Compose Yourself! for Schools

ACO Compose Yourself

For high school age musicians wishing to learn to compose their own music. Compose Yourself! helps these young composers develop their creativity and learn professional standards in a supportive, hands-on environment, and has a strong record of preparing students for the rigors of college and beyond. 


Classes will:

  • Culminate in student produced reading of new works led by special guest composers.
  • Include the option of broader New Music workshops, Improvisation Seminars, or side by side readings with ACO musicians.
  • Explore various musical genres; no restrictions on style or influence


  • High School students with a desire to learn composition (including vocalists and non-music majors)

Where & When?

  • In-school classroom setting OR after-school programs.
  • Out of school time programs such as independent arts organizations.
  • Other organizations serving NYC youth.
  • Can be implemented on a full year or semester basis.

The Craft of Composing

ACO Compose Yourself! helps young composers develop positive approaches to creativity, learn professional standards of notation, and develop strong orchestration technique in a supportive, hands-on environment.

ACO Compose Yourself! has been active over the past several years at Frank Sinatra HS for the Arts, Talent Unlimited HS, Brooklyn HS for the Arts, and Celia Cruz HS for the Arts.  Isn’t it time to add your school to this list?

Applications & Class Structure

Program features

  • Culminating Performance of student works. Event is student-produced with fellow student musicians. Recordings and guest composers can be arranged with school representatives.
  • Visits by renowned guest composers
  • Workshops will be led by the American Composers Orchestra Education Director, Kevin James.


      • Students will be asked to develop an original ensemble piece from front to finish during the course of the class.
      • Since a great deal of our learning will result from experiencing how musicians respond to our notation – the ability to read music is a must.

Cost*: $4,000

American Composers Orchestra is committed to making our programs available to all interested schools and students – we are often able to partner in raising funds necessary to subsidize the Compose Yourself! program in part or in full. Just ask!

Questions & Information

To find out how Compose Yourself! can magnify your community’s goals and prepare your students for greater success, contact Kevin James, Education Director: 212.977.8495 ext 202; or

Kevin James (he/him) is a noted educator, a world-class performer and composer, a writer, a thinker and an obsessive problem solver. His groundbreaking models for community engagement and out of school arts education for disadvantaged children have had a dramatic impact on the lives of countless children and have influenced the work of dozens of organizations in New York City and beyond. He’s served on several university advisory boards and regularly sits on selection committees and expert panels.

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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