Bringing Musicians Together

Around the world, very few young people are learning how to compose music; this is why the Commonwealth International Composition Award was created. It is run and managed by The Commonwealth Resounds, an officially credited Commonwealth musical organisation, who work to enable collaborative educational and performance projects between UK musicians and overseas partner organisations from the Commonwealth and beyond. The awards are supported by the ABRSM along with The Purcell School. The four Commonwealth countries who are pilot partners for the compositional training programme are Antigua and Barbuda, India, Rwanda and New Zealand.

This Composition Award will not only promote the value of composition to musicians in Antigua and Barbuda but will also help us to preserve out music traditions which can now be captured on paper for all generations and for the world at large to play and enjoy!” – KarenMae Hill, Hight Commissioner of Antigua and Barbuda

Writing new music (composing) is as important and interesting as playing a musical instrument or singing. However, it is surprising that many young people around the world don’t know how to start writing music. Other may already be making up their own music, but don’t know how to write it down, find performers to play it or make a recording.

Statement from Alison Cox; Founder of The Commonwealth Resounds (TCR), Head of Music Composition and Outreach at The Purcell School:
From my 40 years of school teaching, I understand the value of composition as an important form of creative expression for young people; it is a fundamental part of the music curriculum in the UK and there are many projects and opportunities around the country for school-age composers. However, my partners and I have traveled abroad widely and we almost never see composition taught to young musicians in other countries. These concerns were shared with the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music (ABRSM), and the Purcell School for Young Musicians. In a new partnership with ABRSM, TCR has received funding to launch a pilot international composition teaching programme throughout 2019, with its administrative base at The Purcell School.

This new project, The Commonwealth International Composition Award, aims to encourage schools and music centres throughout the Commonwealth to inspire and enable young people to compose their own music. Countries already involved in the pilot programme are Antigua/Barbuda, India and Rwanda, shortly to be joined by New Zealand, Cyprus and Sri Lanka. Trusted musical organisations in each of these regions are working with groups of young composers which we are calling STARTERS (those at an elementary level). We are also identifying more experienced young composers in a wider group of countries, who are to be called FLYERS. They will all receive online support and encouragement from a team of volunteer composers in the UK, many of whom are based in the specialist music schools and conservatoires.

The official launch on The Commonwealth International Composition Award took place on April 30th in Marlborough House. The evening was hosted by BBC Radio 4 Presenter and Newsreader; Zeb Soanes. Speakers from the evening included H.E Baroness Scotland (The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth), Alison Cox, OBE (Founder and Chair of Trustees for The Commonwealth Resounds), Michael Elliott (ABRSM Chief Executive), Paul Bambrough (Principal, The Purcell School), Geoff Parkin (Artist Director, Royal Over Seas League and Patron of The Commonwealth Resounds), Daniel Spreadbury and Ben Timms (Dorico/Steinberg), H.E Karen-Mae Hill (High Commissioner of Antigua and Barbuda) and Kujit Bharma, OBE (Patron of The Commonwealth Resounds, Professional Musician).

Encouraging originality and creativity in musical composition shows the Commonwealth again nurturing innovation and inventiveness. It is particularly important for young people to be encouraged to think imaginatively and to work creatively. The language of music is international, and a profound means for individual and communal expression. The work of musical composition is a wonderful expression and embodiment of our theme this year; ‘A Connected Commonwealth’. It encourages us to explore how through Commonwealth links we can all work to build bridges of respect and understanding. I hope this new Commonwealth award will impart in fresh ways to all those who participate, and to all those who perform and listen to the compositions, the enrichment we draw from our rich diversity, as well as the strength we derive from our commonality. So i commend this new award, and look forward to hearing some wonderful new music because a Connected Commonwealth is a Composing Commonwealth!” – H.E Baroness Scotland, The Secretary-General of the Commonwealth

The evening’s performances featured music by two talented young composers; Sasha Scott and Vinthya Perinpanathan. Sasha, current student at The Purcell School, at only 17 years of age has already won multiple awards in composition which include taking 1st Prize at the North London Festival for Composition (twice), the Watford Composition Festival and the EPTA Composition
competition along with receiving the Frank Martin Memorial Trophy. Sasha has had her composition heard in venues such as the Saatchi Galley and Morley College. During the evening she performed her own composition; Tiger Teeth, with three other Purcell students; Mikako Shimatani, Hugo Max and Fiore O’Sullivan. Vinthya is a young composer currently studying at Manchester University. Before university, she attended the Sound and Music Summer School for Young Composers which ended up being a key element in her compositional development. Vinthya’s composition; Adam’s Peak,
was specially commissioned for the launch of the awards and was performed by Leonie Adams from the Dionysus Ensemble and Kuljit Bharma.

Teachers, friends and colleagues always seemed especially pleased with little melodic idea I came up with, be it for an assessed piece of work during my studies or just music I wrote for fun. To see and hear an entire piece come together from only fragments of ideas, brings me so much joy. A small motif can grow and evolve into something so unexpected.” – Vinthya Perinpanathan

If you would like to find about any more information about the Commonwealth International Composition Awards or any of the projects The Commonwealth Resounds are involved in, contact Alison Cox or Sam Buttler at

Following the launch of the Commonwealth International Composition Awards, The Purcell School was fortunate enough to play host to H.E Karen-Mae Hill (High Commissioner of Antigua and Barbuda) and Geoff Parkin (Artist Director, Royal Over Seas League and Patron of The Commonwealth Resounds). It was a pleasure showing them all the School has to offer and an incredible experience for the student composers involved in the project to meet with them and discuss outreach ideas and how the musical and composition community can grow throughout the Commonwealth.