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"Hottest" New Choral Composers

Hi, I'm looking for your thoughts on the new "hot" choral composers.  Who do you think is really doing new, interesting and innovative things in the world of choral music? Looking for ideas and dialogue about the "bright young upstarts" in the choral world.
Replies (94): Threaded | Chronological
on May 15, 2012 7:03pm
I am wondering if you want "hot or "bright"? What is the difference, if I may ask?
Also, would you perhaps be interested in people creating works of substance?
Paul Carey
Room-temperature composer
Applauded by an audience of 10
on May 16, 2012 6:48am
Hi, Paul,
I see your point. However, your rebuke of Ms. Conkey seems a little mean-spirited and defensive. Beethoven was an innovator, and his works certainly were substantive. But, while beginning to gain fame in his mid-twenties, he could also have been considered "bright" (as an intellect), young, and "hot" (as in, acquiring attention for his musical achievements).
As an aside, I also think that her use of phraseology helps us to be a little less stuffy in the choral world. We can be academic in our own scholarliness but still possess flair in our use of terminology. This may even attract donors and audience members. It may actually be quite a savvy way of speaking in today's world; it radiates good energy. If we want to attract the support of the younger generations, we need to learn to connect with them, and part of this is just learning to speak their language. I just looked up Ms. Conkey's artist bio, and she's not anyone to shake a stick at. She's done her homework and conducts university and basilica choirs in Canada. If I were her, I would feel offended that someone presumptuously assumed she didn't want "works of substance." At the university level, you're not looking for "fluff." The terms "bright," "hot," and "new and innovative" don't automatically preclude "substantive."
I'm interested in Ms. Conkey's question and don't think that it's out of line. I'm going to look up the composers whom Allegra suggested, and will be eager to see other responses that come in. I did love your self-deprecating phrase, "room-temperature composer" - it was humorous and Satiean!
Applauded by an audience of 4
on May 16, 2012 5:01pm
Hi Cherwyn,
I have no problems with anything you said in reply. Cheers!
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 16, 2012 9:59pm
Hi, Paul,
Thanks for being open-hearted, and I admire your willingness to entertain debate (hopefully, with a positive end and not just for the purposes of being cantankerous - that's not me!).
With appreciation,
P.S. Cheers right back at ya!
on May 27, 2012 5:49am
Hi Cherwyn, 
I ditto your message! Well said!
Michelle Oesterle
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 17, 2012 5:42am
Hi Paul, I also see your point.  But I don't appreciate your sarcasm.  My terminology was vague, that that is true, and completely my fault.  However, I was simply looking for thoughts on exactly what I asked:
"Who is doing new, interesting and innovative things in the world of choral music?"
That was my question, but perhaps my teminology was too casual and not specific enough for this forum. Also, please don't refer to yourself as a "Room-temperature composer," as that was by no means my intent and is unnecessary.  
Applauded by an audience of 2
on May 17, 2012 8:45am
Maria (and all other choral directors):
As a new composer, I would love to learn what your personal definitions of "new," "interesting," and "innovative" are in the world of choral music.  I think I can speak for many, if not most, composers (especially ones just starting out) when I say that we are genuinely interested in learning what conductors are searching for and hoping to find in terms of new music, and are eager to try to compose pieces that will meet conductors', choirs', and audiences' needs and wants, rather than simply compose what sounds good to each of our particular individual set of ears.
Please tell us what you want.  Thanks a lot!
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 15, 2012 7:50pm
Abbie Betinis. Tons of substance, and an interesting voice.
Also love Scott Wheeler.
Applauded by an audience of 4
on May 16, 2012 5:16am
When you say, "hot", are you looking for someone being fiercely marketed by their publisher or someone who is creating interesting works for the love of the craft. I invite you lo look at my humble offerings and see if there is anything worth your time. My page is here: 
I hope you would be interested in any of my or other composers from this sight.
on May 16, 2012 5:09pm
Hi Craig,
Sadly I know of no US publisher (zero, zip, nada) who is fiercely marketing any living composer's works these days. *Sigh*. Most US publishers are asleep at the wheel. Their only marketing tool of late is to push truly mediocre 3-4 minute "accessible" new releases. I know this veers this thread into new territory so I will shut up now, but I thought I would at least reply to your phrase "fiercely marketing". Best wishes on your www.scoreexchange site.
Applauded by an audience of 3
on May 26, 2012 7:25am
Hello Paul,
I can tell you of at least ONE US publisher who IS 'fiercely' marketing living composer's works, and this is Ron Jeffers, publisher of Earthsongs. Ron's background is in academia and he is also a composer. He publishes music only that he personally finds worth publishing. Oddly enough, that is why it sells so well!
Applauded by an audience of 2
on May 17, 2012 5:43am
Thanks Craig - I will take a look at all your scores.
on May 16, 2012 7:19am
Rollo Dillworth seems to be picking up right where Moses Hogan left off. Besides his gospel and spiritual arrangements, check out his originals.
Lisa DeSpain just did a great arrangement of selections from Green Day's American Idiot. Yeah, I know, it's a cheesy rock medley, but she DID make a few intelligent choices making it a nice piece.
on May 17, 2012 10:54am
Stacey Gibbs is another great spiritual arranger for this generation. Sample his work on iTunes:
on May 16, 2012 8:06am
Terminology aside, Ola Gjeilo is doing some wonderful work; creative, unique, evocative compositions of substance.  We are preparing "Dark Night of the Soul" and "Sunrise Mass" for presentations this weekend and among other things I've enjoyed discovering the depth of his thematic development in the Mass.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on May 17, 2012 5:45am
Thanks Scott, I recented did portions of Gjeilo's Sunrise Mass with my larger adult ensemble and it was incredibly well received by both the audience and the singers, this is exactly the kind of info I was looking for.
on May 16, 2012 8:29am
You'll find quite a few represented here where you can both look at and listen to a few samples of their music, and find how to obtain it--then you can judge for yourself whether your criteria are met.  I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.  Truth in advertising:  Yes, three of my works are also there--but I am not young.  Just new.  And I'm hot on occasion, but so far that's only because of wacky hormones...   
Applauded by an audience of 7
on May 16, 2012 9:48am
Hi Maria - My chorus just premiered a piece by Ted Hearne, a young (and I think) up-and-coming composer out of New York.  He musical approach is an editorial response to calamitous world events and he uses topical issues and primary-source texts for his inspiration. "Ripple," our new piece is based on a short report taken from military cables known as the Iraq War Logs made public by wikileaks a couple years ago.  Check out his "Katrina Ballads" song-cycle inspired by the natural disaster and political fall-out from Washington's response to it. You can access Hearne's work on his website and on Youtube.  I'm also a fan of Ola Gjeilo.  We performed his "Tundra" last year and it was a big hit with our audience.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 16, 2012 11:20am
Dear Maria
I don't think I should be the one to talk about one's creativities, hotness and etc. But I find these composer's works to be beautiful.
Ola Gjello (Norway / USA) Cluster and homophonic. Spiritual quietness. And also jazz ;)   Direction between Whitacre and Pärt?
Kentaro Sato (Japan / USA) Colorful and polyphonic. Heart-warming and joyous motion. And also film, tv and videogame ;) Direction between Lauridsen and Rutter?
And Lane Prince (Canada)
Applauded by an audience of 3
on May 17, 2012 5:51am
This is exactly what I was looking for.. thanks Kel.
on May 16, 2012 12:15pm
I would look at Tarik O'Regan and concur on Abbie Betinis.
And maybe pop over here for a bit, too: and/or
Frank La Rocca
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 17, 2012 5:51am
I will do all of the above, thanks Frank!
on May 16, 2012 2:50pm
Maria:  I have no problem with your using terms from popular culture, but they suffer from being vague and ill defined (as the responses so far demonstrate).
"Hot" can mean temporarily popular, with emphasis on the temporarily.  It can also mean outstandingly attractive.  And those are non synonymous meanings.  But what it does NOT mean is either new, substantial, or potentially long-lasting.
"Upstarts" is also vague and ill defined, I'm afraid.  So what are you really asking for?  And according to whose criteria?  Popular culture is notoriously fickle and changeable.
Applauded by an audience of 4
on May 16, 2012 10:17pm
 Michael McGlynn of Anuna is creating wonderfully innovative work.    
All the pieces I've heard in the Choralnet composer section by Hildigunnur Runarsdottir are outstanding.
Our national classical music broadcaster recently featured the works of Ola Gjeilo mentioned by Kel Tozo and Scott Dean above.  He certainly got tongues going.   Hot indeed-  by anyone's definition.  
Applauded by an audience of 3
on May 17, 2012 5:51am
Hi John (et all),
Thanks for the response.  I was looking for answers to this question primarily, "Who do you think is really doing new, interesting and innovative things in the world of choral music?"
But I cluttered it up with my own colloquialisms, which posed problems that I had not intended.  Nor did I mean to offend anyone.   I also consistantly look for, respect, and try to program "works of substance" as Paul says.  I am just as interested in the music of a local composer who creates his own scores, than anything published by the larger US publishers.  I was just simply looking for opinions about what new music people are enjoying and programming themselves, music that is distinct and innovative according to Choral Net users own opinions, no intensive requirements necessary.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on May 17, 2012 8:36am
Hi Maria -
I want to point you towards David Arbury, a composer out in LA.  He has written music on just about all ends of the spectrum, is a joy to collaborate with, and is incredibly smart and interesting.
And he's not new per se, but Peter Niedmann is a Connecticut composer whose music is beautiful and often overlooked.
More if I think of 'em.  Hope you continue to find other new and interesting things!
Tim Reno
on May 17, 2012 10:52am
Dear Maria,
The distinquished American composer, Richard Toensing,, is someone you should definitely be aware of. His choral music, while challenging, is goregous and approachable. You can hear a number of selections of his work on YouTube:  "Magnificat" and "Lux ex Nocte" for women's choir, "Kontakion on the Nativity of Christ," for double SATB choir and six soloists. His glorious "New Orthodox Carols for the Nativity of Christ" are easy for choirs of all levels to learn and free to use. PDFs of each carol can be downloaded at Richard Toensing's website, There are three New Orthodox Christmas Carols posted on YouTube.
Be sure to contact me for additional information regarding Richard Toensing's choral works and to review scores on approval.
Janet Braccio
Bella Voce Communications
on May 30, 2012 12:28pm
Dear Janet,
Seeing your mention of Toensing's Kontakion, I couldn't resist mentioning my own: Nativity Kontakion. It explores a new (to my knowledge) way of blending Greek Byzantine and Western musical systems. 
I recommend listening before you peruse the score — it looks a bit intimidating on paper, but is actually very simple to sing... just a bunch of diatonic scales. 
on May 17, 2012 2:08pm
I really enjoy Dan Forrest's works (  His stuff is generally very accessible to audiences and choirs of all levels, and I find it very beautiful.  Kind of a cross between Rutter and Lauridsen, maybe...
If you're looking for more difficult but still pretty awesome pieces, check out Ko Matsushita ( ).  Maybe he's not young and new, but I don't think his works are still all that widely performed, and lots of them really should be.  He has some great stuff.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on May 19, 2012 2:55pm
I'm doing things which I think are interesting, and other people seem to agree - just won the New London Singers Composition Prize with "Speravi in Te", and you can see a preview here:
You can also hear some recordings at
Thanks, and hope to hear from you soon
Chris Hutchings
on May 20, 2012 5:10am
Without a doubt, Josh Shank.  Publishes with Santa Barbara.  Wonderful music.  A lot of SATB divisi, but accessible to high school choirs and  professional choirs.  Knows a lot about the voice, and sets the music very well in singers ranges.  You can see him on SBMP's website, or on his website:
on May 20, 2012 6:22am
Dear Maria,

