Thursday, October 23, 2014

Music Publishing Trends, Part Two

In my last post, we examined how the preparation for printing music has become so much easier and far less time-consuming with the advent of computer musical "engraving" software such as Finale and Sibelius. Let's continue with that theme and see how it plays out currently as far as composers and publishers are concerned:

Today almost every working composer or arranger creates their music in Finale, Sibelius, or a similar brand of electronic notation. In fact, many younger composers are writing their music right into their software, with perhaps only some sketches done at the piano with pencil and paper. I myself am going straight to Finale- I've become that comfortable starting right away into the program. I think it helps my ideas become more concise when I see them clearly on a "page", not that I won't heavily edit quite a lot as I go, and of course, later on when I really need to finalize things.

When a composer has strong Finale/Sibelius skills, her submission to a publisher will be pretty clean and clear. In fact, most of us composers working today are quite proud of our engraving skills. We turn out a great looking score almost all the time. What does this mean? It means that publishers are being presented candidates for publication which are already very close to being camera-ready! The laborious metal plates are a part of history and the publisher saves hundred of hours of labor. Between the disappearance of the plate method and the fact that composers are supplying camera-ready "manuscripts", publishers are now  saved oodles of time and hand labor. As an example, some of my traditional-world publishers have used my score straight up, although adjusting from my usual 8 1/2 by 11 down to their octavo size (by the way, most of us feel that octavo sizes should go the way of the dinosaur- we don't see any advantage to their use- if you can, let me know!). Years ago, Oxford would take my scores and reset every note- I was never sure why they bothered with that- their result looked almost exactly like what I had presented to them. Maybe it was some kind of British "I can do this better than an American" thing!

Now that I've exhausted the score preparation issue let's jump to the financial picture. Let's look at where each dollar of gross income goes from the sale of a typical music score. These are my guesstimates-they are approximate figures.

In traditional publishing:

$1.00 is broken down this way:

90 cents to the publisher
10 cents royalty to the composer, who must sign over copyright ownership of the music to the publisher

If a living poet's copyrighted text is used here is the breakdown:

90 cents to the publisher
5 cents to the composer, who must sign over copyright ownership of the music to the publisher
5 cents to the author, who will  not be asked to sign over any copyright ownership

Here is a rough idea of how that 90 cents on the dollar that the publisher takes breaks down:

30-40 cents reserved for discounting to retailers
20-30 cents "engraving" and printing
20 cents publicity
20 cents profit

Here are the aspects of the traditional business model which currently rub almost every composer/arranger I know the wrong way, and which causes almost every one of us to join a co-op, self-publish in some way, or for some talented composers, simply quit writing in frustration (believe me, I know some very fine people in that category).

1) Composers are handing publishers virtually camera-ready submissions. Why don't we get any financial credit for that? May I also add that publishers no longer have to do large print runs to keep costs down. With modern presses, there is no reason that anyone has to do a 2,000 copy run of anything and warehouse copies until they sell. This is another cost-saving area that publishers are benefiting from today. I think it's great, but please, dear publisher, don't tell me you have massive costs in warehousing hundreds of thousands of copies- it's just not true anymore).

2) Why do publishers present such hefty discounts to retailers? And when the publisher sells directly to the public (which is more and more the case because of the internet), why isn't the composer offered any cut of that large savings in publisher cost per score created and sold?

3) Publishers have fallen into the trap of hawking nothing but this year's new releases. Or they will hawk a new piece for about two years. If the piece doesn't sell in that period, it dies. I have actually been told by a publisher that they don't care what a piece does after two years. If they make money on it the first two years, then they are happy. That attitude really rubs composers the wrong way. Most of us are trying like the devil to write music that might endure, it's part of the classical music point of view we were raised on at the college level.

If the piece gets no support the composer can't regain control of the piece since he has signed away the copyright (although a few houses do have a right of reversal clauses- that's all I will sign these days). Additionally, composers today are very present  at music conferences. We are out there meeting conductors- we do a lot of the publicity wok ourselves. Sometimes I am amazed that we do so much for that for our traditionally published pieces when we are only receiving a 10% royalty.

 Composers have websites and blogs. We diligently answer questions e-mailed to us from conductors. We Skype for free with choirs all around the country. We spread word about our self-published music but also about the scores we have with traditional publishers.  We aren't the composers of yesteryear who were pretty much inaccessible to the public, who didn't make appearances at conferences, who were never much part of the selling and marketing of the music- the publisher was supposed to do all that. Composers' music was heard, but they themselves went quite unseen (with some obvious exceptions of course). Once again, Oxford comes to mind. When I first was published by them  there was a publicity arm in the NY City office dedicated solely to giving personal advice to conductors on new Oxford releases. They would suggest repertoire, especially the new repertoire, to conductors personally. They would publicize all this and even suggest concert programs to people. Oxford composers wee never asked to do any of that. It was part of the business model at Oxford carried out by their employees assigned that task. That disappeared completely when Oxford HQ in  England shuttered the US office. 

