"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, April 10, 2007
Just the Job

Last Friday, our Composition Seminar focused on the nitty-gritties of being a professional composer. Iím always hesitant to discuss these things with students, because it can be pretty overwhelming to face the challenges of making a living when you are having a hard enough time getting some of your music finished, and an even harder time getting it performed once itís finished. But I also feel like Iíd be doing the students a major disservice if I didnít touch on some of the realities of life after graduation.

Because of time limitations, the session was devoted almost exclusively to the concert composer profession, such as it is. Topics covered: licensing organizations, publishing, self-publishing, recording, management, taxes, websites, internet resources, competitions, grants, festivals.

All of these students already take career development courses that would have been almost unimaginable when I was a student. In those days, a musician who could present an attractive publicity package was seen as somehow suspect Ė how could you possibly devote yourself to refining your artistic skills and still have enough time to market yourself? Now all young musicians are expected to have some marketing savvy to go along with their artistic skills.

Is the world a better place for this? A yes or no answer would be foolish, since there are myriad advantages and trade-offs, even within one musicianís career. I tried to emphasize to the students that every career path is different. I told them that they had to constantly reassess and reprioritize their goals, striking the right personal balance between artistic and professional aspirations that would allow them to live the lives they wanted to live.

I hope they benefited. I hope, if they have questions or confusions, they come ask me, instead of stewing in any unhealthy juices.