Kevin Puts, the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, has signed a three-year contract as director of the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute, which has its next session in January 2015.

The institute is a professional composer-training program that was developed in the 1995-1996 season. It now includes tutorials, rehearsals and seminars for emerging composers and a public performance of their work. That concert is scheduled for Jan. 16, with music director Osmo Vänskä conducting. Each year, about seven composers are chosen. Those selected for the 2013 Composer Institute, which was canceled with the orchestra's labor dispute, have been offered slots in the 2015 program.

Puts takes over from Aaron Jay Kernis, who founded and directed the institute. Kernis resigned in October to protest the inability of the orchestra to reach a labor accord.

"Aaron Kernis built a great and prestigious program, and I have big shoes to fill," Puts said Wednesday. Puts will begin immediately planning the curriculum for the institute, sketching out seminars and workshops and preparing for the January concert at Orchestra Hall.

"It's an incredibly exciting moment to hear that piece performed for the first time ..." he said.

"The Composer Institute is one of the most important ways that the Minnesota Orchestra supports and advances the work of developing composers," Vänskä said in a statement.

Puts won his Pulitzer for the opera "Silent Night," which had its debut at Minnesota Opera in November 2011. He currently is working on "The Manchurian Candidate" for Minnesota Opera. It will have a world premiere next spring. This weekend, his Symphony No. 4 will be performed by the Minnesota Orchestra, conducted by Courtney Lewis.

His sinfonia concertante had its premiere with the Minnesota Orchestra in April 2006. Nationally, he has written work performed by orchestras from the Atlanta Symphony to the New York Philharmonic.

"I'm pleased the organization is now able to relaunch the Composer Institute," President and CEO Michael Henson said in a statement. "I have always admired the intensity of Kevin's music and believe that he will bring many great attributes to this program."

The program is held in collaboration with the St. Paul-based American Composers Forum.

A native of St. Louis, Puts lives in Yonkers, N.Y., and teaches at the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University.