The Very Young Composers (VYC) was developed by noted composer (and former Associate Principal Bass) Jon Deak to answer the question, "what is children's music?" VYC Teaching Artists (all of whom are professional composers and musicians) work with public school children of limited musical background as they compose their very own music for Philharmonic musicians to play – sometimes for the full Orchestra.

Students make every compositional decision and write every note, with Teaching Artists serving as mentors and scribes. VYC demonstrates children's innate creativity and provides a glimpse at the future of classical music.

VYC has exploded since its beginnings in 1995, where - once a small afterschool program - now has a global reach, serving a wide variety of educational cultures. VYC affiliate programs around the United States — in Denver and Vail, CO; Stevens Point, WI; and Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN – have developed ongoing VYC programs modeled after Jon Deak’s teachings.

Internationally, the VYC has reached children on four continents in countries including South Korea, China, Japan, Venezuela, Spain, and Finland, just to name a few. Alongside implementing a VYC program for children, South Korea is using the VYC techniques for family reconciliation and treating PTSD. The Finnish are introducing the VYC to a program called Resonaari for mentally handicapped and autistic children and adults, ages 12 to 30.

All these programs, local and international, have demonstrated that creativity knows no borders.

"Our ultimate aim is not to produce spectacular one-time concerts celebrating children's art - as laudable as these events have been. We are dedicated to learning from children, nurturing an art that takes root, flowers, and develops into a truly indigenous expression - and we are talking about small towns in Spain, the jungles of Venezuela and the mountains of Colorado or Japan, as well as in the streets and barrios of New York, San Paulo or Helsinki. Another thrilling aspect of this work is cherishing the small but detectable local differences between an instinctive, true kids' art in Seoul, Wisconsin, Asturias or Shanghai. What an incredible treasure awaits!" — Jon Deak, Young Composers Founder and Artistic Director at the New York Philharmonic

“I so enjoyed the imaginations of the young composers whose works I performed at Vail. Through the Very Young Composers program, Jon Deak and Bill Gordh [Co-Producer and narrator] have created a unique path for students to discover music, introducing them to both the art of listening and the vocabulary of music so they can create their own stories in sound.” — Yo-Yo Ma, cellist

"Very Young Composers demonstrates again and again that students are not empty vessels, but bring vital ideas, experience, and personality to learning. It forces professionally trained composers to rethink some assumptions. And it holds the promise of contributing to a great flowering of musical creativity. When the full New York Philharmonic performs children's compositions for children's audiences, the level of attention spikes, and afterward, the music from the canon of greats is far less remembered than the 10-year-old who composed about her grandmother's stories. It is a privilege and a great responsibility for us at the New York Philharmonic to nurture the evolution and dissemination of Very Young Composers." — Theodore Wiprud, Composer and Former Vice President of Education, The Sue B. Mercy Chair

Very Young Composers Programs, New York Philharmonic

Our New York City based VYC programs consists of 2 parts: Our VYC Schools program, which target children in grades 4 and 5 in the public school system, and a subsequent VYC Bridge program available for those who wish to continue exploring composition as they move into their middle school years. Both the VYC Schools and Bridge are afterschool programs.

  • Very Young Composers Schools
    Our VYC Schools program works with children grades 4 and 5 in the public school system. We send VYC Teaching Artists – all professional composers and musicians - to work with classes of 10-12 students. Our VYC Schools includes 12 two-hour long classes, scheduled afterschool during the Spring Semester. In addition to those 12 classes, individual sessions are scheduled for the Teaching Artist to work with students one-on-one, followed by a dress rehearsal and school assembly performance of the student’s composition by a professional ensemble.
  • VYC Schools Teaching Artists and their Partner Schools (2017 – 2018)
    Beata Moon, P.S. 59
    Luke Cissell, P.S. 108
    Ian Davis, P.S. 165
    Justin Hines, P.S. 199
    Angélica Negron, P.S. 11
    Daniel Felsenfeld, P.S. 39