put yourself out there

As a professor of music composition and arts entrepreneurship, I relentlessly push my students to “get themselves out there” and submit to competitions, network within their disciplines. During a lesson, I don’t just talk music-I ask who will hear the piece, what my student will do with it, and how they are pushing themselves to gain experience through networking and gigs.

This summer, I decided to take more of my own medicine and push myself to do the same. Here are the results:

Losses: 6

Wins: 3

Here is the list of things I submitted to: 1.) I wrote a large grant for the New Music USA project grants but didn’t get it, 2.) I was deep in the interview process to be hired to score a feature film and made it to the top 10 but didn’t get hired, 3.) I submitted my samples for two other film scoring opportunities and didn’t get hired, 4.) I scored one scene for a short film called The Stock Boy, for experience, exposure, and networking, 5.) I wrote a grant for the Kalamazoo Artistic Development Initiative and received full funding, but that was paired with the grant from New Music USA for which I received NO funding, 6.) I got a last minute rush gig composing some incidental music for an off-broadway play in NYNY. 7.) I submitted a proposal for a commission opportunity from Experiments in Opera, but unfortunately only made it to the top ten, 8.) I submitted a proposal for a commission from Listenpony in the UK and of the 200 applicants, I alas, did not make the cut.

All of this activity occurred between March 2016 and August 2016. It took an enormous amount of time and I did it alongside of composing and working on the few deadlines I have. For the grant I was awarded, I still have about 30-40 minutes of music that needs to be composed (it is only in rough-sketch form at the moment, but at least I have a wonderful text by Laura Theobald, and a great collaborator-the new music ensemble What is Noise).

When I look at the numbers, it’s really not bad. If I were only submitting to composition competitions, it may be more depressing. Eric Whitacre wrote a really nice article about competitions. My favorite quote is this:

It will steel your will and prepare you for a career filled with rejection. Did I mention that you won’t win?”

Yeah, you probably will not win. But that’s not the point.

The point is to practice. To put yourself out there. To constantly hush the voices of self doubt and relentlessly try, unapologetically.

This may result in a few commissions. Hell, maybe you will win one of those godforsaken competitions. Even the worst possible scenario is kinda awesome: you will have a pile of finished pieces and demos and examples of your music and artistry. And if you persist, the universe will send opportunities back to you. People will know you write music. Your name may come up in a conversation somewhere and a friend of a friend of a friend may pass your name off to the right person.

You will get the gig. And yes, it will feel good. But you have to infinitely try, without concern.

As I finish this blog post, I am also working on my tenth opportunity of the summer. Will I win? or will I lose the gig? regardless, I’ll have made a good impression AND I’ll have another track to add to my demo reel.