I understand your question and have no problem with it! :)

Paul Carey won't say it, but he does great work. I appreciate how he composes for all voicings and levels.

J. Michael Saunders who just graduated from Pacific Lutheran University in Washington state and is headed to USC for composition is awesome (as in his composing, he's an awesome guy too). I know he has some works published by SBMP. While he probably doesn't have a lot of works published yet, I've heard two of his pieces performed at regional ACDA Conventions. Both were exquisite and challenging.

Others to check out: Kevin Memley, Tarik O'Reagan, Joshua Shank, Stanford Scriven, and Joan Szymko.



Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 31, 2012 6:04am
Definite applause for Stanford Scriven.  I just listened to Henderson State's performance of "This is the Day" at  Seemingly simple and straightforward, but a gorgeous sound.
on May 20, 2012 7:57am
I would like to mention Paul Crabtree.  He has an interesting voice and sensibility, and a real flair for finding stimulating texts;  his music is very singable.  Cantori New York has recorded two of his instrumentally accompanied cantatas, Dive and An American Persephone.  Paul also has a lot of a cappella works, including his The Simpsons Miniatures which are enjoying some currency.  Other composers with whom Cantori has been or will be working include Erol Gurol, Brad and Doug Balliett, Mohammed Fairouz, and many others.  Though no longer a young upstart, the French composer Philippe Hersant has written a great deal of beautiful choral music that deserves to be better known in the US.  Please feel free to visit and explore our "past repertoire" page.
Mark Shapiro
Artistic Director, Cantori New York
Music Director, St. Cecilia Chorus and Orchestra
Faculty, LIU Post and Mannes College the New School for Music
Director of Conducting Studies, European American Musical Alliance in Paris
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 20, 2012 10:17am
Hi, Check out Jocelyn Hagen ( ).  Everything I think you are looking for, with lush, gorgeous harmonies.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 20, 2012 1:12pm
The Choir Project is always posting interesting stuff on Facebook--performances of wonderful new composers, many of whom I haven't heard of before.  Their main page is
on May 20, 2012 2:13pm
I'm hot, Maria! Me! Me! Me!

Not that young anymore -- young at heart, maybe?

All best!
Jonathan Santore

on May 21, 2012 5:47am
Hi, Maria -
E.C. Schirmer carries my hip-hop piece for 2-part speaking chorus and rhythm track (or live percussion), "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff" taken from Matthew 6:24-34. It is new (2011) and there is not a recording available yet, but you can obtain copies from ECS at 1-800-777-1919.
Many thanks!
Clare Shore
on May 21, 2012 7:56am
I am absolutely in love with a new-to-me composer that I wrote about in our ChoralNet community blog post.  Hildigunnur Rúnarsdóttir is incredible.  Check out excerpts of her mass at the end of the article.  She is one of the greats of our time. Article:
The epic quality of her writing will appeal to our younger generation. They are becoming increasingly aware of this powerful style of choral music as it is used in media that they consume. 
Applauded by an audience of 2
on May 21, 2012 9:04am
dear maria,
i am guessing that mark shapiro and i share similar tastes, because i too would recommend paul crabtree - the saint louis chamber chorus just performed his Simpsons Suite, and it's a rare work, combinging the silly with flashes of the profound. like mark with his choir, i would encourage you to consult the website for the SLCC <>, since this choir has a proven track record of seeking out the new and promising; you might find composers listed there who are new to you. there's a distinctly 'anglo' feel to its repertoire, given its founding 56 years ago by british musician, ronald arnatt. from the other side of the pond, i would commend to you the music of Sasha Johnson Manning - she writes so elegantly for the voice, and in recent years has enjoyed much coverage by the BBC. Judith Bingham continues to write fascinating music - another trained choral singer, she - while from Australia the music of Clare Maclean is ever inventive and original. the sydney chamber choir has just released a second disc of her music.
i hope these three names are useful - and i wish you well in your search.
philip barnes
st. louis, mo.
on May 21, 2012 10:32pm

The instigator jumping back in-- (btw, I am currently writing a blog about this thread, but also its wider implications in the composer/publisher dynamic which is in turmoil of late- I will link y'all into that when I get the blog finished).

I am very happy to see the mentions of Abbie Betinis, Paul Crabtree, Tarik O'Regan and others. So many of us are trying to write real music with integrity (I'd also like to steer you to composers Sydney Guillaume and Reg Unterseher, btw). Today, in the glorification by the masses, especially 15 to 22 year olds, of one very “hot”, handsome choral composer "God", (or is it "rock star"?) Eric Whitacre, who basically creates rainbow sherbet for the masses, and the dumbed down world of Hal Leonard/JW Pepper-- composing with artistic integrity has become a lonely task. Our only real support comes from  certain dedicated music directors, appreciative singers, and audiences who care about us and care about artistic expression- those who appreciate the melding of a brilliant text, new or old, with choral compositional craft and creativity. No publisher really cares and no Manhattan tour company ringing up the register really cares about us. I find joy in composing, but also lately, even as I worked on two wonderful commissions, great loneliness. I've actually been told to shut up and not ruffle feathers, but it's time to fight for our right to expression, even if it means totally abandoning all the conventional easy ways to reach the public, namely through traditional publishers. A recent self-congratulatory letter to the editors of the Choral Journal by a couple publishers blatantly pronounced all of us as replaceable- that any composer who left the comfy world of the traditional publisher model where we give away our copyright ownership in exchange for the vast royalty rate of 10% would easily be replaced. Gee, thanks for that consideration and thought, dear publishers. And to put it directly into print in the Choral Journal was a total insult.

