I haven't written much or maybe at all about my last couple of years because I didn't know where to start or stop. In fact, I didn't know how to write about it at all. Was it a part of my life or just a series of incidents that served to divert and destroy plans? And I know everyone has gone through some similar situations, but mine was compounded by a number of unique curve balls.
It was the summer of 2019 and I had just resigned from the Salt Lake School for the Performing Arts. I had spent 13 years first building a respectable pre-conservatory program, then fighting to keep it alive, and finally watching it being dismantled through a combination of disrespect, ignorance, and expedience. All with the best intentions, of course. I was proud of what I had accomplished and proud of the accomplishments of our students.
I had been thinking of putting just this kind of program together since the late 80's, so this seemed like a great opportunity. But at the same time,it was frustrating that the involvement with classes, reports, board meetings, rehearsals and performances, and teaching private guitar and composition lessons meant losing the time to keep my professional contacts and often putting my career as a composer and theorist aside.
I was still composing but with little or no time to prepare scores for performance and no performers to work with. And the research into the Bach projects and other writing chores was lying unedited, in no state for even the most lax self publishing. With the school behind me all those issues could be addressed. I did a pretty good job of coming out swinging.
Composition was going well. I completed an orchestral commission over the summer that was slated for a performance in March of 2020. A violin work was set for a local premiere in the fall of 2019 and a commission for a song cycle was being discussed to be written in the summer of 2019.
Then covid hit and all performances were cancelled.
Luckily, one commission was already completed and paid, but no performances meant no performance royalties - not a huge amount but always a help. Performances are key. Not simply because we write therefor we present our works in performance. We can present our works in midi-realisations on-line, something that I have done and will continue to do. But to compete for grants or commissions you have to have works that have been composed and received live performance recently. And for many grants you must have a performer who wants to perform the work before you can apply. These are just some of the hidden obstacles and requirements that can slow output to a trickle.
On top of all this I had just resigned and was transitioning into living entirely on social security. Mine is pretty meek but I've lived most of my life on the edge so I could remember and adapt. But it meant a lot of forms and applications, documentations and questionaires to put everything in place, adapting everything from our budget to our health care and various forms of insurance to the timetables and restrictions of a fixed income. And with covid it also meant being pretty much house bound.
So I went from a schedule that kept me busy for 14 hours a day on average, with conducting and performing, to nothing pretty much overnight. I thought I was pretty much ready for the transition. Composing was going well. I had a lot to figure out: whether to finish up old publishing projects or start the new ones, and how to monetize books, videos, scores, etc. I expected to be busy.
But something they don't tell you when you are geting ready to retire or resign or make a career change is that people think you've retired to become their assistant. Where, in the past, you could beg out of a project because of work, that's no longer an option. The problem there is in the disruption to the routine.
I've made a point of stressing the need for a routine, a discipline to be followed every day with every student I've taught. I had done it myself for over 40 years, every morning, and now that routine was shattered.
It's been a long time trying but I hope this time I'll get things back in order. I've tried a number of times and there have always been things that interfered. When you try and fail, over and over, it's tempting to give in to the failure. And I did have to struggle against that, but the haze is starting to lift.
I've left out all the emotional stuff. It's been a ride, all right. And I only bring this up at all to say, "hi, I'm back. Here's what's been happening."
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