Commissions: Part 4 (Partnership)

Many composers would differ with me in my perference to involve the representative in the composition.  Most of the time, I find the involvement of the representative very helpful.  I realize I am not right all the time, and I also value respect for colleagues in the profession.  My ears are a product of my musical journey.   The melodies and chord progressions I hear are the result of many years of hearing…and being…and doing this “music thing.”

The final decision to include or not include something is my own.  I must make and own that decision, but I really do enjoy the feedback.  I want the representative to feel ownership of the final product as well.  Feeling ownership ensures that the composition is approached with a “team work” attitude, and it fosters a sincere desire to make a quality performance the goal.

I understand the necessity of being a positive part of a huge circle of contributors to music education.  We are not “islands”…we need each other in our profession.  I love the idea that I might create a product that is studied in a choral classroom.  It is a sobering thought, but…it is a thought that permeates every piece of music I write.  I have a responsibility for creating an artistic product that contains elements worthy of inclusion in the education process.

When I write a commission, I keep in mind the same three questions I use to evaluate the artistic value of all of my work:

1)  Will the student be a better musician for having studied this piece of music?
2)  Will the student’s love of music be enhanced in the study of this piece?
3)   Is it worth a teacher’s budget and time?

If any of these questions yields a “No,” why should I continue?  Many files have been “deleted” on my screen.  If the piece did not reach my standards, why should I put it out there for you?  Not nice of me!!

I like involving others in the creation:  text, length, voicing, instrumentation, structure, knowledge of inspiration, etc.  A composer, however, must make the final choice in regard to the music.  However, to receive feedback of a “strange-sounding” place in the music, is very helpful.  My husband Bill comes to my office frequently to listen to my music, and give me his opinion.  He gives me all sorts of feedback….the passage that sounds a tad “off.”  I could dismiss his comments, but I have found that editors have said the same thing.  So…I listen to my husband, knowing that his musical opinions have been respected by editors.

We can involve many musicians in the commission process.  However, a decision of some sort must eventually be made.  We are all products of our journeys in music, and the degree to which we want to involve others must respect that we have traveled different paths to success.  Partners on the journey?  The composer’s choice….