Eric Turnnessen Composer

Sharing the Gift of Live Orchestra Performance

From the moment I began composing at age 14, having my music performed by a live orchestra was a dream of mine. When I finally had the chance to live that dream, it was a profoundly moving experience for me. Having gone through the challenges of making this dream a reality, I'm eager to pass along the gift of this experience to another talented composer who shares this same ambition.

I look forward to hearing what you come up with!

Best of luck,

Eric Turnnessen Composer

Rules of the Contest

No Previous Experience with an Orchestra

To be eligible for consideration, composers must not have had their music performed by a live orchestra with more than 7 musicians, excluding school orchestras below university level or a partial performance as part of a workshop. I want to provide this opportunity to those who haven't yet had the experience of hearing their music come alive through a full-scale orchestral performance.

One Submission

You're only allowed to submit one score.

34-Piece Lineup

Your score must be written for a 34-piece orchestra with the following lineup:

1st Violins (6) 2nd Violins (6) Violas (4)

Cello (4) Bass (2)

Flute (1) Oboe (1) Clarinet (1) Bassoon (1)

French Horn (2) Trumpet (2) Trombone (2)

Timpani (1) Percussion (1 player)

For percussion the following instruments are available: Suspended Cymbal, Cymbals, Snare Drum, Bass Drum, Mark Tree, Triangle, Xylophone, Glockenspiel

You're not required to use all the instruments. You should not write for any instruments that aren't in this lineup. Be mindful of logistics when writing for percussion. There's only 1 player and so they can't play two things at once and need time to move between instruments.

3 Minutes Long

Your composition will be recorded within a strict 15-minute time slot. During this time, there will be an initial rehearsal, takes of individual sections, and a final performance (curious about the process? Watch this).

Some pieces may be more complex than others. In order to be feasible to record within 15 minutes, the more complex the piece the shorter it should be. Your piece should not exceed 3 minutes in length regardless of complexity.

Produce PDF & MP3

You must be able to produce a PDF and MP3 audio mockup of your score.

Criteria for the Winning Composition

We are looking for the most musical, creative and realistically orchestrated composition that best utilizes the available orchestra lineup within the 3-minute time limit.

Music that Tells a Story

I'm drawn to music that tells a story and evokes emotions, taking me on a journey. Growing up, I was exposed to classics such as Stravinsky's Firebird, Holst's The Planets, Vivaldi's Four Seasons, and the symphonies of Mozart and Beethoven. However, what truly captured my imagination were the works of film composers like John Williams. Please don't take me sharing this to mean that I'm looking for you to copy another composer's style. Musical taste is very subjective so I'm just sharing a little about how my ears were trained. The best advice is to write something that your heart is in.

Practical Considerations

This piece will be performed by real players so a portion of the judging will be focused on practical things like:

  • Is it playable by the musicians?
  • Are the sections of the orchestra well-balanced?
  • Are there sufficient performance markings?
  • Is it composed using a program that will make it easy to print parts for the players (i.e. Sibelius, Dorico, Finale)?

1st Time with an Orchestra Composer Contest

Meet the Judges

Once all submissions have been received, I, Eric Turnnessen, will narrow down the group to a smaller pool of finalists before bringing in additional judges for the final decision. Joining in the final round will be Jack Hughes, Orchestrator Manager of the Northern Film Orchestra, and Melvin Tay, Conductor of the Northern Film Orchestra.

Prize Package

Composition Performed by the Northern Film Orchestra

The winner of the contest will have their composition performed by the Northern Film Orchestra on May 26th or 27th at The Stoller Hall in Manchester, England.

Attend the Session

The winner is invited to attend the session in-person. If that's not possible, the winner can attend the session via Zoom.

Professional Recording Setup

To capture the full scope of sound from the orchestra, a combination of up to 40 microphones will be utilized. This includes spot mics on every section for close-up detail, as well as room mics and outrigger mics to capture the unique sound of the space.

ProTools Session

The winner will receive a ProTools session file which includes all the recorded takes of their composition.

Mixed & Mastered Final Performance

The winner will receive a professionally mixed and mastered recording of the final performance of their composition.

Behind-the-Scenes Video Footage

The winner will receive video footage of the whole session captured from multiple camera angles.


Have a question? DM me on Instagram

Do we need to prepare individual parts for the instruments?

Not as part of the contest submission. To submit for the contest you just need to upload a concert score which includes all instruments. If you're selected as the winner individual parts will need to be prepared at that point.

Can my submission include instruments that aren't listed in the 34-piece lineup?

No. Scores that include instruments not a part of the 34-piece lineup will not be considered.

Watch this interview with Bryan Waters from The Cue Tube for more details about the contest.

Enter the Contest

Follow the steps below to submit your score:

  • Click the button below and provide your name and email address in the popup form.
  • Click the link in the email you receive to confirm your email address. This email will come from If you don't see the email after a couple minutes, check your spam folder or try requesting the password again and double-check you've typed in the correct email address.
  • You'll be sent the password and a link to the application form. Follow the link to the application form and enter the password provided.
  • Fill out the application and submit!