These days we deliver to them already engraved scores, unlike the past. We are usually expected to clear all text copyright issues AND supply quality recordings of the piece in advance of publication (do people realize how difficult that can be to facilitate?). We deliver to them works which we hope to be good enough to endure (in the historical model of classical music) for at least some amount of time, yet all they will invest in our works is surface publicity for the first year as a new release. It's time to stop giving away our music, and begin owning it ourselves and being proud of that decision.



Applauded by an audience of 8
on May 22, 2012 6:36am
Hi everybody,
I would also add two other composers: Eriks Esenvalds, from Latvia and Pavel Lukasewski from Poland. 
Paul, I agree with what you are writing but I believe that there are some exceptions, among the publishers. I can speak personally, the publisher that I have
for my choral music in the United States is REALLY an exception.
And I think that I am an hot composer, as well ... especially in Summer!
music composer
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 23, 2012 5:21am
After working in the sheet music industry for 5 years now, I agree with both of you. 
The large publishers are indeed marketing to the masses. They are publishing music that they know will sell. There is one state ACDA conference that has mentioned in the past that they don't want anything published by Alfred on their state reading sessions.
The small publishers, such as Alliance (who publishes Ivo's work), Santa Barbara (Joshua Shank, Abbe Betinis, some other young composers), Walton (Ola Gjeilo), and Hinshaw (Dan Forrest) are dedicated to publishing choral works of composers of note. There are a few European publishers that are doing the same. 
The issue is that the publishers are very hesitant to publish new composers for some reason. Very few of them are publishing new major works (which is disheartening to those of us looking to break away from the same old 10 pieces), and very few of them are willing to publish music that is not easily accessible to all choirs. 
If the publishers do their job, it is just as easy to sell the music of a new composer as it is an old standard. If they take the plunge, issue it as a new issue (and not a digital new issue!) where conductors can view them in a music store browser box or listen to it on a new issue CD, then the music will begin to sell itself. As I saw new names go into the browser box, I always took a look at the music to see what it was like. This is how I discovered Joshua Shank, Kevin Memley, and many others.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on May 22, 2012 10:03am
Bravo, bravo, bravo!!!  Heartily agree with everything you wrote, Paul, and hope that you will never "shut up and not ruffle feathers."  The world of choral music is changing even faster for composers than it is for conductors/directors, and it is more important than ever that composers like you with both vast talent and experience can speak openly and honestly about the challenges, and be heard.  Looking forward to reading your blog about the "wider implications in the composer/publisher dynamic."     
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 24, 2012 9:56am
I'm looking forward to it, too. This is a troubling topic which absolutely MUST be highlighted, discussed, contemplated, and actively worked on till it's resolved! Whether or not a composer is published and championed by a major publisher these days seems to have extremely little correspondence with his/her worthiness! It's extremely frustrating as a choral conductor to need to hunt down every composer under every rock to be able to examine his/her works with an eye towards quality, but in the end, this is how it needs to be done in order to find a treasure of a composer you didn't know about...Although, the results can be exquisitely rewarding.

As an aside, the ACDA conferences are helpful in identifying quality compositions and composers. They're unhelpful, though, when the performing choirs sing pieces labelled "manuscript" in place of a publisher. Does this mean the piece is available for purchase, or not? The piece should be listed in the program as "manuscript; contact composer to purchase" or "self-published" if the piece may be purchased for performance by one's own ensemble. Otherwise, we are left with the impression that the piece is being used only under very private arrangement and isn't available for the wider market.. But as more worthy composers begin to self-publish, the availability of their self-published pieces must be noted so we don't think it'll be a wild goose chase to try and get hold of the piece. The ACDA should, in this way, help these composers along and help us to know we may purchase the music.

It would also be wonderful to be able to purchase copies of this "manuscript" music directly at the exhibition hall, somehow, and be able to walk away with it in-hand when the performance of the piece is fresh in one's mind and ears...Perhaps if the composers of the "manuscript" pieces were offered an opportunity to go in together to rent a shared exhibit table with boxes of copies of their self-published works available for sale? E.g., a box of Michael McGlynn pieces,, a box of self-published Paul Carey pieces, etc.; and perhaps the composer living nearest the conference could be the salesperson? There should be a visible presence of self-published composers at the conferences. This would also add a sense of endorsement and legitimacy to the decision to self-publish and to declare that "these works are also worthy, valid musical vehicles of expression, too!"

There would be the thorny issue of how the ACDA would select which self-published composers could be included, or invited to participate, so that unworthy work wouldn't fill up the table. I.e., should the self-publishing composers represented be only those whose works are being performed at that particular conference? I think not. We conductors should have a chance to see and examine the works of a number self-published composers while attending the conferences. After all, the publishing houses certainly sell music at their booths whose composers aten't n the current performing roster fr the conference.

However uncomfortable, these are waters into which the ACDA must wade. The ACDA should remove itself from being involved solely with publishing companies, given the current state of things; and find a way, establishing whatever selection criteria necessary, to begin working with self-publishing composers to help make their meritorious works more widely available and give them equal exposure at the conference exhibition halls.

Sorry for the tangential "aside," but it seemed important to articulate these wishful thoughts.

