Compose Yourself provides advanced in-school and out-of-school composition classes to high school age musicians interested in exploring music composition on a deeper level.

Compose Yourself is a perfect extension for high schools with existing instrumental or vocal music programs.

A picture of young ACO composers with composer Mark Adamo

Program structure

  • Serves high school students
  • Student-produced and performed readings are a point of pride for the entire school community
  • Students create using any musical language or style (musical theater, jazz, rock, hip hop, experimental, folk, world music, classical and beyond)
  • Side-by-side readings with professional musicians from ACO
  • Participating students have access to ACO dress rehearsals and featured composers

Student Achievements

  • 11 CY students have won a total of 21 national young composer competitions​
  • 16  have been finalists or honorable mentions in national young composer competitions​
  • 2 have had works featured on NY Philharmonic Family Concerts​
  • All of our graduates have been accepted to their first-choice college
  • Compose Yourself is the first step in ACO’s composer advancement pipeline!
"The Compose Yourself program has opened my mind to new ways to interpret and listen to music.”
Che Buford, Compose Yourself Alum
Boston Conservatory, Columbia University
“Since her first semester, [the] class has been [her] musical haven… I also value how this is a musical community… And as an added bonus, her classmates unfailingly inspire her.”
Compose Yourself Parent

Featured school

Talent Unlimited High School Manhattan
(Compose Yourself)
Education Director Kevin James conducts a student's piece of music with professional musicians


Music students from TU meet after school for classes with ACO Teaching Artist Fabian Beltran, 10 weeks each semester. For many of the students, their final project is their first composition. The students learn healthy and open attitudes toward creativity and are guided through the process of planning and scoring, including the basics of all the instruments and professional approaches to notation. As they near completion of their projects, they plan rehearsals, recruit musicians among their peers and produce a workshop and showcase of their new works for an audience of family members and their own school community. Students who want to pursue composition advance to enrollment in ACO's more ambitious, tuition-based Compose Yourself program. Many of those students continue to benefit from their Compose Yourself affiliation long after leaving High School. TU graduate and Compose Yourself PRO member Che Buford is the current Presidential Scholar at Boston Conservatory. Che has won several high profile composition competitions in the last year alone.


  • For creative students and those with a need to express themselves, Compose Yourself is where they find their tribe
  • Enhanced listening and leadership skills among Compose Yourself students raises level and expectations in all the ensembles where they are active
  • Student-produced workshop and concert provides an outlet for composers and performers alike to showcase initiative and artistry, building pride in the community and confidence among 
all individuals who take part

For Parents and Students

Compose Yourself is for ambitious high schoolers wishing to learn to compose their own music.

We help young composers develop habits of creativity and learn professional skills in a supportive, hands-on environment. The program has a strong record of preparing its students for the rigors of college and beyond.

Students learn to develop a strong creative process, an artistic voice of their own, and a healthy approach to their craft.

Open to: 9th-12 graders (14-18yr olds) (advanced 8th graders may inquire)

For Schools and Organizations

ACO believes in partnership – we work closely with all of our partners to assure the deepest impact and closest possible alignment with the goals and missions of both our communities.

ACO Provides

  • Trained, experienced Teaching Artists who are active professional performers and composers
  • Program oversight and administrative support, including coordination of personalized planning and program evaluation
  • Field trips and guest artist opportunities

Our Partners Provide

  • Students!
  • A consistent, enthusiastic classroom teacher to
    be present and participate alongside the students
  • Necessary instruments or supplies – these expenses are usually small, and ACO can often arrange for donations or discounts
  • Evaluation information and student data, such as comparative attendance, academic and social performance statistics
Interested in exploring a partnership at your school?