RPS Composers programme

Applications are now open for the 2022-23 RPS Composers Programme, read on for details about the application process. Click here to read about the composers selected for the 2021-22 cohort.

Establishing yourself as a professional composer is rarely easy and, as the consequences of the pandemic continues to impact classical music, this has undoubtedly become even harder. Annually, the Royal Philharmonic Society Composers programme aims to transform the prospects of promising composers and we are pleased to welcome applications for 2022.

Besides offering a commission - performed with one of a range of noted ensembles, venues and festivals - we support a cohort of composers taking critical steps towards establishing their careers, and equip them with the skills and confidence to seek further commissions and performances of their own beyond the programme. We do this through a year-long range of sessions and activities from Autumn 2022, including the opportunity to meet and draw insights from key figures in the music business and professional composers, workshops to develop skills that will enable you to promote yourself and your music, as well as 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.

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 RPS Composers.

‘This sort of support is like gold-dust at this point in my career.’
Laurence Osborn, RPS Composer 2017

What does the RPS offer? Usually we grant around seven commissions which last year had a value of £2,000 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, from Autumn 2022 you will attend a number of sessions through the year designed for you to set goals, 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. 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 Cheltenham Festival, Music in the Round, players from the Philharmonia, Presteigne Festival, and Wigmore Hall. To give you a greater impression of what is offered, you can read about our current commissions and the composers fulfilling them. While plans are still taking shape, we expect a similar range of opportunities to be offered anew in the year ahead.

With each partner, we will set the brief and parameters for the work you are going to write in the first months of the programme with a view to you being able to make significant headway with it from the start of 2023. Each will have its own submission date, likely a month or two before performance and premieres take place from May to December 2023.

Who is it open to? 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. You may have recently graduated or be coming to the end of your studies, but equally a formal degree or equivalent qualification is not compulsory. We recognise that composers pursue many different routes, 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 2022 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 are also keen to ensure the application process and opportunity is as widely accessible as possible. 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. We warmly welcome feedback and are keen to hear from anyone who may have identified potential barriers to applying.

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). You will also need submit three of your compositions as PDFs for consideration by our panel, uploading these to a dedicated Dropbox folder. Selected applicants will be invited to an interview in June to talk more about your music and aspirations. We love to have the chance to meet and chat to all those we interview in person at our offices in London, but are very glad to accommodate remote interviews (for instance, over Zoom) where traveling is particularly difficult or not possible for some.

What does it cost to apply? There is no application fee or cost to those who undertake the programme. If you are selected for an interview in person, you would generally need to cover your own travel expenses, but do talk to us if you are concerned that this may prevent you attending.

When is the closing date? The closing date is 11am on Tuesday 15 March 2022. We regret we cannot consider any applications or supporting materials received after that time.

Is this the 'RPS Composition Prize'? Yes, this is the opportunity previously known as the 'RPS Composition Prize' though we changed the name 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.

If you have any further queries not addressed in the guidelines, you can contact our Administrator Camilla Carden at admin@philharmonicsociety.uk or call one of the team on 020 7287 0019.

We are grateful to a range of donors for supporting our work here including the ABRSM, the Susan Bradshaw Composers' Fund, Delius Trust, the Elgar Bursary Fund, The Fidelio Charitable Trust, Garrick Charitable Trust, Presteigne Festival, PRS Foundation's The Open Fund, and the RVW Trust.

The RPS has a long tradition of supporting composers, dating back to Beethoven. We are only able to keep helping composers thanks to a generous family of individual donors, trusts and corporate sponsors. If you would like to help us in this, please click here to find out how to get involved. Even the smallest gesture is greatly appreciated.