Applauded by an audience of 4
on May 24, 2012 8:15pm
Dear Cherwyn,
Thanks for sharing all of your good thoughts.
I believe that most of the ideas/issues in your paragraphs 3 and 4 are under consideration by ACDA leadership. Sounds good, eh?
Applauded by an audience of 2
on June 2, 2012 1:18pm
Really? I will be amazed if I see or hear anything of mine at ACDA next year : )
on May 25, 2012 7:02am
Greatly appreciate your thoughts on this subject, Cherwyn.  In the ACDA's list of "Purposes" of the organization, two speak directly about supporting and promoting the composition and dissemination of high-quality choral music (see  There is certainly a great deal of room for interested professionals to encourage the ACDA to creatively work in various non-traditional ways in order to fulfill those purposes.
Are conference exhibition hall spaces affordable for self-published composers?  Do the reviewers at the Choral Journal ever review self-published composers' works?  Is the ACDA considering creating a separate membership category for composers?  Would ChoralNet consider allowing space (creating a forum) for online "Reviews of Self-Published Compositions" where any choral conductor/director could offer a review of a composer's self-published piece of music?  What other possible opportunities could the ACDA offer to help talented self-published composers make the choral world aware of their music, especially those composers who aren't extroverted marketing whizzes?  How could the ACDA and ChoralNet encourage conductors/directors to inform a self-published composer when one of his/her works is actually performed?  (A music purchase does not necessarily guarantee a performance, and for many composers the knowledge that a work has been performed is infinitely more valuable than any financial rewards, which for most composers are already very, very small.) 
There are many more challenges and questions than these, and it will be interesting to see what kinds of solutions and answers will be forthcoming in the future.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on May 26, 2012 9:40am
The whole issue of ACDA reading sessions and ePublishing is one that is near and dear to my heart. 
At the last NW ACDA conference in Seattle, I conducted the first (that I know of, though I have heard rumors of others) ePublishing Reading Session.
Check out the linked web page. Here is the URL in case you can't make that link work: <>;
At the session itself, we had a pdf of all the pieces and read them on laptops, iPads, and watched them on TV monitors in a paperless session. Most of the people who have been mentioned in this thread had pieces or their web sites featured on the session. It was very well recieved, and the issues with publishers were clearly laid out by both conductors and composers. I very much hope that there can be some way to integrate ePublished pieces into ACDA sessions. It is a challenge to accomplish, though.
A couple of other thoughts:
Baggage. We have baggage with that word/idea. Baggage associated with the copy-cat BS we hear all the time in an attempt by composers to be hot. Short version of long rant to conductors: Use the music of the real (insert hot composer's name here), instead of the cardboard cut-out, paint by numbers versions. 
I feel very fortunate to have a catalog of pieces with Oxford University Press and Walton Music, but I stopped sending them new works several years ago. I have made my new pieces available on my web site instead. I have mixed feelings about this. It is still the reality that when you show a conductor something that is "Self Published", they look at it one way, and when you show them something that is "Oxford" or "Walton," they look at it another. One of the reasons I have started using the term "ePublishing". Composer Co-ops are very interesting to me, and some of us in the Northwest have had some conversations about starting one, but it is hard to get that going when what you want to do is create the music, not be the publisher and distributer and marketing manager and bookeeper and your own biggest cheerleader.
Reg Unterseher
NW ACDA Men's Choirs R & S Chair
Applauded by an audience of 3
on May 26, 2012 3:32pm
Baggage. We have baggage with that word/idea. Baggage associated with the copy-cat BS we hear all the time in an attempt by composers to be hot. Short version of long rant to conductors: Use the music of the real (insert hot composer's name here), instead of the cardboard cut-out, paint by numbers versions. "
I do 100% agree with you here Reg and I think that's a very important point.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 30, 2012 12:14pm
Thanks Reg for these thoughts. The rumors are true... at ACDA NE in February, Miguel Felipe presented a paperless repertoire session, with a wealth of relatively "undiscovered" works by composers outside traditional publishing...pretty similar what you describe, and a lot of beautiful stuff too (if I do say so piece 'Dreaming in Darkness' was included). Pieces were shown as PDFs on a big screen, and were also given to every conference participant on a zip drive.
Here is the full url — a trove of scores and audio from the session:
Miguel is working very hard on this kind of effort so would be a good person to team up with. 
All the best,
Robinson McClellan (composer too!)
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 27, 2012 5:18am
Many of the music stores try to have all of the performed pieces available at their booths, even the self published and smaller publishers.
However, most of these self-publishers, including some very established composers like Paul Caldwell and Sean Ivory, refuse to do wholesale business with the music stores. Once a lot of composers found out that they could do it themselves and make all of the profit, they stopped dealing with music retailers.
The down side to not wholesaling your music, however, is that the music stores won't carry your product for one reason - they can't make any money or even cover their costs of carrying your music if you don't properly wholesale it.
I think that's the downside to the entire self-publishing idea as far as availability is concerned. There are some great self publishers like Daniel Gawthrop, Stephen Paulus and Elizabeth Alexander that go out of their way to work with music stores so that their music is on the shelves and available to consumers. However, the folks who have gone to PDF publishing only create a big problem for the traditional way of browsing music, because the cost is prohibitive for a retailer to have their music on the shelf.
For example - a composer charges $2.50 a copy for a PDF license to purchase their work. A music store gets no wholesale discount for that purchase. They now have to print the music and make it into a browsable format. This costs about .07 a page at most copy places these days (.02 if you have your own copier). At an average of 20 pages per choral octavo for a decent sized piece, you're looking at another $1.40 per copy, now making the piece of music $3.90. At this point, the composer has profited $2.50 per copy, and the music store has taken a $1.40 loss on the piece of music before it even goes on the shelf.
This is why you won't see most of the smaller self publishers on your music store shelves. 
Indeed, the composers can get their own booths, but they generally cost about $400 at the low end for an ACDA conference. NAfME charges $1200 per table for their June conference. Some of the state MEAs charge $600-700 per booth. A self publisher might sell $300 of their work at a conference if they are really well known.
I believe that instead of forcing the composers to pursue a self-published model, we need to get the publishers, especially the larger publishers, to start opening up their catalogs to new and unknown composers. Take a chance and see how it goes. There is beautiful music out there that isn't getting performed because the publisher finds something "wrong" with it - and that goes for established composers too (Carl Nygard has an absolutely gorgeous Psalm 23 setting that he self publishes. I was once told that his publishers wouldn't touch it because the piano part, which is mainly 2 against 3, was too hard). I applaud Santa Barbara, Alliance, and Walton for taking chances on new and unknown composers, but we need all of the publishers to do the same before we can solve the problem. I actually counted one year's new releases from Alfred, and 75% of their new issues for one year were composed or arranged by 3 people, and the rest of the 25% only represented 3 or 4 composers.
Now that I've probably stirred the pot even more...
CJ Redden-Liotta
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on May 27, 2012 6:45am
Hokey smokes, Bullwinkle!  Fewer than ten composers created nearly all of the new releases by Alfred one year?  No wonder composers are discouraged, especially new ones!  And no wonder so much "new" music sounds so much the same...  Until I investigated the music publishing business myself recently, I had no idea that some (most?) big choral music publishers simply have a stable of "in-house" composers who create most or all of the works--do they receive a salary, or royalties, or both?  I don't know.
Although I have not been composing for very long, and have no first-hand experience with music publishers (but do have a fair bit with book publishers), I understand from other composers' posts here on ChoralNet that if a piece of music is submitted and accepted, the publisher, NOT the composer, now owns the copyright to that piece of music, and thus controls everything that happens to it.  In addition, I understand that a 10% royalty payment to the composer is typical--but don't know if that represents 10% of the wholesale or retail price.
So, not only does the composer lose control over how, and what length of time, a piece of music is marketed, he or she earns a paltry sum for the work, especially if royalties are based on wholesale prices.  The composer has no control over how long a piece of music stays in the publisher's "active" catalog, and has zero control over when the music goes out of print and is no longer available for sale.  (I understand that pieces of music that do not initially sell well enough--as defined by the publisher--go out of print very quickly, just like books do.)
These are only a couple of the reasons that a composer might decide to try self-publishing--but a real downside is that this route leaves the composer (who fervently wishes to be spending time composing and improving) with all of the marketing and distribution work, as well, and taking the real risk of becoming simply annoying to choir directors in those non-traditional marketing efforts.  
Nevertheless, it seems to me that the traditional music publishing model has simply become unworkable and unsustainable, for all concerned: composers, publishers, choir directors, and audiences (who I assume would like to hear high-quality new music, rather than the same-old, same-old).  Perhaps if enough of "us" keep on stirring the pot some truly creative and workable strategies will result.  Of course, this assumes that someday the economy will improve enough that choirs will be able to afford to purchase significant quantities of new music, rather than relying on what is already in their libraries...or borrowing from others...or...
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on May 27, 2012 7:47am
Dear CJ,
You've given some good info, thanks. In regard to your last paragraph- the publishers also need to share more of ther money with the creators of what they publish, namely, the composers. The standard 10% royalty rate is unfair aned should be revised strongly upward, but I sincerely doubt that any publisher will do so (yes I know there are a few, small publishers at perhaps 13-16 %). I think the 10% rule  is too near and dear to the publishers and they would be afraid to raise it for fear that it pronounces a big crack in the wall to their business model which has existed for so long. Btw, a couple years ago I asked a company I am highly affiliated with  for a jump from 10 to 15%- they said no in a heartbeat. And that's just a tiny change!
Due to Finale and Sibelius, virtually all choral composers today are saving the publishers vast amounts of money by delivering clean electronic-file submission scores. In the old days publishers had to create physical plates for every page of a piece- now they can often just tweak a composer's e-manuscript layout and have their electronic master at a fraction of the cost and time. Is there no reward to composers for taking on so much of that part of the work?
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on May 27, 2012 12:54pm
Paul:  In music publishing, as in most things in life, the answers are seldom as simplistic as we would like them to be.  I appreciate your comments, but I would also like to hear from those who are actually involved in the publishing industry as to the actual costs of running a company, and whether they are actually rolling in wealth from the obscene and unfair profits you assume.  And also from those who are BOTH composers and publishers.  Mark Gresham, are you out there?  (And don't forget that the 10% royalty is based on the RETAIL price, not the discounted wholesale price the publishers actually receive, which in many cases makes it more like a 20% royalty based on actual sales.)
I suspect that most composers would be much more concerned not with getting a few percentage points more in royalties, but with changing the paradigm under which they must give up their copyrights in order to satisfy the traditional publishers' requirements for publication.  This was a particular peeve for songwriter Irving Berlin, who spent a lot of money buying back the early copyrights he had sold outright, and was fanatic about protecting his own copyrights and the control of his own music.  And it would take such a small change in mind set to write contracts so that a composer's copyrights reverted to him or her after a defined period of no promotion or no sales.  The problem is that too many traditional publishers treat the copyrights they control as property to be used to create income, not as a responsibility to promote and make and keep available.
There's also the simple fact that not all the pieces a publisher accepts and publishes DO sell enough copies to repay the investment.  (I'm assuming that's the case, since it seems pretty obvious.)  Which means that the successful composers are in fact helping subsidize the work of less successful composers once all the income and all the expenses of doing business get smushed together to produce a bottom line.
Now about composers providing camera-ready copy (maybe, depending on a publisher's standards and on insistance on receiving files in a particular program format, like Hal Leonard and Finale):  this simply follows what happened in the recording industry a generation earlier.  (That doesn't mean it's either Good or Bad, just that it's what happened.)  Back in the '60s a record company actually produced their own content, using their own Artist & Repertoire experts ("A&R" people) to match up songs and singers, hiring and paying for their own arrangers and studio orchestras, and promoting their own artists agressively.  (I was there, and that's what happened!  And while I wrote our arrangements, I never heard the final, compledted arrangement until the record actually came out!!)  A demo was a demo, nothing more, and very seldom got released as a final recording.
Then the recording artists themselves started writing their own songs and demanding more control over their music, and record companies started doing nothing but buying "demos" as finished products, and acting only as distribution and promotion companies.  (And making sure, through their "creative bookkeeping"--which they shared with the movie industry--that the artists would be charged back for every penny of expenses they paid out!)  And that's where the industry stands today, with anyone who thinks their music is worthwhile able to use the internet to promote it, and "caveat emptor" filtering down from the record companies to each of us individually.
That's EXACTLY what self-publishing and the internet is doing today to printed music, and of COURSE publishers take advantage of it because it lowers their expenses.  It's nothing new, but those involved in it are giving up the functions of distribution and promotion that music publishers have been SUPPOSED to be doing all along (as CJ pointed out), for which, yes, they have taken 80% of the wholesale price of their sales.  And the message is clear, for anyone who can read it clearly:  adapt or die, baby, it's the survival of the fittest!  (At least until some college kid in his dorm room comes up with a new approach that nobody every thought of before, and becomes a millionaire because of it.)
All the best,
on May 27, 2012 5:24pm
Hi, CJ.
I understand the predicament in which a music store finds itself with self-published music. I don't pretend to have any answers to suggest. However, your post brought up what, for me, is a sore spot involved in the purchase of self-published music for any of my three ensembles, none of which is basking in oodles of extra money. As is the case with a music store printing out copies of digitally-transmitted sheet music, the chorus making a purchase of this music must also first pay for the legal license for the required number of copies, then pay again for the ink and paper to print out the copies...And, in most cases, the paper will be either cheap 20-pound paper, or 24-proud paper. A thicker paper that would be comparable to the durability of pre-printed sheet music from a publishing house would render the printed-out music too expensive for the chorus.

