Composer Opportunities

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

Our most important work is enabling American composers to create new orchestral music.  Early, mid-career and accomplished composers have a home at ACO. We seek diverse voices, visions and talents from all musical genres.  We champion artists with bold and imaginative visions. We bring in top musicians and partners to give every piece world class attention.  If you have a desire to compose for a chamber or symphonic orchestra or want to make your existing composition performance-ready, we have an opportunity for you.

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ACO EarShot in NYC (previously known as Underwood Readings).
EarShot with the Philadelphia Orchestra, 2018. Composer Melody Eötvös and conductor Kensho Watanabe. Credit: Jessica Griffin
ACO Earshot

ACO EarShot is the nation’s first ongoing, systematic program for identifying emerging orchestral composers. It is a nationwide network of new music readings and composer development programs that provide professional level working experience with orchestras from every region of the country. Each season, ACO plans one EarShot in New York City with our own musicians and three with partners across the country.

Workshop your piece with a prominent world-class orchestra in a major city. Meet with artistic leadership about your work. Learn from group discussions and notes from each section of the orchestra.  Collaborate with mentor composers to further develop your piece. Your score will be played by the orchestra and recorded for your professional development.

For over 25 years, ACO Readings have been providing critical career development and public exposure for the country’s most promising emerging composers. Readings have served as a launching pad for composer careers including Ellen Taaffe Zwilich and Joseph Schwantner, both of whom received Pulitzer Prizes for their ACO commissions, and ACO’s own Artistic Director Derek Bermel. We have worked with over 150 composers and several 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.

To date, more than sixty ACO EarShot composers have been selected for new music readings with orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony, Nashville Symphony Orchestra, San Diego Symphony and Aguascalientes Symphony Orchestra (Mexico).  ACO EarShot operates in partnership with American Composers Forum, New Music USA, and the League of American Orchestras.

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Composer & Performer Anjna Swaminathan. Credit: REC Philly
ACO Pathways

This is a multi-year orchestral composition training program for all creative musical artists  – chamber, improvisation, pop, choral, band, non Western European classical music and more – who want to explore writing for orchestra –It includes personalized mentorship, instrumental writing workshops, readings, collaborations with other arts organizations and paid commissions. This program is currently in its pilot phase. We expect to issue an  open application call in Fall 2021. If you are interested in participating in Pathways, please let us know.

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Composer & Percussionist Susie Ibarra

Calling all jazz musicians! Learn how to write for orchestra. This program, previously known as Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute (JCOI), is dedicated to combining jazz and orchestral writing through workshops on style, instrumental writing, counterpoint, and more. These week-long intensives are scheduled periodically. If you would like to participate in a future Jazz Composer Bootcamp, please let us know.

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The Virginia B. Toulmin Women Composers Commissions

Offered in partnership with the League of American Orchestras, and funded by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation, this program annually selects three women who have participated in EarShot for a $15,000 commission to premiere with partners such as San Francisco Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, ROCO, Portland Symphony, and Louisiana Philharmonic.

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CANOA Consortium for Emerging Composers Commission

Each year, one emerging composer is chosen from ACO Earshot to receive a $15,000 commission to write an original work to be premiered by three ensembles nationwide. The Creating a New Orchestra Audience (CANOA) Initiative is supported by a generous grant from Elizabeth and Justus Schlichting.

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.

American Composer Orchestra
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