Richard Bellis, the program's mentor for 20 years, says the workshop gives composers exposure to the industry that a university course cannot.
"We look for an ability to write for the orchestra and a knowledge for the orchestra," said Bellis, who this week was given an award by his colleagues for his dedication to the program. "It's not just about the ranges of the instruments, but what is playable by a human being who is subject to fatigue and attitude and all of that stuff."
The program is practical, but also a good way to build contacts and reputation, said Joseph Trapanese, who participated in 2009 and is now working on major shows and films as a composer, including the upcoming Sony feature Only the Brave starring Josh Brolin, Miles Teller and Jennifer Connelly.
"We have an extremely difficult job, and standing in front of 60 musicians can be really intimidating," said Trapanese, who showed up this week to support the new class of participants. "Everyone is there to help you succeed, and that is truly inspiring and I look forward to it every time I get to make music and work with an orchestra."
ASCAP Film and TV membership executive Michael Todd told Billboard that industry veterans scout talent in the program to see who they want to work with next.
"At the end of the day, this is a people business and you have to play well with others," said Todd. "This program is an acknowledgement of your ability to write successfully and puts you a leg above when people see this on a résumé."
ASCAP’s Jennifer Harmon agrees, adding that the program also exposes the 12 composers to contracts, agents, attorneys and things that will help guide a composer into his or her career as they began circulating their work and book projects.
"We like to have that bridge between the director experience and the composer experience," Harmon said. "Alumni often come back and give back because of that positive experience."
This year, the program included 10 men and two women whose work was heard in a "blind" application process. Even though the ratio between the men and women isn't balanced, Harmon said many people behind the scenes are working to encourage more women to apply.
"It is a white male community that dominates the composer world," Harmon acknowledged. "There are advocacy groups for female composers, and through a separate program through ASCAP, we work to introduce [female] composers to filmmakers, typically a group of diverse people."
For Kasrashvili, who began writing music when she was 6 years old, the program will allow her to expand her choices as a composer, and while she returns to Eastern Europe, she hopes to be back soon to work as a composer.
"I got to make many new connections through this program, and that's so valuable," Kasrashvili said. "In Georgia, it's much harder to do this kind of work, so that's why this program is so important."