4) The copyright issue has become huge. Many of us just don't see why this has to be this way. Look at Eric Whitacre having the cojones to up and leave Walton overnight and strike out on his own. Look at the late Stephen Paulus starting his own company years ago.  Most composers question the need to permanently sign over the copyright of their creation.

5) Composers are frustrated by the nature of what most publishers are looking for. Their key word is accessibility- often this translates into "dumbed-down". Now don't get me wrong, I love accessible music- we need it and many of us try to write quality accessible pieces.We're not always trying to write mixed meter eight-part counterpoint in Icelandic!

 I have something I call the 10/90 90/10 syndrome. The typical mainstream publisher would like access to the top ten percent of a quality composer's work which can be deemed accessible (in a good way) and which will create the most sales. They then want to keep 90% of that music's sales and only pay the 10% royalty. It's an upside down world. Even more vexing is this: virtually none of our very best pieces, the ones we have spent the most time crafting, the ones with truly great texts, with challenging passages worthy of mastering by a choir, as well as our longer, often multi-movement works commissioned by the better choirs in the country are NEVER published by a mainstream publisher. Every accomplished composer I know has a thick file of these finer works. We don't even try anymore to get them published by a mainstream publisher- we know they will be rejected.  We struggle to get 2-3-4 performances a year across the country for them via word of mouth. I don't think there is a mainstream publisher today in the US who truly nurtures and markets a composer and helps them develop their composing career in the way this was done decades ago. It really is a sad state of affairs. The worst gobs of dumbed-down music create a terrible devastating loop. As younger conductors see poor music in the marketplace, they often buy these products especially for middle school and high school choirs, When those pieces sell, the publisher looks for similar dumbed-down pieces to fill the next year's new releases. The loop just keeps making things worse.

So there you have it- a tiny bit of a rant, I suppose (hey, I was trying to stay calm!). But these truly are the frustrations today's composers have about the situation between themselves and the traditional publishers. We truly care about conductors and singers and want to create quality music for the performers out there. The disconnect between composers and publishers today is large.  I wish it weren't so. And honestly, I do not blame anyone personally for this situation. I'm quite more mellow about it than I was five yeas ago, maybe because I believe that some of us are inventing new ways to do things. If a company wants to keep their old model, they are free to do so. Why should I tell them what to do? What I do hope is that more and more people will discuss this and look for solutions. We composers actually love the relationships we have right now with conductors and singers. I think there's a lot of Big Love going both directions. Back to solutions- I wish we could find one for all these wonderful pieces I mentioned earlier that get premiered and then lay unpublished, unknown, and so on. If  a traditional publisher could find a way to dedicate a portion of their catalog to some truly fine, multi-movement works by our best composers today that would a great thing. Maybe they could look at what Deborah Simpkin-King is doing with her Project Encore project. If Deborah can do this all on her own, why can't the industry notice what she is doing and pick up the ball bigtime on it?

At this point I still publish a few things with mainstream publishers, but it's only because a specific series editor has personally asked me for a piece for their catalog. These are usually great people, I want to please them and I am thankful for them for asking for music. But everything else is sold on my website (which is really in need of updating, ugh).

COMING UP NEXT: Some proposed changes in the divvying up of that $1.00 gross income. And a preview of some of the ways composers have banded together as well as some of the ways small, new publishers are changing the rules. And starting next Monday, a succession of these trendsetters will be featured every few days. Hope you will keep reading!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Music Publishing Trends, Part One of a MegaSeries!

Hi all! Recently I wrote a blogpost here and shared it on the ACDA FaceBook page. It was read by a whole lot of folks. It was a blog reporting that Iowa ACDA has created a Repertoire and Standards chair to increase Iowa conductors awareness of self-publishing composers (and perhaps small publishers?) who deviate from the old publishing model. Appointed to this new position is Connor Koppin and I shared the introduction Connor wrote to Iowa ACDA members.

I have decided to feature, in the next week or two, various composers who have created their own co-ops, shall we say, as well as small choral music publishers who have broken, in some way, with the business model that the longer established publishers have been using. I will try to start summarizing what that old model is/was and, if you read Connor's words from the link, or mine here, you will get an idea of what is going on. For many of you this isn't news, but for many it is.

Part One: the old model of choral music publishing (we'll stick to choral for now, not that other music types are much different) has been around a long time. But many aspects have changed drastically, yet composer/publisher contracts and agreements have barely changed at all. I will first note the biggest change that has occurred since about 1990, the invention of music engraving software (Finale, Sibelius plus others) which is now the method of choice for about 99% of composers and publishers.

