Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Composition Competition Tip #2: Be Prepared

Applying to competitions takes time, even apart from the creation and notation of the music itself. If you apply to more than three or four per year, you know how tedious and occasionally fruitless it can seem. It can be daunting, but once you have a routine, it becomes simple. Here are a few pointers to speed up the process:

1. Who Wants This? Keep a list of calls for scores that you want to enter, organized by their submission dates. Take note of whether the deadline is a postmark or received-by date. This list should be updated every month or so, or as needed. In general, I strongly recommend avoiding calls with application fees, unless you feel you have a strong work that is especially fitting for that call's requirements. You can find updated lists of competitions through various professional organizations (most of which require membership for viewing), such as SCI, ACF, AMC, NACUSA, and CMS, (conferences only). Finally, focus on competitions that are a good fit for the music you write, and don't be afraid to dream big.

2. Combs and Spirals and Wires (Oh My!) Make your scores look professional, both in their content and in their presentation. A really fantastic, concise guide by composer Alex Beard can be found here. To start, print on thicker 32-pound paper (not cardstock) using a laser printer. Not only are their cartridges longer-lasting and cheaper in the long run, they look and feel better. Alex prefers spiral binding, while I'm still using combs. Either way, making sure your score is held together will allow the adjudicators to spend more time looking at your score and less time collating it.

3. Hearing Is Believing CDs can go in those Priority Mail envelopes, too. (See #5 below on mailing.) Only send high-quality recordings of high-quality performances, or, if specifically mentioned in the posting, high-quality MIDI renderings (in MP3 format). Better for them to hear nothing than a poor product. Use slim cases to avoid cracks, and, for a cleaner look, consider some cheap and simple CD labeling software (such as the Memorex Label Maker Start Kit). Either way, also include a CD insert or separate sheet of paper with your name (unless it's anonymous!), the name of the competition, and titles/durations of each track. That way, when the CD is being played, they know what they're listening to.

4. My Mother's Maiden Name? In addition to the music-related stuff aforementioned, organizations also frequently ask for a bio (keep it under 100 words), program notes, a CV, and occasionally more specific info on the pieces being submitted. Update your bio and CV every month or two, and consider creating basic program notes a part of the compositional process. That way, they're always ready to go.

5. Thanks, US Postal Service allows you to purchase and print mailing labels online. To prepare, stop by your local post office and pick up a handful of Priority Mail envelopes. Make sure they say Flat Rate on them, so you can mail them without weighing. If you're sending more than three scores, pick up a Medium Flat Rate Box, though 11" x 17" scores likely won't fit the Priority Mail mailers. Then when the day comes to submit, simply visit, print and affix your label, and drop the item off in the nearest mailbox. Two- to three-day shipping meets convenience.

6. Behold... The Internets! Even better, some competitions allow or even require online submissions. Then you only need MP3 recordings and PDF scores. If you're using a Mac, choose "Save As PDF" when printing from your notation program. On a PC, use a free program such as CutePDF Writer to do the same thing.

In summary, be prepared. Aim to have an application package completed at least one week prior to the deadline so you'll have plenty of time to get it in. That's all for now. Write in with any questions, and best of luck in your hunt! As always, leave comments below, or contact me through my Profile Page or my website.

1 comment:

  1. Nice tips, Kyle! Thanks for including a link to my resource. I hope everyone finds both useful.