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Commissioning FAQ's. (Composer Commissioning).

At this writing, we are busy completing another year of the MTNA Composer Commissioning Program, including the selection of the MTNA Shepherd Distinguished Composer of the Year. This seems like a good time to remind you to allow plenty of "lead time" for your next commission. Whether or not your state commissioned a work this year, now is a great time to begin planning your next (or your first) commissioned work.

The MTNA Composer Commissioning Program is well served by a distinguished Composer Commissioning Advisory Committee. The committee will meet again in March at the National Conference in Salt Lake City. This would be a great time for you to meet them and to share your state's concerns about the Composer Commissioning Program. The committee has a wealth of teaching, performing and composition experience. Members of the MTNA Composer Commissioning Committee are Patricia Plude, NCTM, San Francisco, California; Warren Gooch, Kirksville, Missouri; Ann Witherspoon, Houston, Texas; Deanna Walker, NCTM, Nashville, Tennessee; David Mattingly, Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania; and Paula Gardiner, NCTM, Wilmington, Delaware. I am grateful to all of them for agreeing to serve on the committee.

The advisory committee is dedicated to increasing the awareness of the MTNA Composer Commissioning Program and increasing state affiliate participation. To that end, this column will review answers to three of the most frequently asked questions.

How Does a State Choose a Composer to Commission?

States can choose any American composer to commission. The method of selecting a composer is left up to the states. Many states use a small committee to make this choice, often with input from the state officers. Selection processes are quite varied among the states. Sometimes a composer is asked to submit a sample of his or her work, along with a proposal for a new composition. In some cases, states just identify the main composers they are interested in and contact the composers directly.

As long as consistent state guidelines and procedures are in place, states can make the selection of composers fairly easily. It also is possible for a state to simply offer the state commission to a given composer. Try to allow the composer a year or more to complete the commission process.

Where Do You Find Composers?

You might start a search for composers from your membership list. Ask members to identify composers in the region. Contact universities, colleges and other schools and solicit their help in identifying the composers in the state. Also, consider seeking assistance from composer societies, such as the Society of Composers, American Music Center and the American Composers Forum.

Many states seek composers by issuing a call for given projects in the state newsletter, in professional composer's journals and on college and university bulletin boards. If your state has a Composer Commissioning Advisory Committee, have the committee develop and maintain a list of possible composers to commission in the future.

How Does a State Fund a Commissioned Work?

To begin the funding, the state board plans this expense as a budget item. MTNA will match--up to $500--toward a total commission of $1,000. A state also can provide more funding for the newly composed work, increasing the total. Funds from additional sources also can be added to the total commission. Some states collaborate on a commission, and each state is eligible for the matching funds from MTNA, This can quickly increase the total amount for the composer. It also is desirable for the composer, who will receive at least two initial performances, one in each of the collaborating states.

If budgets are tight, states should consider going to outside sources for funding assistance. One alternative is to ask individuals to donate. Many patrons of the arts are more than willing to help support the creation of new music, and one or two small gifts can significantly increase the base commission amount. Don't be afraid to ask for help from individuals and/or businesses. These individuals or businesses that donate toward the commission can be appropriately recognized in the conference program and invited to the first performance.

Your state also can partner with local solo and/or performing ensembles. Many of these performing musicians are supportive of new music and look for opportunities to present new music. In some cases performers are motivated by the opportunity to work with the composer in preparation for the performance. We hear many stories of such performers who mount these premiere performances at virtually no extra cost to the composer or the state affiliate.

Finally, you might look into more formal grant applications through various agencies, including some of the previously mentioned professional composer's groups and other arts agencies.

The composition submitted by the 2002 MTNA-Shepherd Distinguished Composer of the Year will be performed Tuesday, March 18, at 3:30 P.M., along with the MTNA Collegiate Artist Performance Winners' Concert, at the National Conference in Salt Lake City.

--Thomas Ediger, NCTM Chair, MTNA Composer Commissioning Program Nebraska City, Nebraska He is the director of choral activities and professor of music at Peru State College.
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Title Annotation:Music Teachers National Association Composer Commissioning Program
Author:Ediger, Thomas
Publication:American Music Teacher
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2003
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