All Composers Were Young Once, Some Still Are

By Barry Kempton

I have the pleasure of serving on the non-profit Board of the American Composers Forum (ACF) which met this past weekend. ACF is a membership organization for composers providing information, community networking and access to a variety of programs and commissioning grants.

One of the newest of these programs in NextNotes. This is a music composition award program for high school students. Six winning composers will get a scholarship prize, two days of workshops with professional composers and musicians, a performance and a recording of their piece. If you attend high school or know a student who might be interested in submitting some original music of their own, please check out the web page. The application deadline is Monday January 12, less than 4 months away.

We at The Schubert Club launched our own composer mentorship program for high school age composers earlier in September. Four students will work with Schubert Club composer-in-residence Edie Hill during the next seven months, exploring their voices, learning about the music business, learning from one another, attending performances and most importantly, writing a piece of music. They will write it for Mélange à Trois, a mixed instrument trio (horn, violin and piano) based here in the Twin Cities. The ensemble and composers met for the first time at the launch and will meet again three more times over the course of the year. They will get what many “more senior” composers would give an arm and a leg for – the opportunity to hear their music performed by professional musicians while still a work-in-progress. And at the end of the program, Mélange à Trois will perform the pieces written by all four composers in one of our free lunchtime concerts in Landmark
Center. This event in previous years has been for me a highlight of that series.

While enthusing about these programs and the creativity of these young people recently, I was challenged with the question as to whether there are enough professional opportunities for all this talent and skills development on offer. It’s maybe a question better answered by the 2000+ members of the American Composers Forum. Many will be making a living from writing music, others will be supplementing their incomes with occasional fees they get from writing music and many more may get little or no financial compensation but derive value from composing music in diverse other ways. These are creative people and in my opinion, the more creative people around us, the better.

Whether those young composers taking advantage of programs like our Composer Mentorship Program and NextNotes go on to make a career in music or ultimately apply their talents in other directions, I would argue that the world is going to need as many creative people as possible in all fields, especially given some of the discord and conflict we appear to have around the world now.