Thursday, February 23, 2017

Commissioning new music: a guide to get started

This is a preview (and hopefully helpful resource for later!) of the presentation I am leading on behalf of Flute New Music Consortium at the Music by Women festival March 3-4 in Columbus, MS. If you're in the area, I hope you can come!  Some amazing music by Nicole Chamberlain, Amber Beams, and Kay HE will also be performed. And some of this information will be presented again, in round table form with composers and commissioners, at NFA in Minneapolis this summer!

Funding Ideas for Commissioning Projects:


Aggregate Sites:

American Composers Forum: composers

BMI Foundation:

Musical Online:

Barlow Endowment for Music Composition:
Things to know: There is one commission prize every year for an LDS composer, and another one every year for the general public; since requirements are so open-ended, this is a very competitive application.

Carnegie Corporation Aggregate Site:
Things to know: Grants here often require a special focus and/or educational content, so read about the grants first, then tailor your project to the required language.

Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Program:
Things to know: must be a member of CMA to apply; the director of the program is very hands-on, so make contact with her as you develop your proposal to see if she has any suggestions for making it better.

Things to know: There is no strictly classical music category, just a general “performing arts” group, and integration with other artworks is an important element to the projects they fund.

National Endowment for the Arts:
Things to know: highly competitive; if you are writing for a grant through your school, only one application per school per year, is accepted, so coordinate with your school director to ensure you are qualified.

Local and stat arts organizations often have either specific grant applications for artists or discretionary money for intriguing proposals.  Must be a member of the organization to apply.  To look up your state and region, go to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies:

Go Fund Me: (No limit required, no penalty for not reaching goal)
Kickstarter: (Financial goal must be reached in order to collect)
Rocket Hub: www.rocket

Finding Composers:
American Composers Forum:
Composer’s Forum:
Cornell University Composers Forum:
European Composers Forum:
UNT Composers Forum:
Washington Composers Forum:
Young Composers Forum:

Composers for Performers, Performers for Composers:
Group for New Music Ensembles and Composers:

Background Information

Bios from every ensemble member and the composer

Ensemble bio that proves some history as a performing entity

Include composer’s and ensemble’s resume (or performer’s individual resumes if an ensemble resume is not possible)

Copies of the front pages of the composer’s and grant writer’s passports to prove citizenship (if this is a requirement for the grant)

Sample works

Sample programs from the ensemble

Sample recordings, generally 2-3 each from the performing ensemble and the composer (there will be time limits imposed and some requirement that a percentage of this recorded material is live and unedited)

Sample scores from the composer, professionally bound

Details of the Project

Composer’s description: Include as much detail as possible, particularly the length and instrumentation of the proposed piece. Description of structure, inspiration for the piece, and special requirements for the performance are helpful to include here if possible.

“About the project”: how does the commission relate to your programming, why have you selected the composer, and what (if any) is the history of your creative relationship?

Projected premiere: when, where, how…

Copy of your agreement with the composer

Financial Details

Create a budget that justifies your financial request, including projected fees for the composer, ensemble honorarium (CMA suggests $1,000 / performer as a maximum), and copying costs. Research the grant’s allowable range sty within it!

Excel spreadsheet of your ensemble’s operating budget is sometimes required (CMA)

Nicole Riner ©2016

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