Alice On Writing Music Professionally

Two insights about pursuing a career writing music, from Alice Parker’s The Answering Voice.

First, she warns that being a full-time composer or arranger is a one-in-a-million chance.

Don’t embark on a career as a composer or arranger for monetary reward. Your chance of success is minuscule. You will need to do other things to support yourself: teach, edit, part-time job. I’ve found that conducting and teaching make a wonderful balance to composing. They are different viewpoints onto the same process.

She strongly urges composers not to write anything except on commission. Don’t write music that will go into a drawer without being performed; only write music guaranteed of a performance. With that in mind,

If you conceive of your profession as producing music within a community, your true reward is the enjoyment of the singers, the listeners and yourself. You have little control over publication, so regard it as the cherry on the cake, never the nourishment.

Thinking of publication as a bonus to the process is a big shift from the way many think of writing, with publication being the end goal.