Die MCO Academy at the Orchesterzentrum|NRW

News: application process for the academies 2020 and 21

The application is now open for the academies of 2020 and 2021.

Please find all information on conductors, programm and schedule here.
To apply directly, simply click here.


The MCO Academy at the Orchesterzentrum|NRW was founded in 2009 as a joint project of the Orchesterzentrum|NRW and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. The goal of the Academy is to provide students with valuable practical experience though involving them in the symphonic and chamber music projects of the MCO and thus introduce them to a career as a self-employed orchestra musician. Due to the MCO Academy’s great success, other institutions also now take part in the Academy and send students to it, for example the Jove Orquestra Nacional de Catalunya (JONC, Spain), the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM, UK), the Australian National Academy of Music (ANAM, Australia) and the Filarmónica Joven de Colombia (FJC, Columbia).

Orchestra projects
A central part of the MCO Academy is the annual rehearsal and concert phase with the Mahler Chamber Orchestra under the direction of renowned conductors. The concert programmes are always developed precisely for the objectives and needs of the MCO Academy. The selected Academy students thus become for a limited time part of a collective of musicians whose understanding of ensemble playing is based on chamber music.  At the end of every MCO Academy, concerts are held in the Konzerthaus Dortmund, in the Philharmonie Essen and in the Philharmonie Cologne.

The philosophy of the MCO is, however, also to convey music not only through concerts, but also through commitment beyond the stage. For this reason, in addition to the concert and rehearsal phases, the MCO Academy also offers chamber music workshops, tutorials, encounters with internationally renowned soloists and conductors, as well as a mentoring programme, in which the students are supported through discussions, exchanges on professional challenges and individual coaching from the MCO lecturers.

Chamber music
The MCO Academy’s orchestra projects are supplemented by chamber music workshops and concerts in smaller ensembles. The approach of performing music collectively, which particularly characterises the MCO, can be conveyed intensively to the students.

Coaching sessions, workshops and networking
Additional programs are offered depending on the options and time available and independent of the orchestra project. These include workshops on subjects such as ensemble management, audience development, music education or self-marketing. In addition, the students can attend sit-in rehearsals, in which the participants sit in the midst of the MCO during rehearsals without playing themselves, in order to be able to concentrate on taking in, listening to and experiencing the musical interaction in the orchestra. The range of additional offerings to the students is completed by meetings with the musicians and soloists, individual coaching and mentoring sessions with MCO musicians, as well as get-togethers with students from other international institutions as a platform for the expansion of the artistic network.

The MCO Academy is made possible within the framework of artist funding by the Ministry of Culture and Science of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia (Ministerium für Kultur und Wissenschaft des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen).

MCO Academy concerts

MCO Academy 2020/21

The application period for the MCO Academies 2020 and 2021 has begun. To apply for the two Academy phases, please click here.

MCO Academy 2020

Daniele Gatti | Conductor

Gustav Mahler | Sinfonie Nr. 7

11 December 2020 | Philharmonie Essen · 12 December 2020 | Konzerthaus Dortmund · 13 December 2020 | Philharmonie Cologne

Rehearsals take place between 6 and 10 December 2020 in the Orchesterzentrum|NRW.

For December 2020, the MCO is planning together with Daniele Gatti, its artistic advisor, an MCO Academy with Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 7. This late-Romantic symphony is part of the canon of masterpieces of classical music but presents great challenges for the musicians. In Daniele Gatti, the Academy has a true expert on this work. Thus, the participating students have a unique opportunity within the framework of the MCO Academy 2020 to play this work at the highest level in three excellent concert halls in NRW and with a world-class conductor.

“As Artistic Advisor of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, I enjoy witnessing how the MCO takes on responsibility by passing on their unique approach to music-making to a future generation of professional musicians. Personally, I share the MCO’s dedication for fostering new talents. The MCO Academy provides a unique opportunity to young players and I look forward to inviting them on stage to join us in Mahler’s 7th Symphony.” (Daniele Gatti, Conductor of the MCO Academy 2020)

MCO Academy 2021

George Benjamin | Conductor

George Benjamin | “Lessons in Love and Violence”

14 January 2021 | Philharmonie Cologne 16 January 2021 | Philharmonie Essen 17 January 2021 | Konzerthaus Dortmund

Rehearsals take place between 6 and 13 December 2021 in the Orchesterzentrum|NRW.

