New Jersey Symphony Edward T. Cone Composition Institute

Winning composers for the 2024 Edward T. Cone Composition Institute will be announced later this spring.

The New Jersey Symphony will hold the tenth annual Edward T. Cone Composition Institute this summer in Princeton. This multifaced, tuition-free Institute is an opportunity designed to promote contemporary orchestral music by enhancing the careers of four emerging composers. Winning composers will have their music performed by the New Jersey Symphony and will participate in in-depth career development sessions with industry leaders.

Celebrated composer Steven Mackey, a music professor and director of graduate studies in composition at Princeton University, is the institute director. Christopher Rountree, a highly-regarded conductor and composer who is deeply embedded in new music scene, will be the Institute’s guest conductor.

The Institute is open to university composition students and composers in the early stages of their professional careers. Composers selected for this tuition-free program will participate in a week of the following activities:

  • Rehearsals and premiere performance of their work by the New Jersey Symphony in a public concert
  • One-on-one and group coaching sessions with Institute Director Steven Mackey and conductor Christopher Rountree
  • Career-development sessions on public speaking, music editing and networking skills
  • Feedback sessions with music industry leaders, New Jersey Symphony musicians and staff
  • Discussions of best practices for getting contemporary classical music funded, published and performed

The 2024 Cone Institute will take place July 15–20, 2024 in Princeton, culminating in a public performance at the Richardson Auditorium in Princeton, NJ on Saturday, July 20 at 8 pm. The performance will be conducted by Christopher Rountree. The Institute is presented in collaboration with the Princeton University Music Department.

For questions or more information, please send an email to

Learn More about the Institute

Institute Director Steven Mackey

Bright in coloring, ecstatic in inventiveness, lively and profound, Steven Mackey’s music spins the tendrils of his improvisatory riffs into large-scale works of grooving, dramatic coherence.

As a teenager growing up in Northern California obsessed with blues-rock guitar, Mackey was in search of the “right wrong notes,” those heart-wrenching moments that imbue the music with new, unexpected momentum. Today, his pieces play with that tension of being inside or outside of the harmony and flow forward shimmering with prismatic detail.

Signature early works merged his academic training with the free-spirited physicality of his mother-tongue rock guitar music: Troubadour Songs (1991) and Physical Property (1992) for string quartet and electric guitar; and Banana/Dump Truck (1995), an electrified-cello concerto. Later works explored his deepening fascination in transformation and movement of sound through time: Dreamhouse (2003), a rich work for voices and ensemble that was nominated for four Grammy awards; A Beautiful Passing (2008) for violin and orchestra on the passing of his mother; and Slide (2011), a Grammy Award-winning music theater piece.

Today, Mackey writes for chamber ensemble, orchestra, dance and opera—commissioned by the greatest orchestras around the world, and winner of several awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Kennedy Center Friedheim Award. He continues to explore an ever-widening world of timbres befitting a complex, 21st-century culture, while always striving to make music that unites the head and heart, that is visceral, that gets us moving.

2024 Conductor Christopher Rountree

We see Lady Macbeth in a dozen crooning silhouettes washing blood out of rags over bright porcelain sinks; hear Stravinsky pouring out of an abandoned warehouse; see dozens of watermelons fly off Disney Hall; hear a black and white overture imploring against hatred; parse a chorus singing Haydn’s Creation backwards; watch a violinist cutting himself out of duct tape with a razor as his amplified violin sits gathering feedback; listen to three minutes of Le nozze di Figaro on repeat for twelve hours; celebrate with rituals joyous for the end of the world; witness a long-lost John Adams suite come alive; and hear the sound of rose-petal jam-making as music. Conductor and composer Christopher Rountree stands at the intersection of classical music, new music, performance art and pop.

Following his 2020-21 debut with Long Beach Opera conducting Philip Glass’ Les Enfants Terribles, Rountree was named Music Director from the 2021-22 season. He maintains a long-term relationship with Martha Graham Dance Company resurrecting, recording and performing works by Copland, Kodaly, Rountree (MGDC commission), and others, with his ensemble Wild Up. In 2019, Rountree began recording a four-volume set of the music of Julius Eastman. In conjunction with this recording project, he toured the country with Wild Up, culminating in an Eastman portrait at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. Rountree is currently working on two operas about love and technology with librettists Royce Vavrek and Roxie Perkins.

Rountree’s inimitable style has led to collaborations with: Björk, John Adams, Yoko Ono, David Lang, Scott Walker, La Monte Young, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Mica Levi, Alison Knowles, Yuval Sharon, Sigourney Weaver, Tyshawn Sorey, Ragnar Kjartansson, Ashley Fure, Julia Holter, Claire Chase, Missy Mazzoli, Ryoji Ikeda, Du Yun, Thaddeus Strassberger, Ellen Reid, Ted Hearne, James Darrah, and many of the planet’s greatest orchestras and ensembles including the San Francisco, Chicago, National, Houston, and Cincinnati Symphonies; the Los Angeles Philharmonic; International Contemporary Ensemble; Roomful of Teeth; Opéra national de Paris; and the Los Angeles, Washington National, and Atlanta Operas. He has presented compositions and concerts at Walt Disney Concert Hall, Palais Garnier, Mile High Stadium, the Coliseum, Kennedy Center, Philadelphia Museum of Art, ACE Hotel, National Sawdust, MCA Denver, The Hammer, The Getty, a basketball court in Santa Cruz, and at Lincoln Center on the New York Philharmonic’s Biennale.

Rountree is the artistic director and conductor of Wild Up, the ensemble he founded in 2010, and artistic director of an interdisciplinary ambient series in an oak grove in LA called SILENCE. Rountree is a seventh-generation Californian descended from the first sheriffs of Santa Cruz County, he lives in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles.


The New Jersey Symphony 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 New Jersey Symphony 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 New Jersey Symphony’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 New Jersey Symphony 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, the guest conductor and New Jersey Symphony musicians, as well as advice from decision makers in the industry about how to get their music published and performed.

About the Organizations

Princeton University 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

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

Music Director Xian Zhang—a “dynamic podium presence” The New York Times has praised for her “technical abilities, musicianship and maturity”—continues her acclaimed leadership of the New Jersey Symphony. 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 New Jersey Symphony is the resident orchestra of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark and regularly performs at State Theatre New Jersey in New Brunswick, Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, Richardson Auditorium in Princeton and Mayo Performing Arts Center in Morristown. 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 New Jersey Symphony presents a suite of education and community engagement programs that promote meaningful, lifelong engagement with live music. Programs include school-time Concerts for Young People, and New Jersey Symphony Youth Orchestras family of student ensembles, led by Diego García. New Jersey Symphony musicians annually perform original chamber music programs at community events in a variety of settings statewide through the New Jersey Symphony Community Partners program.

For more information about the New Jersey Symphony, visit or email Tickets are available for purchase by phone at 1.800.ALLEGRO (255.3476) or on the Orchestra’s website.

The New Jersey Symphony’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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the Cone Composition Institute have any age restrictions?

  • Applicants must be at least 18 years old by July 1, 2024.

Does the Cone Composition Institute accept international applicants? 

  • Yes, we do accept international applicants. In order to participate, applicants must have the appropriate US visa or residency status to be present at Princeton University during the Cone Composition Institute dates.

How does the Cone Composition Institute define “emerging” composer?

  • We define “emerging composer” quite broadly; eligible applicants can include adults of any age beginning their career as an orchestral composer, including late-in-life career switchers, recent graduates, and those several years out from graduation, as well as composers who have not yet had opportunities to have their work performed by a major orchestra.

My score is 14 minutes long. May I submit it to the Cone Institute?

  • During the Institute week, the New Jersey Symphony will rehearse and perform four new works. To ensure we are able to devote sufficient time to each composer’s work, we are unfortunately unable to accept works over 13 minutes in length.
  • If your piece is 14 minutes in duration or longer, we recommend submitting a different orchestral composition that meets this guideline. Alternatively, if there is a way to slightly alter your work so it meets the 13-minute maximum or to submit only specific movements for consideration, then it would be eligible.

May I submit a work with a soloist to the Cone Institute?

  • No, we do not accept works with concerto soloists, vocalists or narrators to the Cone Composition Institute.

What woodwind doublings are allowed?

  • The following standard woodwind doublings are allowed: piccolo, English horn, E-flat clarinet and/or bass clarinet, and contrabassoon.

My orchestral work was performed by [XYZ] ensemble. Is it still eligible for submission to the Cone Composition Institute?

  • For a composition to be eligible, it must have no prior professional performance or publication history. Any work that has already received a public, professional performance or will receive a public, professional performance by July 1, 2024, nationally or internationally, no longer qualifies for the Cone Composition Institute.
  • Compositions that have had university, conservatory or other non-professional ensemble performances, including by volunteer or student orchestras, or compositions that have had readings by professional ensembles, are eligible for submission.

May I submit a reorchestration of my work, which was previously performed by a professional chamber / wind ensemble / string ensemble?

  • We do accept orchestral versions of works that have already been performed in other settings, provided the orchestration and instrumentation have changed substantially. For specific questions related to eligibility, please email In your email, we ask that you share details of the piece, including its original instrumentation, new instrumentation and its prior performance history.

May I submit a live recording as the audio representation of my work?

  • Yes! Acceptable live recordings may come from a performance by a university, conservatory or other non-professional ensemble, or a reading from a professional ensemble. If the audio file is larger than the application allows, please send the recording to to have it included with the rest of your application materials.

Cone Institute 2023

The 2023 Cone Institute composers were Tom Morrison with his work Messages in the Ground; Kory Reeder with his work Walls of Brocade Fields; Sam Wu with his work Hydrosphere and Yangfan Xu with her work ByaView concert and composer information.

Listen to the full broadcast.

Cone Institute 2022

The 2022 Cone Institute composers were Dai Wei with her work Samsāric Dance; Baldwin Giang with his work to remember is always forgetting; Jack Frerer with his work Steep and Sophia Jani with her work What do flowers do at night?. View concert and composer information.

Listen to the full broadcast.

Cone Institute 2021

The 2021 Cone Institute composers were Elise Aranco with her work Wake, Kevin Day with his work Tango Oscuro, Erin Graham with her work Increase and Jared Miller with his work Under Sea, Above Sky. View concert and composer information.

Listen to the full broadcast.

Cone Institute 2019

The 2019 Institute composers included Dan Caputo with his work Liminal, Patrick O’Malley with his work Rest and Restless, Iván Enrique Rodríguez with his work A Metaphor for Power and Bora Yoon with her work The Encyclopedia of Winds. View concert and composer information.

Listen to the WWFM broadcast.

Cone Institute 2018

The 2018 Cone Institute composers were Jonathan Cziner with his work Resonant Bells, Natalie Dietterich with her work Aeolian Dust, Aaron Hendrix with his work Night Train and Brian Shank with his work Into the Rose Garden. View concert and composer information.

Listen to the WWFM broadcast.

Princeton Department of Music.jpg

The Symphony presents the Institute in collaboration with Princeton University Department of Music.

The New Jersey Symphony celebrates the cultural vibrancy of our communities and builds meaningful relationships that elevate and strengthen them. We are committed to diversity and equal opportunity in our recruitment of composers. Qualified candidates of all backgrounds are welcome and encouraged to apply for the New Jersey Symphony Edward T. Cone Composition Institute.

Major underwriting support for the New Jersey Symphony Edward T. Cone Composition Institute is generously provided by the Edward T. Cone Foundation and Princeton University.