In towns across the U.S., there are young people pursuing dreams to become composers for symphony orchestras, says Music Production Course Director and Department Chair Keith Lay. He is a judge and one of the founders of the National Young Composer’s Challenge (NYCC), a yearly competition to find the best and brightest young composers in the country.
“The orchestra is alive and well in the minds of our young, creative musicians, and the NYCC is the nation’s most successful organization that supports it,” says Lay, an award-winning musician and composer in his own right.
The Young Composers Challenge is open to musicians, ages 13 to 18. For the competition, youth are challenged to write a composition, either for a small ensemble or an entire orchestra. Six winners are chosen – three from the ensemble category, who each receive $500, and three from the orchestral category, who each receive $1,000. The winners also receive a professional recording of their composition performed by a symphony orchestra. For the past few years, the NYCC has received between 75 to 100 submissions from around the country, says Lay.
Lay recently returned from San Francisco, where the organization held its annual Composium on Oct. 6.
“That’s where the winners come in from all around the country to hear their works performed by a symphony orchestra,” says Lay. This year, the participating orchestra was the Marin Symphony Orchestra, based in San Rafael, California.
In addition to the competition, the organization runs a yearly workshop, during which Lay and other composers and musicians train the youth participants in principles of composition, orchestration, musical notation, scoring software, and MIDI technology.