What other jobs might you be interested in if you weren’t so busy writing music? Daron Hagen

What other jobs might you be interested in if you weren’t so busy writing music? Daron Hagen



Daron Hagen
Photo courtesy Carl Fischer Inc.

If I could spend one hundred percent of my time composing I would. Now in my twenty-third year of thinking of myself as a composer, I have worked up to being able to spend eighty percent of my time pushing notes around. I’m proud of that.

While I was in conservatory I worked as a music copyist. (Interesting fact: Now that Finale, Score, and Sibelius rule the day, I am a member of the last generation of concert music composers who shall have moonlighted as professional hand music copyists –quill on vellum!– for their mentors and colleagues. Question: how long will the elite Broadway hand copyists be able to hold out?) I still treasure my Local 802 card: hand copying is a deeply honorable profession now gone.

Then, for ten years, the other twenty percent was filled first with a faculty position at Bard, then occasional stints filling in for David Del Tredici at CCNY, then a brief spell on the faculties of the Curtis Institute of Music and Princeton University.

Finally, about three years ago, I took the plunge and quit teaching entirely. That was a scary step. The dreaded other twenty percent is now spent (in descending order): giving composition master classes, pre-concert talks, doing website design (writing HTML), and (when things get really bad, which they do) music proofreading for a cherished ex-student’s Broadway copying house. Three years ago, I worked for two weeks as a Coffee Comrade at Starbucks. Last week, I also painted a colleague’s office! I do not feel entitled to a career composing music, but I will continue to work at it with all my heart.

What other jobs might I be interested in if I weren’t writing music? My second great love is to conduct my own theater music. I have begun stretching my wings in that direction – have just conducted the full-recording of my opera “Bandanna” in Nevada for ARSIS Audio, will conduct Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte for Ohio Opera Theatre in November and the full-recording of my opera Shining Brow next year. Every time I conduct my own music I learn dozens of incredibly important new things that I write down and bring to the next compositional assignment. I have since high school been extremely comfortable in the pit, both as a conductor and pianist. I adore the theater’s ennobling tradition of Communion and delight in the responsibility that a theater conductor has to not just control the flow of the entire production but also to protect and uplift the singers while helping his orchestra to shine. I am thirty-eight years old. By the age of forty-five, I would like to be spending sixty percent of my time composing and forty percent conducting revivals and premieres of my own operas. I can think of no greater honor than to spend the balance of my days balancing these two activities.

If fate tears me away from my first and second loves, I would try to write prose. As a passionate lover of the written word, I have the amateur’s enthusiasm for writing fiction. I’d like to think that I would be pretty good at it – certainly, I would enjoy myself for a while. But, as a career? No. Words are in a way too specific; I would always crave music’s ability to discuss the all-too-personal in an abstract and curiously universal fashion.