It’s More About Purpose than Praise

I get a near-constant stream of rejections. It’s mostly because I am constantly sending in pieces to competitions and calls for scores and, most of the time, my work is not what they’re looking for. I got three rejections this past week. I’ve become used to it.

But sometimes I get a response from someone that cannot be defined as being opposite to rejection. It is a response much deeper and more personal than simply “liking” my music. It’s born out of a profound engagement with my music.

This week, I got a couple of unexpected messages from a friend who lives in another state. In this first, she said that one of my blog posts reminded her that she could listen to my piece Daughter of the Stars on Apple Music. She began listening to it and wrote me to tell me how lovely it was. I appreciated the listens and the praise, but two days later she wrote again with sad news. Her cousin and good friend had suddenly died, and she was grieving. She told me that she was praying and walking to process her feelings, and she had Daughter of the Stars on her playlist to listen while she walked. DotS was bringing her comfort, reminding her that beauty existed in the world even when everything was dark and painful. This was a comment that was more than praise. She wasn’t trying to communicate that I wrote a nice piece. She was telling me that my work has purpose, that it was doing good in the world by lifting her spirits.

This past weekend, the Greater Tiverton Community Chorus premiered my piece O Holy Night, O Glorious Light which I had been commissioned to write in commemoration of the ensemble’s fortieth anniversary. They did a wonderful job! I received plenty of praise for my work. But one particular chorus member’s comment has stayed with me. She told me, “Every season, one of the pieces the chorus performs really speaks to me. This season, that was your piece. I have been having a tough time with things lately, and your piece has encouraged me and brought me a lot of peace.”

Another person telling me my music has a purpose.

Last month, I received an order on my website from an orchestra director at a high school in Texas. He ordered the score and parts for DotS and also hired me to add a harp part to it because his school has some young harpists. He hopes to have his ensemble play it at a competition. This speaks to me much more than “I like your music.” It says, “I believe that your music has educational merit. It will help my students grow as musicians, and it will provide a challenging and engaging opportunity for them.” He didn’t say those words, but he didn’t have to. I knew what he was saying: my music has a purpose.

As a composer, I don’t think there is any higher compliment that I could receive than someone telling me that my music profoundly impacted their life, helped them get through a difficult time, or caused them to view the world differently.

Regular praise dissipates. It just does. It can get lost in the sea of rejections. But when people tell me how my music has impacted them, it connects me to these individuals forever in a very intimate way. My music which is a part of me has become part of them, and part of the relationship we have. These comments stay with me. I can’t stop thinking about them! These are the comments that are strong enough to bust through any self-doubt, fear, or discouragement. I may get a never-ending flow of rejections, but I will still know that my music has made an impact that cannot be undone.

I am grateful that these two women shared their hearts with me; I am grateful to the orchestra director who considers my work something inspiring to young musicians. These are the treasures I collect in my heart.

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