Music written just for you
Commissioning music is having a composer write a piece specifically for you or your ensemble. There are a lot of reasons to commission music. It’s an opportunity to introduce new compositions for your instrument or ensemble to the repertoire. It’s artistically satisfying and a rewarding experience. It’s a way to have your name printed on the score. And most of all it’s a lot of fun!
The music can commemorate just about anything: a personal milestone, a professional achievement, a joyous occasion or a tragic event. It can be joyous and upbeat or solemn and pensive, a multi-movement piece, humorous, serious, sacred, secular – you get to decide. Whatever your reason, the music can express it.
Commissioning music is an opportunity to work creatively with the composer, revealing your hopes, dreams and fancies and then seeing them realized in the composer’s music. It involves both vision and trust. You become a collaborator, working with the composer in the shaping of your musical vision. It’s all about communication, beginning with words and ending with a composition just for you.
How does commissioning work?
The commission begins with a telephone call or an email. We will talk about everything. We will discuss and agree on the instrumentation, duration, level of difficulty, the style, anything you want as well as anything you don’t want. If your low Bb is broken there will be no low Bb. There are so many variants, so many options and we need to be on the same page before the first note is written.
If you need the music by a certain date we’ll set a deadline. We’ll also discuss and negotiate price as it’s flexible and usually depends on many factors including instrumentation and duration. We will work together to find the solutions that work best for both of us.
The music will be playable – that’s a given. You will receive the score and parts in a timely manner. Your name will appear on the score above the title along with any description you may want such as the occasion and date. You have the right to the premiere performance which will generate publicity for you or your ensemble. The music will be published and will never go out of print.
In my 30+ years writing educational music (music for concert bands from the elementary level to the United States Army Bands) I’ve had some interesting and often amusing requests stipulated as part of the commission. One band wanted to highlight a new set of four timpani. Another had only three bass instruments: a bari sax, a 32” timpani and an electric guitar, with the possibility of an 8th grader sitting in and playing tuba; thus my bass line had to accommodate those particular instruments. Another commission needed to feature a new vibe recently purchased by the band boosters. Every request is taken seriously.
It was an honor to be the first woman composer commissioned to write for the United States Army Band. That composition, Hall Of Heroes, featured the U.S. Army Band & Chorus and paid tribute to the recipients of the U.S. Congressional Medal of Honor, with words based on a poem by Audie Murphy. It was one of the most meaningful creative experiences of my life. The United States Military Academy Band at West Point commissioned a piece, To Keep Thine Honor Bright, for the Bicentennial celebration of the USMA. The Continental Army (now TRADOC) Band also commissioned a piece, Victorious, a chance to musically acknowledge our soldiers worldwide.
One of my favorite commissions was from Doug Tornquist, a professional tuba player in Los Angeles. He told me he liked my music and asked me to write a piece for his CD. The more I thought about the piece, the more I could hear an instrumentation that I don’t think anyone had ever written for – flute, clarinet, trumpet, horn and tuba. With all my experience in writing music for wind instruments, this combination made great musical sense to me. Fortunately Doug agreed with my choice of instruments, although he probably had some doubts along the way. The piece, Feels Like Far, is available here on this website. Following that was a commission for a trio and I chose clarinet, horn and tuba. That piece, On The Out-Side, is also available on this website. From an unaccompanied solo piece to a large chamber work, almost anything is possible.
Bass trombone and violin? – an intriguing combination! Two successful businessmen who often play for charity events (usually as strolling musicians) commissioned Soundscapes and wanted it to be an audience-friendly performance piece. It is very gratifying to know that so many people have enjoyed my music and believe that I can and will write something especially for them.
Commissions can change your life. Friendships develop that might never have happened if that first telephone call hadn’t been made or that first email sent – friendships that can and do last a lifetime. Commissioning music is an opportunity to share our creative thoughts and work together on a very special project. There are only 12 notes but when those notes are written just for you, with your own unique sound and style in mind at all times, with your name above the title that says this one’s for you, something very special happens. I can only hope that the music will touch your heart, make you really glad you have been practicing all these years, and that when you play it your spirit will be an essential element of the composition.
– Anne McGinty