In the good old days composers just composed (and maybe conducted). They took pencil or pen to manuscript paper and had at it. After scribbling a double bar at the end of a new piece their work was now done (let's assume we are talking about someone who has a reputation as a professional composer, perhaps in the 19th or 20th century, and we'll also exclude 1960's through 1980's avant-guarde composers who made their own printable scores using the ozalid process). From here the publisher took over the laborious task of creating a highly professional-looking score which musicians could easily read. The publisher would have to proof the scribbles of the composer (and I mean scribbles!) and then set about creating a layout, with EVERY ELEMENT then punched into a zinc metal plate, BACKWARDS for every page! Ponder that for a moment. Whether a simple little Schumann song, or a Dvorak string quartet, or Stravinsky's Rite of Spring- everything was HAND PUNCHED by extremely diligent craftsmen onto metal plates, which then were sent to the printing presses. Think of the enormous variety of elements within a musical score- each note, beam, slur marking, each hairpin dynamic, each fermata, etched into a metal plate by hand! I think the younger you are, the more you may be unaware of how printing music used to be accomplished before computer engraving software such as Finale or Sibelius.  What we have with Finale now would seem like absolute wizardry to people from the past. Here are two absolutely fascinating videos by the publishing house of G. Henle in Germany where you can see the process in action. The videos mention the time needed to create one page of fairly straightforward music- one video states three hours, and I believe the hour says 6-8 hours. Can you imagine how long it would take to produce heavily orchestrated conductor's score pages for something like the previously mentioned Rite of Spring?

Sidenote: where did the word score come from in regard to music publication and printing? Answer: from the process of scoring the metal with a five-pronged tool to create staves.

Before this first blog in the series become too long,  I'm going to direct you to more videos. These next videos are more recent processes which involve ink and paper, and lithography.  And at my next posting I will pick up the thread as we examine publishing past and present, and the changed/changing workload relationship between composers and publishers.

Ha- check out the rub-on (press-type) letters and symbols!

Here is a process which begins by utilizing an oversize score for ease of detail work which is then reduced by the camera.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Replay: Book Review of "Mentoring in the Ensemble Arts"

Continuing the parade of my most highly-read blog entries- here is one that was a big hit- a review of Tim Sharp's book, "Mentoring in the Ensemble Arts, published by GIA. FYI, Tim has a followup book called  "Collaboration in the Ensemble Arts", which is also available from GIA. Hope you enjoy reading this and consider purchasing the book(s)!

Book Review: "Mentoring in the Ensemble Arts", by Tim Sharp


Mentoring in the Ensemble ArtsHelping Others find their Voice
by ACDA executive director Tim Sharp
(published by GIA, ISBN 978- 57999-835-6, 173 pp., price $21.95).

From the GIA website:
Mentoring in the Ensemble Arts, Helping Others Find Their Voice
by Tim Sharp
"Conductors are artists—but they also have a singular responsibility to go beyond the music to nurture the inner voices of their ensemble members.

Mentoring in the Ensemble Arts, author Tim Sharp examines the mentor/protégé dynamic and its critical impact on the lives of ensembles and their conductors. Sharp draws from research, his own experience as a choir conductor, mentor, and protégé, and his travels as Executive Director of the American Choral Directors Association. The result is a profound portrait of this rarely discussed aspect of a conductor’s life.

Coming full circle, 
Mentoring in the Ensemble Arts reinforces a conductor’s own desire to develop his or her own personal learning community to continually strive for excellence by being a protégé to other leaders.

The goal of this book is to help the conductor realize the full potential of the mentor/protégé relationship and to assist both mentor and protégé in achieving the best possible benefits of these relationships. The result will be better music making and more fulfilled human beings for generations to come.”
Tim Sharp

Here are the chapter headings for Tim’s book:

Mentoring Defined
The Renaissance Bottega
Our Early Mentors
The Why of Mentoring
A Personal Word
Our Reason for Being
Framing the Mentoring Environment
The Power of the Mentor
The Conductor-Mentor and the Ensemble Protégé
Are Mentors Born or Built?
Beginning the Mentoring Process and Relationship
The Mentor as Leader
The Ongoing Process of Generativity
The Mentoring Environment
The Ensemble Mentoring Environment
Why Mentor, why Protégé?
Moving to Mentoring
The Imperative of Interconnectedness
Skill Set
The Protégé and the Mentor
What We Learn and What We Do
The Primary Ethical Obligation of Mentors
Guidelines as the Mentor Begins
Lessons from Greatness
Locate Greatness
Mentoring to Greatness
The Continuous Mentor
The Ensemble as Mentor
Life and the Question “Why?” as Mentor

