Performer Relations

I’m finishing up my last week here at Interlochen Summer Arts Camp. While I’ve been madly herding cats to make sure the orchestral, band, choral, and chamber readings went down without a hitch this week, I’ve been heartened to see how easily our student composers have been able to forge strong ties with the excellent performers here. We try hard to emphasize how important these friendships will be to their careers as well as their own well-being (because we, as faculty, know too well how important they are). Because of that, it’s extremely satisfying to see at the outset of both careers the building of composer/performer relationships.

The fact of the matter is that very, very few composers would be able to be as good as they are or as successful if they did not have strong relationships with performers and conductors. It is those friendships, be they casual or intense, that inevitably spur on a good portion of most composers’ output. What those outside of the music world don’t realize is that many collaborations between composers and performers at the professional level date back to the time when both individuals were thrown together within the nurturing confines of their universities, festivals, or summer camps. What may seem on the surface like simple bonding situations are really the first steps in a years-long partnership between two individuals. These partnerships can start immediately or sit dormant for a decade before the opportunity for one to work with the other arises.

As I’ve been interviewing composers, I have asked them what their relationships have been with the community of performers/conductors and how it may have affected their careers and their music. I’m not sure if I’ve met anyone who hasn’t fostered at least a few relationships with performers over their career, and to a person they all have spoken about how important these connections are to them. Many composers seem to have become unofficial composers-in-residence with individual performers or chamber ensembles; Stacy Garrop with the Biava Quartet and Jefferson Friedman and Gabriela Lena Frank with the Chiara Quartet are quick examples of ensembles that composers have written more than one work for. Not all of these relationships start during their student years, but their importance is immeasurable. The opportunities performers and ensembles give composers through commissions allows the composers to explore in greater depth their own musical ideas and allows the performers to often have a guiding hand in the creation and revisions of a composer’s works.

What examples do you have of long-standing relationships having a positive influence on your career and the nature of your music?

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