Education Programs for Parents and Students

Use the links below to see info on registering for upcoming semesters

ACO Sonic Spark Lab

ACO SONIC SPARK LAB is a hands-on program that teaches students to engage with their creativity, to use curiosity to grow their imagination and to build an idea from just a spark to artistic realization. 

With an emphasis on project-based production, tech and song-writingSonic Spark Lab is a fun and effective approach to building creative capacity and introducing the creative arts to New York City Middle School and High School students.

Current in-person classes link students from NYC to cities across the U.S. – use the button below for more info. 

Classes are open to:
7th-11th graders (11-17yr olds)

I am extremely appreciative for all of the time, work, and dedication that the SPARK Team has given to my children. It has made a wonderful difference and a lasting impact on their Creativity, Confidence, Learning.

ACO Compose Yourself

COMPOSE YOURSELF! is for ambitious high schoolers wishing to learn to compose their own music.

Compose Yourself! helps young composers develop habits of creativity and learn professional standards in a supportive, hands-on environment. The program has a strong record of preparing its students for the rigors of college and beyond.

Students learn to develop a strong creative process, an artistic voice of their own, and a healthy approach to their craft.

Open to: 9th-12 graders (14-18yr olds)
(advanced 8th graders may inquire)

Register now for the SPRING Semester of Compose Yourself!

The Compose Yourself program has opened my mind to new ways to interpret and listen to music.

Student interest in any and all genres is welcome


  • Sonic Spark Lab and Compose Yourself! are semester based programs.
  • Classes generally run Oct.-Jan (fall) and Feb.-May (spring)
  • Sonic Spark Lab Summer Session runs July-mid August.
  • Compose Yourself! Summer Composers Intensive takes place in August.
  • Specific class dates and times each semester are posted when registration opens (use registration buttons above)

Program Features

  • Culminating performances of students works. Compose Yourself! reading sessions are with professional musicians
  • All classes are taught by high-level active professional composers with strong teaching experience
  • Class sizes are limited to assure personalized attention
  • Visits by renowned guest composers
  • Access to ACO dress rehearsals and special events


  • Students are required to attend all classes.
  • For Sonic Spark Lab, to get the most out of the program students should have some prior music experience, but there are no minimum requirements beyond enthusiasm.
  • For Compose Yourself! the ability to read music is highly recommended since a great deal of our learning results from experiencing how musicians respond to our notation.

Tuition*: ranges from $125-450 per semester

*American Composers Orchestra is committed to making our programs available to ALL interested students -scholarships are available in cases of financial need.

Meet Our Teaching Artists

J.L. (Jess) Marlor is a multidisciplinary artist, composer, songwriter, performer, and educator. Called “refreshingly bold” by Opera Wire, J.L. primarily writes chamber music, opera, musical theater, and contemporary classical music. Best known for her vocal music, J.L. has written for Wet Ink Ensemble, SparkDuo, The DeCamera Singers, Mivos Quartet, OperaRox, LoftOpera, and the New Music Gathering, 

J.L. creates multi-genre works involving, among others, Balkan folk techniques, musical theater, bel canto, riot grrrl punk, folk singing, and American protest music.

As an electric guitarist, J.L. performs as the frontwoman of the indie rock band, THB, at venues such as Arlene’s Grocery, Union Pool, The Knitting Factory, and others.  J.L. also performs regularly as a singer and lead guitarist of the punk-rock musical turned concert experience, Riot Antigone, at La Mama, Ars Nova and Joe’s Pub. A passionate educator J.L. teaches composition and musicianship with the NY Phil’s Very Young Composer program, The Symphony of Westchester’s Songcatchers program, and the American Composers Orchestra.


J.L. (Jess) Marlor


Fabian Beltran

Fabian Beltran, composer and pianist, is a native of Columbia. His music combines elements of classical, contemporary, popular, and Latin American music. Fabian has won numerous awards including the Music Now competition, Russell Horn Composition Award, Reed Holmes Music Composition Award, Memphis Belvedere Chamber Music Award, and UTSA COLFA Music Awards. 

His music has been performed across the U.S., Asia, and Latin America at venues including Carnegie Hall, National Sawdust, Symphony Space and at festivals such as Atlantic Music, Fresh Inc, Soundscapes, Kansas City Electronic Music & Arts Alliance, Vox Novus, and Aquila Concert Series.  Recent projects include performances and recordings by the International Contemporary Ensemble and the JACK Quartet. 

Currently Fabian is a teaching assistant and a Ph.D. fellow at New York University.  Besides composing, Fabian is an educator,  performer, amateur painter, and one of the co-founders of Sforzando Composer’s Collective, dedicated to the creation of multidisciplinary works in New York City.