My review:
This book fills a void of information and supplies practical guidelines on mentoring within the arts environment. While there are a number of research projects and scholarly books on mentoring, this is the first reader-freindly effort to truly address the mentoring of individuals or even ensembles within the realm of a music rehearsal room, or any other ensemble art situation (dance, acting, etc). The book delineates the informal/formal- passive/active ways that individual mentoring can initiate and often evolve and sets up suggestions as to both purpose and structure of such relationships. One of the strongest features of the book is a guided exercise called a “Thought Experiment” at the end of a number of the chapters. For those people that purchase the book I recommend that you do these experiments fully and not just read through them quickly. They will be of great value as you crystallize your own thoughts and philosophies on the mentoring process.
Here are a few quotes from the book that you should find interesting:
In a chapter about the Italian bottega, or workshop, where people like a young Leonardo da Vinci learned his craft, even including a signed contract betweendiscepolo and maestro, Sharp delineates da Vinci’s progression from discepolo to being the maestro later in life, and says,
We learn from the mature Leonardo, who later in life becomes a mentor, by his constant posing of the question "perche?" Or why?"
And in a later chapter,
“…once he [Leonardo] identified the problem through observations, sketches, and observations, and experimentation, he sought a solution to it. I reference the habits of Lernardo because these are the same habits of the mentor and the protégé. The mentor is consumed by “perche”—“why”- and the protégé is asking the same question.” 
In a chapter on generativity Sharp writes,
Generativity is the term coined by psychoanalyst Erik Erikson  to denote”concern for establishing and guiding the next generation”. …the progress of generativity is the  imparting of proven techniques, skills and life lessons (including the “why” of the profession) from mentor to protégé”. 

And in another chapter with the theme of interconnectedness and the generativity theme, Sharp writes,

It has been my experience that important and significant lessons are more readily “caught” than taught”, and once again, this is where the mentoring process gains credibility. By observing each other, and by staying in proximity to each other, lessons can be discovered, tested, and evaluated. In the best of  mentoring environments, this is the essential flow.”
And in a discussion of mentoring possibilities in the 21st century, Sharp suggests the possibility that:

"...the ideal mentor may emerge as a coalition of peers, including fellow ensemble members, a personal learning network, other supervisors, workplace subordinates, and colleagues of equal rank, all mentoring each other" ...the value of group mentoring is that the activity is reciprocal democratic." 
For anyone already experienced in the mentoring arena, or for those who may wish to become mentor or protégé, this is an invaluable book, for it supplies definitions, formulates questions and answers, and provokes the reader to think along with the author- who all the while conveys his thoughts in clear and persuasive English. For those within the music field, including those who work with ensembles and especially those within the collegiate academic world, this is a must read.

About Tim Sharp (BM, MCM, DMA) is Executive Director of the American Choral Directors Association (ACDA), the national professional association for choral conductors, educators, scholars, students, and choral music industry representatives in the United States. He represents choral activity in the United States to the International Federation for Choral Music (IFCM). Sharp, himself an active choral conductor, researcher, and writer, has varied his career with executive positions in higher education, recording, and publishing. Prior to his leadership of ACDA, Sharp was Dean of Fine Arts at Rhodes College (Memphis, TN), and earlier, Director of Choral Activities at Belmont University (Nashville, TN). His research and writing focuses pedagogically in conducting and score analysis, and various published essays betray his eclectic interests in regional music history, acoustics, creativity, innovation, and aesthetics. He has conducted university, community, church, and children’s choirs, and continues to serve as a choral conductor and clinician in the United States and internationally. Sharp resides in Edmond, OK, with his wife Jane and daughter Emma.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

American Boychoir tour of the Midwest- don't miss them!

Hi, all! Hope everything is going well for you and your music programs. I'm posting this on a very drizzly afternoon in Chicago. At least it's not cold out!

I am writing to let you know that the American Boychoir is on a great concert tour of the Midwest. Artistic director Fernando Malvar-Ruiz and the touring choir are amazing- I saw them most recently at the ACDA Southern conference in Jacksonville Florida last early Spring. They blew the audience away with an amazing range of repertoire and extraordinary singing artistry as well as unique stage presentation. It was an absolute treat to hear them. While in Jacksonville I was able to spend some social time with Melissa Malvar-Keylock, Fernando's very talented wife- she is one of the directors at the also very fine Princeton GirlChoir. We both discovered that we are proud germophobes, opening doors with our elbows or forearms, etc. It's how smart singers don't get sick- so we don't mind if someone laughs at us. I get sick about zero-one times during flu and cold season- so there!

Fernando Malvar-Ruiz

I also have a connection with the Boychoir since the very talented Fred Meads is the director of the training choir. Fred commissioned me to write some pieces for the Fort Wayne Children's Choir a few years ago when he directed there. Two of the pieces are published in Janet Galvan' s wonderful treble series with Roger Dean/Lorenz. I had a great time in Fort Wayne with Fred and his choirs there and even went and visited the grave of Johnny Appleseeed. Yes, Johnny, real name of John Chapman, is buried in a tiny little cemetery in Fort Wayne, surrounded on all sides by zooming car traffic, poor guy!
Johnny loved his apples! Note the offerings!

Fred Meads

If you live in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and especially Minnesota (where they will spend the most time) get thee to one of their concerts! You won't regret it- the Boychoir is AMAZING!

Hey, if you'd like to receive comp single copies of  the treble pieces I wrote for Fred, e-mail me at

Here's a quick view of their schedule just below and here is a link to their website.