For January 2021, the MCO and OZM plan to perform George Benjamin’s opera “Lessons in Love and Violence” in Dortmund, Essen and Cologne under the direction of the composer. The celebrated premiere took place on 10 May 2018 in London in the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. “The power of the performance involves not only the intricately chiselled score, which the composer conducts himself from the rostrum, but also the collaboration between the creator and the performers, which is finely tuned down to the last note,” wrote the FAZ newspaper on the premiere at the time. Thus, the MCO Academy 2021 not only offers the students the opportunity to perform an extraordinary work but also the chance to become a part of this collaboration together with the composer and the vocalists from the premiere.

The application period for the MCO Academies 2020 and 2021 has begun. To apply for the Academy phases, please click here.

MCO Academy 2019

MCO and the Pekka Perspekktive | Shapeshifters

Lead & soloist
Pekka Kuusisto | Violin and electronic
Jorinde Keesmaat | Director, concert design

Thomas Adès (*1971) | Three Studies from Couperin (2006)
Pierre Boulez (1925-2016) | Initiale (1987)
Elliot Carter (1908-2012) | A Fantasy about Purcell's “Fantasia upon One Note” (1974)
Pauline Oliveros (1932-2016) | 13 Changes (1986)
Andrea Tarrodi (*1981) | Camelopardalis (original version) (2010)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) | Violin Concerto No. 4 in D major K 218: I. Allegro
György Ligeti (1923-2006) | Violin Concerto: II. Aria, Hoquetus, Choral
Francesco Maria Veracini (1690-1768) | Overture No.2 in F Major IV. Menuett
Béla Bartók (1881-1945) | Concerto for Orchestra: V. Finale

17 November 2019 | Philharmonie Essen
18 November 2019 | Philharmonie Cologne ·
19 November 2019 | Konzerthaus Dortmund

Workshops & chamber music

19 January 2020 | Workshop “Managing Your Own Ensemble”

Full-day workshop with MCO violinist Irina Simon-Renes on career opportunities outside a position in an orchestra: Why form your own ensemble/festival? How is it done? Founding, forming a profile, artistic planning, organisation.

20-21 January and 01-04 June 2020 | Workshop “DIY Concert Design”

20-21 January: Preparatory workshop with development of a concert concept and setting of the programme

01-04 June: Project phase with rehearsals and concert

Following the MCO Academy “Shapeshifters” project with the MCO and Pekka Kuusisto in November 2019, the students now have the opportunity to conceive their own concert and bring it to the stage. Under the direction of Ilka Seifert, they develop their concepts, let their creative juices run free and contribute their ideas.

Orchestra project+
Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 under Gustavo Dudamel, Peralada Festival, 4 - 11 August 2019 for selected students

What do the students say?
“The MCO Academy was one of the best professional experiences of my life. I learned an unbelievable amount of things and it gave me huge motivation to continue bettering myself.”

“Like a few others, I was very sceptical at first as to whether the artistic concept of this Academy would work. But then I was completely convinced in the course of the week by the professionalism and enthusiasm of the members of the MCO as well as of Pekka himself. For me, the programme was very successful on a personal, artistic level and I felt more and more at home with every performance.”

MCO Academy 2018

Lead & soloist
Andrés Orozco-Estrada | Conductor
Emmanuel Tjeknavorian | Violin

Bohuslav Martinů | Sinfonia concertante Nr. 1 für zwei Orchester
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart | Konzert für Violine und Orchester Nr. 3 G-Dur KV 216
Richard Strauss | „Ein Heldenleben“ Tondichtung für großes Orchester op. 40

23 November 2018 | Konzerthaus Dortmund
24 November 2018 | Philharmonie Essen
25 November 2018 | Philharmonie Cologne

What do the students say?
“Participation at the MCO Academy was an extraordinary opportunity for me to grow as an artist, since I was constantly surrounded by passionate and inspiring musicians. It is a fascinating practice laboratory in which to test one’s skills, team-playing abilities and adaptability, to work under pressure and expand networks and friendships with colleagues from all over the world. The MCO Academy is a melting pot of cultures, passions, joy and flavours. It reflects this diversity in the quality and excitement of its concerts.”

“It is well known that the MCO treats every piece of music with disregard to the size of the ensemble, as if it was chamber music. This approach is really quite unique and is an absolute strength of the orchestra. I had the feeling that every person in the orchestra was playing with so much passion and eagerness that it is impossible not to be influenced by it. Every member of the orchestra looks happy to be a part of the whole.”

