2019 Workshop Update: 

The 2019 John Ness Beck Choral Composers’ Workshop will be held in beautiful downtown Greenville, SC, June 24-27 at First Presbyterian Church. (This approach worked so well in 2017, we’re doing it again!) Faculty will include Dan Forrest and Howard Helvey, with other guest speakers TBD, and the workshop will be open to 12 participants chosen from the applicants. The workshop will include topical presentations, review of participants’ works, plentiful discussions, great meals, as well as a group dinner hosted at Dan Forrest’s home, nearby. We will add specific details below, and begin receiving applications through this webpage, in late 2018- stay tuned!

What Past Participants Are Saying…

“…I learned more about writing music in those three days than I had in the past several years.”

“…a pivotal point in my compositional career.”

“…a warm and safe environment; …highly recommended for anyone who is serious about writing sacred choral music.”

“…completely changed me as a composer…improved my skill set, increased my confidence, and fueled my motivation.”

“…one of the most productive weeks of my creative life…”

“I had the strong sense that [Dan, Craig, and Howard] were investing in me, and that their desire to develop my talent was sincere.”

“…hands-down, the best professional development investment that I have ever made…”

Past Years’ Workshop Information

2017 Choral Composers’ Workshop: Greenville, South Carolina, June 12-15


  • New Lyricists Component with Susan Boersma (Wednesday afternoon; lyricists may apply to join us for this afternoon only)
  • Special guest Joan Pinkston will present a session on her work and compositional priorities
  • Larger number of participants will be accepted
  • All workshop application pieces automatically considered for Award
  • See below for all details

NOTE: the winner of the John Ness Beck Foundation Award (awarded each spring) will receive FREE TUITION to that summer’s workshop in addition to a cash prize. Starting in 2017, all workshop application pieces will automatically be considered for the award.

2017 Workshop Information:

Faculty: Craig Courtney, Dan Forrest, and Howard Helvey, with Susan Boersma, lyricist, and Joan Pinkston, special presenter
Dates: June 12-15, 2017
Location: First Presbyterian Church, 200 W. Washington St., Greenville, SC, 29601

The John Ness Beck Foundation offers an annual workshop designed to further the art of church choral music, with the goal of furthering John Ness Beck’s vision of excellence in church choral music. The workshop will include a variety of learning formats, including master classes (discussing students’ recent works and works-in-progress), open Q/A times, presentations by our teachers of some of their own music (from a creative-process and marketability perspective), open discussion times regarding creative process, melody, accompaniments, text and text-setting, musical form/development, musical style, market/industry aspects of publishing, and more. A couple small homework assignments will also provide opportunity for meaningful discussion.  The workshop will include much opportunity for learning, but will not be overly taxing; attendees should come away creatively refreshed, not exhausted. The teaching will focus on excellence in church choral music, in general, but will also offer some specific perspective from Beckenhorst Press.

2017 Lyricists Component: Wednesday June 14, 2:00 PM- 5:00 PM. Lyricists are invited to apply; lyricists will join our composer participants for an afternoon of intensive teaching and discussion with Susan Boersma, Craig Courtney, Howard Helvey, and Dan Forrest. Sessions include lecture/teaching from Susan Boersma, open discussion with instructors regarding successful collaboration between words and music, and a masterclass-style review of 3-6 representative texts submitted by lyricist participants. Lyricists are also invited to an optional dinner (cost not included in registration) Wednesday evening, for open discussion amongst lyricists and Susan.
Lyricists interested in participating should use the application form below, but specify “lyricist”, supply poetry/text/lyrics info instead of music composition, and submit two poems/texts instead of music. (These may be text-only, or may be already set to music, published or unpublished). Acceptance decisions will be announced on the same schedule as composers, April 15, and for those accepted, a registration fee of $50 will be due by May 15.

Enrollment: For 2017 only, approximately 16-20 (composer) applicants will be accepted (instead of the usual limit of 8-12). The workshop remains committed to maximum personal interaction between participants and instructors, but the 2017 workshop will be an “open year” to allow a greater percentage of applicants to participate. Craig, Dan, and Howard will be in residence for the entire length of the workshop. (A small number of attendees from prior years may also be auditing the workshop.) Composers will also participate in, and benefit from, the lyricsts’ afternoon, in discussions of collaboration with living lyricsts. Networking is encouraged!

2017 Tuition Cost (Composers): $750. Attendees will also need to make their own arrangements for travel. GSP airport (recommended) is approximately 20 minutes away. Aloft Hotel, across the street from First Presbyterian Church, has provided a workshop rate of $139 per night (two queens or one king); details will be given to attendees. (Other hotels are available within walking distance, and those with transportation are welcome to book other hotels in Greenville if desired.) Numerous restaurants are within reasonable walking distance, as well. We will facilitate communication between attendees in advance, to carpool for rides to/from airport, etc., and/or share cost of hotel rooms or rental cars, if desired.

The workshop begins and ends with group dinners at no charge to attendees. The opening dinner (Monday evening) will serve as a time of introductions/orientation, and the closing dinner (Thursday evening) will serve as a final celebration. All other meals are attendees’ financial responsibility: lunches are eaten communally in nearby restaurants with small group discussions between attendees and faculty, and dinners are on your own.

Applications are online only; please use the form below. Application deadline (for composers AND lyricists): March 31, 2017. 
For your two pieces, please submit recent works that best reflect your choral writing; we recommend that at least one of them be church music. Acceptance decisions announced shortly thereafter, and no later than April 15, 2017. Once accepted, attendees must pay the entire workshop fee in full by May 15, to ensure that all spots are filled.)

Please fill out all the following fields. All information is required.

Your Name

Your Mailing Address

Your Email

Your Phone Number (1231231234 or 123-123-1234)

What do you see as your musical/compositional strengths?

What do you see as your musical/compositional weaknesses?

What are your current goals as a choral composer, and in what ways do you believe this workshop would help you meet those goals?

Please include the following attachments:

A biographical sketch (up to one page, outlining your past musical experience/training and your current musical endeavors)

A works list (including, at least, the pieces you have written in the last 3-5 years; include performance information if pertinent, and publisher names, if published).

Two recent choral compositions (PDFs preferred)

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