NJSO Edward T. Cone Composition Institute

Four emerging composers will receive an unparalleled experience of six days of in-depth compositional consultations and multifaceted sessions with industry experts, culminating in a live concert performance of their works by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra. The Institute is led by Steve Mackey. This tuition-free Institute will take place July 9–14, 2018, in Princeton.

The NJSO Edward T. Cone Composition Institute is an unparalleled experience for four emerging composers to hear their music performed by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and participate in in-depth sessions with industry experts. The Institute is led by Steve Mackey. 

The fifth annual Cone Composition Institute will be held July 9–14, 2018 in Princeton with Guest Conductor David Robertson. This tuition-free Institute finishes with a live performance of the composers’ works with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra on Saturday, July 14, 2018.

Four composers chosen to participate in the Institute will participate in daily activities that will include:

  • Rehearsals of their works with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra
  • One-on-one and group coaching sessions with Institute Director Steve Mackey and Guest Conductor David Robertson
  • Sessions with industry leaders, NJSO musicians and staff
  • Coaching on personal presentation, public speaking and networking skills
  • NJSO premiere of each composer’s work at a public concert on July 14, 2018 at Richardson Auditorium at Princeton University

Apply today

Complete submissions must be received by Friday, February 2, 2018. Please send complete application packet to:

NJSO Edward T. Cone Composition Institute
Attn: Alexandra Black
New Jersey Symphony Orchestra
60 Park Place, Suite 900
Newark, NJ 07102


  • Must be at least 18 years old on or before July 1, 2018
  • Have not been selected as past participant of the Cone Composition Institute


 1. One original composition per application using the following guidelines:

  • Composition shall not exceed 13 minutes in duration and must be an orchestral work (no concerto soloists)
  • Instrumentation may not exceed: 3‐3‐3‐3 woodwinds (including standard doublings), 4‐3‐3‐1 brass, timpani, 3 percussion, harp, 1 piano/celeste and strings.
  • Composition must have no prior professional performance.
  • Must include brief program notes or a general description of the composition.
  • Three bound copies of the score must be submitted in printed hard copy (11 x 17 in. or   smaller) using a standard notation program such as Sibelius or Finale. Handwritten scores  will not be accepted.
  • Scores and parts must adhere to Major Orchestra Librarians’ Association (MOLA)  guidelines.
  • Audio representation of the work, such as a MIDI mock-up or a live orchestra reading, in mp3 format. 

2. One page resume

3. One letter of recommendation

Participant Information

Cost, housing and travel information

The Institute is tuition-free and housing on the campus of Princeton University (single room with air-conditioning) and on-campus meals will be provided, if needed. If a selected composer elects not to use provided housing and meal service, no financial remuneration will be made.

Travel compensation and per diems are not offered.

Publicity material requirements for selected participants

Selected composers will be required to submit the following items by mail and email. Please do not submit these materials with the application. The NJSO reserves the right to edit submitted bios and program notes to match NJSO style.

By Email (on or before April 2, 2018):

Email to: [email protected]

  • A full set of digital parts following the MOLA guidelines [pdf], with measure numbers at the beginning of each line, and up to three additional scores.
  • A bio of no more than 250 words.
  • Program notes of no more than 300–400 words.
  • A headshot, minimum 300 dpi, 750x750 pixels or larger.

By Mail (by May 4, 2018):

Mail to: Alexandra Black, Artistic Operations Coordinator, NJSO, 60 Park Place, Suite 900, Newark, NJ 07102.

  • Submit a full set of hardcopy parts following the MOLA guidelines [pdf], with measure numbers at the beginning of each line, and up to three additional scores.

All materials must be submitted as requested above.

For more information, contact Alexandra Black, Artistic Operations Coordinator, at [email protected] or 973.735.1740.

Learn more about the Cone Composition Institute

Background and Benefits of Participation

The NJSO and Princeton University Department of Music are well positioned to provide emerging composers with a comprehensive Institute experience that will enhance their careers. Over years of reading sessions in which the NJSO has played through orchestral works written by Princeton University Ph.D. composition candidates, the Orchestra and its musicians are experienced in mentoring and advising student composers. Through the NJSO’s commitment to presenting new music, the Orchestra has performed works not only by the late Princeton University professor and composer Edward T. Cone, but also by composers who felt the impact of Cone’s legacy as a teacher.

Mackey—a lauded composer and William Schubael Conant Professor of Music at Princeton University—says:

“The NJSO has had a strong relationship with Princeton University composers for years, and we are excited to again partner with the Orchestra for this immersive composition institute. This program fosters emerging composing talent by preparing composers for both the creative and practical elements of composing works for orchestra.”

By the end of the Institute, participants will have gained invaluable musical and practical feedback about writing for orchestra through real-time interactions with Mackey, Faletta and NJSO musicians as well as advice from decision makers in the industry about how to get their music published and performed.