MCO Academy 2017

Lead & soloist
Omer Meir Wellber| Conductor 
Isabelle Faust | Violin

Alban Berg | Konzert für Violine und Orchester ·
Gustav Mahler | Sinfonie Nr. 1 D-Dur

16 November 2017 | Philharmonie Cologne
17 November 2017 | Konzerthaus Dortmund
18 November 2017 | Philharmonie Essen

Chamber music workshops in October and November
Chamber music workshops took place for all students of the MCO Academy 2017 already in October as well as during the rehearsal phase in November. In these, works for smaller groups were practiced and performed at the Orchesterzentrum|NRW.

What do the students say?
“The values and ideals of the MCO are unbelievably inspiring. The orchestra members and all students were bursting with energy. A fire burns within all musicians at the MCO, which I find very valuable and never want to lose in my professional career.” (Andria Chang, violin)

“My mentor not only provided me with advice on playing the violin but also gave me many tips on soft skills concerning music-making.” (Akihiro Takeda, violin)

MCO Academy 2016

Daniel Harding | Conductor
Christiane Karg | Soprano
Bernarda Fink | Alto

Gustav Mahler | Sinfonie Nr. 2 c-Moll

19 February 2016 | Philharmonie Essen
20 February 2016 | Konzerthaus Dortmund
21 February 2016 | Philharmonie Essen

What do the students say?
“The MCO Academy was a fantastic experience for me. I’ve never played with such a top-class orchestra before and was thrilled that we students were treated like fully-fledged orchestra members. I learned a lot about playing technique, sound and expression. The way in which I was able to contribute my instrument to the overall sound felt to me like we were one instrument, breathing together and moving as one. I enjoyed excellent exchange of impressions and ideas with my mentor. The learning process was embedded in such an openly friendly working atmosphere that I was extremely motivated and enthusiastic. I enjoyed every concert and if I could turn back time, I would love to experience those days with the MCO once again.” (Joana Costa Dias, violin)

“The MCO Academy was so far one of the best musical experiences of my life. Without a doubt, the MCO is one of the best orchestras in the world and it was an honour to be part of such an orchestra. The MCO musicians are world-class and are very open and friendly. The concerts were gripping and had a real electrifying energy to them. The experience that I take with me from the Academy is priceless.” (Matthew Head, horn)

MCO Academy 2015

Heinz Holliger | Conductor

Heinz Holliger | Tonscherben
Gustav Mahler | Rückert-Lieder
Heinz Holliger | Ardeur noire
Claude Debussy | La mer L 109

6 February 2015 | Konzerthaus Dortmund
7 February 2015 | Philharmonie Essen
8 February 2015 | Philharmonie Essen

What do the students say?
“The collaboration of the Orchesterzentrum|NRW with the MCO is just super. The close musical exchange between the members of the MCO and the international students was an amazing experience. It was also interesting for me to have an insight into the organisation of such an orchestra in the meetings after the rehearsals; it works completely differently to most other orchestras. I’ve been able to take a lot away with me.” (Tobias Isemann, violin)

“It was a unique experience to play together with the musicians of the MCO. It’s rare to experience an orchestra in which you get such an impression that every single musician is full of passion for the music. It is simply a lot of fun to work together with so many positive people. With my group of deep brass instruments, I was extremely happy being able to play together with some of the world’s best musicians and learn a lot from them. Absolutely world-class!” (Daniel Steppeler, trombone)

MCO Academy 2014

Lead & soloist
Peter Eötvös | Conductor
Martin Grubinger | Percussion

Igor Strawinsky | Symphonies d'instruments à vent
Peter Eötvös | Speaking drums ·
Claude Debussy | Jeux
Olivier Messiaen | Chronochromie

14 February 2014 | Philharmonie Essen
15 February 2014 | Konzerthaus Dortmund
16 February 2014 | Philharmonie Essen

What do the students say?
“It was amazing to have the chance to play in such a fantastic orchestra. This is why it’s such an opportunity to study at the Orchesterzentrum|NRW, where this sort of collaboration with the MCO takes place. My mentor took great care of me and gave me lots of her time. They’re all just such wonderful musicians, from whom we can learn a lot.” (Ting Fu Lu, violin)

MCO Academy 2013

Leitung & Solist
Pablo Heras-Casado | Dirigent · Andreas Brantelid | Violoncello

Henri Dutilleux | Tout un monde lointain · Hector Berlioz | Symphonie Fantastique op. 14

