after 1 September 2002 and in attendance at a UK secondary state-school. The deadline for applications is Friday 8 January at noon. 


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