2012-2013 was a surprisingly good season for my music–about 20 performances, all told, in a variety of places and venues, with a nice balance between premieres (Lady Glides on the Moon, Nod a Don, Le Voyage Dans La Lune and my Suite for String Orchestra) and second, third and later performances. Some were simple–me playing Twenty Views of the Trombone at a John Cage Musicircus event at MOCA Cleveland, while others were more elaborate. Some involved my making them happen (performances of my Piano Sonata and Moriarty’s Necktie at the SCI Region VI conference at West Texas A&M, a conference I cohosted), and others happened all by themselves (Selena Adams’ performance of South Africa on her DMA recital at the University of Colorado, right before winning a gig with the US Army Field Band. In all, a very good year for my music, and 2013-2014 is shaping up as well, although not quite as spectacularly, but with an early start, a repeat performance of Lady Glides at the Parma Music Festival/SCI Region I conference in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which, with a little luck, might lead to more, as always.
It makes me feel like a “real composer,” I’ve felt, along with acceptance into the Cleveland Composers Guild, for which one is elected, not simply enrolled. March and April, in particular, felt very busy, and this fall, there will be a day (September 29) where my music is played at the same time in two cities (Dallas and Cleveland). Another milestone is that many of these performances are happening without my being present, or even involved other than selling a copy of the sheet music through my website. This is a big deal. South Africa continues to be my “greatest hit,” which surprises me at times, but I’m also gratified by that fact. I’ll be looking for a couple more sales of that piece as horn students begin to program their recitals for this year.
Going forward, the big challenge, I think, is to continue to get my music out there and build my reputation as a composer. I have a sense that I need to become a “Cleveland composer,” which is a tougher nut, in some ways, than composing was in the Oklahoma Panhandle. There are areas in which I’d like to see growth in myself as a composer over the next few years–handling larger forms, dealing with complexity, exploring percussion, working toward a greater depth of emotional expression in my work. Over the summer, I had lunch with Donald Harris, my graduate advisor, and he stated that I was growing in interesting directions. Another of my teachers, Tom Wells, heard my piece in New Hampshire and stated that he was proud of me as a student. To have my teachers–themselves distinguished and experienced composers–feel that I have done good things years after my time with them is a good thing.
Being at Lakeland, where my tenure is not bound up in producing new compositions or having as many performances as possible, gives me the freedom to pursue projects at my own pace, and not to feel like I need to take pieces on, write another book, or submit to every conference of SCI or CMS. Composition can be more artful now and not a part of my family’s livelihood. My one composition student, young Cooper Wood, has been quite an inspiration this year as well, and as he enters high school, I’m hopeful that our work together will benefit both of us.
It is impossible to be without disappointments as well. I still feel that Moriarty’s Necktie is a very good piece, possibly my best, but it has now been through the cycle of awards for band composition (Revelli, Beeler, Ostwold, etc.) without being recognized. There will be more band music from my pen, of course. One also does not apply to conferences and festivals without rejections; more rejections than acceptances, naturally. While each of these hurts, my faith in my work is undiminished, and I will continue to write and submit. I’ve been diligently informing ASCAP of all my performances, and applied for the Plus Award for the first time this year–between ASCAP and the website, it would be nice to see some monetary return, if only to cover costs, but I feel that that is probably still at least a couple of years off.
It isn’t about the money, though. On the other hand, in our culture, money means that someone, somehow, values my music in important ways. Money is the reason I haven’t pursued my dream project–a symphony for orchestra. Not that I require an enormous payment, but at this point in my career, I can’t write a piece that won’t have a prospect of a performance, and so my Great American Symphony waits for a commitment.
Onward, then, into another year of being a Real Composer.