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GUEST POST: Creative Ways to Fund Commissions

For Community Choruses

By Tori Cook

One of the biggest challenges community choruses face when commissioning new music is figuring out how to fund it. Here are some creative ways to get the money you need for your commissioned work!

Get a Grant

Research grants for community choruses to find granting organizations that may be interested in funding your commission. Believe it or not, there are several granting organizations specifically dedicated to helping ensembles and composers create new music together. Here are a few opportunities:

  • Jerome Fund for New Music
  • America Music Project
  • Ann Stookey Fund for New Music
  • Chamber Music America’s Classical Commissioning Program
  • New Music USA
  • The Aaron Copland Fund for Music - Even if a granting organization doesn’t specifically support musical commissions, they may still be interested in your project if it fits within the scope of their mission. Start with your local arts commissions/councils and local foundations that have a shared interest in the arts and a...


The Long Game: Generations

Forget Concerts. Forget Seasons. Think Generations.

By Paul John Rudoi

I found this interesting infographic detailing how much some famous composers made for their work with the figures adjusted only slightly for, you know, hundreds of years of inflation. It’s fascinating not only because many of the numbers are through the roof, but also because the vast majority of composers and ensembles can’t fathom this sort of society.

21st-century composers regularly acknowledge the effects of a “post” society–post-modern, post-apprenticeship, post-patron–on their work and livelihood. From an ensemble perspective, the “post” labels are there but different, including post-classicist, sometimes post-racial, and often post-popular. These trends make it difficult for composers to make a living and ensembles to find relevance. But the choral field is attempting to forge a new path.

Over the past quarter century, professional choirs have sprung up across the United States and Europe. Invigorating choral exchanges now happen often at nearly every...


Five Ways to Invigorate Right Before the Stage

By Paul John Rudoi

After years touring and performing with Cantus, I found there were certain pre-concert rituals that got us ready for performing. For me, it was centering through breathing… after playing about fifteen minutes of intense hacky sack… after eating a ridiculously filling home-cooked meal. For others, it was yoga or a huddle or even a glass of milk. However individuals get ready, here are five unique ways to center and get excited as an ensemble.

Three Things

The concept of a rule of three is great for writing, programming, and performing. I’ve devoted a post to each of those, but the performing side is particularly useful here. In a nutshell: ask the ensemble for three things to remember throughout the concert. If you ask for this consistently through a season or two, you’ll find ensembles will consider these beforehand and bring reoccurring themes to the table. Or you can consistently ask them for new ones, helping them to think creatively about their artistry.



New Music as Teaching Tools

By Paul John Rudoi

Commissioned new music can be daunting to learn. There’s no “ideal,” no accurate representation of what it should sound or feel like other than what’s on the page. But it’s the sort of exploration that can inspire confidence and engagement in an ensemble. Here are three steps to take when learning a new commission, and some ways to integrate these steps into your rehearsal methods.

Step 1: Start Objective Every commission comes from a subjective, personal place. No director or ensemble decides to commission because they don't care. But when you and your ensemble get the score, considering it as an objective piece of music can be very rewarding.

New, together Always check the piece out before you're with your ensemble, but just barely. It's fun to break the piece down with your ensemble, allowing you all to explore something new together.

Macro to micro Break it down by form, section, phrase, etc. Starting large can give everyone a sense of what's happening while...


Synectics in Music: Individuality

The Odd One Out

By Paul John Rudoi

I find humor in things that don’t make any sense. No, I’m not talking about some dark corner of the human psyche, I just mean I regularly laugh when others don’t. While I used to think this was a problem, I don’t anymore because I’ve more or less figured out what types of humor crack me up and, more importantly, why.

If you’re like me, you’re curious about the broader view of things. So one day, after watching a combination of Victor Borge YouTubes, Steve Martin’s Tiny Desk Concert, and a bit of a new Demetri Martin Netflix special (welcome to my Sunday afternoons), I looked up the wikipedia article on comedic genres to get my bearings. Some are definitely not my style (I try, Ricky Gervais, I really do...), but I immediately connected with Surreal Humor. While some examples of this are less effective than others (see Exhibit A, “The Elephant Joke” and its permutations), it is amazing how far one can go if all you really need to do is connect two things that...


