What are the pros & woes of being a self-taught composer? Elizabeth Brown



I’m highly trained as a flutist, but had no composition training. Performing all kinds of music has been an ongoing compositional education. Performer friends played my pieces beautifully and enthusiastically from the very start of my composing life, which started belatedly in my late twenties. It hadn’t occurred to me, until a friend asked if I’d write some music for his choreography, that I could be a composer, though I’ve always had private music in my head. Since then, whenever I’m asked to write a piece, it’s because my music is already known and liked.

On the other hand, I had no composition teacher or mentor to open doors for me and any recognition from the composition establishment was a long time coming. Had I studied composition early on, my natural voice might have been squelched considerably; while I’ve always admired individuality and even eccentricity in others, personally I want very much to be liked, and always tried to please my teachers. In retrospect, I feel my particular musical training and experience was just right for me.