I'm A Composer...Now What?
If only composing came with an application process. If someone told me that being a composer meant I would be spending 75% of my time marketing, self promoting, networking, finding gigs, meeting potential clients, being rejected by potential clients, panicking when I have too little work, panicking when I have too much work, making websites, making social media pages, and wrestling my printer…I’m not going to lie, it probably wouldn’t have been my first choice.
So why do it? Honestly, I can’t help myself. I love all types of creative venues, like painting and writing, and design. It’s just in my blood to create something from nothing (except for clothes. I really can’t stand sewing). And though the lows of composing, the marketing, business, and rejection, are annoyingly low, the highs are addictively high: hearing your piece played for the first time by live musicians; seeing your name across the big screen; getting lost in composing for hours upon hours. It’s a career that I simultaneously wouldn’t wish on anyone, and couldn’t live without.
I’m a composer and orchestrator (hopefully you got that). I composed my first (albeit really bad) symphony my senior year of high school. After a lot more years of school, I now have a Ph.D. in composition and theory, and am still composing symphonies (which have gotten way better), as well as chamber, band, brass, choir, and film music. I also have a career in orchestration and I feel extremely fortunate to be a small cog in the giant wheel of film music for major films and tv shows. It is simultaneously an exhausting and truly exciting career, and surprisingly I get to be creative in a whole new way.
Jumpstart the freelance composition career, focusing on wind/brass ensemble for now. I love my job as an orchestrator, but I also love composing classical music. I have always loved band music (as a flutist I’ve played in a band in some form since the 4th grade), and I think it will be beneficial to start specializing in a niche in the vast classical world of music.
Plan of attack:
Step 1: I need a wind ensemble body of work. It’s already happened several times that directors have asked me for music after hearing one of my pieces performed, and I didn’t have any other options to offer! So I need more music.
Step 2: Get recordings. I definitely do not have a plan of attack for this yet. I’ll let you know when I do.
Step 3: Get a web presence. OK, I’m not at total ground zero in this area. I’ve got a website. I have an imdb page. At some point though I’m going to have to start tackling the social media bear, and website metadata and….other stuff. Blegh.
I know that this plan is lacking about 50 steps, but for years I’ve been too afraid to take these first steps. Why? Probably something in the vicinity of it being too big of a thing to actually work, not knowing where to begin, being afraid to fail, and being afraid to invest billions of hours and dollars into something that might not take off anyway. But at this point I pretty much have three options: 1. Quit. 2. Go for it. 3. Stay in musical purgatory where it’s not quite a career but more than a hobby. And I already invested a billion hours and dollars for all my musical education, so I might as well go for it.
I also realized that option 2 doesn’t have to be accompanied by all the emotional baggage. I can just take a step without worrying about if it works or not, or if it leads me anywhere or not. Eliminating the pressure of the outcome is incredibly freeing. Without the stinkbomb of doubt and worry I had hanging over me, all of a sudden I have the motivation and capacity to take a step.
Copyright © 2019 Jamie Thierman. All rights reserved.