Getting your stuff played

What I find the hardest thing do, for someone with composition as an advocation, is to find groups to perform my stuff. Occasionally, I've been able to get students at my school to do a cold reading of a work, but that's getting harder to do. And forget about local groups. So where do I go?
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  • Don't expect much, if it isn't happening already. Put your work on the Internet, in very public places, if possible.

    I use most of my work today as soundtracks for videos that I edit. At least it gets played - by me! People who are not composers already do actually hear my music. We don't write music to sit in cabinets, unplayed.


    When I was a church musician, it was easy. I wrote things the choir could easily achieve/enjoy. I did not tell them I wrote the works. Anonymous helps, sometimes, oddly enough. Tell them later, after it's learned. Always aim to write easier than you know your musicians can handle, when you need performances/readings. You want to amaze them with your music: not confound them with your difficulties.


    Arrange a benefit concert. This is what all composers have to do; hustle to get on a program. Collaborate.  I got on a program recently; and I decided that it was not as much fun as I had hoped. The work gets performed once. That's the usual situation in the 21st Century. Decide how much effort you are willing to pour into the job.


    If I were younger, I would seriously consider being an absolute renegade. It would be my goal to steer classical/serious music into a new, more stable direction. Do whatever it takes to get your work played; and be sure that your audience is going to want to hear the music you write down on paper. And the musicians who play it need to stay entertained, too! Try to avoid making people angry. Shock is old school.


    Case in point: Shostakovich Symphony #5. 

    Stalin had "reduced the composer to nothingness" after his opera "Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk." His life is a good study in doing what needed to be done to get your best stuff heard.


    Shostakovich wrote an easy-to-listen to symphony: classical. Almost anyone can follow it. And it was a hit. He might have preferred to write something intensely thorny: even 12-tone.

  • I have the same problem. I write a lot of stuff for choir, and I find that many people will take the score, thank me for it, and then I never hear anything more. If I ask them, they often turn out not to have had time to look at it.


    Also, I find that music I write is not in the technical ability of the amateurs in the choirs I might have access to, meaning that if I want them to do a piece, I have to essentially write a piece designed specifically for their deficits, and that doesn't assure that they'll even look at it.


    One thing I can say is that if you give your piece to someone, keep asking them what they are doing with it, because otherwise, they just throw it away.


    I play in a recorder ensemble, and this has been a very nice opportunity for my writing, since if I give them almost anything, they will at least read it through and give feedback.


    I am thinking of writing pieces for recorders and then, after hearing how it sounds, looking at rewriting it for another ensemble. A piece for recorders, transcribed for woodwind quartet, can do one heck of a lot more, and use the same basic material. Of course, now I have to find some suckers -- er, performers who will put it on the stand and play it.

  • Thanks for the advice!
  • The quickest way to get performed is to put on a recital or concert and hire musicians for it. There are many factors that can determine whether or not that is the best option for you to do.

    Other options are as followed:

    Competitions are a good way to get things performed. Many competitions offer their own performers, and even better when an ensemble or performers send out a call for scores.


    Join a professional composers organization is also a way. Organizations such as NACUSA (National Association of Composers United States of America) have annual conferences in which they have concerts. Depending on what your local chapter can do can determine whether or not at their conference they can provide performers. I know the chapter I am apart of offers to do that during our annual conference.


    seek out professional performers and befriend them. Have with in your circle of friends performers, because friends are more likely to play your music for you, or when they want new music for their own concerts they will turn to you.


    By doing those things you increase your visibility to other performers and ensembles, which increase your chances of getting a commission or a request to perform your music. Remember make yourself known to performers, and if you do those following things, you will put yourself out there more and more.

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