RPS Composers programme

The RPS Composers programme offers a commission, premiere and a year of professional development. Applications are now closed for the 2024 programme, but we have kept the information about the 2024 programme here for reference.

Here follows information on the programme and how to apply. 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.

Establishing yourself as a professional composer is rarely easy and, in a challenging funding landscape following the consequences of the pandemic, this has undoubtedly become even harder. Annually, the Royal Philharmonic Society Composers programme aims to transform the prospects of promising UK-based composers.

Besides offering a commission - performed with one of a range of noted ensembles, venues and festivals - we support a cohort of composers at critical turning points in establishing their careers, helping them develop the skills and confidence they need to seek further commissions and performances of their own beyond the programme. We’re looking for composers secure in their compositional writing who are in the early stages of their careers and will benefit from a year-long range of sessions and activities. Composers will join some preliminary sessions in Autumn 2023, before the programme fully gets underway.

The RPS Composers programme includes the opportunity to meet and draw insights from key figures in the music business and professional composers, group sessions to fuel your confidence and ability to promote yourself and your music, and individual sessions looking at your own personal objectives and how we might help you fulfil them. Furthermore we will give you an insight into the range of settings in which you and your music can have real impact, encouraging you to think more about the scope of everything you can do as a professional composer.


2 February 2023 applications open

14 March 2023 applications close at 11am

April-May 2023 applications reviewed by expert panel

June 2023 all applicants will be notified if they have been shortlisted by the end of the month

July 2023 interviews for shortlisted applicants

August 2023 places and partner ensembles and organisations will be confirmed

October 2023 the 2024 RPS Composers programme cohort will be announced

Autumn 2023 initial sessions and conversations with partner ensembles and organisations

January 2024 professional development sessions continue and composers begin writing

May-December 2024 composers receive their premieres

By being selected for the programme, we will proudly present you as an RPS Composer, part of a lineage that goes back to Beethoven and Mendelssohn, helping you get the recognition your music deserves. Your continued success matters to us and, once the programme is over, we aim to find an occasion to bring the cohort back together, giving you chance to reflect with us and each other on what you have achieved resulting from your RPS experience and what further resolutions you next need to make.

Find out about our current cohort of RPS Composers.

'The RPS Composers programme was absolutely invaluable for me at this early stage of my career, in terms of networking opportunities, understanding the industry, and collaborating with professional performers.' Rylan Gleave, RPS Composer 2022

What does the RPS offer?

Usually we grant around seven commissions which we expect to have a value of £2,500 each, for a chamber or solo work plus its premiere performance with a leading ensemble, venue or festival in the UK. Each of these valued partners plays a vital role in your experience, giving you a practical insight into their creative work and how you as a composer can most fruitfully collaborate with more such organisations in future. Moreover you will attend a number of sessions through the year designed for you to make plans and enable you to establish a good footing in the music profession, meeting contacts who will be invaluable for your future. We are particularly grateful to Schott Music - with whom the RPS shares its premises - whose team lend their expertise to several of these sessions helping our composers address a range of practicalities of being a professional composer and offer individual specialist guidance. Most of these sessions will take place remotely over Zoom, but we aim to hold some of them in person too. We estimate all such activity will take place across approximately 15-20 days over the course of the year.

Our current cohort of composers is writing for the likes of Cheltenham Festival, Manchester Camerata, Music in the Round, Presteigne Festival and Wigmore Hall Learning. To give you a greater impression of what is offered, you can read about our current commissions and the composers fulfilling them. Before finalising our partners for 2024, we look forward to meeting shortlisted composers at interview and hearing more about your plans and aspirations.

With each partner, we set the brief and parameters for the work you are going to write in the first months of the programme so you can then make headway in writing it. Each has its own submission date, likely a month or two before performance and premieres take place from May to December the year after your apply.

Who is it open to?

The programme is for composers of any nationality based in the UK who plan to build their career here. Indeed, the content of our year-round sessions is based on principles and situations you will encounter in the UK music profession, and led by UK industry experts. Furthermore, we strive for our cohort of composers to meet in person on a number of occasions throughout the year and each of them are expected to visit the UK ensemble/venue/festival for whom they are composing.