With the purchase of pre-published music, part of our investment goes to marketing, music selection, in some cases the paying of choirs to make demo recordings of new publications, wear-and-tear on the printing machinery, and yes, good quality paper and ink (often in color for the cover page).. All of this for usually around $1.85/copy.

Most (not all) self-publishing composers charge at least $1.75/copy for a printing license, THEN we still have the financial burden of printing the music out! As much as I do earnestly want to support the individual composer going it alone, it would help me to help the composer if the self-published music could be priced such that once it's bought and printed out on a comparable quality of paper, the music would cost me the same as it would had I purchased it from a publisher. Not only this, but my three choruses purchase music through a discount distributor which gives us a full 30% off almost all published titles! So, there is a real financial incentive - realities of life - for me to program pieces from the publishing houses. If I don't live within the "means" of the budgets set forth for me, I'll find the chorus in jeopardy and myself out of a job.

I can't imagine what it must be like to try and earn a living as a composer! I don't know what the answers are. But I'm just throwing it out here that because composers tend to set the prices for their self-published pieces comparably to prices of published music (which because of my distributor is 30% less than retail), it's a luxury for my choruses, rather than a "daily bread" item, to purchase this music and then print it out.

Some composers will charge a flat fee, such as $25.00, for a .pdf file of the music, and give permission to make as many copies as necessary. This is much more comparable to what I pay for pre-published music once I copy the .pdf file, and acknowledges the fairness of the transaction.

Composers would do well to think about how to offer their self-published music at a price which will be comparable for the chorus AFTER the music is all printed out on similar-quality paper. I hope this helps someone out there who is wondering how to set prices for their work in such a way that their work is within financial reach of performing ensembles. It's important! Especially for church choirs (of which I have one), which usually aren't endowed and don't charge admission, and whose budgets are being divvied up with praise team budgets these days. We have to do more with less, rather than spend more.

Forgive me for sounding so negative about something (championing the self-publishing composer) which otherwise very much enthuses me. Plus, there's something intangible and wonderful about the direct contact with the composer through a direct order and enjoying that accessibility for performance questions, etc. I would Iike to purchase "direct from the composer" more than I do! I will NOT make illegal copies, however, so the prices commonly charged do limit me. I imagine if this limits me, this must happen with others, as well.

Wishing my American colleagues a meaningful Memorial Day tomorrow enjoying the freedoms secured for us at a dear price.