Friday, October 17
 American Boychoir Collaboration with Milwaukee Children's Choir @ St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Milwaukee, WI
Sunday, October 19
 American Boychoir @ Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, MN
Monday, October 20
 American Boychoir @ Shattuck-St. Marys School, Faribault, MN
Tuesday, October 21
 American Boychoir Residency @ St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN
 American Boychoir Collaborative Concert with St. Olaf Choir and Northfield Youth Chorus @ St. Olaf College, Northfield, MN
Saturday, October 25
 American Boychoir Training Choir in Princeton, NJ
 American Boychoir @ Our Saviours Lutheran Church, Naperville, IL
Tuesday, October 28
 American Boychoir @ Trinity English Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne, IN
Wednesday, October 29
 American Boychoir @ St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Cleveland Heights, OH

Monday, September 29, 2014

Young female singers are called "mousy'? Ugh!

Here is a quick post on something that was stewing a bit on Choralnet a few months ago (I wrote some of this then but forgot to post the blog!) and which I was compelled to finally respond to: this was a Choralnet post wherein a male director called his adolescent young women singers "mousy and timid". Great attitude, right? Someone called him on this language immediately, but no one had offered up any significant tools to get his mind straight on this and simply be a more skilled, more understanding choral/vocal instructor- so I finally posted the following to the thread:

I have been reading this thread for awhile, and every time I see the title, the "mousy" name-calling still galls me. Men need to try a lot harder to fathom what it is like to be a female singer at any age (but especially in the adolescent and pre-adolescent years) and be more empathetic. I think I can preach here to my fellow XY dudes since I have successfully directed a professional women's choir for 6 years, directed special summer programs for gifted SSAA singers, composed dozens of works for SA through SSAA choirs, worked directly (again with my composer hat on) with skilled directors of female choirs such as Emily Ellsworth, Janet Galvan, Lynne Gackle, Nancy Menk, and Robyn Lana just to mention a few. Please guys, become more sensitive, and here is what I REALLY want you to do to educate yourself a lot more, and have way more tools for success with your choirs:

Purchase the book "Finding Ophelia's Voice, Opening Ophelia's Heart"  by Lynne Gackle. It is full of brilliant insights into the female adolescent voice and psyche. This is required reading. The other required reading is "Conducting Women's Choirs", edited and compiled by Debra Spurgeon. There are chapters on an amazing breadth of topics by many great contributors (essentially a who's-who of the women's choir movement over the last 25 years- but especially for this subject please read the sections by Sandra Snow and Sandra Peter) which are invaluable resources for anyone who directs women either in an SSAA type ensemble or within an SATB ensemble. The Spurgeon book also contains Lori Hetzel's U of Kentucky choir in a DVD demo of all sorts of important vocal issues, plus vocalise/warmup issues. Buy these two books and sit down with them for a week or two. They are both worth it to anyone in our profession. And let's drop the term "mousy", please!

Lynne Gackle's book, published by Heritage/Lorenz:

Debra Spurgeon

Deb Spurgeon's book, published by GIA:

Paul Carey
You can see the Choralnet complete thread here:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

“until I fall dead, like all conductors.” - Frans Brüggen RIP

Back when I was a college student at the University of Illinois and Yale (and by back, I mean WAY BACK) one of my heroes was the amazing recorder player Frans Brüggen. In addition to my serious studies I had also picked up the recorder (mostly alto and sop) and it was so relaxing just to learn some little Baroque tunes (God how I loved Marin Mareis' lithe melodies) on it when I had some free time. I wasn't that good or that bad, but I certainly knew what the biggest challenges were to playing the instrument well, so every time I heard Brüggen he absolutely floored me. It wasn't necessarily the virtuosity of a flurry of 16th  notes, but his amazing expressiveness- he always knew how to take a phrase and unwrap its innermost emotions, its nuances, its semiotic meaning which cannot be put into actual words.

A young, very handsome Frans

An older Frans

I am saddened to learn of Brggen's death in late August at the age of 79. He was still performing as conductor of the Orchestra of the 18th Century and had stated a few years earlier that he would keep on making music  “until I fall dead, like all conductors.”  He was always a class act and brought so much joy to the world. RIP, dear Maestro. Here is the NY Times obit:

Frans Brüggen, a Dutch pioneer of the early music movement, a co-founder and conductor of the influential Orchestra of the 18th Century, and a virtuoso recorder player who in his youth became (literally) a poster boy for the instrument, died on Aug. 13 in Amsterdam. He was 79. His death was confirmed by Sieuwert A. Verster, who founded the ensemble with Mr. Brüggen in 1981. Their period instrument orchestra was one of the first ensembles to adopt a historically informed method of performance, in which the lush sound, vibrato-heavy string playing and sometimes ponderous tempos that were then standard were abandoned for a buoyant, leaner sound with less vibrato. 

Unlike other period ensembles, the Orchestra of the 18th Century has not strayed too far from its original focus; it has ventured into Mendelssohn, Schubert and Chopin, but not later romantics like Brahms.Mr. Brüggen had a particular affinity for conducting Beethoven, releasing two recordings of the complete symphonies and leading the “Eroica” Symphony more than 100 times.

