Composition competitions, redux

I got the American Composers Forum newsletter yesterday and there on the front page was an article by Eric Whitacre, “Advice for the Emerging Composer: Competitions.”

Eric Whitacre, for those who do not know, is one of the major cool kids of contemporary choral music. His blog is here. Highly readable.

Anyway, he outlines some benefits for emerging composers to enter all these competitions. The first is exposure, which makes sense. Even if you don’t win, the judges will have seen your work. He says several times judges have contacted him to see if they could program his work that didn’t win the competition.

Second, he says, you’ll finish the piece. I’m a Lichtenbergian. ‘Nuff said.

Third, and I will quote him directly here:

In the last 18 years I’ve probably entered a hundred competitions and I have never won anything. Nothing. I lost the ASCAP Young Composers award three times (in three different years I entered “When David Heard,” “Lux Aurumque,” and “Cloudburst,” lost with all three.

And more of the same. Incredible. “Lux Aurumque,” sung here at a midnight mass in London. Didn’t win. His most recent post talks about getting a letter from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, rejecting his application for an award they had invited him to apply for.

He says not winning is a good thing. It helps make you stronger, if you’re smart, because it reinforces your sense of your own worth. Your piece should have won, dammit, because it was good, and you know that. It’s what keeps you writing more.

All in all, a timely and enjoyable article. And now I have yet another blog to keep up with.

2 thoughts on “Composition competitions, redux

  1. Well I’m up to two blogs kept up with, you and the Stripped Project, not too shabby. Just out of curiosity, how many do you keep up with? If you become the next Eric Whitacre I’ll shoot you. The guy wrote one piece a jillion times, I’d like to think your stuff is more original than that.

  2. I read about 20 regularly and about 15 more irregularly. Whitacre’s is one I’ll check on occasionally. And thank you for the compliment.

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