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Contemporary Music Professionals

  |   Blog, Music

How many blogs do you follow? Or LinkedIn threads? The volume of millions of us trying to ensure our voices are heard can be deafening!  An interesting thread I’ve followed on LinkedIn asked the question whether a composer must have a music composition degree in order to be successful.  And what does successful mean anyway?

Dozens of us have responded – some not really answering the question – simply in argument with others, but I wanted to post onto my own website my response:

I have been composing since I was 9 years old.  My work got better as I got older, but even in my 20’s (I got a business degree) I didn’t have clue as to why some pieces worked, others didn’t and moreover, my development was arrested – I just didn’t understand what I was doing well enough to direct the work forward. I went to music school to learn about understand these things. One day, I went to my composition chair and shared this “new scale” I discovered. He introduced me to Bartok. I had a Helen-Keller-water moment; my world changed. 

I received my Masters summa cum laude in 2010, and am still frustrated with my limitations. My imagination still exceeds my craft, but studying composition in a university/college helped me learn HOW to research, to teach myself and move myself forward. I write many works without a commission. Why would you do that?? other composers ask. To learn. Simply to be better prepared when a commission I want comes along. 

Most of us will never reach the top 5 or 10 successful composers. By success, I mean the skills of the craft of composition; mastering an understanding of the tools with which we work – be it acoustic or electronic; being relevant to our time and the people in our endeavors; creating works that engage (in some measure) our performers and audience. 

It’s not the composition degree – it’s the process, interaction and exposure that counts. As part of my income stream, I help arts non profits and start ups with their business plans. The plan is important, but process of CREATING the plan is what counts. To think through things, to challenge your self. It’s putting yourself out there – being open to ideas that never occur to you; to stimulate your musically creative brain.

I am in a continuous state of learning.  Success is not an arrival point, but a by-product of effort and imagination.