As Effective as Online Dating

Over the years, after a performance or talk I have given about writing for young players, composers and teachers have approached me with the same questions: “Where can I find a composer for my students?” “Where can I find students to write for?” With each query, I list the various teacher and composer organizations, but say that essentially they are on their own. Really, it’s like the Wild West, for these organizations have no real ability to sort out of their memberships those musicians interested in such ventures.

So, where does a composer go to hook up with a young ensemble? How do teachers find someone who would work well with their goals and their ensembles’ personalities? How do we connect educators interested in music by living composers with those of us interested in writing music for the next generation?

Perhaps it is time to take matters into our own hands and create something like match.com for facilitating the creation and playing of new music by young players. Ideally, one could go there and lists one’s stats that would be stored in a searchable database.

For instance, the composers’ information would include their experience with young players, their interests (residencies? commissions? selling existing music?), along with the level and mediums in which they collaborate with younger players (choral? chamber? strings? beginners? advanced?). Also, that ugly but necessary item of fee would be addressed: composers could list if they are willing to work for reduced fees or free in exchange for numerous performances or recordings or some other worthwhile barter.

A similar database could be made for the educators. Listed would be: their levels of experience in working with composers, their willingness/ability to fundraise and/or pay, the format in which they want to work with a composer (commission? residency? performance of existing music?), and the instrumentation and playing level for which they are looking to find music.

Hey, not a bad idea, eh? And it’s not original, either. Evan Tobias of musiced.net has been talking about starting up a website just for this purpose. Also, some composer organizations have discussed doing projects similar to this as well. But nothing is happening. For, like it or not, even something this clear-cut takes time and money.

So, where do we go from here? Do we go to the AMC, ACF, MTC or MTNA? Or do some of us scrape away at the grassroots level and make something of it on our own? Who is going to step up to this plate? Someone needs to; the potential is huge.

2 thoughts on “As Effective as Online Dating

  1. Klimowski

    Hi Belinda,

    Yes, yes, yes! Networking. Here in Vermont there’s been a wonderful organization that puts composer/mentors together with school children. The kids are taught composing and mentored by composers via the web. It’s called the Vermont Midi Project. The teachers in the school actually make it a part of their music curriculum. I wish I had this in school! I have been involved in playing their pieces for the past several years when they hire professionals for a day of workshops and performances. It’s great to see the kid’s faces light up when they hear their pieces come alive. The VCME will be featuring one of their pieces on our next concert to encourage their efforts.

    Here’s their web site: http://www.vtmidi.org/

    Here’s ours: http://www.vcme.org

    Best,

    Steve Klimowski

    Reply
  2. jaquick

    For a number of years, the Cleveland Composer’s Guild has had a project for writing for young (high-school and younger) performers from the Cleveland Music School Settlement and the Junior Fortnightly Musical Club. The students’ teachers nominate deserving and interested students, composers who are interested and free that year make themselves known, names are stuck in 2 hats, and they’re matched at random. The composer talks to the teacher and student, gets some idea of likes and dislikes and specific technical abilities and limitations, writes a short (ca. 5 min.) piece, coaches the student on it, and the student performs it on a concert with the other such pieces. It’s not a perfect process…sometimes the teachers oversell the abilities of the students. But most of the participating composers have done this before (and most of the teachers too), so it’s mostly pretty smooth. There’s money to pay the student for playing (WOW! they like that…) and the teacher for teaching the piece, sometimes an honorarium for the composer (depending on how well fundraising has gone), and the composer gets a relatively commercial piece out of the deal. We’ve recently expanded the concept to include some professional performances of student works. We’ve seen some changed attitudes through this program…a student flutist I wrote for at age 14 is now working for me in the music library, is a gifted player and specializes in new music (Liebermann concerto, _Scrivo in Vento_, Robert Dick, I wrote her a piece…)

    So it seems to me that an organized approach can be even better than a database matchup.

    Reply

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