What can make or break a residency experience? David Cleary



I’ve been to eight arts colonies in the U.S. and overseas and have found such experiences invaluable—a godsend to someone like me who has a full-time job and many outside commitments. They’ve allowed me to compose numerous works that otherwise wouldn’t exist.

Successful colonies offer four things: good food, a quiet, well-maintained studio space, helpful, friendly staff, and a library of books and recordings. My worst retreat experiences were at places where the facility is decrepit (genial shabbiness is fine, but broken pianos and pest infestation are not) or the staff is unhelpful or unfriendly (particularly irritating are colonies where staff routinely interrupt studio time).

Composers best suited to a retreat are ones who are comfortable being alone all day with minimal structured time and find travel stimulating. Folks who get homesick easily, treat the residency as a vacation, or are addicted to their televisions usually fare poorly at colonies.