Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Summer Festivals for Composers

During the summer, today’s young composers have lots of great options of festivals they can attend to enhance their skills and advance their careers. For high school students, it is likely to be the first time experiencing life as a full-time composer and what it would be like to be a composition major in college. For undergraduate and graduate students, festivals can supplement their current academic studies by studying with faculty who aren’t at their own institutions, as well as working with exceptional musicians and ensembles. Recent graduates can benefit too, especially if they are a year or two out of school and need to feel re-connected to a musical environment. For everyone, festivals are a wonderful way to network – with the faculty composers and musicians, as well as with fellow students – and create relationships that will far outlast the summer.

So how do you choose which festivals to apply to? It all depends on what you want. Maybe you’re looking for a festival that lasts for most of the summer and offers you weekly composition lessons, master classes, concerts, and a world premiere of a new work by you. Or perhaps you’d like a sampling of these activities condensed into 1-2 weeks. A particular geographic location might be intriguing too, such as the mountains of Colorado or the Italian Alps. Or perhaps you want to focus on the business side of a composing career. With a little research, you can find festivals that meet a wide range of goals and expectations.

Peabody Conservatory of Music has compiled a large list of summer festivals with composition components that you can view by clicking here. I’ve listed a sampling of festivals below divided into various categories for easier sorting. Overall, gaining fresh perspectives and feedback on your music, as well as meeting new people and hearing what music other composers are writing, can be a refreshing way to spend your summer.

(Please note - readers have been making wonderful suggestions of more festivals to add, and I am progressively expanding this list.)

Festivals for high school students (and younger):

2 weeks; high school students
6 weeks; high school students

1 week; high school students (and younger) can apply; the program also accepts undergraduates and graduates

5 weeks; ages 9-18 (pre-college)

Festivals with a particular focus:

5 days – for early career composers (up to 30 years old)

2 weeks – emphasis on business side of music
(full disclosure - I am on faculty)

Lehigh Choral Composers Forum
1 week, held every two years - emphasis on choral writing

2 weeks – emphasis on writing for percussion

The Savvy Musician in Action
5 days - emphasis on the business side of music

2 weeks – emphasis on algorithmic programming language, composition, and analysis

Traditional festivals (lessons, master classes, concerts, premiere) with long durations:

7 weeks

4 weeks

6 weeks

8 weeks 

Traditional festivals with short durations:

2 weeks

2 weeks

International Festivals:

2 weeks

2 weeks, held every two years

Etchings Festival
1 week

European American Musical Alliance
4 weeks

HighSCORE Festival
2 weeks