Reviewing a 2007 performance of two Schubert symphonies and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 during one of the orchestra’s infrequent appearances in New York, Allan Kozinn wrote in The New York Times that “by keeping the brass choirs in the foreground sounding punchy in the Ninth, he tapped a vein of both novelty and visceral excitement that gave these familiar works a welcome freshness.”

The orchestra (a part-time group that tours several times a year and regularly releases recordings) was founded with an unusually egalitarian pay plan. After expenses, profits are divided equally among musicians and conductor.The orchestra recruits its members through word of mouth and never holds auditions. “We are a bit like the Rolling Stones,” Mr. Verster said in a phone interview, “always the same people.” The orchestra intends to continue to perform with guest conductors, he added. As a guest conductor himself, Mr. Brüggen worked with both Baroque and modern ensembles, including the London-based Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, the Amsterdam-based Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Vienna Philharmonic and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra — bringing a period practice aesthetic to his interpretations.

Mr. Brüggen had a rebellious streak and appreciated counterculture movements, both in and out of musical circles. In 1969 he supported what became known as the “Notenkrakers” (“Nutcrackers”) action, in which conservatory students and composers, unhappy with the Concertgebouw Orchestra’s conservative programming and what they saw as its elitism, disrupted a performance in Amsterdam with noisemakers and a megaphone.

Mr. Brüggen, who in 1972 founded an avant-garde recorder trio called Sour Cream, began his career as a recorder soloist and chamber musician. He elevated the instrument to star status with his brilliant, idiosyncratic approach. Some early albums came along with a poster of him, a tousle-haired young virtuoso.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Iowa ACDA creates new R and S position for self-published and independent published music

Thanks to my friend Sean Burton, I have been made aware that Iowa ACDA (a very large, forward-thinking and successful ACDA chapter) has created a new Repertoire and Standards position. Connor Koppin, a promising young composer/conductor, has been named as R and S for self-published and independently published music. This is further proof that ACDA is moving more and more toward supporting independent composers and broadcasting awareness of the gradual tilting away from the ancient, traditional publishing model in this country for music. I've written about this quite a bit (in this blog form as well as in give and take on Choralnet) and hosted a very successful interest session on the topic at the national  ACDA conference in Dallas about eighteen months ago. In case you missed it, my panel members were Reg Unterseher, Abbie Betinis, Joan Szymko, Buddy James, and Deborah Simpkin-King. Most of our audience stayed a full hour after the session ended (pretty much unheard of at an ACDA conference since there are so many other activities you can trot off to) to ask questions and kick around new ideas- it was a great day!

For Iowa ACDA  Connor will be focusing on composers who are obviously self-publishing in a professional manner (well-run websites, aiming for healthy relationships and visibility in the choral community, etc) and smallish publishers who are moving away from the old model. These publishers (would they be called niche publishers or not?) are especially becoming more aware of composer copyright issues, new distribution models, more awareness of the need to publicize the "back catalog" and not just hype new releases, and more. Here are a few of the new small, independent, forward-thinking organizations: Independent Music Publishers (or IMP, a great acronym!) which is home to Betinis, Szymko, Davd Moore, and a number of other quality composers, mostly from Minnesota, has already become quite successful. A new organization, Musicspoke, started by Kurt Knecht and Jennifer Rosenblatt, is also arriving on the scene with a great flurry of activity and attracting great attention from quality composers (Coppin himself, Andrea Ramsey, yours truly, and others). Musicspoke especially is on the forefront in regard to copyright issues- they facilitate composer/conductor relations and sell music without taking away the composers' copyright. Bravo to Musispoke for that stance.

Also up and coming is Northwest Choral Publishers which is the music of Reg Unterseher, John Muelheisen, and Karen P. Thomas. And there is also See a Dot- a new publisher in NY.

As composers and small publishers get together and discuss issues today (see below for some of Connor's thoughts) there is a wide variety of opinion about what is happening now. I think most independent composers truly dislike the old model (sign away your copyright, earn only 10%, have no say on how your music is publicized and what happens to your older pieces) but we accept the fact that the large, older companies who are in business have the right to run their companies any way they like.  A number of them are barely staying alive, for one reason or another (the sale price of a typical choral octavo has in no way kept pace with inflation over the last fifty years) and we all are music lovers- I myself have somewhat mellowed out about my feelings toward these larger companies, mostly due to my growing feebleness in old age (haha).

We also have a great champion of self-published/niche published music as our executive director of ACDA on the national level- Tim Sharp, whose own recent work Come Away to the Skies: A High Lonesome Bluegrass Mass is published and distributed by his composing partner Wes Ramsey.

Here is the full Iowa ACDA announcement. Hey, if you are a state ACDA leadership person maybe your state should be thinking about all this!


