Last week amounted to a floodgate of new music being opened: from a few new subscription-series pieces per season from major figures and some encouragement to young talent by way of CONTACT! commissions, the Philharmonic and partners performed well over 60 pieces from composers of all stages and many walks of life.
Out of all of the possible composer-in-residence responsibilities discussed in my early conversations with the Reno Philharmonic, education made me the most nervous. But due to a strong, long-forged partnership between the orchestra and the local school district, it became clear that a large focus of my time in Reno would be devoted to facing my fears. As we began shaping our plans, I began researching.
Like nearly all arts organizations, the mission of many orchestras (in the U.S. and abroad) has grown to incorporate the hazy nebulae of “Education and Outreach.” Of course, it’s the obvious thing to do. But, for me, it’s another symptom of the precarious position of art in our culture. Over the last 50 years, one could point to a shakedown and oversimplified sorting-out of art and entertainment.
My experiences as a Reno native will certainly inform my time there, but whether I will be more relevant as a resident composer than anyone else is a different question.
Must the composer be a public figure to exist at all?
After spending at least a year lying awake at night imagining all the ways my New York Philharmonic premiere might not go that great, I have to admit it: I’m pleased.
I understood that if I wanted to keep writing music under any circumstance like this for a long time, this piece had better be all I had to give. If not my best work, certainly my best effort. I felt that I was writing for my life.