Want to make it as a choral composer? Eric Whitacre has this advice…
Want to make it in the cliquey and super geeky world, full of cassocks and false relations? In our recent web chat, the best in the business had these tips for a budding choral composer...
Get out there and find that choir
"I suppose the best advice I could give would be this: find a choir, doesn't matter how good they are, and get them to commit to premiering a new piece by you. Set a date in the calendar (their Spring concert, for instance). This isn't going to be so easy because a lot of choir directors will be nervous, but do not give up. Keep calling and emailing and pestering people until someone agrees."
Now get your quill (or mac) and write, write, write
"Now, you're stuck. You HAVE to write a piece. You don't have enough schooling, you don't know enough about composing, and still you are going to HAVE TO WRITE THIS PIECE."
OK, the writing part is hard. Fear not…
Pro tip: you will never know enough about composing, no one can, so the best you can do is start writing and learning. As you write the piece, start small and stay small. Don't try to begin with an opera, or a Requiem.
Now the motifs are flowing, a few more pro tips
"Take a very small idea, find a very small musical motif to match that, and then try and write the entire piece using only that musical material or slight variations on it. Don't worry about sounding original, or impressing people. Just try to get a piece that has a beginning, a middle, and an end and uses the smallest amount of musical material. It can be just one minute long."
You've got your opus, now it's time to refine and obsess (and maybe get a bit nervy)
"Go to every rehearsal they will let you attend. Talk to the performers, see what they like, what they don't like. Watch and see if they struggle with anything you've written, and if you think they are struggling because you've not written it well, rewrite that part. Listen and obsess, do everything you can to get the piece sounding as good as possible for the premiere."
"At the premiere itself you will be transformed. Doesn't really matter if the piece is a hit or a disaster (I've had lots of both in my time), something about the act of performing something you wrote in front of people who have never heard it before will transform you."
You've done it - you're a choral composition superstar (to the appropriate degree)
"Believe me when I say this: you will learn more from the experience of writing a piece and having it performed than you ever will at school, or from a book. After that, do it again. The path to TV, musicals, choral music.... that is all a distraction, and in many ways completely out of your hands. Your music is going to take you where you are supposed to go. Good luck!"