There are a number of composers who don’t conform to the traditional model, and the truth is that there really is no typical career trajectory for a composer. The only way to navigate a career as a composer, I have found, is to be prepared for anything.
We have to view concert presentations as much more than just about music. Whether it is through the use of lighting or video projections, choreography, or unusual staging, presenters and performers no longer have the option of trusting the music—however innovative or unusual—to be the sole draw for their audience.
We must see ourselves as collaborators within a much wider network of musicians and citizens, helping each other as best we can—be it through something as complex as presenting performances or something as simple as sharing each other’s work on social media—regardless of personal payoff.
The artist Boris Schatz once famously said that “art is the soul of a nation.” Working as a composer and presenter of new music in Washington, D.C., where our business is the nation, I tend to think of this phrase a lot.
I’ve achieved enough success that my day job currently supplements my income as a composer, but I could not have accomplished the things I have accomplished had I been living in New York.