Getting My Learning On

I got official word this week from one of the choruses I accompany that we will not be having a fall season. This was not unexpected. I won’t be surprised if the other choruses make the same decision. I’ve been preparing for it – as best I can, anyway.

Summer is a slow time for me, as it is. While some musicians normally have summer festivals, I have nothing. My groups follow the school-year calendar, so I only have a trickle of private students during the summer months. Normally I focus on my garden. Last year, I music directed a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. This year, taking a side job at a local community theater wasn’t an option.

Amazingly, however, though the virus has forced many musical events to be canceled or restricted to smaller groups, several composition workshops have gone online and opened up their programs to more attendees! I am exceedingly grateful for this.

The Young Women Composers Camp had to cancel all in-person activities but made a way for presenters to give online workshops. They opened registration to everyone – for FREE. Obviously, I am not a young woman composer, but I am still “young” in my career. I am still emerging, and I feel I can glean a lot from listening to what presenters have to say, so I’ve been taking time out on Mondays and Thursdays to tune into a Zoom meeting. I am curious; I am learning.

National Sawdust created a Digital Discovery Festival full of videos and podcasts of performances, interviews, and masterclasses with composers and performers of new music. Also FREE! I haven’t gotten to these yet – there are so many!

Later on this month and into August, I am “attending” the Lake George Composition Institute and another Composers Conference. The Lake George program was originally meant to be only for young composers. Now, they have expanded the online offerings, and composers of all ages can benefit. The Composers Conference is offering several workshops online which I am very excited about. For example, I will have the opportunity to hear from performers about writing for various instruments, which is very beneficial for someone like me who doesn’t have easy access to performers at a university.

Even though I am not young, I am still learning. I started composing later in life, but I still benefit from a lot of the same things as “young” composers do. It would be difficult for me to get to many of these programs in-person, besides having aged out of them. Being older also gives me grown-up bills, like college for my kids, which can preclude me from traveling to a week-long workshop. I am thankful that these groups have re-imagined their programs and opened them up to online presentations and a wider audience. I am thankful that all of them were either free or offered at a very reasonable price. An older emerging composer like me often falls through the gaps, but these groups found some cracks and filled them.

It turns out I’m working all summer, after all. I’m working on learning and improving my skills. I will be able to take what I learn this summer and keep on working at it throughout the fall. Some forced “time off” is more like “time redirected.”

Meanwhile, I’ve decided to also work on getting what I *do* know out there to others in internetland. I’ve started a Patreon community in which I will share behind-the-scenes insights into my compositional processes and decisions, interviews with other musicians I know, and lessons on music theory and form, etc. Patreon is a place where people can directly support artists. However, I want my Patreon supporters to feel that they are not just supporting my work, but that joining is a benefit to them. I want it to be a place where they can learn and enrich their own understanding of music.

A summer (and now fall) that is normally a down-time for me in regards to work has become an opportunity to be able to focus on things I would not have otherwise been able to do. On one hand, my income is diminished. On the other hand, I cannot predict how the work I am doing now may pay off down the road. Even if it doesn’t show up monetarily, I am investing in myself by getting my learning on.

(If you are interested in checking out my Patreon community, follow this link:

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