Music Composition Competition 2018-19

Winners of the 2018 Composition Competition have been announced. 

Read the story here 

The Centre for New Music at the University of Sheffield is delighted to announce a new composition competition for secondary school students. The first-prizewinner will receive a £100 Amazon voucher and a performance of their work. The compositions by two runners-up will be performed alongside the first-prizewinner’s piece in a public concert in the Sheffield Winter Garden as part of Classical Sheffield on 9 or 10 March 2019 (details to be confirmed).

Shortlisted compositions will be played in a workshop Thursday 21 February 2019, 16.00-18.00 at the University of Sheffield, which you will be expected to attend if your piece is shortlisted. All entrants are invited to attend the workshop, whether their composition has been shortlisted or not. We will announce the first-prizewinner and runners up at the workshop. The competition is open to GCSE students and above from UK schools and sixth form colleges.

A music score

The competition and how to enter

The composition will be for a fixed instrumentation of flute, cello and trombone, and be no longer than 5 minutes’ duration (no minimum duration). Compositions should use all three instruments. In addition, composers should choose one of the composition briefs below.

Scores may be produced in any format, including graphic or hand-written scores, but must be submitted as a PDF. As entries will be judged anonymously, scores should not show the composer’s name.

A pdf of the score, with separate parts (unless there is a reason for the players to read from the full score), should be emailed to: by Monday 11th February2019 at 12.00 midday.

The email should state clearly the composer’s name, teacher’s name, school and year of study. The competition is open to GCSE students and above from UK schools and sixth form colleges.

Composition briefs

Choose one from

Surprise - Compose a piece that contains a surprising event. The surprise could occur at any point in the piece. What makes it surprising in the context? This is an opportunity to focus on contrast, pacing and drama.

Dream - Compose a piece that evokes the sense of being inside a dream (or nightmare!). How is your experience of time and events different in a dream from real life? Is this experience something you can capture in sound? This is an opportunity to imagine new sound worlds and experiment with different modes of experience or story-telling.

Argument - Compose a piece that depicts an argument or conflict between the different musical voices. Do they walk straight into the argument, or does it escalate during the course of the piece? Is it resolved? This is an opportunity to explore a contrapuntal texture, possibly with a focus on rhythmic character and interplay between the parts.

General guidance and tips

The instrumentation gives you one each of strings, woodwind and brass. One of the challenges for this composition will be how well you balance the three instruments and characterise their roles and relationships within the texture. What registers do they share? How does choice of register affect the balance? (Don’t be afraid to use a mute on the trombone at times, if you think this would help balance, or give you another colour. Remember to allow sufficient time for any mute changes.) Can instrumental roles change?

Each option includes suggestions of what you can focus on, however the main objective is to stimulate your creativity and imagination. The compositions will also be judged on your ability to characterise your musical materials for the instruments/ensemble, and your resourcefulness in sustaining or developing them to make a satisfying piece.

Check your score includes:

  • Title (but NOT the composer’s name)
  • Tempo (metronome mark and descriptive term)
  • Dynamics
  • Articulation
  • Bar numbers (if applicable)

Any questions or requests for further information can be directed to:

Dr Dorothy Ker, CeNMaS Director,