Vitally, you should be at a stage where you are able to demonstrate genuine commitment to establishing a career as a composer, both in what you write in your application, and also in the proficiency of the music you submit. For most people, this programme is likely to be most useful when you have already been working in the music profession in some capacity and are looking to reach the next level. You may have graduated in the last few years, or some time ago. Equally a formal degree or equivalent qualification is not compulsory. We recognise that composers pursue many different routes at different stages in their lives, so we look forward to hearing your individual story.

Please note, this opportunity is not open to those studying at Undergraduate or Masters level from September 2023 onwards. If you are still studying, we recommend that you focus on all that your college or university can offer, and you’re welcome to apply in a future year. Composers working towards a PhD are welcome to apply. Equally, given its purpose to help establish your career, this opportunity is only for those aged 18 and above.

We're always keen to hear from those who have not considered applying to the RPS before, but you are equally welcome to apply again if you have in a previous year, so long as you take the time in your application to tell us what has been creatively occupying you since you last applied.

We are continually striving to address how we can minimise barriers to the widest possible range of applicants. We are proud to have adopted Sound and Music's Fair Access Principles and are also signed up to the Keychange initiative, aiming to achieve 50:50 gender parity in the composers we support. We warmly welcome applications from composers of all backgrounds, particularly under-represented demographics, such as those who are Black, Asian and ethnically diverse, and those who are disabled. In this, we actively invite applicants to declare such characteristics in their application form - though this is not compulsory - as well as any access needs you might have.

We warmly welcome feedback and are keen to hear from anyone who may have identified potential barriers to applying. If you feel that any part of our offer - or the experience in applying for it - could inhibit you or a candidate from applying, please do let us know (our contact details are below), and we will be happy to address this.

What is the process?

We strongly recommend you read the Application Guidelines before applying and continue to consult it throughout the application process. Applications can be made via our online application form (linked below). Applicants should complete the form themselves where possible, but may elect another person to complete it on their behalf if needs be. You will also need to submit two of your compositions as PDFs for consideration by our panel, uploading these to a dedicated Dropbox folder (linked here). We aim to notify all applicants of outcomes by the middle of June, and thank you for your patience. Selected applicants will be invited to an interview - to be held on Zoom - in July to talk more about your music and aspirations.

What does it cost to apply?

There is no application fee or cost to apply.

When is the closing date?

Applications for the 2024 RPS Composers programme close at 11am on Tuesday 14 March 2023.

Is this the 'RPS Composition Prize'?

Yes, this is the opportunity previously known as the 'RPS Composition Prize' though we changed the name a few years ago to reflect that it offers more of a lasting association with the Royal Philharmonic Society, given that its recipients join our distinguished roster of composers which dates back 200 years.

What if I still have questions?

We are pleased to offer two Q&A sessions on Zoom for potential applicants. We hope you’ll be able to find answers to most of your questions in these guidelines but appreciate that it can be useful to hear from one of the RPS team and ask questions directly. We are newly doing this to be as helpful as possible as you consider applying for the programme and give you an opportunity to get to know us a little better before you apply. You can read more about our small, friendly team on our website.

Our General Manager Harriet Wybor will host the meeting with her video on, but you won’t see the other participants. Harriet will give a short introduction to the RPS and the Composers programme. She will talk through the application process and answer your questions, which you can ask anonymously or in the group chat. Sessions will be held as follows:

1.00-2.00pm on Thursday 16 February 2023 register here

6.00-7.00pm on Tuesday 21 February 2023 register here

To register, please click the link next to the session you would like to sign up for. Once you’ve registered, you will be sent an email with instructions for how to join. The content in each session will be the same, so you only need to attend one session.

If you have any further questions, please contact our Administrator, Charlotte Smith, at admin@philharmonicsociety.uk or call us on 020 7287 0019.

We are dearly grateful to a range of donors for supporting the RPS Composers programme, including RPS Members, Delius Trust, the Elgar Bursary Fund, The Fidelio Charitable Trust, Garrick Charitable Trust, PRS Foundation's The Open Fund, the Radcliffe Trust, the Vaughan Williams Foundation, the Susan Bradshaw Composers' Fund and several anonymous donors.

If you would like to consider supporting our work, please do consider joining as an RPS Member. Every subscription helps us to help musicians and composers at key stages in their careers, ensuring classical music continues to thrive for years to come. Find out more here.