What does a composer do? Why does he do it?
The composer and his art form are elusive, to say the least.
Stories of Beethoven busily composing in the wilderness and Mozart meticulously composing entire compositions in his mind before notating them are among the grand stories youngsters first learn in music history class. These stories are inspiring. But they paint a somewhat obscured picture, making folks like you and me think that composition is an art form reserved only for a select group of people with supernatural ability.
This is not the case.
Composition is an accessible art form. Of course, like with anything, a person must possess some degree of skill to participate in the tradition.
I was thirteen-years-old when I first became interested in songwriting and composition. I vividly remember sitting at the piano with my grandmother (a professional pianist). She taught me how to play-by-ear (without music) and pick harmony that complimented the melody.
Composing music thrilled me to no end and filled my soul with ecstatic joy!
Putting my new found knowledge into practice, I began composing songs and instrumental pieces for my church praise team. One thing led to another, and I enrolled in the music composition program at LaGrange College. Thus, my swim in the deep knowledge pool began!
It was evident early in my studies that I quickly needed to learn music theory to keep up with other students in the program. It wasn’t easy, but I learned a lot and received many opportunities to compose music for instrumental ensembles and choirs. I went on to win awards for my music and receive a Master of Music degree from Georgia State University.
Regardless of my success, I feel that I could’ve been more prepared to study composition in college. I wish training courses had been available to me before my college student days.
No one tells you that a career as a composer is a possibility. Clichés such as “you’ll be a starving artist” are the first things to exit people’s mouths when invited (or not invited) to give feedback on the subject. But a career as a composer is achievable, especially when taking into account all the possible scenarios for generating income.
We view the world a bit differently than others, recognizing beauty when we see it and seeking to point to it through our music. We create because we must. The desire to create burns deep within us. We’re going to do regardless, so we might as well try and get paid for it!
Commissions are one of the many avenues through which a composer can generate revenue. I’ve composed music for wedding ceremonies, memorial services, community dedications, church services, and concerts. There’s ample opportunity to compose for individuals and organizations if you look for work in the right places.
Once a composer has created something, it’s his responsibility to share it with others. There are many ways to which he can go about this.
Some choose to follow the traditional music publishing route. Most publishing houses encourage composers to submit their work for possible inclusion in their library. Different publishing houses focus on various styles of music. It’s best to research a publishing house before submitting music just to make sure the music meets their guidelines.
Self-publishing has taken off in recent years. By utilizing resources, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, composers can now build online networks and launch music to custom tailored audiences. There is more freedom in the self-publishing world vs. the traditional publishing model.
Selling pre-recorded music and presenting live music (concerts, etc.) are two other avenues for generating income.
The selfless act of imparting knowledge to others is every composer’s responsibility. Music is a gift. A beautiful gift that is to be shared and taught. Some of my fondest memories are of classrooms filled with energetic music students with a passion for learning new things.
I’ve taught composition in several environments, including private one-on-one instruction, several homeschool programs, and music camps. It’s an incredible privilege to witness students create and grow in their craft.
Teaching is a noble and brilliant way for a composer to generate income.
I’m thrilled that you’re reading this blog post! I’m thrilled because it means the art of composition is still very much alive and relevant in our world! I hope my words are resonating with you.
You see, the composer is most important to music!
Without her, there is no music. Without her, beautiful music that reaches deep into hearts and changes lives ceases to exist!
The world needs composers.
Do you have an aspiring composer? Does she show an interest in crafting little songs and melodies? Is he thinking about pursuing composition beyond high school? There are things you can do to set your student up for success.
Encourage your student to create!
My parents wholeheartedly supported my decision to compose. I’m so grateful for the time they granted me to pursue my calling. Encouraging your child to create provides him with a support base from which he’ll steadily draw energy and enthusiasm for his craft.
Lori Garcia, a contributor to babble.com, has this to say about parent encouragement –
Recognize your child’s efforts and progress. Compliment them, showcase their work, and express pride in their determination and personal commitment.
Provide opportunities for your student to learn.
I can’t stress this enough! Look for any and every occasion for your student learn new things. Whether it be private lessons, online courses, training initiatives such as festivals and camps, attending concerts, or participating in concerts.
The National Education Association shows that students whose parents are actively involved in education –
- Earn higher grades and test scores, and enroll in higher-level programs
- Be promoted, pass their classes, and earn credits
- Attend school regularly
- Have better social skills, show improved behavior, and adapt well to school
- Graduate and go on to postsecondary education
You see, the art of composition is accessible to those willing to put in the time and effort to learn the craft. It’s a noble profession. Commissioning, publishing, performance, and teaching opportunities are great avenues for generating revenue.
Encourage your young, budding composer. He will benefit greatly from being immersed in the multifaceted music world and from your involvement in his education. She needs the love and support that only parents and mentors can provide.
NO aspiring composer can begin creating before having a basic understanding of the 3 essential elements of music.
The great composer Johannes Brahms said,
Without craftsmanship, inspiration is a mere reed shaken in the wind.
Let me teach you about the 3 essential elements of Music. Scroll down for a FREE video lesson!!
CLICK ON THE VIDEO LINK!