VNPAC: Chorus America from the Vantage Point of a Composer Exhibitor

This was the fourth year I’ve attended the annual Chorus America Conference which took place in Atlanta, GA. As in the past I attended as an exhibitor and was assigned a table where I could display both my scores and CDs of my work. Chorus America is a wonderful opportunity for any composer of choral music to both network with a large number of the major players in the world of choral music and to experience first-hand the inner workings of both the creative and administrative aspects of choirs. Because the League of American Orchestras was holding their convention at the same time, the Atlanta Symphony and Chorus performed a special concert of the Verdi Requiem for both groups which concluded with a rousing reception that would make most orchestras envy.

As a composer, having both groups present gave me the added opportunity to approach several individuals with my non-choral compositions, although, there seemed to be more attendees from the administrative side than the artistic side. Having attended these events in the past, there were a number of regulars with whom I have established relationships and some who I was meeting for the first time. I make it a point to e-mail those attendees whose e-mail addresses I can find to let them know I will be exhibiting and present any new works or news that might pique their interest. Ironically, I received notice from C.F Peters that they were publishing my Alzheimer’s Stories for soloists, chorus and large ensemble a day before I left. Peters’ was kind enough to overnight me a mock-up of the front page which helped draw some attention to the work.

Unfortunately, the set-up of the exhibition space was not ideal: some exhibitors were stationed in the hallway through which those attending the lectures had to pass, but the majority were in a room off the hallway. Those in the room, like myself, saw much less flow and flow is the name of the game. Hopefully this can be corrected in future conferences as the cost of being an exhibitor is not insubstantial. While a number of attendees—especially those here for the first time will peruse the exhibits—it helps to be aggressive in a non-threatening way. The bar is a good place to meet after the sessions and in one instance I positioned myself outside the Men’s Room after seeing a particularly prominent conductor enter. (Following him in would probably have not been a good idea, although, you never know.)

To a certain extent, you have to distance yourself from your creative work and realize that you are marketing a product. This conference is no different than any number of conferences that take place throughout the world marketing anything from cars to computers. As contemporary composers we are well aware that it is an uphill battle to get our works performed, but attending a conference like Chorus America gives you the advantage of being able to meet face-to-face and break bread with a very targeted group of talented people. When you listen to the morning sing, in which all the attendees participate, you realize that whatever side of the creative fence you reside, it’s ultimately all about the love of music. Not a bad way to spend a few days.

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