on May 27, 2012 8:42pm
Cherwyn:  Since I don't run a music store (although I used to import a lot of music as a dealer for my teaching and my students), I can't tell you the answer, but ONE answer at least is for composers who self publish AND want representation by music stores is pretty simple.  Just give them the same kind of wholesale discount they get from established publishers.  (Yes, they'll net less per copy, but gross more if their work sells lots more copies.)  This varies, of course, from around 50% for large-scale orders to considerably less--as little as 10% in some cases--for small, specific orders.  And yes, that's more work and takes more time, but that's what the percentage a publisher keeps is for, right?
As to paper quality, that's entirely your choice.  You can buy an awful lot of 20-lb paper in standard office sizes and simply reprint from your legal PDF files whenever you want to re-perform a work.  Our community band director bought a supply of heavier-weight paper from a print shop, which he uses to make copies for our band.  Anyone could do the same.  But of course 20-lb from Office Max is a LOT cheaper!  But if you want archival copies, they can be produced.  (Which a lot of traditional French or Italian publishers did NOT ever do, as a matter of fact!)
As to what self-publishers choose to charge, that's subject to exactly the same market forces as any other business transaction.  It's an open, free marketplace, and composers who choose to charge more than others will lose sales unless what they offer is so outstanding that conductors believe it to be worth the extra.  There's no way someone using a copy machine can produce copies as cheaply as someone making a thousand to 10,000 copies on an offset press, whether it's a self-publishing composer or the end buyer. 
Different paradigms ARE being tried.  One print-yourself publisher sells paper master copies with permission to copy for something like $65 per arrangement (which may be old news at this point).  That's a terrific deal if you have a choir of 80 or more, but drastically overpriced if you have only 8 or 16 singers.  But they seem to be doing well.
And while you didn't mention it, using the outdated and obsolescent octavo size for choral works (a large sheet of paper folded into 8ths) can also be done if you want to go to the trouble, but the reason it's outdated is the prevelance in the U.S. of inexpensive letter- and tabloid size office paper and the similar prevelance outside the U.S. of A4 and A3 office paper.
Choral self-publishers and choral conductors actually have it pretty easy.  Orchestra or band publications can also be sold in you-copy PDF versions, and I've done it, but it involves many different parts that have to be carefully prepared and eventually printed and put together, not just a single score that can be duplicated ad infinitum.  But that, of course, is why Bach had his Cantatas copies in individual voice parts, not choral scores, back when EVERYTHING was copied by hand and very little was actually printed.  As I recall, one copy with only the individual chorus part for his ripienists, and a second with both the chorus part and solo parts for his concertists.
All the best,
on May 28, 2012 6:13am
Thanks for explaining all that you have here. Very educational.
Regarding your suggestion that we can reprint from our legal .pdf files once a copy is damaged (because of having been printed on inexpensive paper), once this number of copies has been reached, my understanding is that if the copy is torn, crumpled, or otherwise damaged because of having used inexpensive paper, we need to pay again for licenses to print the replacement copies. (If the composer required individual payments for a printing license for each and every copy.) So in these cases, ideally, we print on heavier-weight paper for durability.
Perhaps you are speaking of the instances in which a composer charges a flat fee for everything and then releases the chorus to print however many copies they may need, in which case, reprinting would of course be legal.
I agree that I have seen "flat fees" of $65.00, and for a small vocal ensemble such as ours (currently at 13 members), this equates to a charge of $5 per individual copy, even before the costs associated with printing (paper, ink, upkeep of the copy machine). With regard to my church choir, we have 21 people, so this would make $3.10/copy, plus the costs of printing - AND the time to do it, as our church copier does not collate nor staple. I assemble the homemade octavos by myself, which I really do not enjoy doing. For all of this, we pay so much money. It's really outrageous, and is a quite strong disincentive to purchase self-published music.
A flat fee of $25 would make things so much easier, bringing the finances of everything into equivalence with our 30% distributor discount.
on May 28, 2012 7:17am
Hi folks,
Don't forget that pdf delivery of a score saves everyone the cost of shipping/handling/postage. And shipping costs these days are very much on the rise.
We might want to start a new discussion- we're veering away from the origins of this thread (not that I'm a ChoralNet moderator- haha).
Applauded by an audience of 1
on June 1, 2012 9:01am
Yes, shipping is a lot (especially from Pepper!). When I order through our discount distributor, all music, from all the publishers, is sent to me in one box, so for $10-14 in shipping costs, I have all of the sheet music for an entire season/semester. And with 30% off the retail pricing, it's still a deal. 
The only downside to working with this distributor is that I must plan on a 3-week lag time till the order is received. But, even this has benefited me, as I have learned to plan well ahead of time and be organized. They do have a "rush, 3-day" shipping which is more expensive and which I use only in emergencies.
Hildigunnar, thanks for the idea of asking all the choir members to print out their own music at home. I hadn't thought of this! I'll try to find out if they would object. There would definitely be a learning curve, as I have "ladies advanced in years" in my church choir who may have "technology intimidation" or clumsiness in trying to use their home printer to print two-sided music, but that could be overcome, with a little bit of wasted paper and ink at first. I do have four members of my various choirs who don't have a computer, but making four copies for them wouldn't be financially prohibitive. My only problem might be that when the other choir members learn I'm making copies for these ladies, those who don't want to fuss with learning to make 2-sided copies on their computer may voice objections. Nevertheless, it is something to explore.
I still think that for compositions of comparable page numbers, a composer should charge less than a publisher charges because the publisher is delivering a heavy-weight paper copy, often with an attractively colored cover. One could argue that the quality of the composition, itself, is what you're paying for. This may often be quite true! However, judging quality gets into splitting hairs. If my budget doesn't provide for the purchase of $2/copy music licenses with the added cost of printing them out, unless my singers print them out themselves, I'm not going to be able to buy much of this self-published music. And there is the added time-cost of collating and assembling, at least in the case of my church choir because my church copy machine doesn't collate. Time is money! I just don't have the time to collate and assemble many pieces of music in a given season. And if my chorus members are asked to copy the music at home, they may not all get it done in time for the rehearsal in which we're to rehearse that music - singers being human, as we all are.
It's just common-sense to charge less for self-published music that must be printed out by the purchaser, than for published sheet music.
Having said this, I still want to champion the self-publishing composers. I just have to be careful in how many pieces I buy that are priced the same as published sheet music, that's all!
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on May 28, 2012 10:56am
Cherwyn:  I agree with you completely.  But whether to require a per-copy fee or ask for a flat fee is a choice for the self-published composer to make.  And whether to buy a particular piece at a particular price is a choice for the conductor to make.  They are both choices, and both subject to marketplace forces.  And of course if you don't want to take the trouble to copy and make the parts yourself, that's also a choice.  But as my late wife pointed out about sewing, no matter how much work the machine does for you, you always end up with hand work.  it's just part of the job.
Self-publishing composers, please take note.  These are important questions to consider, and probably deserve the kind of spreadsheet analysis that business majors are taught to make.  Profit is always income MINUS expenses, not just raw income, and everything involved in making income is an expense.  Your potential customers ARE making those same calculations.
A good many Sweet Adeline arrangers do charge per copy, and the Sweet Adelines International office is fanatic about observing copyright and helping both arrangers and choruses make it through the paperwork painlessly.
It occurred to me that there's a similar situation in the band and orchestra world.  There are very good arrangements for both band and orchestra of John Williams movien themes, written by excellent arrangers (and I assume approved by Williams), and they sell for about the going rate for similar band or orchestra sets.  But the John Willimas Signature Editions (which I've never played but which I assume are pretty much his original music cues) sell or rent for ten times as much, and orchestras feel that they are worth the money.  Market forces NEVER stop being important, and if something is priced outrageously you can always buy something else that's just as good.
All the best,
on May 30, 2012 1:14pm
Absolutely (paragraph 2).  If self-published composers put a "fair market value" on the basic worth of their TIME (the time spent actually composing), and then figured out the costs of everything else that is involved in composing (computer hardware/software and accoutrements, website costs (and time/effort to maintain), musical instruments, continuing ed, conference fees, etc. etc. etc. plus ALL the expenses involved with marketing and distributing their works, I truly wonder (actually doubt) if ANY self-published composers (even the better-known ones whose works are actually purchased/obtained and performed) are making any profit at all.
If self-published composers priced their music in such a way that could actually make their music financially profitable to them if enough copies/licenses were purchased (taking all of the above expenses into account--and how much would be "enough," anyway???), nobody would be able to afford to buy it.
Composing truly is a labor of love... 
on June 1, 2012 9:25am
Hi, Julia,
You raise some excellent points. I, myself, have never earned even as much as $20,000/year and I'm the busiest person I know...And some of this money gets spent on re-investment into my career. (Such as conferences, continuing ed, tuning my piano, etc.) I've always studiosly stayed away from figuring out my REAL per-hour earnings because it would be too painful to see, as someone with a Master's degree who is working a lot.
I wish there were an answer for all of this. I still have to stay within my ensembles' budgets, or unfortunately I'm out of a job. What we all need are for some fantastic, devoted, not-shy fundraisers to go out from each of our choruses and boldly get people to hand over their donation dollars! Then some of this money could trickle-down to the composers who deserve it so much!
on May 29, 2012 6:09am
Dear Cherwyn,
I self-publish and charge flat fees in the region of $15-$30 (£10-£20) for choral works, and that gets you a PDF with your choir's name on it, of which you can print as many copies as needed. If you'd like to support composers doing this, please check out my range of choir work at - I have several pieces suitable for choirs of 21 people (Balulalow, In The Bleak Midwinter (new setting) and an arrangement of We Three Kings for Christmas, and O Sing Unto The Lord is a good all-year-round anthem).