Four composers chosen to participate in the Institute will participate in daily activities that will include:

  • Rehearsals of their works, followed by small group gatherings with faculty and NJSO musicians to discuss applications and variations on the possible vs. the practical in composition.
  • One-on-one and group coaching sessions with composer Steven Mackey.
  • Sessions with industry leaders.
  • Coaching on and the opportunity to refine personal presentation and networking skills.
  • NJSO premiere of each composer’s work presented by the NJSO at a public concert on July 15, 2017, at Richardson Auditorium at Princeton University.
  • Access to video recordings of small-group gatherings.

Institute Director and Conductor Bios

Steven Mackey, Institute Director

SteveMackey-CompositionInstitute.jpgSteven Mackey was born in 1956 to American parents stationed in Frankfurt, Germany. He is regarded as one of the leading composers of his generation and has composed for orchestra, chamber ensemble, dance and opera. His first musical passion was playing the electric guitar in rock bands based in northern California. He blazed a trail in the 1980s and 90s by including the electric guitar and vernacular music influence in his concert music, and he regularly performs his own works, including two electric guitar concertos and numerous solo and chamber works. He is also active as an improvising musician and performs with his band Big Farm.

Mackey’s music has been performed by leading musical institutions throughout the world, including the Los Angeles, BBC and New York philharmonics; San Francisco and Chicago symphonies; Philadelphia and Concertgebeouw orchestras and Brentano, Kronos and Arditti string quartets, among others. He has received numerous awards, including a Grammy Award in 2012 for his album Lonely Motel: Music from Slide.

David Robertson, conductor

David Robertson 4 - credit Jay Fram.jpgDavid Robertson—conductor, artist, thinker and American musical visionary—occupies some of the most prominent platforms on the international music scene. A highly sought-after podium figure in the worlds of opera, orchestral music and new music, Robertson is celebrated worldwide as a champion of contemporary composers, an ingenious and adventurous programmer and a masterful communicator whose passionate advocacy for the art form is widely recognized. A consummate and deeply collaborative musician, Robertson is hailed for his intensely committed music making.

2017–18 is Robertson’s valedictory season as music director of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and his fifth season as chief conductor and artistic director of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. He has served as artistic leader to many musical institutions, including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Orchestre National de Lyon, and, as a protégé of Pierre Boulez, the Ensemble Intercontemporain. He has frequent projects at the world’s most prestigious opera houses, including The Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, Bayerische Staatsoper, Théâtre du Châtelet, San Francisco Opera and more.

During his 13-year tenure with the SLSO, Robertson has solidified the orchestra’s standing as one of the nation’s most enduring and innovative. His established and fruitful relationships with artists across a wide spectrum is evidenced by the orchestra’s ongoing collaboration with composer John Adams. The 2014 release of City Noir (Nonesuch Records)—comprising works by Adams performed by the SLSO with Robertson—won the Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance. Robertson is the recipient of numerous musical and artistic awards; in 2010, he was made a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

He is devoted to supporting young musicians and has worked with students at the festivals of Aspen, Tanglewood and Lucerne and at the Paris Conservatoire, the Juilliard School, Music Academy of the West and National Orchestra Institute. In 2014, he led the coast-to-coast US tour of the National Youth Orchestra of Carnegie Hall.

About the Organizations

Princeton University’s Department of Music

Princeton’s Department of Music is at the epicenter of a musical culture that is broad and deep, reaching from edge to edge of the campus, from the classroom to the concert hall, into the community and from faculty-led groups to those run exclusively by students.

New Jersey Symphony Orchestra

Named “a vital, artistically significant musical organization” by The Wall Street Journal, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra embodies that vitality through its statewide presence and critically acclaimed performances, education partnerships and unparalleled access to music and the Orchestra’s superb musicians.

The NJSO welcomes new Music Director Xian Zhang in the 2016–17 season. The Orchestra presents classical, pops and family programs, as well as outdoor summer concerts and special events. Embracing its legacy as a statewide orchestra, the NJSO is the resident orchestra of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark and regularly performs at the State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick, Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, Richardson Auditorium in Princeton, Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown and bergenPAC in Englewood. Partnerships with New Jersey arts organizations, universities and civic organizations remain a key element of the Orchestra’s statewide identity.

In addition to its lauded artistic programming, the NJSO presents a suite of education and community engagement (ECE) programs that promote meaningful, lifelong engagement with live music. Programs include school-time Concerts for Young People performances, NJSO Youth Orchestras family of student ensembles and El Sistema-inspired NJSO CHAMPS (Character, Achievement and Music Project). The NJSO’s REACH (Resources for Education and Community Harmony) chamber music program annually brings original programs—designed and performed by NJSO musicians—to a variety of settings. In the 2015–16 season, REACH ensembles performed at nearly 200 events, and ECE programs served more than 66,000 New Jerseyans in nearly 21 counties.

The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra’s programs are made possible in part by The New Jersey State Council on the Arts, along with many other foundations, corporations and individual donors.

See Photos and Social Media from Previous Years

NJSO-logo-EDP-xian.jpg          PrincetonMusicDepartment.png   

Major underwriting support for The NJSO Edward T. Cone Composition Institute is generously provided by The Edward T. Cone Foundation and Princeton University.