Workshop Leaders

Kirsty Devaney – Founder of YCP

 Role at YCP?
 I set YCP up when I left the Conservatoire in 2013, due to noticing a lack of composing opportunities for young people in the UK. Although composing is done in schools I found it was often directed by examination requirements and these were restricting creativity. Therefore I wanted to create a place that young music creators could come to experiment and explore new ideas with limited restrictions but in an environment that was supportive and welcoming.

How did you get into composing?
I started arranging music before composing my own. I was in my school orchestra and noticed that the music wasn’t arranged very well for our ensemble size and the abilities. Therefore I arranged music that reflected the abilities of the individuals so that those who were confident could be challenged, and those who had less experience in playing could play something they felt confident with. This then lead to composing my own music for the group. I also started more through doing GCSE and A-Level composing. 

What do you enjoy composing? 
A lot of my composing work involves composing with and for young and non-professional ensembles. In 2011 I was shortlisted for a British Composer Award for music for amateur ensembles. I have also started to explore freedom and improvisation in my music, for example giving a performer the pitches but not the rhythms. 

Minifact: I have a phobia of red jelly…


Composition Mentors

YCP pic - Geogre West

George West

Course/Year: BMus 3 Composition

Hometown: Tamworth

How did you get into composing? The short version of the story is that I was trying to impress a girl I fancied back in high school and I took up the saxophone. Somewhere along the line I started to experiment by mashing musical material together and arranging music for my school band. Eventually I started to write my own music..

What music are you currently working on? I’m writing 17 pieces this year to highlight global issues people might not be aware of. These pieces reflect the 17 Sustainable Development Goals outlined by the UN. Check them out here:

What has been your most memorable musical/composing experience? The premier of my first orchestral piece ‘Naija’ was memorable for a number of reasons. It was the first piece to be played in a public concert in the then newly built concert hall, for a rather unconventional orchestration including a harpsichord, accordions, saxophones, recorders and more! Importantly it was a sonic consolidation of my time spent volunteering in Nigeria, it was a real challenge to try and convey the experiences and relationships I had during my 3 months in this wonderfully vibrant country.

What do you find challenging? I find it really challenging to condense an idea into both a workable and true concept for a performance. It’s often quite difficult to crack the puzzle of how something will work best, but it’s so rewarding when everything seemingly clicks into place and you fill up with this giddy feeling. Never gets old!

Minifact:I love to travel! Moreover I love to volunteer internationally, it’s so rewarding to work with people from different cultures and walks of life. This summer I spent 10 weeks volunteering in Costa Rica. My biggest piece of advice to young composers is to travel as much as you can!

joshJoshua Dowling

Course/Year: BMus in Music Technology & Composition Year Three

Hometown: Bromley

How did you get into composing? I began composing when I first had piano lessons. Like many people, I started by improvising and writing short pieces. Later on I attended a BBC Composer Inspire day, which sparked an interest in studying composition after sixth form. At the time I was also passionate about music technology having studied the subject for A level. This led me to combine both interests and now I have one to one lessons based around production, live performance with electronics and composition.

What music are you currently working on? I am currently composing a work for piano and tape for a friend’s third year recital. The idea of this collaboration is that we both benefit; I get to explore the use of technology in live performance and she fulfills the requirement of performing a contemporary piece. I plan on using methods borrowed from Parametricism, a style of modern architecture and design to structure my music, develop material and place sounds surround in the recital hall.

Minifact: I am a middle distance runner. I run for two clubs Blackheath and Bromley and London Frontrunners. I enjoy competing on track and in cross-country races. This October I am excited to be running the Birmingham Half Marathon!


Rob 41221151570_e207630249_o (1)Rob Roberts

Course/Year: 4th Year BMus

Hometown: Marple, (on the outskirts of Manchester)

How did you get into composing? I started composing in the 2nd year of sixth form college when my teacher recommended i should give it a go

What music are you currently working on? I’m currently working on a piece for Guitar and Loop Pedals, a piece for Symphony Orchestra and also a set of pieces for my major project… an underwater concert

What has been your most memorable musical/composing experience? My favourite moment of a piece i have written was when I wrote a piece that allowed the audience to decide on things that happen during a piece such as what instruments actually play, what style the music is in, who should do a solo, and how the piece should end. Audiences can be so predictable and of course they chose for the performers to leave the stage to end the piece.

What do you enjoy about composing? What do you find challenging? My favourite part of composing is coming up with the ideas whether they be simple or slightly crazy, the tough part for me is getting it scored out and developed to be interesting.