Chris Hutchings
on May 28, 2012 8:35am
Well the price of course depends on how big a piece - my choir bought a set of the Rachmaninov Vespers a few years ago and the price was very very steep. Not $1,85 per copy but $23. My two SATB pieces in the Composers' Showcase cost $1 for the short one page piece and $2 for the eleven page motet. (both are available via the Iceland Music Information Centre as well, but ordering from them will always be more expensive).
In my own choir we tend to send out the .pdf files of the music we get from imslp or other free sources for out-of-copyright works and ask people to print out and handle the music themselves. Nobody's ever complained, almost everyone has access to a computer and printer. Maybe it would be possible to do the same for .pdf files from web-bought music. There's of course a certain level of trust needed. 
on May 29, 2012 6:12am
Hildigunnur - I charge £10-£20 for PDF copies, and put the choir's name on them, along with a little bit of text saying "please do not use elsewhere without composer's permission - copies for your own choir can be ordered at". I'm making a few sales per month at the moment, without doing much publicity, and hope to improve this once I have time to do a bit more self-promoting. Might be easier for you than ordering per copy and posting them from Iceland?
on May 29, 2012 7:54am
Oh I'm not sending anything, this is per copy printed from a .pdf file. But if you want a title page and good paper you order real life copies from the MIC :)
on May 22, 2012 11:01am
Yessss! let's ruffle feathers!
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on May 23, 2012 7:47am
Very well said, Paul.  Thank you.  I can't wait to read your blog post when it's done.
I've found myself coming around to your stance of late, with respect to my own compositions.  Along with a lot of self-published music, I have stuff published by two traditional publishers (ECS and Treble Clef) and one non-traditional publisher (the NCCO choral music series) that offers MUCH better terms to composers than the traditional ones do.  
The only two arguments I can think of counter to your position are:
1) if a composer who eschews the traditional publishing route is lucky enough to see his/her pieces grow legs and really get around, what happens when s/he shuffles off the mortal coil?  Who will "watch the store" then?
2) My hunch is that while attitudes are changing (mine certainly have in the last few years), I think there are still a number of conductors out there who see a certain level of cachet in traditionally-published pieces that they don't perceive in self-published work, simply by virtue of a piece having been vetted by an editor/editorial board.  We, and many who I supsect will read this post, know that publication by a big house is not necessarily a true marker of quality, but there seem to be many who still either believe this or who behave as though they do.  I can vouch for having shown my work to interested conductors at numerous ACDA conferences and gotten an "Ooh, you're published!" reaction (and read in their demeanor an instantaneous boost in my status when they realize this) more times than I can count.  I often wonder how composers who do value writing music of substance but who don't want to kow-tow to big houses can work together to combat this mentality.  The idea of a publishing collective, controlled by composers, occurred to me a few years ago, and was happy to find out that something of the sort already existed (
I've rambled on long enough.  Maria, if you're reading, I invite you to visit my website (link below too); Paul and I share a lot of the same values.  Thanks again, Paul, for your post.  Ruffle away.
Joseph Gregorio
Composer | Conductor
Applauded by an audience of 3
on May 26, 2012 3:34pm
Hi Joseph,
I'm very happy you commented on this thread, as I am a huge fan of your music.  In fact my high school treble ensemble sang your Alleluia for competitions this year.  It was very challenging for them, but they gave very convincing performances.  
I will continue to explore your music!
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on May 30, 2012 12:22pm
Thanks Joe for mentioning the NCCO series - it doesn't seem to have received much attention yet, but in addition to the great terms for composers, it's an inspired example of a committee choosing pieces of real substance. I wish more publishers would think along the same lines. (I think I can safely say this without undue boastfulness, even though one of my own pieces is included, because the other three pieces are so awesome.)
Thank you Maria for raising such a fruitful topic!
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on May 24, 2012 8:18am
Hi again -
First, I heartily applaud Paul and Joe.  As a college faculty member, I am seeing so much emphasis on published material as the benchmark of quality, because in other disciplines it IS.  But commercial publication (like traditional music publishers) is NOT the same as a scholarly peer review process, and we all need to keep that in miind.  The choice to publish non-traditionally is often an indicator of personal character and care for one's craft.  Bravo to you.
Second, I thought of one other young composer who you should be aware of: Dale Trumbore. - she is a recent grad of USC and is writing some very interesting choral and vocal music.  Can't believe I didn't think of her right away.
Cheers to all,
Tim Reno
on May 25, 2012 4:53am
Check out the music of Will Todd.  He is a relatively young Brittish composer who's most regarded piece is his "Blues Mass".  That being said, he has no allegiance to any particular style and incorporates, rather freely, Jazz, Blues, Broadway, as well as all of the standard classical contemporary techniques.  He has written many pieces with no jazz influence, so don't be scared off immediately.  Check out his website:
on May 31, 2012 12:46pm
I just found the piece he's written for the Diamond Jubilee service in St Paul's Cathedral and - really? It looks slightly more interesting than John Rutter's schlock for the royal wedding, but not by much.
on May 25, 2012 11:19am
I haven't seen Eric Barnum on the list. I believe he recently finished his DMA at University of Washington and has taken a job somewhere in the Midwest. He has some works published by Walton and some self-published. UW's choirs did many of his works, as did Robert Bode's Choral Arts. His works are accessible, yet inventive and often have wonderful climactic passages.
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on May 26, 2012 6:49am
Dear ChoralNet members,
If I'd known this was such a "hot" topic, I would have jumped in sooner!!!  
Opinion:  I love pieces that Andrea Ramsey is composing.  I also "second the motion" that Joshua Shank is composing work that demonstrate integrity, creativity and are worthy of study.  I've been told that Eric Banks is one to keep an ear open to, also.  I also personally enjoy Tom Shelton's work for younger or less-experienced singers.  His piece "Stars" is an SSA example:  2 new melodies that serve in a partner relationship.  The 3rd part brings in the traditional "Twinkle, twinkle, little Star".  My younger 7th grade girls choir sang Tom's original melodic content.  The "Twinkle, Twinkle" part was sung by their younger siblings.  It was a precious treatment of a piece we all know.
Facts:  I have seen several recent posts in this thread wondering about ACDA's practices in literature recommendation for our conferences.  As a member of the Repertoire and Standards Team (JH/MS), I would like to respond regarding how literature is selected for the reading sessions, "browser" boxes and choral performances.  :-)  I would like you to know that my words are my own and that I alone am responsible for the content and it's impact (or lack thereof).
Reading Sessions:  Prior to the Chicago conference, each R&S chairperson would receive boxes upon boxes of newly published literature on our doorsteps with the charge to sort through it and select 12-14 pieces.  We were also to collect "also recommended" lists for the remainder of the content.  The top 12-14 became the Reading Session content; the next 90 or so from each area were part of the "browser boxes".  The "rules" changed for Chicago:  the publishers were asked to send all their new literature to the home office in OKC.  When the R&S team met for summer leadership meetings, we were to sort thru music in a very short period of time---and then make our recommendations.  As I was unable to attend the OKC meetings, I received my 2000+ pieces in the "old" way---doorstep.  I have to admit being glad about that.  All the music was sent through one music distribution company.  That same company provided all the reading session booklets and printed "Also Recommended" lists.  The music we were offered was from large publishing houses.  Most of us solicited the smaller publishers (ECS, Schirmer, Alliance, Cypress,, etc.) and begged for them to send works our way.  In the end, most of the pieces represented on the lists were supplied from mass-appeal houses.
We were also charged to make sure each Reading Session offered variety in literature (voicings, tonality, meters, language, publishing houses, compositional periods, etc.).  We also had a time frame to consider.  I personally discounted several wonderful pieces that were simply too long.  And in terms of cost, the longer pieces are more costly to reproduce.  Too bad for sure, but in order to get 12-14 pieces into a 50-minute session, we had to be hard-line.  I sent portions of the octavos I received at home to 4 MH/JS teachers across the country (NY, VA, AR and KS).  I developed a rubric for appraisal for the pieces.  All of us went thru the pieces, ranking and ordering to present the best from what we received.
I've heard we are going "old school" for Dallas 2013, but won't know for sure until the 2012 Leadership meetings are over in mid-June.
Browser Boxes:  For the Chicago Conference attendees, you might remember how the R&S resource nooks where the browser boxes were located were difficult to locate.  In addition, that space hadn't been set at all when the R&S team arrived.  Planning for the Dallas 2013 Resource and Reference opportunity seems to be heading in a slightly different and more efficient direction.
Performances from Manuscript:  Choirs submit their applications in April.  The selected choirs are notified in the summer.  Many choirs want to debut a new piece that represents THEM.  If the piece wasn't started early in "wishful thinking", the composition may not be published by the conference performance date.  Some pieces that the performing choirs choose to commission are simply for THEM and aren't going to be available to the public.  Some commissions, quite frankly, are not picked up by publishing houses---too many of the same type, quality concerns, local appeal, etc.  It's that choir's decision and is NOT information we have when the choirs are selected.  In my own case with the Honor Choir commission, Rollo Dillworth asked Dan Davison to compose a piece for the Chicago 2011 JH/MS Honor Choir.  We were able to make that contact and offer a contract quite early in the process.  Dan was on board early and was very much aware of the opportunities that existed if his piece was complete and in print by the conference.  You might see more "from manuscript" declarations at the Dallas 2013 conference because the "go ahead" for commissions is being held back until the leadership is more confident in the economic miasma (I hope I spelled that correctly) that we all live in.
My latest article submitted to the Choral Journal under my masthead is a simple collection of all the pieces read at the ACDA Division Conferences this spring.  You might be surprised (or not) at the lack of diversity represented in publishing houses.  It's truly a time when the economy is trying to dictate to the artistry.  We can't raise conference costs.  The membership will rebel!  They won't attend.  We have to keep the costs in line with the perceived value.  As musicians, we can't think it's OK for the smaller houses or independent composers to carry the financial burden of submitting literature in the same bulk the larger companies can do.  Perhaps it really is time to ruffle some feathers----or maybe just adopt a more cost-effective manner of music perusal.  What if publishing houses sent the R&S team members flash drives containing new publications with big "DO NOT COPY" watermarks all over the place rather than 2000+ octavos?  Flash drives don't weigh nearly as much and would be much more cost-effective.
Just some thoughts.  If you are still reading this comment by this point, look me up in Dallas and I'll buy you a coffee!!  You might need it right now to wake up!!
Have a great Memorial Day weekend.
Gretchen Harrison
American Choral Directors Association
National Chairperson for JH/MS Repertoire and Standards
Applauded by an audience of 5
on May 26, 2012 3:50pm
Hi everyone,
I just wanted to thank you all for contributing your thoughts and suggestions on this thread.  It developed in a way I had not intended, but I do think many valid points were raised.  
Again, I also enjoy a good debate, but did not mean to offend. I am simply trying to present challenging new music to all my ensembles, and greatly appreciate forums such as this one, where questions are raised and new music explored.  This thread has given me insight into the challenges that composers currently face, and I know that I personally will begin to explore self-published and "off the beaten track" publications more than I did previously.  ("Off the beaten track" would think I would've learned my lesson from my first post....) ;)
 I look forward to exploring all the composers suggested here, published, or self-published, and do want to stress again that as a young conductor - I aim to program music of SUBSTANCE, regardless of publishers. Thanks for your suggestions.  
on May 27, 2012 10:03am
Hi Maria and all --
What an interesting discussion!  I'd like to point you to Volti's website --  We're a 20-voice chamber chorus that does all a cappella, all contemporary music.  (We've won the Chorus America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming six times -- more than any other chorus.)  Robert Geary is our founder & artistic director.  He generally asks composers to steer away from sacred texts, so if you're looking for something non-churchy, this is a good place to look.  We've released 2 CDs in the past few years, all new works by living American composers who we think are writing great, interesting, meaty stuff, including:  Yu-Hui Chang, Don Crockett, Gabriela Lena Frank, Stacy Garrop, Ted Hearne, Eric Moe, Kurt Rohde, Mark Winges.   Listening excerpts of most pieces are on the website. 
Barbara Heroux
Executive Director, Volti
on June 2, 2012 1:10pm
Amazing ensemble Barbara - hugely impressive...
on May 27, 2012 7:53am
Hello Maria and others interested in "Who is doing new, interesting and innovative things in the world of choral music?"

