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…


YCP pic - Geogre West

George West – Co-Leader

Course/Year: Year 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!

 James Abel – Co-Leader

Course/Year: 3rd 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.

Composition Mentors

Name: Millicent James.                           FB_IMG_15717580629933938

Course/Year: 3rd year Composition

Hometown: Biddulph, Staffordshire

How did you get into composing? I was about 10 and after hearing video game soundtracks such as the Legend of Zelda, Super Mario and Kirby’s Dreamland, I started to rewrite the pieces down using my Yamaha keyboard. I wanted rather than to rearrange someone else’s pieces but to create my own.

What music are you currently working on? Currently working on an orchestral project, some small ensemble pieces a few vocal tracks to go with my EP I’m putting together and a few other surprises.

What has been your most memorable musical/composing experience? My most memorable musical/composing experience was the first time hearing my music played by real musicians which happened in October 2017 (my first year at RBC). My eyes lit up and my heart began to pound as I finally realized just how much I loved hearing my ideas come to life in front of me (I still have the same little spark reaction now – sounds so childish but it makes me really happy).

What do you enjoy about composing? Through composing, I’ve been able to connect more with my identity as a Black Female Composer. I’ve become more confident and stronger in myself which is really nice to see how far I’ve come since my first year. I am taking hold of this freedom to explore this sound world I’ve been creating.

What do you find challenging? Sometimes it can be really difficult to translate down into dots on a page the sound I hear in my head. It can be a bit frustrating sometimes, especially when you hit a blank wall and just stare into the void wondering where your idea is going to go from there. However, once you overcome this block it can be really exciting. For example with one of my current pieces I’m writing, I’ve had this particular theme going round my head for about 5 months now and only just found the current place where it works really nicely. A true moment of EUREKA!!

Minifact about you: I like to play video games (if that wasn’t clear already) and I like watching films too. My favourite animated film is either Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse or Studio Ghibli’s Spirited Away. My favourite video game is The Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild.


Name: Catherine (Cat) Mole

Course: 2nd Year Bmus Composition

Hometown: Mickfield, Suffolk

How did you get into composing? Though GCSE music, A level and then taking part in YCP a few years ago then confirmed for me that composition is something I want to pursue in my future.

What music are you currently working on? Musical performance combined with a visual aspect, that being movement or graphic scores.

What has been your most memorable musical/composing experience? Composing for the Orchestra of the Swan as the commission project in the composition department at RBC.

What do you enjoy about composing? What do you find challenging? I enjoy the freedom of composition meaning that I can write for whatever ensemble I want as well as composing in any style that I want. A big challenge for me is having confidence in my own music.

Minifact about you: Spaghetti Bolognaise is my favorite food. (sometimes it’s Hoola Hoops)

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

FolkPicaster! 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


Past Guest Composers include: