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Enjoy the Ride: Commissioning Music Part 3

Francesca Tortora

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Ed McKeon, Co-Director of 'Third Ear Music', finishes off his series of blogs on commissioning music with some tips on how to capitalise on the process - and comes to the end of his mystery tour.

"Getting the most out of the process
Whilst commissioning can happen in a 'vacuum', remote from the life of the group, this doesn't have to be the case. The process of building a relationship with the composer can apply not just to the group, but also to your audience and potential audience. Ask your members to write a blog about the workshop process, or get the music director to write about the choosing of the composer. Invite the composer to meet with and talk to your audience from the outset. Your audience will never get the chance to meet JS Bach, but they can meet your composer and find out what makes her tick.

Be clear about your expectations for different parts of the process. The composer may want to try things out, asking the group to do things you haven't done before. This part of a process doesn't have to be about success or failure, but about discovery. The only failure here is if the group is not open-minded about the process. Make sure to build in evaluation as you go along, especially through close contact between the music director and your chosen composer.

With the launch of the BBC Performing Arts Fund's Community Music scheme, there's never been a better time to commission music tailor-made for your group. Nevertheless, this isn't the only means of financing your new piece. Commissioning funds are available from the PRS for Music Foundation, from Arts Council England, and from several trusts and foundations. Equally, you could invite your audience, members and past members to contribute using one of the 'crowd funding' websites, or you could commission a piece jointly with one or more other similar groups. This is a journey with fares to meet most budgets.

Now we've covered the basics, I can let you in on the most precious secret of this magical mystery tour. It's not a round trip, or at least it shouldn't be. When you've finished the process and given the premiere, you should find that you don't end up where you started from: those returning from an adventure listen to their world with new ears."

Ed McKeon, Co-Director of Third Ear Music, whose symposium 'Commissioning and Patronage in a Digital Age' runs at Southbank Centre, London, on 13 July 2012.

Useful links

PRS for Music Foundation
Information on funding and on composers

Meet the Composer (USA)
(USA) guide to commissioning

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