Connor Koppin

My name is Connor Koppin and I have been selected to represent ICDA as the R&S Chair for Self/Independent Published works. I am so thrilled to be chairing this entirely new R&S position for ICDA. For so long, composers have turned to traditional publishers and distributors as a means to sell music. We have now come to a turning point in the world of choral publications in which some of these publishers are failing to meet the needs of composers, conductors, and educators; thus, composers are turning toward alternative means of publication, i.e. self publishing and independent publishers.
Some of the issues that are associated with using traditional publishers consist of the following:

-- Composers often only receive anywhere from 8-10% of profits from each sale, a very small amount. One could imagine it would be nearly impossible to make a living off of such wages.

-- When a composer agrees to publish a piece through an outside company, they are fully surrendering all rights to a piece of music; thus, allowing a company to make choices that may not be in said pieces best interest.

-- More often than not, publishers and distributors arrive at decisions with solely a monetarily profitable mindset, and no other factors. Therefore, regardless of how brilliant a piece of music may be, if a company decides that it won't sell 5,000 copies a year, they will refuse to publish it. This could ultimately lead to the disintegration of some of the greatest contemporary works, a lack of ability to get the piece "out there".

-- Compositions may often be accepted for publication, and then never actually made available for purchase until a significant amount time has passed. For instance, should a publisher find another piece worthy of publication, it will alter it's publication schedule, and suspend publication of another composer's work until a more "convenient" time.

These are just a few of the many problems that living composers face when they are contemplating the outcome of a piece.

Supporting living composers is one of our most important roles as music educators and in order to do so we must make an effort to turn away from our standard process of selecting repertoire and look toward a new way of buying music.

Self and independent publication are methods which better meets the needs of BOTH composers and conductors. However, it is both my fear as well as the organization's, that we as conductors suffer from a lack of knowledge regarding this new age of selling and buying music. This R&S position has been created to enlighten ICDA and its members in regards to directly supporting composers in their efforts to create a more healthy method of business. I am so proud of our ACDA chapter for recognizing the much needed attention to this area of choral music. I am excited to bring some valuable information to you all and hopefully better inform ICDA; keeping us forward-looking and a leading state chapter of ACDA.
Connor Koppin
Self Publishing R & S Chair
Connor Koppin (b.1991) is an award-winning composer and conductor of choral music. In 2013 he completed his bachelor of music education degree at Wartburg College where he studied conducting with Lee Nelson. His pieces have been performed across the United States by numerous choral ensembles in collegiate, high school, and liturgical settings. He has had pieces selected for a number of all-state festivals in Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin and currently has music published with both Morning Star Music and ECS publishing. He is currently working at Roland-Story High School in Story City, IA as a Choral Director and serves as the R&S Chair for Self Publishing for ICDA.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Unique Christmas/Holiday repertoire by Paul Carey

Hi choral directors! Hope your school year/concert season is off to a smashing start.

Are you still looking for "Holiday" repertoire? I've got a number of ideas for you from my catalog- both traditionally published and also published by myself.  While I am especially aiming to gain attention for my book of 18 carols for women's voices, please know that if you scroll down you will find some rep for SATB music as well! Some of those pieces below have rental orchestrations which have been very popular with audiences.

Last Fall I released "Carols, distinctive arrangements for women's voices", and it was an amazing  process to not only research and write the pieces but be my own publisher as well. I had a lot of help from many folks around the country- proofreading, choirs trying out the pieces, etc. It made me really appreciate the talent and the generosity of my musical colleagues. The collection has sold well and was just reviewed very favorably in the August 2014 Choral Journal. Scroll way down to read the review.

Thanks for reading!


18 New Christmas Carol Arrangements
Scored variously for SA, SSA, SSAA a cappella; some with simple instrument parts
Sacred texts in English, Latin, German, French, and Spanish
Durations from 1:30 to 5:00 each carol
Price: $15.95 per copy- FREE SHIPPING on all US and Canada orders  (please note- this is the current price- the Choral Journal mistakenly lists it at $17.95)
Order through or email me at
Also through Musical Resources, the exclusive wholesale distributor

Paypal or conventional billing available

An exciting new collection of 18 carols in new, creative settings suitable for
high school and beyond women's voices, plus also suitable for advanced treble children's choirs.

- Carols and processionals for both concert or madrigal dinner use
- A mixture of transcriptions, arrangements, and new settings of classic Christmas texts, occaisional solo, duo, and trio passages create variety for strophic carols
- Traditional English and Latin texts, plus settings in French, German, and Spanish
- A mixture of easy to more challenging carols, as well as a wide variety of moods and tempi
- Some carols have instrumental parts for one or two players (for instance harp, two flutes or other melody instruments, cello, percussion). Instrumental parts can be downloaded by clicking on the title below.
If anyone out there with a women's choir or youth advanced treble choir would like a TOTALLY FREE PERUSAL COPY- send me your US or Canada street address and I will get one to you. I think once you examine it, you will agree that it can be a resource you can go to year after year for December programming. Last year a number of the choirs who bought copies did 2,3,4, carols out of the book at their holiday program!

