FRANK J. OTERI: Perhaps operating the printing press for the American Music Center informed your decision to become the publisher and promoter of your own work…
JOHN LaMONTAINE: That really started my last year in New York. I learned right away, with an apartment on 57th Street, there wasn’t enough room to be a publisher. [laughs] I had another fellowship at the place for composers out in California that was started by the owner of the A&P stores. It was a wonderful place to work. I did a large chunk of work on my first opera of the Christmas cycle at that foundation. By that time, Paul Sifler and I had a publishing company in New York and it didn’t work. We also started a record company and that didn’t work because we had no place to store anything. So I called Paul and said, it would be a good idea to buy some property out here where we’d have a lot of room to expand and room to compose. He was also a composer, a good one. He came out, we found a place, and bought it. We rented it out until the mortgage was paid. We didn’t want to take any chance on losing it. We began right away. I can’t tell you what the first things were or when we got the Finale system and started making real publications. The ones that I did for the American Music Center were actually printed, but they were printed manuscripts. That just wasn’t good enough for real professional quality. I had a heck of a time learning Finale! There was no one to help me. I knew of no one doing it, and I didn’t understand the instructions.
FJO: To go back a little before we talk about computer notation programs, in the early days you had scores published by Elkan-Vogel, Galaxy, Carl Fischer, Belwin-Mills, these were the top publishers of their day.
JL: That was the trouble. They all wanted my pieces. Everything I submitted got published, but nobody knew where to find anything. Is this with Carl Fischer? Is this with Schirmer? I had things with all the best publishers. Between Paul and I we were with 11 different publishers. Now how are you going to start hunting for a piece by John LaMONTAINE? What’s the use?
FJO: There was no effort in the early years for one of those publishers to demand that you be exclusive?
JL: No. By then I had written so much music that they couldn’t afford to publish all my stuff even if they wanted to. I don’t know if they wanted to because I never saw them. I guess I had 6 pieces with Broudie. Schirmer did the first of the Christmas operas. There were lots of things wrong and they sent out orchestra parts where things were missing, and left out whole sections. Other publishers didn’t interest me at all.
FJO: It’s interesting the question of the prestige that a publisher represented in musical life then and even now to a great degree. To this day there hasn’t been a single piece ever to win the Pulitzer Prize that is a self-published work.