Lawrence Dillon@Sequenza21.com

"There are no two points so distant from one another that they cannot be connected by a single straight line -- and an infinite number of curves."

Composer Lawrence Dillon has produced an extensive body of work, from brief solo pieces to a full-length opera. Three disks of his music are due out in 2010 on the Bridge, Albany and Naxos labels. In the past year, he has had commissions from the Emerson String Quartet, the Cassatt String Quartet, the Mansfield Symphony, the Boise Philharmonic, the Salt Lake City Symphony, the Ravinia Festival, the Daedalus String Quartet, the Kenan Institute for the Arts, the University of Utah and the Idyllwild Symphony Orchestra.

Although he lost 50% of his hearing in a childhood illness, Dillon began composing as soon as he started piano lessons at the age of seven. In 1985, he became the youngest composer to earn a doctorate at The Juilliard School, and was shortly thereafter appointed to the Juilliard faculty. Dillon is now Composer in Residence at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where he has served as Music Director of the Contemporary Ensemble, Assistant Dean of Performance, and Interim Dean of the School of Music. He was the Featured American Composer in the February 2006 issue of Chamber Music magazine.


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Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Four Brinks and Six Funding Avenues

I havenít written much about my composing lately, because Iíve found myself -- due to some extraordinary good luck and some old-fashioned hard work -- teetering on the brinks of four major commissions. One -- a consortium commission involving five orchestras -- is a done deal, but the music isnít due until Jan. 2010, so I donít really feel compelled to dive into it just yet. Another one is pretty much a done deal, just a few technical issues to work out Ė but that oneís not due until July 2009, so, again, Iíll be in pre-compositional mode until maybe the fall. A third is very likely, but not certain, but it would have to be finished this summer, and I should be hearing yea or nay any time now. And the fourth is probably not worth mentioning, except itís the biggest, but it wouldnít be due for another two-and-a-half years, if it works out at all.

The nicest thing is Iíve reached the point in my career where I can go to people with my ideas and ask for their support, as opposed to simply reacting to what other people want from me.

With all of this on the horizon, though, I havenít felt too eager to start anything else major, so Iíve been futzing around with older pieces, refining them and prepping them for recording sessions.

Itís given me some time to reflect on the nature of professional success. Some composers seem to have a nose for money Ė for relentlessly tracking down funding sources and bagging them one after another, like hunters after prey. I havenít had that kind of talent, but Iíve learned, very slowly, a few things about finding money.

There are, I think, six primary sources for funding compositional projects:
ē Grants
ē Corporations
ē Individuals
ē Artistic Institutions
ē Educational Institutions
ē Sales
The composers with the greatest professional success seem to tap into several of these sources all at once. For my part, most of my success, such as it is, has come from individual supporters and educational institutions.

The educational institution Iíve benefited from the most has been the North Carolina School of the Arts, which has supplied me with an annual income, materials, performances Ė and immeasurable inspiration.

But my favorite source of support is the individual donor. Thereís nothing like having people who believe in your work so much that they are willing to put their own hard earnings into it. Sometimes that support is modest; sometimes it is really substantial. Either way, itís a great way to do what you really want to do compositionally, because you have personal support for your vision, as opposed to generic support for your work as a category.

The tough part of getting individual support is talking up what you are trying to do Ė sometimes Iím very good at it, and sometimes I am hopelessly tongue-tied when it comes to my music. I canít really say Iím getting better at it, Iím just getting more willing to keep trying, which of course results in increased success (as opposed to not trying, that is).