The Choral Arts Laboratory is an annual commissioning and residency program, begun in 2003, which is designed to give American composers under the age of 35 the opportunity to work with the professional singers of Volti during the compositional process. The composer is invited not only to create a work for the ensemble, but to develop the composition in a workshop setting. The composer is then given more time to work out issues discovered during rehearsal with the singers, as well as during consultations with Artistic Director Robert Geary and Volti’s longtime Resident Composer, Mark Winges. This collaboration culminates in the world-premiere performances given by Volti during the regular concert season.

What makes Volti’s Choral Arts Laboratory program so unique is that over an extended period of time, you learn the finer points of writing for a great choir that loves new music, with a conductor and resident composer who really care about the process. You are allowed to try different options, see what works and what doesn’t work, refine what you write the first time around and get it right for the premiere. I cannot think of a better program than this one, in North America or anywhere else, for honing your craft as a composer of choral music. This was one of the most important educational experiences I have ever had as a composer.
Robert Paterson, 2004/05 CAL composer

Volti is the kind of choir I always hoped existed but until now had never encountered: a group of extremely smart musicians, dedicated exclusively to new music, in search of genuinely new compositional voices. They program some daring (not to mention difficult) repertoire, and the singers themselves are proud of their work and their unique place in the music community here.
Ted Hearne, 2009/10 CAL composer

Each year composers from around the U.S. apply to Volti for this opportunity. Nearly all of the states have been represented over the eleven years of this program, which usually attracts 40 to 50 applications each year.  Peter Knell, Robert Paterson, Eric Lindsay, Amy Beth Kirsten, George Lam, Ruby Fulton, Ted Hearne, Matthew Barnson, Francisco Cortés-Álvarez, Dan Visconti, Melissa Dunphy, LJ White,  Ryan Brown and Tonia Ko are past CAL composers.

This season’s CAL composer is Jack HughesJack is a PhD student in music at the University of Chicago, where he studied during the 2014-15 academic year with Shulamit Ran and the 2015-16 academic year with Marta Ptaszynska. We are very much looking forward to his music at the upcoming CAL workshop in January and at the premiere in May.


One composer will be invited to compose an a cappella work for professional chamber choir for performances in the 2017/18 season. The residency will also include:

  • consultation with Artistic Director Robert Geary
  • initial presentation of piece and reading sessions (to be recorded) with
  • Volti, followed by mentoring sessions with Mr. Geary and Resident Composer Mark Winges, and a period for revisions
  • workshop sessions with Volti during the week prior to the premiere
  • premiere performances in San Francisco and Berkeley during main season, professionally recorded (composer will receive CD of the entire concert)
  • Volti will pay travel costs and provide accommodations as necessary.


Composer must not have reached 35th birthday by January 1, 2017, and must live within the United States. Applicants should submit:

  • Completed application form (click to download PDF)
  • 1 to 2 page (maximum) bio/c.v.
  • 2 recent scores, one of which must incorporate the human voice (recordings recommended but not required)
  • cover letter describing the artistic goals of C.A.L. to applicant (what he/she hopes to achieve/learn during the residency
  • SASE for return of materials (optional); SAS postcard to confirm receipt of materials (optional).
  • Application materials must be postmarked by January 3, 2017, and should be sent to the address below. Incomplete applications will not be accepted.


Applicants will be notified of selection after June 1, 2017. At that time an initial exploration of the parameters for the piece will take place between Mr. Geary and the selected composer. If selected, composer agrees to provide a draft score of the new work (or an excerpt of the work that will be read at the first CAL workshop session) by September 15, 2017.

For more information, email us at

Send application materials to:
Volti / CAL
PO Box 15576
San Francisco CA 94115-0576.