I have just returned from 'Podium', Canada's somewhat equivalent of ACDA meetings in the USA. It was my great pleasure - and surprise - to come across the music of an emerging (Canadian) composer, Elise Letourneau, whose style is unmistakable and consistently distinct. She had recently taken top place in the Association of Canadian Choral Communities (ACCC) Associated Publishers Award for Choral Composition, and her latest work, Peace Prayer, was admirably performed at Podium 2012 by Canada’s National Youth Choir. She also won the 2011 Ruth Watson Henderson Composition Competition with her delightful Ave Maria for Mary Tevlin recently performed by the exquisite Toronto Children’s Chorus under Elise Bradley.

Letourneau’s style reflects her background in jazz choirs – she directs two – as well as her compositional studies in classical and contemporary music. She is a graduate of Boston's Berklee College of Music, where she earned her B.Mus. in composition and arranging.

Her winning ACCC work, Peace Prayer, is published by Canada’s Cypress Choral Music, a small publishing company dedicated to bringing fine Canadian choral music to the world.

Sable Chan, writing on “Podium Choral Frenzy” describes Elise’s work: “Letourneau’s piece (Peace Prayer) had a groovy, romping vibe to it, which was a refreshing break from more intense pieces.” That’s not a bad description of her music, though a few words cannot do it total justice. You can find out more about her and her music at and you can hear Peace Prayer at <>; Hopefully the Toronto Children’s Chorus performance will be added to Elise’s excellent ‘living room’ recording by the composer and a small group of friends. If I had to use a single word to describe her music, it would be ‘refreshing’. If two– “interesting” and “innovative”. It certainly is that!


Applauded by an audience of 2
on May 27, 2012 9:44am
Lully Lulla Lullay, SATB a capella
Best wishes, 
Philip Stopford 
on May 30, 2012 8:09am
A lovely setting, Philip.  Thanks for sharing!
on May 27, 2012 10:39am
maybe not new but caldwell and ivory? Certainly some great arrangements out there.
on May 28, 2012 7:19am
Here's another name to consider: Sheena Phillips, whose works get plenty of performances and good reviews: e.g., "a fine set of sea shanties for the Changed Voices from the always-excellent Sheena Phillips" (National Youth Choir of Scotland concert, April 2012).
on May 28, 2012 9:40am
Someone else has already mentioned Pavel Lukasewski (sp?).  I wish to second this, as everything I have heard of his is extraordinary.  It is challenging, and splits into many parts, but is extremely satisfying to sing.  I also notice that Phillip Stopford responded.  Definitely check out his works as well.
There are many other composers from Europe, who are doing great things.  Unfortunately, we hear far too little of them here in North America.  Off the top of my head, I can think of Tormis, Rautavaara and Sisask, none of which are "new", but all of which are really good.
All the best,
on May 28, 2012 4:03pm
I encourage you to look at the works of Rob Gardner. We just performed his sacred choral work "Lamb of God" during Holy Week and found it to be substantive. He is a gifted young man and we will hear more of him.
on May 29, 2012 12:54pm
On the subject of creativity/originality is this cautionary tale about Oswaldo Golijov, as told in my blog today (see below for link).
We are all products of our influences- in a sense no one is truly original. But what happens when you abuse this and also disrespect, on a regular basis, many others in the arts around you, including those who have paid you substantial money for commissions? I'm posting this to you all as, hopefully, interesting reading.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 31, 2012 4:28pm
My goodness - how extraordinary.   Considering how many talented composers there are slaving away and getting little attention - this situation is mindboggling.
on May 31, 2012 7:16pm
To paraphrase what I've said on occasion on the Orchestralist:  a professional turns out original work on time, on budget, and on specifications.  Anyone who fails on any of those criteria is not a professional.
The 4th factor that gets you repeat work is a combination of quality and suitability.  All four are important factors.  No one of them is MORE important. 
Yes, it's possible to get writer's block.  I've had it, but only when I tried to write something that wasn't me, trying to be somebody else.  But that's when you dig down and put down the notes regardless, if you claim to be a professional.  And yes, we're all infuenced by our entire musical history.  Borrowing concepts, borrowing general ideas, that can't be avoided.  In fact most of the great "inventions" in history involved putting together fairly common ideas in brand new ways--that's exactly what Guido did in the 11th century when he invented chant notation!  There are, after all, only 12 notes available in the common Western scale, and a limit to how many ways they can be put together.  A LARGE limit, admittedly, but still a limit.  (Anybody know what 12 factorial actually is?)
And yes, if you want to buy music by the minute, it's quite possible to write music that matches to the minute, or the second, or the frame.  Film composers do it all the time.  But if you're buying music by the minute rather than to match an artistic concept, you probably deserve what you get.
But it's funny how composers like Mozart, Bach, and Lasso managed to write within rather limiting conventional formulas of their own times, and still come up with new and amazing music time after time.  What's amazing about John Willimas' movie scores, if you've listened to more than the block-buster 3 or 4 of them, is that every one is different, and every one is beautifully tailored to the story and its particular esthetic.  There is no "John Williams Style" that can be imitated, although there are certainly tricks of the trade that he uses, and they can be used in imitation by any arranger who can hear them.  The later Star Wars scores that didn't use Williams tried to imitate him, but failed to have that special spark.
Literary scholars are more attuned to this than musicians.  Plagiarism has to be pretty blatant to get noticed in music!  But there have been and probably will continue to be court cases about plagiarism, for which a new branch of musical scholarship is developing:  Forensic Musicology.  (How many duplicated notes constitute plagiarism?  That IS how lawyers think, you know!)
All the best,
on June 1, 2012 12:46am
Yes, in popular music it's seven notes/chord sections in a row, then you're plagiarizing.
I'd heard about this Golijov thing earlier. Pretty awful and absolutely no excuses. I sometimes steal from myself (right now I'm using part of my dance music, written for one specific modern dance production which is very unlikely to be performed again, as base for a bit of the chamber opera I'm writing at the moment). But take a large bit of music from somebody else and pretend it's mine!?!?  Never mind if the other composer knew and agreed.
on June 1, 2012 1:38pm
Hildigunnur:  Under which countries' laws do you find that 7 note rule?  It doesn't appear in U.S. copyright law.  And under U.S. law neither titles nor chord progressions can be copyrighted.  Nor does U.S. law differentiate between popular and unpopular music.
on June 2, 2012 1:55am
It's like that here - and no it probably works for all music :)  Wouldn't know about USA.
on May 30, 2012 9:36am
May I add to this list:  Colin Britt, Tawnie Olson, Stephen Feigenbaum
on June 2, 2012 8:47am
Well done Maria! Brilliant topic - and some pretty explosive answers, but not that explosive for those of us watching carefully as the oncoming revolution is pretty much unstoppable.. I have to say that I am a bit out of all this because where I come from [Ireland] there are no publishers, so I have no stories of being treated well or badly. Pity...
Horray to all of you here with so much knowledge and enthusiasm to share! Horray for tablet computers! Horray for the future! Roll on ACDA next year, because I will be very interested to see what the two intervening years has done to the publishing industry. Hopefully there will be a forum on this essential issue for the betterment of choral music as an art form, where performers, composers and publishers will interact. Hopefully dialogue will begin in an industry where all the cards have been held by one side for generations.
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