RPS Young Classical Writers Prize

The RPS Young Classical Writers Prize encourages young people aged 16 to 25 to write about classical music.

Applications are now closed but read on for more information about the prize which will run again, on similar terms, in 2023.If you may like this information in a different format, for accessibility reasons, please call us on 020 7287 0019 or use our online contact form by clicking this link, and we will do our best to help.

Classical music is a doorway to new worlds. While you can plunge straight in and enjoy its wonders, sometimes a helping hand is useful to guide you on your journey. As long as people have been writing music, others have been writing words about it, illuminating how the music works, what it conjures, asking questions of it and revealing features you may not realise from listening alone. For audiences with little or no familiarity this can be vital, rousing their curiosity and urging them to listen with fresh ears.

To keep encouraging new generations to delve into classical music, we need a new generation of writers to keep giving them good reasons why. Last year, the RPS introduced a new prize encouraging young people to write about classical music. It is presented in memory of the writer Gerald Larner who devoted his life to writing about music, in books, programme notes for ensembles and venues nationwide, and for many years as a newspaper and magazine critic.

As well as the insight and encouragement it gives others, writing about music can be hugely invigorating in itself. Young people are often only asked to write about music in essays at school, college or university, where certain formalities can limit their expression. With this prize, we invite you to unleash your imagination, and set out to capture in words what makes classical music so boundless, enlivening and timeless.

The Prize is open to anyone living in the UK aged between 16 and 25 on the closing date. You may already enjoy writing about music or have no prior experience doing so. Even if you’ve never tried before, why not give it a go? You might like to start by listening to a favourite piece of music and jotting down the sentiments it stirs, and get online to start exploring some of its facets that you think would captivate an audience.

Such was the overall quality in 2021, the panel wanted to encourage all entrants to keep writing, so we specially created a set of tips and insights to help all those who applied last year with their next steps. We feel this is worth sharing with anyone who might apply this year too, and hope you find it useful.

For further inspiration, we are pleased to share a filmed conversation here specially made to inspire you, all about writing about classical music. It features 2021 winner Mark Rogers, 2021 panellist Katy Hamilton and 2022 panellist Kate Romano talking to RPS Chief Executive James Murphy, sharing what inspires them to write about music plus lots of tips and principles to fuel your own writing.

The prizes

First prize: £500

Second prize: £250

Third prize: £100

Each winner will receive a certificate. The first prize winner will also be invited to write a programme note or short article for a significant British classical music organisation which they will publish in a concert programme, promotional brochure or magazine, or on their website.

How do I apply?

Entrants are simply asked to write no more than 500 words about classical music.

Whatever you decide to write, your principal aim should be to engage your reader with the subject, prompting them to think further about it, inspiring them to want to listen to the music you may have talked about, or to find out more about any matters you have raised.

You can set about this in any way you wish. You may want to write a ‘programme note’ (by which we mean the notes you usually see in concert programmes about the music that’s to be performed) about a particular piece, or a short article touching on some facet of classical music in any regard. Don’t let the kind of writing you have already read about classical music affect your thinking: original approaches are very welcome! Your programme note may therefore not be like any others you have read before and equally, if you’re writing an article, it might reflect a view you haven’t heard elsewhere.

It should be written in prose (rather than poetry) and any hard facts it contains should be accurate.

When you have written your entry, we ask that you save it as a PDF, with the filename simply your forename and surname. You should then complete our online entry form (using the button below) and upload your PDF where requested in the form. The entry form also asks a few more simple things about your background and interests in music.

Only one entry may be made per person, and please do not submit multiple pieces of writing.

Applications have now closed for the RPS Young Classical Writers Prize 2022, but will re-open again next year. Follow @RoyalPhilSoc on Twitter for breaking news.

What happens next?

All entries will be read and reviewed by our expert panel which this year includes clarinettist, writer and producer Kate Romano and the Editor of Gramophone, Martin Cullingford.

Once the panel has read all the entries and discussed them together, we will notify all entrants of the outcome. We aim to let you know by mid-June. As we expect to receive a considerable number of entries, we cannot give individual feedback on your submissions but, if you are unsuccessful, you are welcome to enter again next year if you’re still eligible to do so.

We will then publically announce the three prize winners, and their winning entries will be shared on our website and social media. Given this, please only submit writing that you are happy to put your name to publicly.

If you have any questions or queries, you are warmly welcome to contact the RPS team on 020 7287 0019 (weekdays from 09.30 – 17.30) or admin@philharmonicsociety.uk.

Last year’s winners

Linked below, you can read the winning entries for last year’s prize:

First Prize:
Mark Rogers – That Time of Evening
on Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915

Second prize:
Lola Frisby Williams – A Piece for an Alien World
on  Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Clarinet Quintet 

Joint third prize:
Thomas Gibbs – Sounding Together
on Ernest Bloch’s Symphony for Trombone and Orchestra

Anonymous – For William, whenever we may find him
on William  Corynsh’s  Magnificat 

Specially commended:

Lillian Crawford – Give in to the sweetness of Lili Boulanger’s Les sirènes

Frederick Lloyd – The New Beauty of Hans Abrahamsen’s let me tell you

Christopher Churcher – One Thousand and One Nights
on Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade