School of Composition

As an RNCM student composer, you will be encouraged by the School of Composition’s team of highly experienced and professional tutors to unleash your full creative potential and develop your own personal style.

We feel it is critical for you to learn your craft by hearing how your compositions work in practice, and so we offer opportunities for every piece of music you write to be performed and recorded.

Programmes available in:

Postgraduate Diploma: Advanced Studies

How You Will Learn

Emily Howard and students

Throughout your degree you will receive:

  • Weekly individual tuition and classes in compositional techniques
  • Tuition in electro-acoustic composition
  • Seminars involving the whole department
  • Masterclasses and seminars with visiting tutors
  • Regular Composer ‘Labs’, where you will have the opportunity to try and run through your works in progress with RNCM contemporary music ensembles.
  • Regular opportunities to have your works performed

Performance Opportunities

  •  You will regularly have your work performed in public concerts, all of which are recorded.
  • There are public concerts with the RNCM Brand New Orchestra featuring new orchestral works by student composers, which takes place three times a year
  • You will work closely with the specialist New Ensemble and other groups dedicated to the performance of new music
  • Composition students are also involved with the range of RNCM Festivals throughout the year including Chamber Music Festival, Day of Song and New Music North West

Recent Masterclasses

In recent years, student composers have worked with high profile performers and ensembles including:

  • BBC Singers
  • Manchester Camerata
  • Apollo Saxophone Quartet
  • Juice Vocal Ensemble
  • Christopher Fox, composer
  • HK Gruber, composer
  • Clare Hammond, pianist

The RNCM’s regular Composer Festivals have attracted celebrated composers including Louis Andriessen, Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Magnus Lindberg, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and Judith Weir, all of whom have worked with Composition students.

Recent School Highlights (2017/18)

  • Amir Konjani (PhD) wrote the music for The Silent Child, which won a 2018 Oscar for Best Short Film.
  • BMus (Hons) student Grace Evangeline Mason had her work River performed at the BBC Proms 2017.
  • Visiting Professor in Composition, Gary Carpenter, will be featured in a portrait CD of orchestral works with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.
  • Senior Lecturer in Composition, Emily Howard, will see her new science fiction opera: To See the Invisible premiered at the Aldeburgh Festival.
  • The RNCM Composer Focus Gilbert and Gorb will feature the past and present RNCM Heads of Composition Anthony Gilbert and Adam Gorb. It will include Adam Gorb’s new opera on the subject of the Holocaust: The Path to Heaven.
  • The PRISM New Music and Science project in March 2018 featured student composers working with scientists from Manchester Metropolitan University.


Our alumni have established highly successful international careers as award-winning composers; receiving commissions for festival, orchestral and solo works; composing for opera, music theatre and Hollywood films, and even celebrating as Cultural Olympiad composers. Examples of some of the School’s notable alumni include:

Sally Beamish: Celebrated British composer with works performed by leading artists, orchestras and ensembles worldwide

Sir Harrison Birtwistle: (Royal Manchester College of Music) Leading world-wide figure in contemporary music

Martin Butler: Professor of Music at the University of Sussex and pianist with the new music/ improvisatory group Notes Inegales

Alison Cox: Head of Composition at the Purcell School; founder and co-director of The Commonwealth Resounds

Larry Goves: Critically-acclaimed new music composer and RNCM Tutor

Simon Holt: Composer in Association at the BBC National Orchestra of Wales

Emily Howard: UBS Composer in Residence in conjunction with the London Symphony Orchestra

Sir Peter Maxwell Davies: (Royal Manchester College of Music) Award-winning composer; Master of the Queen’s Music 2004 – 14

Peter Meechan: Musical Associate with Foden’s Band, and Composer in Residence at The Band of the Coldstream Guards

Ailís Ní Ríain: Contemporary classical composer and writer for stage

Benjamin Wallfisch: An Emmy, Ivor Novello and multiple World Soundtrack Award nominated composer and conductor

Gavin Higgins: Composer in Residence at Ballet Rambert, works widely performed including Last Night of the Proms

Recent alumni gaining considerable success in the new music world include Michael Betteridge, Laura Bowler, Steven Daverson, Daniel Kidane, Lucy Pankhurst, Matthew Sergeant and Duncan Ward.

Composition Staff

Head of School
Professor Adam Gorb MA, MMus, ARAM, FRNCM, PhD

Tutors in Composition
Dr Laura Bowler BMus, MMus, PhD
Professor Gary Carpenter LRAM, ARCM
Professor Adam Gorb MA, MMus, ARAM, FRNCM
Dr Larry Goves BMus, MPhil, PhD
Dr David Horne BMus, PhD
Professor Emily Howard MA, MMus, PhD
Paul Patterson FRAM, FRSA, FRNCM

Visiting Tutors in Composition
Simon Bainbridge FRCM, Hon RAM
Tim Garland
Andy Scott
Mark Simpson

Tutor in Electro-Acoustic Composition
Dr Thomas Scott GRNCM, MusB, MusM, PhD

What Our Students Say

Website composition2 R

The School of Composition is a very friendly, open and accommodating department. You feel appreciated no matter your style of music – it’s just a matter of quality. I really enjoy collaborating with RNCM instrumentalists; those that I have worked with have been absolutely terrific. People are very open to playing new music – if you spend 10 or 20 minutes in a corridor you can probably get someone to play your piece!
Eldad Diamant
BMus (Hons) Composition 2017

Read more about our students and recent alumni on our student stories page.

Further Information

Click here to read more about the audition process and audition requirements
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