Composition Competitions and Contests for Young Students

Here is a list of some of the composition competitions of which I am aware. If you know of others that are national, please leave them in the comments section and I’ll add them! (updated 2016)

Composition Competition for Students

NextNotes High School Composition Awards

This is open to any 14-18 year old and is not limited by the style of music! Any style and instrumentation is accepted as long as it’s your creative design! Six composers will be chosen to receive a scholarship along with travel to Minneapolis-St. Paul for a two-day workshop with professional composer mentors and professional musicians in June 2015. The workshop will conclude with an awards ceremony and culminating concert of the winning works. Here’s a short video with more information:

NextNotes Guidelines
Apply here
NextNotes Website

Piano Explorer Composition Contest

This is open to any student subscriber to the Piano Explorer. When you subscribe, you will receive information in the January issue about the theme. The contest is divided into two age divisions and usually small cash prizes are awarded as well as publication in the magazine. The competition is not too stiff and a number of my students have won this.

Piano Explorer subscription details

MTNA and Various State Composition Competitions

If you are a member of the state chapter of MTNA, then there is probably a state composition competition available to you and your students. I know that states like Texas (TMTA) and Indiana have a wonderful competition (I was/will be a judge for these last year and this year).

MTNA Composition Contests (states will have their own guidelines and links)

The Lynn Freeman Olson Competition

This composition competition occurs on odd numbered years. It is sponsored by NFMC, so you’ll need to contact them for information about how to participate if you are not a member. There are 3 divisions in this competition:
Intermediate: Grades 7-8-9
High School: Grades 10-11-12
Advanced: High School Graduate through age 25.

Lynn Freeman Olson Award Information
Lynn Freeman Olson Award Application

Agnes Fowler Music for the Blind Award

This composition competition, also sponsored by NFMC is for blind composers!

Agnes Fowler Music application
Agnes Fowler Music information

NFMC Junior Composer Contest

This is for students up to age 18, which has multiple awards at the state, regional, and national levels. It is sponsored by NFMC, so you’ll need to contact them for information about how to participate if you are not a member. Some states even offer scholarships to the Junior Composers Institute to every student who participates in this contest.

Jr. Composer information and applications

Beyer Composition Award

This competition is for composers aged 20-31. There are three categories: piano solo, instrumental, voice with piano accompaniment.

Beyer Composition Information
Beyer Composition Application

The last few contests mentioned are all part of the very extensive NFMC organization. You can see information about all of their prizes and contests here.

National Guild of Piano Teachers

This competition is for Guild members and their students. There are competitions in these categories: elementary, intermediate, college/young artist, adult student, teacher, and special categories (including ensemble).
Entry Fee: Ranges from $26-$33
Entry Deadline: November 8

National Guild of Piano Teachers Composition Competition

The Reflections Program

Many schools participate in the Reflections Program which promotes arts in education in your local school district. The 2015-2016 theme is “Let Your Imagination Fly.” You can see more about this program here:  The Reflections Program. It looks as though each district may have different deadlines and guidelines for their program. I have been told that this is a tiered competition in which students advance from district to state and possibly even to national.

2015 Third Millennium Young Composers’ Competition (NEW!)

The Third Millennium Ensemble offers performances that reflect the energy and diversity of American music and strives to represent a wide cross-section of composers. This competition has been around for a while, but they are now offering a brand new “young composers” category that includes students less than 20 years old. Compositions for any combination of flute, clarinet, trumpet, violin (up to 2 players) viola, cello, piano, percussion (1 player), guitar, harp and soprano, mezzo or baritone voice will be considered.

Postmark Deadline:  November 1, 2014
Entry form
Competition Guideliness

Carol Klose Hal Leonard Composition Competition (New!)

Hal Leonard has announced a new online piano composition competition for students created in honor of Carol Klose (1945-2013), a popular piano teacher and prolific Hal Leonard composer. The purpose of the competition is to encourage the creative musical spirit that Carol established by giving piano students a platform to compose, perform and share their original piano compositions.

Postmark Deadline: June 1, 2015 (2016 information coming soon)
Ages: Students up to age 23
Entry form and guidlines

Scorbit Game Scoring Contest (New!)

Do you have students who want to compose film or game music? This might be an interesting opportunity for them. Composers are to compose a layered, looping composition based on concept art by Alex Kintner.

Postmark Deadline: April 11th, 2014
Ages: No age restrictions
Competition Details

TAK Ensemble Call for Scores

TAK is a New York-based chamber ensemble looking for new scores consisting of soprano voice, flute, clarinet, violin, and percussion. TAK aims to deliver energetic and virtuosic performances of contemporary classical music, and seeks to highlight generationally relevant composers working to expand the parameters of performative virtuosity.

Postmark deadline: Previous deadline October 1st, 2014
Ages: No age restrictions
Composition details and online registration


OPUS2015 is a commissioning scheme, now in its third year, offering unpublished composers the chance to receive a professional commission as part of Britten Sinfonia’s award-winning At Lunch series. Potential applicants are asked to submit an application form (available online), two pre-existing scores and a recording of at least one of them representative of their work for any instrumental ensemble of between 3 and 10 players. Music can be in any style.

Postmark deadline: Previous deadline October 17, 2014
Ages: No age restrictions
Composition details and registration

The Choral Composer/Conductor Collective Student Composer Competition

This has been designed to provide professional performance opportunities to composers who are enrolled in an accredited school program. The piece should be 2 to 8 minutes in length and must be a cappella. One winner will be selected in each of three categories:

• Pre-College (high school and earlier): $200 prize
• Undergraduate: $300 prize
• Graduate and above: $400 prize

Postmark deadline: June 5, 2016
Ages: No age restrictions
Composition details and registration


Are there other national competitions that I haven’t mentioned? Be sure to leave a comment if there are. I’d be happy to add them.