Composer mentoring programme

Our composer mentoring programme – Writing for music education – provides emerging UK-based composers with opportunities to develop their skills in writing to a brief, exploring the many opportunities that exist for composers working in educational settings, whether writing for a school orchestra, community choir, graded exam syllabus or online resource. Composers on the programme receive dedicated mentoring from leading educational composers, as well as specialist support from educators and ABRSM staff as they complete a series of compositional tasks.

Participants also benefit from opportunities to meet and establish connections with our partner organisations, including the National Open Youth Orchestra, National Children’s Orchestras of Great Britain, National Youth Jazz Orchestra and many more.

The 2023 programme

This year’s programme runs for six months from September 2023 to February 2024.

Recruited in partnership with the Ivors Academy, Black Lives in Music and the Musicians’ Union, this year’s composers (pictured below, from left to right) are Kassia Bailey, Fraz Ireland, Louise Drewett, Frederick Viner, Lillie Harris and José Guillermo Puello. Find out more about each composer below.

In partnership with:

Composers on the 2023 programme

Fraz Ireland is a composer, performer and music engraver. Often with a playful approach, Fraz’s work explores connections between score, performers, and audience through incorporation of text, video, drawings, or perhaps an evocative title or a story shared in rehearsal. Current and recent projects include a piece with Blackheath Choir as part of the Adopt a Music Creator Scheme, a choose-your-own-adventure style piano solo as part of Psappha’s composing for... scheme, and a brass fanfare commissioned by Help Musicians that was performed in St Paul’s Cathedral. Fraz also runs a biannual night-time broadcast marking the hour changes in October and March, which offers a surreal night-time sonic perambulation through time and imaginary landscapes.

“It’s great to have this opportunity to focus on writing music for conversations and experiences at the start of musical journeys and I’m looking forward to being a part of the programme.”

Frederick Viner is a multi award-winning composer and pianist. Among his accolades are 1st prize at the RNS 'Mozarts of Tomorrow' Competition, 1st prize in William Howard's Love Song Composing Competition and the prestigious NCEM Young Composers Award. He has had residencies with Sage Gateshead's Young Sinfonia and Eton College, and has been featured in Choir & Organ and EPTA magazines. His music has been published by Banks and UYMP and has been performed around the globe, including by renowned pianists such as Vestard Shimkus, Vadim Chaimovich and Denis Zhdanov, and groups such as the RNS, RTWSO and Tallis Scholars.

Viner also hosts a popular YouTube channel centred on music analysis and piano music – well-known and obscure repertoire alike. His videos have been featured by Classic FM and have amassed more than 2.5 million views.

“Ever since I started composing, I have had an insatiable passion for educational music. Writing pieces which are technically approachable and instructional - but which do not compromise on depth - is a ceaselessly rewarding endeavour. This is why I am so excited and honoured to have been selected for the mentoring scheme. I cannot wait to hone my skills under the guidance of some of music education's finest composers!”

José Guillermo Puello is a composer from the Dominican Republic based in Manchester. He completed his master’s and PhD in Composition at the University of Manchester in 2010 and 2015, respectively. His compositional practice draws from Latin American music and culture as well as history and other art-forms. Jose Guillermo has written for the concert hall, theatre, dance and podcasts. His music has been performed in the UK, Europe, Canada, USA and the Dominican Republic by different ensembles, including Manchester Camerata (2010), National Youth Orchestra of Dominican Republic (2014), Manchester Chamber Choir (2016) and Opera North (2022). It has also been programme at various festivals including soundscape 2014, Linea, Blancas y Ondas 2014, North West New Music Festival 2013 and Atlantic Music Festival 2011. Puello won the Dominican Cultural Personality of the Year and the Dominican National Music Prize in 2011 and 2017, respectively.

Beyond the concert hall, Puello has collaborated on theatre and dance projects, including The return (HOME, 2017), Omega (Wireless Theatre Company, 2019), Lonely cities (Cohan Collective, 2017), Legacy (Royal Exchange Theatre, 2019), There’s no Planet B (Deli Theatre, 2021), Rock, Paper, Scissor (Sheffield Theatres, 2022) and Dream School (The Space, 2023).

“The programme looks fantastic. I'm particularly interested in understanding ABRSM's grade criteria and using them to create new works in collaboration with the partner organisations.”

Kassia Bailey is a Glasgow-based queer composer whose love of stories – past, future, fiction or truth – finds a home in her programmatic musical style. Intertwining contemporary practice with historical styles and influences, she delights in works that cherry-pick past and present techniques to create a sound world all its own.

Originally from London, Kassia first honed her compositional skills under the guidance of Darren Bloom at the junior department of Trinity Laban Conservatoire, winning their composition award. Kassia has since continued her studies in Glasgow under the mentorship of Oliver Seale and Bekah Simms at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, where she is pursuing her MMus degree.

“I am overjoyed to have been accepted into this project, and I look forward to exploring the myriad possibilities of writing within education while collaborating with the partner organisations.”

Lillie Harris is a contemporary classical composer based in the UK. She studied at the Royal College of Music with Haris Kittos and was awarded the Elgar Memorial Prize for her final composition portfolio.

Musical from a young age, her interest in composing grew out of learning instruments, a flair for languages, and a love of creative writing; as a result, narrative ideas and complex emotions are regular features in her pieces. In recent years her twin passions for text and music have come together in the form of new choral and vocal works, including recent song cycles for children’s voices commissioned by Warwick: A Singing Town, and Glyndebourne, East Sussex Music, and Berwick Church.

Outside of composition, she writes the user manual for Steinberg’s notation software Dorico, sings with Covent Garden Chorus, and does engraving and copying work for music publishers and recording sessions.

“I'm really excited to learn more about writing music that is engaging and achievable for musicians at various stages of learning, and to benefit from the wealth of knowledge and experience that ABRSM and the programme mentors have in this particular area of the music-making ecosystem.”

Photo credit Sam Walton

Louise Drewett (b.1989) is a British composer, based in London. ‘Clearly a talent with a very distinct sensibility’ (The Telegraph), Louise writes music that draws on her formative experience working with community choirs. Her work has been commissioned and performed by ensembles and institutions including the London Symphony Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the International Guitar Foundation, EXAUDI, Festival Chorus, St Marylebone Festival and St Luke’s Music Society. Louise’s community opera, ‘Daylighting’, commissioned by the Royal Academy of Music for their 200th Anniversary, was nominated for an Ivor Novello Award at the Ivors Composer Awards 2022.

Louise is a lecturer in composition at the Royal Academy of Music, and co-directs Sing Healthy, a charity that runs community choirs in Berkshire. Louise has had long-term collaborations with poet Clare Shaw, writing works for voices and choirs, and with theatre company Arbonauts, writing for productions at Inside Out Dorset and Latitude festivals. Louise studied on a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music, where she was Manson Fellow in 2021-2022, and was awarded the 2018 and 2019 Charles Lucas Composition Prizes. Her study was supported by a Countess of Munster Musical Trust Award and a Vaughan Williams Bursary from the RVW Trust.

“I am grateful for this opportunity to gain insights and experience in writing educational music through the support and mentorship offered by ABRSM and partner organisations. I see music education and community music making as important aspects of my work, and through this programme, I look forward to furthering my understanding of how I can best creatively contribute to these settings.”

Photo credit Chelsey Browne

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