Programming Ideas: Commission a Piece

As part of Programming Week, today I suggest commissioning a new work.
Commissioning a new choral work isn’t hard, or even necessarily expensive.
Step one is the hardest: picking a composer to work with. Following that, you can develop a dialogue that leads to a new piece. The composer has plenty of experience working with conductors like you, and they will offer plenty of guidance.
So how do you select a composer? Here are three options.
  1. Reach out to that former student – the one who’s a current music major or recent graduate. She will love the opportunity to write for her former choir. If you don’t currently have one of those, ask around. One of your colleagues does.
  2. Cold call/email your favorite young composer: Abbie BetinisAndrea Ramsey, Jake Runestad, etc. Every composer is taking commissions. Their time frames and fees may differ considerably, but they can advise you of that.
  3. Consult the list of recent ACDA Raymond W. Brock Student Composition Competition winners. The last three are Andrew Steffen (2014), Matthew Emery (2013), and Julian Bryson (2012). They are up-and-coming composers who would likely be delighted to write for your ensemble. Look further back on the list and you find established composers like Dominik DiOrio, Dan Forrest, and Joshua Shank – grab one of the new ones while their star is rising!
Once you’ve picked your composer and made contact, trust them to lead the way. They are more experienced than you in this collaborative process, and will help fill in all the details. They know the right questions to get things going.
Be generous with recordings of your ensemble to help them get ideas of your choir’s strengths and weaknesses. Have concrete examples of what you’re looking for (a piece like A, B, or C…about this long, this accompaniment).
Then let them go and create for you!


Your commissioning experience will be a valuable addition to the experience of your students as well as the choral community at large. Make it part of your program this year!
Come back tomorrow and Thursday for more out-of-the-box programming ideas for your choirs!