Almost once a week, I seem to discover a composer that I’ve never heard of before. I’m not talking about 16th century French composers with fantastic names like Jean Bastard, Italian conglomerates monikered Accademico Bizzarro Capriccioso, or the unfortunately named mathematician Wilhelm Fucks whose ideas contributed to music theory. I’m talking about living composers that are writing excellent music right now. Not only are they writing music, they are winning contests and getting performed regularly in the U.S. and internationally.
I don’t keep up with the latest up and coming composers as much as some, but I probably spend more time keeping track than a lot of musicians. That’s appropriate because of my specific vocation as a composer. The thing is, I don’t think it is very different in any discipline right now. I also work as an organist and conductor, and I find the same phenomenon happening in those fields. There seems to be an unending line of “stars” that I haven’t discovered. I stumble upon them and say, “How is it that this person has done so much, and I never heard a single thing about them before.”
All this is to say that it’s important to remember that there are more people doing what you are doing – whatever your field – than have ever done it before. That can be a little intimidating if you think of the competition. In fields where there is a limited amount of work, it can be downright discouraging. When a small University position opens with a salary of $40,000, there might be 150 to 200 applicants.
At the same time, it is important to remember that there are also more people listening than ever before. When J.S. Bach had his most prominent job in Leipzig, it was a city of 20,000 people. It was a thriving city at the time, but it is fairly small by today’s standards. I can say with some degree of confidence that more people have heard my music than heard Bach’s during his lifetime. That’s pretty crazy. I’m pretty content to be a kleinmeister and have my stuff packed up when I leave this earth. In the meanwhile, there is an incredible, new economy to uncover. As Robert Sirota said to me not long ago, “The important thing is to keep writing.”