Minifact: I’m a trained scuba diver and have spent over 20 hours underwater (1 of which was playing trombone)

Oliver Mack

Course/Year: BMus3

Hometown: Gateshead

How did you get into composing? I played the violin since I was 8, and as I learned more about music I started to explore what I could do with it. Eventually, I stumbled upon composition through school and I loved it! From there I came to the conservatoire and have been doing it ever since.

What music are you currently working on? I’m working on a piece for Javanese Gamelan, A piece for solo voice and I am soon to be working on a piece for the BCMG.

What has been your most memorable musical/composing experience? In my first year I composed a piece for a Canadian ensemble that were doing a tour through the UK. They opened a competition for compositions and they workshopped quite a few and they chose mine to be one of winners! They played it in Montreal which was a very exciting opportunity.

What do you enjoy about composing? What do you find challenging? I enjoy exploring the unknown in each of my compositions and incorporating the things I like from the world around me. I always find it challenging when I start a brand new composition as I struggle to find material I am happy with.

Minifact about you:I used to busk in Newcastle city centre – I would sing and play the guitar!


Maarten BenschopFoto Maarten

Course/Year: BMus 3

Hometown: Voorburg, The Netherlands

How did you get into composing? By noodling around on the guitar you stumble upon little ideas. When I was 19 I felt it high time to assemble them into a complete piece of music.

What has been your most memorable musical/composing experience? I entered a jazz concours with a band in 2011 and arranged a surprising version of In a a sentimental mood by Duke Ellington and even though we didn’t win, the experience was massively inspiring and made me more hungry to try and write my own complete work.

Minifact: I love Formula 1 and cars but I don’t have a driver’s license.


 James Abel

Course/Year: 2nd year composition

Hometown: Ludlow, Shropshire

How did you get into composing? I really enjoyed it during my GCSE’s and A levels. I realised I was spending more of my time at collage composing then doing actual A level work.

What music are you currently working on? I’m currently working on a few projects; one for a large ensemble, an orchestral project which is exciting, and just a few bits and bobs for my portfolio.

What has been your most memorable musical/composing experience? My most memorable composing experience would defiantly be the piece I did with the Leap ensemble for YCP.

What do you enjoy about composing? What do you find challenging? I enjoy the challenges it provides me when working on a piece. All the decisions I have to make in order to finish a piece interest me. Also, the eventual performance of a piece is enjoyable because you get to witness something that has only existed in your head and on paper for a long time, but has then taken off as a performance for people to enjoy.

Minifact: I’m a Hufflepuff.

Regular Visiting Musicians & Composers

Joe Cutler – Head of Composition at Birmingham Conservatoire

Joe Cutler

Role at YCP:
Joe visits YCP 1-2 times a year to give composing masterclasses and small group tuition during the full scheme. Joe also talks to the students each year about studying composition in Higher Education and what to expect in a composition interview and studying at a music Conservatoire. 

How did you get into composing?
Initially I just distracted myself with doodling in the violin and piano when  I should have been practising, and that developed into composing actual piece. Then at University I really began to take it seriously.

What do you love about composing?
I love the moment when a piece you’ve been struggling with, suddenly clicks into place!

Judith Robinson

Judith R

Role at YCP:
Judith works for Sound and Music, an organisation aiming to ‘maximise the opportunities for people to create and enjoy new music.’ Judith comes to visit YCP to talk to the group about how Sound and Music can support their composing development including the Sound and Music Summer School.


Peter Bell

Role at YCP: Peter was a mentor for 2 years and is our electronics m


aster! He will be coming back to YCP leading an intro session on electronic music and supporting a small group to produce some music for the YCP concert through the year.

What has been your most memorable musical/composing experience? In my second year at the conservatoire I was very lucky to be able to write the music for one of Birmingham School of Acting’s shows (Romeo and Juliet), which was great fun and I got to play around with lots of folk music.

What do you enjoy about composing? What do you find challenging? I really enjoy the process of discovering a piece as I write it. Pieces never turn out exactly how I think they will when I start writing them, but I love finding out what the finished piece is like. Sometimes I’ll get stuck for ages on piece and it find it really challenging to find the approach or idea that solves the problem, though it’s really satisfying once I’ve solved it.

Minifact: I play in a Ceilidh Band


Gathering Tides – Guest Band

Gathering Tides are a band made from current and past RBC students. The band have a completely fresh approach to traditional and contemporary music from around the world. Weaving together folk, jazz, rock and more, this young and innovative band transcend genre labels. Dan Cippico (bass) was a YCP mentor for YCP last year and will be coming back with the band to work with a small group of students to co-compose new pieces. Shot 2018-10-10 at 12.06.21


Past Guest Composers include: