SMCC is an intense experience for composers in the magical and inspiring surroundings of the Orkney Islands and is directed by composers Alasdair Nicolson and Sally Beamish.
The course includes opportunities to hear, meet and work with professional musicians performing at St Magnus International Festival and, in addition to writing a substantial work for The Assembly Project, students will also benefit from sessions with visiting performers including Rafal Luc accordion, and the BBC SINGERS. This year will also see workshops with Hear My Music looking at mixed media and ability performance. The SMCC also offers students the opportunity to participate in a seminar with the Festival Artistic Director, visiting artists and orchestral managers. Individual tuition gives each composer the chance to present scores to both Course Directors, allowing for critical comment and feedback on a one-to-one basis as well as regular play-through sessions with the ensemble.


Running concurrently with the Orkney Conductors’ Course, the course provides a unique opportunity for the student composers to collaborate with eight emerging professional conductors. There is also a collaborative workshop with the Orkney Writers’ Course. Students are offered complimentary tickets to many Festival performances.

Individual tuition gives each composer the chance to present scores to both Course Directors, allowing for critical comment and feedback on a one-to-one basis.

New works will be developed and rehearsed with the Assembly Project and performed at the St Magnus International Festival Composers’ Concert. Each composer’s work will be conducted in the final performance by an Orkney Conductors’ Course participant and a recording of the resulting Festival Concert will be available to students on completion of the course.


Sessions will include:

  • One-to-one tuition by the course directors
  • Presentation/discussion of participants’ music
  • Rehearsal and Festival performance of participants’ work by the Festival Ensemble
  • Workshops with Rafal Luc and the BBC Singers
  • Interactive workshop with Orkney Writers’ Course
  • Seminars on score presentation and promotion
  • Workshop with Hear my Music
  • Interaction with Orkney Conductors’ Course:  OCC conductors to conduct newly composed works in Festival performance
  • Session with Orchestra managers


How to apply

There are no age restrictions. Eight students will be accepted onto the course, for which applications must be submitted by Monday 6 March 2016. Successful applicants will be notified of the result in the week beginning 3 April, and those unsuccessful in the following week.

Applications forms may be obtained from:

Kira Hoffmann (OCC)
St Magnus International Festival
60 Victoria Street
KW15 1DN

tel +44 (0)1856 871445

or click here to email us

or download form here (Word format) or here (pdf format)


  • Two contrasting scores
  • An audio recording of one of the scores submitted


Course fee: £690

The fee includes:

  • all tuition
  • Up to 14 nights’ self-catering accommodation in Kirkwall within walking distance of the teaching spaces. (the duration of the course is 12 nights).

Students also receive:

  • free admission to some St Magnus Festival performances
  • an invitation to the opening Festival Reception

Successful candidates will be required to confirm their acceptance by paying a non-refundable deposit of £120 by 14 April and the balance of the fee will become payable by 15 May.

A small number of bursaries towards course fees may be available for talented UK candidates who might otherwise have difficulty in meeting the course fees. If you would like to be considered for a bursary, please tell us why in a covering letter.

For full details, please click here.

The deadline for applications is Monday 6th March 2017.