Composer Advancement

ACO is dedicated to the creation, celebration, performance, and promotion of orchestral music by American composers.

ACO Earshot

Now encompassing all of the American Composers Orchestra’s composer advancement initiatives, EarShot is the first ongoing, systematic program for developing relationships between composers and orchestras on the national level. Through orchestral readings, CoLABoratory fellowships, consortium commissions, and professional development, EarShot ensures a vibrant musical future by investing in creativity today.

EarShot Readings

NYC-ARTS profile on ACO’s EarShot Readings (previously known as the Underwood Readings). 

Watch the 2022 ACO EarShot, conducted by George Manahan

EarShot with the Philadelphia Orchestra, 2018. Composer Melody Eötvös and conductor Kensho Watanabe. Credit: Jessica Griffin

EarShot Readings, operated in partnership with the American Composers Forum, New Music USA, and the League of American Orchestras, provide professional working experiences with orchestras from every region of the country. Each season, ACO plans one EarShot in New York City with our own musicians and multiple readings with orchestras nationwide. 

Selected by open call with no fee or age limit, participant composers:

    • Workshop a new score with a professional orchestra
    • Build relationships and receive feedback from mentor composers, conductors, and performers throughout the process
    • Receive an archival audio recording of their work, a resource which is often cost-prohibitive without the program, that can be used for future study and limited promotion (less than 3 minutes)
    • Join in sequenced professional development prior to the readings including workshops covering score preparation, publishing, copyright, agreements, and more
    • Receive training in public speaking to enhance teaching skills and participate in ACO’s NYC-based K-12 educational programs, building an essential skill set towards successful future residencies with orchestras and the communities they serve.

Over the last 25 years, EarShot has advanced the careers of more than 275 composers. Alumni include some of the most visible artists in the field: Jessie Montgomery, Carlos Simon, Courtney Bryan, Jennifer Higdon, and more. Over half of EarShot composers report that they have received a commission or performance as a direct result of their EarShot Reading, and many have gone on to win every major composition award including the Pulitzer, Grammy, Grawemeyer, American Academy of Arts & Letters, and Rome Prizes. Orchestras around the globe have commissioned and performed hundreds of works by ACO alumni.

ACO has partnered with orchestras, universities, and festivals to host EarShot Readings. To learn more about applying to EarShot as a composer or partnering with the program to host a reading, use the links below.

EarShot CoLABoratory

2022 CoLABoratory Overview

CoLABoratory fellows Mendi & Keith Obadike

Establishing Latency with 2013 CoLABoratory Fellow Ray Lustig

CoLABoratory Fellowships advance the work of composers whose work is experimental or rooted in musical traditions underrepresented in orchestral repertoire. CoLABoratory addresses systemic barriers within orchestral commissioning, providing a gateway to the field and a generative environment for composers from diverse musical backgrounds to create definition-expanding work for orchestra.

Instead of a written score, composers submit an idea – which is developed in partnership with the orchestra through an artist-led process. Fellowships include:

  • Collaborative sessions with performers to workshop musical ideas and foster co-learning over 12 months;
  • Readings and public performances of the resulting work;
  • Opportunities for the composer to engage in artistic curation, educational programming and community-focused program design; and
  • Recruitment of partner orchestras to ensure future performances through 2nd year residencies and consortium commissions.

ACO first offered CoLABoratory from 2007-2016 and reactivated the program in 2022. This season’s CoLABoratory fellows are inti figgis-vizueta, Trevor New, Yvette Janine Jackson, and Mendi & Keith Obadike.

Lead support for EarShot CoLABoratory is generously provided by TD Charitable Foundation

EarShot Professional Development Sessions

Carol Ann Cheung, Elizabeth Dworkin, Melissa Dunphy, and Jonathan Bailey Holland

Each season, ACO presents a series of digital professional development sessions led by composer mentors and industry leaders in partnership with the American Composers Forum. An evolving resource for composers at all stages of their careers, sessions have covered topics including orchestration, networking, publishing, copyright, orchestra unions, media rights, fundraising, public speaking, educational program design, and more.

Virginia B. Toulmin Orchestral Commissions Program

Moderators Melissa Ngan and Alecia Lawyer with Toulmin-commissioned composers Hillary Purrington, Leanna Primiani, Wang Jie, and Andrea Reinkemeyer

The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation Orchestral Commissions Program for women composers (formerly the Women Composers Readings and Commissions program) is an initiative of the League of American Orchestras, in partnership with American Composers Orchestra (ACO) and supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation. 

The program is embedded in EarShot; recipients are selected from women and non-binary composers who have participated in EarShot Readings.

Since its inception in 2014, the Virginia B. Toulmin Orchestral Commissions Program has commissioned 22 new works. This season, the program expands to commission six composers to write for an unprecedented 30-orchestra consortium between 2022 and 2024.


Score Submissions

We strongly recommend that composers submit their orchestral scores to our open calls for EarShot each season. If you would like to submit a score outside of these calls for consideration, you may do so using this form.

**Please note: we do not have the capacity to review physical scores; we will only accept PDF scores via this form. We will be in touch only if the score is a good fit for an upcoming season.

If you would like to learn more about how to introduce yourself and your work to orchestras and other potential collaborators, we encourage you to watch the following digital professional development sessions:

Our Supporters

EarShot is made possible with lead support from the Altman Foundation, Elizabeth and Justus Schlichting, Mellon Foundation, Sphinx Venture Fund, TD Charitable Foundation and Fromm Foundation, additional support is provided by the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, and the League of American Orchestras with support of the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.

Public funds are provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Lead support for EarShot CoLABoratory is generously provided by TD Charitable Foundation and the Altman Foundation.

Our Mission & Vision

American Composers Orchestra (ACO) is dedicated to the creation, celebration, performance, and promotion of orchestral music by American composers. With commitment to diversity, disruption and discovery, ACO produces concerts, pre-college and college education programs, and emerging composer professional development to foster a community of creators, audience, performers, collaborators, and funders.

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