22. Februar 2013 | Konzerthaus Dortmund · 23. Februar 2013 | Philharmonie Essen · 24. Februar 2013 | Kölner Philharmonie

Akademisten des Orchesterzentrum|NRW
Malwina Bernagiewicz | Violine · Joana Costa Dias | Violine · Mira Nauer | Violine · Sueda Shaba | Violine · Patricia Estebaranz | Violine · Friederike Holzapfel | Viola · Christiana-Laura Pop | Viola · Christiane Backhaus | Violoncello · Anna Stuart | Violoncello · Sabine Ochsenhofer | Querflöte · Yoshie Benten | Oboe · Claire Pasquereau | Fagott · Elliot Dushman | Tuba · Dujin Kim | Schlagzeug · Lisa-Maria Hilti | Harfe

Was sagen die Akademisten?
"Ich bin dem Mahler Chamber Orchestra und Maestro Heras-Casado sehr dankbar dafür, wie sehr sie mich im Rahmen der MCO Academy inspiriert und positiv beeinflusst haben. Die Fähigkeit des Dirigenten, den Musikern seine Ideen und Vorstellungen überzeugend, klar und trotzdem respektvoll zu vermitteln, war großartig. Im Ergebnis hat das gesamte Orchester so genau und eng zusammen gespielt, als wäre es ein einziger Musiker. Es ist einzigartig, wie alle Beteiligten die Musik verstehen und fühlen. Es sind fantastische Künstler, mit denen die Zusammenarbeit großen Spaß gemacht hat." (Patrizia Estebaranz, Violine)

MCO Academy 2012

Lead & soloist
Esa-Pekka Salonen | Conductor
Vilde Frang | Violine

Jean Sibelius | Pohjolas Tochter op. 49 / Violinkonzert op. 47 in d-Moll
Olivier Messiaen | Un Sourire
Esa-Pekka Salonen | Foreign Bodies

24 February 2012 | 8 pm | Philharmonie Essen
25 February 2012 | 8 pm | Konzerthaus Dortmund
26 February 2012 | 8 pm | Philharmonie Cologne

What do the students say?
“It was an unforgettable experience. I was especially impressed by the unbelievable energy which grew from the interaction between these excellent musicians. This experience has truly fulfilled my playing and I have learned a lot. But the most important thing was that I had so much fun all the way through from the first rehearsal to the last concert.” (Gemma Corrales, flute)

MCO Academy 2011

Lead & soloist
Pierre Boulez | Conductor
Michael Barenboim | Violin

Maurice Ravel | “Ma mère l'oye” (“My Mother, The Goose”) Arnold Schönberg | Concert for Violins and Orchestras op. 36 Igor Strawinsky | „Petruschka“ Burleske in vier Szenen

7 May 2011 | Konzerthaus Dortmund (public dress rehearsal)
8 February 2011 | Philharmonie Cologne

What do the students say?
“For me, the most notable experience during the work phase with the MCO was how an artistic unit was formed in the shortest time from individual professional musicians. The great readiness of the artists involved to work with such concentration created a highly inspiring working atmosphere and led to an unforgettable concert at the highest artistic level.” (Ioannis Pektaris, violin)

MCO Academy 2010

Ton Koopman | Conductor

Georg Friedrich Handel | Concerto a due cori Nr. 1 B-Dur
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach | Sinfonie G-Dur Wq 183 No. 4
Georg Friedrich Handel | “Music for the Royal Fireworks” (“Feuerwerksmusik”)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart | Sinfonie Nr. 41 C-Dur “Jupiter”

14 December 2010 | Philharmonie Essen
15 December 2010 | Philharmonie Cologne
16 December 2010 | Konzerthaus Dortmund

What do the students say?
“I find the MCO Academy both fantastic and challenging at the same time. The MCO musicians were very interested in us and because we learned the Baroque performance techniques together, we quickly became a team. Ton Koopman was also always cheerful and is an unbelievably lively conductor.” (Nieke Schouten, oboe)

MCO Academy 2009

Lead & soloist
Daniel Harding | Conductor
Renaud Capuçon | Violin

Ludwig van Beethoven | Konzert für Violine und Orchester D-Dur op. 61
Igor Strawinsky | Le sacre du printemps

2 November 2009 | Philharmonie Cologne
3 November 2009 | Konzerthaus Dortmund

What do the students say?
“I received a lot of positive feedback and tips from the musicians on what I could still improve. I loved that we were simply part of the team and no difference was made between the students and the members of the MCO. I am glad that I was able to participate in the MCO Academy because I know now that I can keep up with a high level of playing.” (Marcel Reuter, trombone)