Commissioning & Patronage – An Invitation

Dear Music Lover,

Have you ever considered commissioning a composer to write a piece for you? By doing so, you can help bring something beautiful into the world, something that will continue to speak to others for years to come! Consider these two pieces (excerpted here) from my own output that came about as the result of a commission:

Psalm 100

Just Yesterday (from Two Songs of Two Loves)

Now consider that these pieces would not exist at all if someone had not commissioned them.

Commissioning Myths and Facts

Myth #1 – I have to be a major ensemble or arts organization to commission a piece from a composer.

Fact – While composers certainly receive and welcome commissions from such groups, this is by no means the only way to commission a piece. Just Yesterday, for example, was commissioned by mezzo soprano Jordana Lenon in Madison, WI, as a gift for her parents on the occasion of their 40thwedding anniversary.

Myth #2 – Commissioning costs a lot of money, there is no way I could pay the cost, especially as an individual.

Fact – When a person or ensemble commissions a piece, essentially they are paying for two things. First of all, of course, is the final product: the piece itself. Second is the time it takes to write, edit and engrave the new composition in preparation for its first performance and beyond. The commissioning fee is negotiated based on these considerations and the budget of the individual or organization. But the funds need not be raised by a single individual. Once again, to use Just Yesterday as an example, the commissioning fee was supplied by the five children of the couple, each contributing a manageable portion. This is what is loosely referred to as a “consortium” commission.

Myth #3 – Composers are a little crazy and don’t take direction very well. How could I tell you what I really wanted in a piece?

Fact – On the contrary, we composers are a generally a hard working lot and usually welcome the specific parameters that come with a commission. These apparent limitations (i.e. length, instrumentation, relation to a particular project or event, etc.) are actually good for us, helping us get started in a specific direction, rather than beginning with the proverbial blank page. They also provide an opportunity for fruitful dialogue and collaboration with the commissioning party.

If you are interested in commissioning a piece from me or have general questions about the process, please contact me. I would love to speak with you!

Other Forms of Patronage

Although perhaps the most familiar these days, commissioning is not the only way to support a composer and aid in the creation of beautiful new musical works. Here are some other ways you can help:

Referrals and networking – Do you know of a person or ensemble who is seeking to commission a piece? Do you have friends or associates in the music and arts community? These human connections are at the heart of any career, and even more so in the realm of music. Let’s get to know each other first and then discuss how you might help.

In kind support – This category covers things like printing costs, travel to conferences (click here for an exciting current opportunity) and performances (perhaps by gifting some those extra frequent flier miles!), gift certificates for office supplies, etc. Such in-kind support also ties into the networking and referrals just discussed. For example, perhaps you know an arts-minded accountant who would be willing to donate his services. As you well know, such expenses accumulate quickly and easily swallow up the meager net income a composer is likely to make.

Direct support – This form of patronage is perhaps less well-known these days, but no less important. It consists of direct financial support to the composer and his or her family. Composers no less than Chopin and Tchaikovsky were enabled to write some of their greatest masterpieces as a result of such gifts. Naturally, this kind of help raises questions of how to measure results, and general questions of accountability. These can be carefully worked out and monitored over time. But think how rewarding it would be to know that you were assisting in the creation of music that will be a blessing to people for years to come!

So, whether you are interested in commissioning a piece, assisting with networking, providing in-kind or direct support for my work, please don’t hesitate to contact me at the phone or email listed below. Let’s sit down over coffee (or via Skype if need be!) and get to know each other. I think you will find the possibilities to be both exciting and fruitful.

Yours Sincerely,

Brian J. Nelson – Composer

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