Last May I began my monthly task of searching for composition competitions, calls for scores, etc., and came upon the Indianapolis Composition Competition. I noted the substantial cash award, plus the performance by the ICO as part of Indiana State University’s 44th Contemporary Music Festival. The announcement stated that:
The Indiana State University Contemporary Music Festival/Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra Composition Competition was established to recognize outstanding composers of orchestral music. In addition to a monetary prize, the composer receiving first place will be invited to attend a performance of the winning composition by the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra as part of the Festival’s activities. The winner also will be invited to speak at the Festival on a topic relating to his or her music. Other guests featured at the three-day Festival include the Principal Guest Composer, Gabriela Lena Frank, guest pianist Michael Kirkendoll, guest scholars, and composers participating in the Music Now concert. Since its beginning, more than 200 established and emerging composers—including eighteen winners of the Pulitzer Prize and five winners of the Grawemeyer Award—have participated in the Festival.
My immediate reaction (particularly to the bolded sentence) was “Ok, Joe, you have 0.01% chance of even being seriously considered. Is it really worth the time and $20 entry fee?” I pondered my options for a bit and came to the conclusion, that yes, it was worth the time and entry fee, because if I did NOT enter, then I had a 0.0% chance of obtaining anything. So, I entered, and had completely forgotten about the competition until I received an email and letter last week stating that I had, in fact, won the award. I was stunned. OK – now what?
I contacted the hosts and awarding organization and thanked them for the award, and told them that I was honored and happy to accept. They said “Great! Now send us the parts!” I responded, “OK, I will!” I hung up. Then a sense of dread immediately ensued – I was planning to make some minor revisions to the piece following its premiere in April 2010 and I had not yet done so. I reminded myself to stay calm, clear my mind, and then I set to work. I finished the revisions in a couple of afternoons, and am now preparing the parts.
Now that the initial shock of winning the award and the stages of hurried preparations are behind me, I reflected upon my initial thought – not to enter – and must laugh a bit at myself. Had I not entered, I would not have won. My advice to all of the “young and emerging composers?” Enter every competition you can. If you do not have a piece that fits the instrumentation, then take a year and write one for the next year’s competition (if it is annual). I am not suggesting that composers should “dive-bomb” every competition, rather we should take the time to search for competitions and calls for scores (I do this once every month), mark the competitions that we feel are important, and work diligently toward our goals. We are the best arbiters of our music. If we do not make the effort, who will?