Synectics in Music: Visuals

Seeing is Sound

By Paul John Rudoi

The term “graphic scores” can be a loaded one–Xenakis is a good (and fantastically awesome) example of why–and many composers shy away for various historical, socio-economic, or personal reasons. Today’s post will not convince you to use graphic scores, at least in the traditional sense. The goal is to see how visual and aural explorations can jumpstart our creativity.

So take the connotations from the term out of it and consider graphics less to do with performance but rather as a way to clarify compositional intent. For example, Arvo Pärt sometimes uses graphical scores to sketch out his melodic contours, most famously with his “Melodical Drawing.” Here is a composer who, similar to Copland, Stravinsky, and many others, went through various stages–neo-classical, serialist, and more–to get to his current minimalist style and rockstar status as an important spiritual force. But just because many people listen to his music while falling asleep doesn’t mean...


I Believe In Kids

By Paul John Rudoi

While I don’t have or want kids anytime soon, I do find them fascinating. The show “Kids say the darndest things” was a hit for a reason; adults, regardless of their personal view on having offspring, found children’s responses on almost everything to be unique. Regardless of the psychology or brain science behind it, I love how they fly about, obsessing over seemingly disparate elements as connected in some otherworldly way, only to find societal norms and considerations bringing them back to a reality they never knew. No wonder, then, that I ended up an artist when my mom never told me to leave “my own little world” as my elementary teachers put it. They wanted me to conform to silence, and my mom wanted my voice to be heard, if that’s what I wanted. So I let the voice form its own opinion of itself, and here I stand, subservient to its whims and obsessions.

Where has that led me? I believe that art speaks to the humanity in all of us. I believe that music...


Synectics in Music: Looking Deeper

Look At Your Fish

By Paul John Rudoi

Above all, there were two things I learned from Dr. Sharon Paul while pursuing my master’s at the University of Oregon: don’t beat yourself up, and have a good anecdote or, better yet, scientific study to back up your thoughts. The “Look at Your Fish!” story was one of our favorites. Samuel H. Scudder (1837-1911), an American entomologist who studied under zoologist Jean Louis Rodophe Agassiz (1807-1873), wrote a wonderful account of how he learned the value of a thorough investigative process. You can read the original here, but I want to focus on the fact that we don’t spend enough time obsessing over details.

One thing Dr. Paul and I always happily disagreed on was whether or not someone can be taught to compose, or in an even broader scope, whether each and every one of us is innately a composer. Per my earlier post, I was a kid who found fun in connecting the dots between seemingly disparate things. But that grew over time, leading me to believe that everyone has...


Networking for Composers

By Paul John Rudoi

Growing up in a family that moved around alot, I got used to meeting new people. My mom, like my Grandpa and many other members of my family, can coax a meaningful conversation out of a brick wall, and I’ve found a little bit of that in myself over the years. It certainly came in handy as a member of Cantus given that the touring schedule, sometimes surpassing three weeks a month on the road, meant we were constantly meeting new contacts in the choral and music education fields. Now coming from the gigging lifestyle over the past few years as a composer, professional vocalist, clinician, educator, and entrepreneur, the ability not only to initiate but to cultivate these relationships is crucial.

Most of the blog posts I see differentiate between personal relationships and business networking. Post after post after post about business networking offer lists of actions to consider when building contacts. Yet when taken out of the lists’ contexts, the majority of these suggestions...


Synectics in Music: Inspiration

Everything is Potential Inspiration

By Paul John Rudoi

As I approach my roughly 10-year anniversary as a composer, I thought I’d post a few things that might help other budding composers as they search for their voice, process, and inspiration. My own journey of compositional self discovery is, first and foremost, still happening, but a few crucial throughlines have made getting to this point possible. The most important of these is the ability to connect everything to, well, everything.

It started out as a game. When I was in the car as a kid, after reading billboards and digesting their meaning, I would disassemble the words into amounts of letters and try to find equal proportions between them (e.g. “Get a chocolate shake” has nine letters in chocolate and nine letters in the other three words). Later, I started to consider how a billboard’s message related to the previous one, even if they didn’t immediately have anything in common (e.g. an ad about an auto shop followed by an ad about a downtown club made me think...