Here are some other pieces of mine which might really spice up your December programs.

Let me know if you would like any free perusal scores of these pieces. I will just highlight a few- you can view a complete listing with details, score samples, etc. of all of my many Christmas, Hanukkah, and Winter Solstice scores by visiting:

One of my holiday bestsellers is the Hanukkah song "Unending Flame" with a truly nice text (so many Hanukkah texts are awful, I think you will agree). Voicings available are SA or SABar. There is also a rental orchestration for this piece which really makes it pop.

Another bestselling piece which can be either with piano or rental orchestration  is my very dancey SSA version in mixed meters of I Saw three Ships:

If you are looking for SATB works, Nancy Menk made a very nice recording of my lyrical “Hush my Dear, Lie Still and Slumber" which you can hear:  

I also have a piece with a similar feel to it- my arrangement of “Gabriel's Message”, available in manuscript.

Finally, some pieces with brass. First up is “Christmas Bells”, which was commissioned by Edie Copley at N. Arizona University. This is big and festive (yet with a very introspective middle section)  for SATB/brass/organ/perc/handbells.  This piece is now also fully orchestrated.
The ending will ensure that your entire audience is awake:

The other brass piece is not as festive since the text by the brilliant Thomas Merton is generally more reflective- it's called “The Winter's Night Carol”. I don't have a good recording yet of the piece due to miking issues at performances, but I can certainly e-mail you a score if you like!


Paul Carey's work as a choral composer and arranger is well acknowledged and valued.  His newest publication, Carols…for Women's Voices, takes a significant step in furthering his reputation as a composer for treble and women's voices.    Many of Carey's fine and best-selling arrangements and compositions of carols for mixed, children's, men's and women's voices are available through leading publishers such as Oxford University Press, CF Peters, Lorenz, and Roger Dean.  Yet, unlike many compilations of works by modern composers and arrangers, this distinctive collection does not contain works available through other sources or as separate folios. 

Most of the works found in this collection are arrangements of melodies or compositions upon texts from classic manuscripts and various folk sources.   Nonetheless, the recastings of these materials in Carey's hand are fresh and distinctive.  His "Personant Hodie" (from the Piae Cantiones), for example, retains the familiar tune of the work for the most part but lightens the texture with gavotte-like ritornelli and an unexpected reworking of the melody in 7/8.     Other works, such his SSA unaccompanied version of the classic "We Wish You A Merry Christmas", find a different voice through this composer's compositional wit.  As these two examples imply, the collection contains both sacred and secular carols.  In addition, these two arrangements also exemplify the suitability of some of Carey's arrangements for younger choirs.

The title of this collection is somewhat deceiving, for of the eighteen works in this collection, five are entirely new works, penned using familiar texts.  The distinctiveness of even these works can be evinced by comparing two texts that both Carey and Benjamin Britten have set:  "There is no rose of such virtue" and "Adam Lay ybounden" (perhaps most familiar as the text used for Britten's "Deo Gratias" from A Ceremony of Carols ).   The former is richly set with a nearly chantlike solo and responses by duets and a quartet that shimmer with their uses of inversional modal alterations.  The latter text is interpreted through completely new musical lenses.  The ABAB form of Carey's setting alternates between a haunting, contemplative section and a second, more rhythmically driving section.  This compositional choice musically refocuses the text on the apple's theological role, that of emphasizing the praise of the apple's acceptance and its eventual conclusion in the birth of Jesus.   These five original works alone make it difficult to overlook this collection, and underscore the fact that these arrangements can also find a home in the repertories of more advanced treble/women's choirs.

Cristobal de Morales' O Magnum Mysterium is the only work included in this collection where Carey assumes the singular role of editor.  As would be expected, Carey's edition is much more lightly edited than the classic (SSAA) Schirmer edition by Goodale, but the choice of transcribing this work a half-step higher mirrors a significant characteristic of this collection as a whole—each of these "distinctive arrangements" are sensitive to the distinct characteristics of women's voices.  The Morales is often performed in this key, as it simply resounds better and navigates the passaggi more easily.  Furthermore, such sensitivity extends to the variety of texture, styles, tempi, voicings, and languages (french, latin, spanish, german, and english) found herein.  Carey's collection is varied enough to lend variety to any program built from its offerings, yet cohesive enough to lend solidity to such a performance. (Note: This reviewer acknowledges having contributed to the translations of French texts and initial readings of some of the works in this volume.) 

The quality of these arrangements and the breadth of stylistic variety reflected in this holiday collection for treble voices is nearly unparalleled; for choral ensembles and programs of all types, and for churches with treble ensembles, this fine publication could reasonably be expected to occupy a similar place in holiday/Christmas libraries as the Oxford Book of Carols and Carols for Choirs currently hold.  Well edited by Carey and "tested" by various types of treble/women's choruses, this solid collection possesses enough musical gold to fit the needs of many types of choirs, performances, and even educational functions.