On Becoming a Composer

March 01, 2016 Staff 0 Comments

One of the most inspiring things about being a composer is hearing the stories of other composers who have found their passion and purpose in music. Looking back on the composition teachers I've learned from over the years, many of them have a story that served as a defining moment, which made them realize that being a composer was their only path. For some, it was hearing a piece of music that moved them deeply and sparked their curiosity. For others, it was writing their first song or score and feeling a sense of accomplishment and joy. And for others still, it was overcoming a challenge or hardship and finding solace and healing in music. These stories have taught me that being a composer is not just a career choice, but a calling from within.

Even though I studied music throughout college, I always doubted pursuing it as a career. Being a composer is not easy, and it’s not something you should do without serious consideration. But if you have a passion for composing, nothing will hold you back from following your dream.

Composers often hear the advice that if you could do anything else with your life, you should definitely not choose composition as a career path. They are right. But, they aren't telling you that there is more to the story. This isn't really a conscious choice you have to make. If you truly want to be a composer, you'll naturally write music at three in the morning, even though you have to work the next day. Even if nobody ever listens to a thing you write, you'll find yourself continually testing yourself against the challenges composing presents. This is what it means to be a composer. But not everyone who writes music has this kind of passion and commitment. In the next paragraph, I will explain the difference between a true composer and a hobbyist.

Some composers may need a push to overcome their fears and challenges and pursue their musical dreams. But others may be better off finding a different path in life. There is a big difference between a composer who fails to succeed because of fear or obstacles and a composer who writes music for the wrong reasons, such as attention, fame, or status.

If you want to be a successful composer and earn a living from it, you need to find a flexible and easy job that won’t interfere with your creative work. Don’t get trapped in a job demanding too much time and energy. You also need to have the discipline to work hard on your music. Working from home may sound appealing, but it’s not as glamorous as it seems. I know this from experience. I used to teach composers, write articles, compose music, and do everything from home. It was the hardest job I ever had.

Working from home may sound appealing, but it’s not as glamorous as it seems. I know this from experience. Let me tell you why. I’ve worked jobs requiring me to be on my feet all day. I’ve been a private school teacher, and I’ve worked all kinds of other jobs in between. The most difficult job I have ever had happened the day I decided to work from home. You keep telling yourself you can start an hour from now, or complete double the work the next day, but the reality is that rarely happens. In the beginning, it’s actually pretty easy to work from home. As it becomes your day-to-day, the real struggle begins to take hold. You don’t have a manager watching you, there are no performance reviews, and if you dropped off the face of the earth, your “employer” wouldn’t bat an eyelash. 

But that’s not all. Working from home is also a very demanding job, physically and mentally. It’s often a sedentary job that can take a toll on your health if you don’t take measures to stay in shape. Composing music is also mentally and emotionally exhausting. Writing music takes a lot of energy and creativity. If I’m tired, I can still do physical tasks, but being tired while trying to solve a puzzle or think creatively is very hard.

So how do you deal with these challenges? One way is to find ways to combat fatigue and increase your mental endurance. If you start out being able to write for 30 minutes per day, then you should aim to do that every day. You’ll notice that you can put in more hours without getting as fatigued with time. I recommend that my students work daily, not because it takes daily work to excel, but because if you don’t work daily, you won’t develop the endurance to complete an entire symphony. 30 minutes at a time won’t cut it when you’re writing a 30-45 minute work for orchestra.

Being a composer is a challenging career choice. It requires passion, dedication, discipline, and endurance. It also involves many challenges and sacrifices, such as working from home, finding flexible and easy jobs, coping with fatigue and creativity blocks, and dealing with rejection and criticism. But nothing can stop you from following your dream if you love composing music more than anything else in the world. You are a composer whether you get published or not. You just need to keep writing music that expresses your unique voice and vision. And one day, you may find yourself in a concert hall listening to the applause after the premiere performance of your masterpiece. The masterpiece that you spent months or years crafting with your heart and soul.

One of the most inspiring things about being a composer is hearing the stories of other composers who have found their passion and purpose i...