Young Composer Award

The Young Composer Award is an annual national competition providing young Australian composers the rare opportunity to compose for a full orchestra then have their new work performed, and recorded live, by the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra and Choir.

This prestigious award is in its 20th year and has been a springboard for a generation of composers. In addition to prize money, the recipient gains valuable experience and contacts refining their original score alongside a respected conductor and accomplished orchestra.

Hosted by Willoughby Symphony Orchestra, the orchestra gratefully acknowledges benefactor Mark Wakely’s generous support of the award in memory of Steven Alward.

The Young Composer Award winner will receive:

  • a cash prize of $5,000
  • two premiere performances of the winning composition with the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra and Choir.

There will also be awarded:

  • a Highly Commended Award receiving $1500 (without a performance)
  • an Encouragement Award receiving $500 (without a performance).

Cash prizes are not transferable.


To enter, applicants must be:

  • under the age of 30 (born on or after 1 January 1994)
  • an Australian citizen
  • currently residing in Australia.

Submission criteria

The composition/score submitted must be:

  1. a new, original composition never before performed, workshopped or published
  2. no longer than ten (10) minutes duration.

Under the competition guidelines, requirements for including or highlighting certain instruments in the winning composition will change each completion year.  

For entries made now for 2024, use the following instrumentation in your composition:

  • 2 flutes (Fl. 2 can doub. picc.)
  • 2 oboes (Ob. 2 can doub. cor anglais)
  • 2 clarinets (Cl. 2 can doub. bass clarinet)
  • 2 bassoons (Ba. 2 can doub. contra bassoon)
  • 4 horns
  • 2 trumpets
  • 3 trombones
  • Timpani
  • 2 percussion
  • Strings: (
  • SATB Choir

Please note that submissions that use instruments not stipulated in this list will not be considered and percussion should only be standard orchestral percussion instruments

Previous First Prize winners of the Willoughby Symphony Young Composer Awards cannot apply.

Entry deadline

Entries must be received by 5pm, Monday 22 January 2024. Winners will be notified mid-February.

Performance information

The world premiere performance of the selected composition will take place on Saturday 20 April 2024 at 7pm and Sunday 21 April 2024 at 2pm by the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra during their concert Emperor. The concert is to be conducted by acclaimed conductor Luke Spicer.

Application guidelines

  • Application is free of charge
  • Entrants are required to complete all applications online.
  • Score submissions should be in PDF format and labelled “LastName_FirstName_Title.pdf
  • Please submit audio recording as an .mp3 file, must not to exceed 25mb. Label file as “LastName_FirstName_Title.mp3
  • Scores should include a title page listing:
    • Name
    • Date of birth
    • Contact details (phone, email, address)
  • Do not include your name or any other identifiable material on any pages of score (other than the title page).
  • Please submit an audio recording (from your music notation software) as an .mp3 file, not to exceed 25mb in size. Label file as “LastName_FirstName_Title.mp3"

Apply now

The prize will be adjudicated by three industry experts.  Entrants will be judged anonymously, and no correspondence will be entered into by the panel chaired by Dr Daniel Rojas and entrants.

The award winner must be available to attend at least one rehearsal prior to the performance, to workshop and make additional changes as required and be present at a performance. The winner must provide Willoughby Symphony with a typeset score and parts for their composition no later than 1 Month prior to the rehearsal period.

The winner and runner up will be featured in publicity to promote the Award, Performance, and Symphony Orchestra, and may be required to participate in media interviews, photo shoots or video recordings. The winner and runner up may feature on websites, social media, in hard copy publications and other promotional material. The recording of the winner’s work may be shared with media for broadcast and publication.

Enquiries regarding entry or conditions should be directed to or by phoning 02 9777 7634 

2023 Award winner

Congratulations to Klearhos Murphy, the winner of the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra’s Young Composer’s Award for 2023!

The world premiere performance of his composition took place on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 May 2023 during the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra concert Dedications. The concert was conducted by the acclaimed Associate Conductor Dr Sarah Penicka-Smith.

Young Composer Award ~ Klearhos Murphy - Prayer for Makronissos
Highly Commended Award ~ Paul Nicolaou - and those of us so small beneath the stars
Encouragement Award ~ Alexander Maltas - He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven