I’ve been shut out again. I have a great project to write for a great youth ensemble, whose playing rivals many professional organizations I know of. However, because the players are amateurs, we are not eligible to apply for a commissioning fund that is available for composers nationwide.
It seems this is not an oddity, but the norm. After speaking with numerous colleagues involved in development and administration of numerous organizations well versed in this area, nobody could think of a single grant that specifically provides commission funds to composers wishing to work with amateur or youth groups. Even those grants and awards that do allow you to apply for a non-professional ensemble to commission tend to weigh heavily their preferences towards the commissioning professional groups.
Yes, there are general funds that one can apply for: Meet The Composer has a program to help cover costs to have a composer participate in the premiere of a work. But, that fund specifically states the money cannot be used towards commissions. Similarly, the American Composers Forum has begun to nationalize its subito grants, but then again that is designed to be a quick boost of a bit of money to help a composer’s career, not to commission specifically.
So, what does this say about us? Are funders ignoring a vital and fertile ground for promoting both the short and long term survival and growth of our art intentionally? Or, are composers, from overall lack of interest, not actively seeking support for composing opportunities with our emerging artists? Are we just giving lip service in expounding the importance of writing music for young players? Most of us are not in this racket for the money, but we still need and deserve some sort of paycheck. It takes just as much time and effort, if not more, to compose a successful piece for a youth orchestra as it does to write one for a professional one.
Someone needs to step up to the plate. Why can’t one of the foundations or organizations out there come up with a grant program specifically designed for funding works geared towards young players and amateurs? If there is all this money seemingly being funneled into educational outreach, why can’t some of it be directed towards this overlooked area?
Then again, how are organizations to know that there is need and opportunity in this arena if both composers and non-professional ensembles do not speak up? What are we going to do about it?