Trained as a pianist, teacher, composer, Lucy Yao allows music to go anywhere possible that is unexplored. By redefining grief as a source for uncovering and discovery, her work is created with an urgency to preserve memory and to illuminate joys hidden in the sounds of the everyday. 

As an educator, Lucy is a Teaching Artist at the American Composer’s Orchestra, and has led masterclasses internationally at the Gilmore Keys Fest, World Teachers Piano Association (WPTA), and throughout the U.S.   

As a composer, she has discovered a passion for writing for dance with highlights including commissions from the Joffrey Ballet Contemporary School and Marymount College.  She is highly in demand as a collaborative pianist, holding positions at New York University, Interlochen Center for the Arts, the University of Michigan, and the Manhattan School of Music. 


Lucy Yao

Trevor New is a composer, classically trained violist, technologist, and educator that explores many contexts through music, visuals, and storytelling. His current projects are focused on exploring how we are connected, how we can make music together, near or far, and how these connections can effect the time and space we see as separate. Apart from writing for orchestra and smaller ensembles his work as a sound designer, engineer/producer, and performer can be found in a variety of media, including film scores, arranging, electronic music, TV. Trevor designs pieces where he plays his viola using Ableton Live for looping and effects, and performs in-person or in real-time synchronized multi-location networked performances with people around the world. 


Trevor New

Recent Students

Abby is a 17 year old composer and pianist. Her music has been recognized by Luna Composition Lab, MATA, Jr., NFMC, and others, and has been played on WWFM and WQXR.  She has been studying with the ACO since 2018. She is also a composition student of Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon.   

“I have been a student in Kevin’s class for the past four years. It’s been so much fun to explore different aspects of music and composition in such an open and supportive environment. We explore all kinds of music without judgment, and Kevin leads my musical curiosity to places I would never have otherwise found.” -Abby Harris 

“Since her first semester, Kevin’s class has been Abby’s musical haven, and he is generous to me with his wisdom and advice about how best to support her musical actualization.  I also value how this is a musical community.  Musicians cannot grow inside a musical vacuum.  Until she is old enough for conservatory, she needs to be around other young composers.  And as an added bonus, her classmates unfailingly inspire her too.” -Rifka Harris (Abby’s Mom)

Nature Trail by Abby Harris, recorded as part of Fall 2020 Compose Yourself! Reading


Torres Leandro - headshot screengrab


Leandro Torres is a high school senior who plays cello, tenor saxophone, and piano, and creates digital music, rap lyrics, and chamber music. He has been part of Compose Yourself classes since 2021. 

“At first joining Compose Yourself was a little overwhelming, but it inspired me to acquire skills that made my current experience with the program motivating and fulfilling. I didn’t know how much there was to learn until I joined. I think all young composers should try this course!” – Leandro Torres

Enough by Leandro Torres, recorded as part of 2022 Summer Intensive Compose Yourself! Reading 

Halfway through a semester of Sonic Spark Lab, students create mini projects. In Spring 2021, they were given the following prompt: create your own entrance music. Envisioning themselves being introduced at an event, they each created 30-60 second musical snippets that could accompany their walk onto a stage. Twelve-year-old Savannah Savas, interested in musical theater, created a song with piano and her own voice. TA Jess Marlor encourages Savanah to continue working on and expanding her song.

Watch “Song” by Savannah Savas, age 12 


As a sophomore, Therese Rubi was introduced to ACO’s programs by her high school music teacher at Talent Unlimited High School. She enrolled in Compose Yourself classes from 2018-2021. She is currently the co-music director of the Carmen Hernandez Orchestra, a religious-based orchestra for young men and women in NJ.

“I am still very thankful to Kevin and Dr. Burwasser for the opportunity, taking the “Compose Yourself” was vital for my development as a musician. I was able to get an education as a lower-class student that I never would’ve gotten otherwise. The ACO has shown that it truly cares about its network of student-composers.” – Therese Rubi

Wednesday’s Misplaced Thorn by Therese Rubi, recorded as part of 2021 Compose Yourself! Reading


Rubi Therese headshot


Questions & Information

If you have any questions or would like further information on how you child could benefit from ACO Education programming, contact Kevin James, Education Director: 212.977.8495 ext. 202 or

Founded in 2007 as public relations firm Christina Jensen PR, Jensen Artists expanded in 2015 to include artist management services. Jensen Artists is dedicated to developing the careers and telling the stories of today’s most vibrant classical musicians. The firm is motivated by a desire to illustrate the abundance and appeal of today’s classical music world by sharing our clients’ personalities, creativity, and art with the public.

Sydney Lolita Cusic (she/her) is a passionate advocate for the arts. She deeply believes in supporting artists by supporting them in their creative endeavors. As a recent graduate from New York University, Sydney is excited to join the ACO team in the development department. She is excited to use her position to champion composers of color in the field.

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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