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.


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  1. Michelle February 15, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    Wow! Thanks for all of these. I’ve just started having my students participate in the Federation (NFMC) composition contest this year and have been looking for more opportunities.

    Here are a couple more that my students do:

    1. Guild Auditions – they have a composition event but the deadline is in October or November. Earlier than the auditions in the spring. Students can submit as many compositions as they wish.

    2. Reflections Program – The schools in my area (Fairfax County in Virginia) have something called the reflections program. Students can submit compositions, art, ect. I think this is national as the submission go from district, to state, ect. Students should ask their PTA programs about it. It’s definitely in elementary and middle schools, but I’m not sure about the high schools.

    3. Jazz-Blues Festival – This I think is more local (Northern Virginia), but any teachers involved in their local organization should see if any put on a yearly Jazz Blues festival. (Mine is for piano students) Students play two Jazz-Blues pieces but can compose one of their own. This is how I got started teaching my students composition. The students get ratings and comments.

    Also, not a contest, but a fun thing that I do is print out their composition like real music. I put everything in finale and then have them draw a cover, and send it to FedEx to get printed really nice paper. They absolutely love that little touch.

  2. Wendy February 21, 2013 at 10:00 pm

    Hi Michelle,
    Thank you so much for telling me about these composition opportunities for students. I’ve updated the original blog post to include several of your ideas. I really appreciate you sharing your excellent suggestions! I’m also glad to know that you work with your students on composition and go the extra mile to “publish” it for them. What an encouragement that must be for them.

  3. Pedro Castillo March 21, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    We would like to invite you to MUSLAB 2016 International Festival of Electroacoustic Music

    Camin-Art Cultural Association and MUSLAB Ensemble invite composers of electroacoustic music, sound artists and visual artists to participate in the Muestra Internacional de Música Electroacústica MUSLAB 2016. (International Festival of Electroacoustic Music – MUSLAB 2016).

    This exhibition will take place at different locations in soon to be announced countries, between the months of October and December of 2016. The International Electroacoustic Music Exposition MUSLAB 2016 is a project which main objective is to help recovering public spaces and promote social interaction and peaceful coexistence through artistic interventions as electroacoustic music and video projection on buildings (Video Mapping).

    This exhibition is complemented with certain workshops aimed to new technologies and their applications in art, and they’re open to students and artists interested in working with sound and image. This workshops will be adapted to the needs of each community where the exhibition is presented.

    The event would be broadcasted by some radio locations in which MUSLAB would take place. Stay tunned for more information!

  4. Helen Haynes November 1, 2016 at 10:39 pm

    Violets By Becky has a Youth Composition contest. This is the 4th year. It’s not big, so not too competitive. Here is a link.

  5. Boris November 6, 2016 at 10:48 am

    Uncaged::Conlon Robot Keyboard Prize 2017

    Composition competition for Robot Toy Piano

    deadline: 1st of April, 2017

    prize: a performance in the Gaudeamus Muziekweek (Utrecht, Holland) in September 2017 and the UnCaged Toy Piano Festival (New York City, December 2017), plus $1000

    more information:

  6. Lydia Hance December 14, 2016 at 9:34 am

    Frame Dance has an annual composer competition. Here’s the link:

  7. Alexandra Dee January 21, 2017 at 4:03 pm

    The Joliet Symphony Orchestra at the University of St. Francis 2017 Composition Competition:

  8. Rachel C. January 23, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    The Atlanta Chamber Players coordinate a national composition contest bi-annually called the Rapido! 14-Day Composition Contest. There are no age restrictions. The 2015-2016 contest had a 16 year old semifinalist!

  9. Ozge Ileri December 15, 2017 at 6:11 am

    Have a look at this one, too! It’s for film composers and fully online, quite unique!

  10. Kaye McSpadden April 17, 2018 at 1:36 pm

    “Emerging Voices Women’s Choral Composition Contest”
    Seeking submissions of compositions for women’s voices by female composers in two age categories: Teen and Young Adult.
    Submissions will be considered for performance at the Indianapolis Women’s Chorus’ final concert of the 2018-2019 season and a cash prize.
    Submission deadline: Oct 1, 2018.

  11. Pamela Helton December 15, 2018 at 12:08 am



    Postmark Deadline: February 1, 2019

    The Third Millennium Ensemble is pleased to announce its 2019 Competition for Composers. The Third Millennium Ensemble offers performances that reflect the energy and diversity of contemporary music and strives to represent a wide variety of composers. Please read the guidelines below carefully.
    The competition will offer the following prizes: $400 First Prize; $200 Second Prize; The first and second place winners will receive performances by TME in 2019-2020 season and composers may receive archival recordings on request. Young Composer Prizes will be: $150 Grand Prize; $100 Pre-College (if awarded). Winning pieces in the Young Composer category are eligible for performance by the ensemble if deemed appropriate. A “Young Composer” is defined as any composer age 21 or younger by February 1, 2019. Winners may be required to submit proof of age.
    Winners in all categories will be selected by a panel of composers with input from the ensemble. All entries will be considered for performance. Compositions for any single instrument combinations of flute, clarinet, trumpet, violin (up to 2 players) viola, cello, bass, piano, percussion (1 player), harp and soprano, mezzo or baritone voice (no more than 1 voice part) will be considered. Once pieces have been passed on to the ensemble for final consideration, parts may be requested. Pieces with instruments in listed “families” are eligible (e.g piccolo or bass clarinet). Pieces with electronic/digital sound accompanying acoustic instruments are welcome.
    To enter, please include a $35 application fee* for one piece and $15 for each additional piece submitted. Please download the ENTRY FORM from our website ( or replica to include with your submission. Packets may be submitted electronically by 1) submitting scores and pdf entry form to:; 2) submitting recordings (highly recommended) to DROPBOX and 3) submitting the fee through Paypal. Please inquire by email for submitting and sharing recordings by Dropbox. Scores, entry forms and fees and recordings may also be submitted through the traditional mail.
    Published and recorded works as well as pieces by composers living outside the United States are welcome. Winners will be announced by June 2019 and all who have entered will be notified by email and the results will also be posted on our website. Unfortunately we are not able to return materials. Checks should be made out to: Third Millennium Ensemble. Scores (with recordings, if possible) should be sent to:

    * We apologize for charging a fee, but the cost of Paypal and DropBox fees, but administrative costs, prizes and some performance-related costs are offset by these funds. TME sincerely thanks you for your entry.
    Third Millennium Ensemble
    Attn: Pamela Helton
    4332 Ballenger Creek Pike
    Frederick, MD 21703
    Phone: 202-316-1646

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