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"I did the best I could and when I knew better, I did better."
Maya Anglou

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FAQ's about Commissions:

These questions were originally submitted by Tom Porter as a doctoral student in choral conducting at the University of Missouri, Kansas City in 1999 on the subject of commissions. With his permission I have used his questions and updated the answers.

1. What procedure do you follow when someone contacts you regarding a commission (e.g. time expectations, contract)?

When someone initially contacts me, I ask several questions i.e. Is this for a special occasion? When does it need to be completed? What are the ranges and capabilities of each voice? Do you want a secular or sacred text? Do you have a text already in mind?

I like to fit the commission into my writing schedule if possible to ensure consideration by my publishers. I call my editors and check on their promotions and timings. Sometimes it does not matter to the requester if the commission is published. I cannot guarantee that any piece will be published.

I call the requester when I have the piece sketched and ready to put into the computer. I then sing it to them over the phone. If it is not appropriate, I start over…that has never happened…yet!

2. What are the positive aspects of the process for you as a composer?

I love to do commissions because it usually takes me to a place creatively that I have not been. You are writing for a specific group and performance and it gets my adrenaline going.

3. What insights could you share from your experiences that would help make this a positive experience for someone who has never commissioned a piece of music?

For someone who has never commissioned a piece, my advice is to never be intimidated by the composer, just call and ask. Commissions are a true compliment because they are affirming their art.

Composers continually take risks by exposing their talent and emotions in every piece they write. They are very real people - no different than anyone else except the fact that their work is very visible and is displayed for all eyes to see and ears to hear.

4. What do you allow/encourage as far as client involvement concerning music or text?

I will accept any text and work with it. If the submitted text does not flow, I will say something. This has never happened to me. As far as music, again, I have never had to rework anything. I would be willing but the issue has never come up.

5. What is your fee for a 3-4 minute choral piece (any voicing) with accompaniment and possible instrumental obbligato? (feel free to comment on fee scale for other works)

My minimum fee for a 3-4 minute is $1,000 plus $100 for instrumental obbligato. Larger works can range upwards of $1500 and above.

6. Is there a specific commission that was a memorable experience? (title, publisher, events surrounding the commission)

I have loved all of my commission experiences. My Alleluia (SATB Heritage Music Press) was memorable in that it was performed for the National ACDA convention in Chicago at the Symphony Hall and Medinah Temple. It was commissioned by the Thurman White Middle School Madrigal Singers, Randy Pagel, conductor, in Henderson, Nevada. There were close to 10,000 people between the two concerts. This was the first time I heard it performed…scary but exciting. It is one of my personal favorites…an ostinato 'alleluia' throughout with many interesting harmonic juxtapositions. It has since been a favorite of high school, college and community choruses.

My Festival Te Deum (SATB Heritage Music Press) premiered at the National MENC in Phoenix in '99. Randy Pagel, a fine musician, teacher and conductor in Henderson, NV, spearheaded the commission for both this piece and Alleluia. It has a driving rhythm with a contrasting Sanctus. I conducted this as a filler piece in the Carnegie Hall concert. It is used from advanced middle school up through adult choirs.
Click here for audio version: Festival Te Deum

Gloria! (SATB and SSA Heritage Music Press) with optional Timpani was commissioned in memory of Jim O'Hern for the Texas Music Educators Association Convention by the Lake Highlands Chorale, (a middle school) Michael O'Hern, and Deanna Goodman, Directors. Subsequently, Gloria!, was performed in the Smetana Hall in Prague, Czechoslovakia as the finale required high school piece for the International Choral Festival. I have since revoiced it for SSA. It has been used both in schools and churches.
Click here for audio version: Gloria!