Music Well – Dosia McKay, Composer, Painter, Writer

Reflections on Art and Life

Composition Competitions – Gambling and Return on Investment

I have been sharing my successes and hopes with you, but have been concealing failures and struggles. It is not all glitter and red carpet in my profession. It is a highly competitive field in which you must take many chances and always have a long-term outlook.

I recently learned about the competition organized by the chamber ensemble “New Music Detroit” for a new composition for their fall performance. Their instrumentation is very unique and I did not have anything in my catalog that might be suitable for them. Therefore, I have taken a tremendous risk in composing a new piece (“Jackpot”), knowing full well that if the ensemble were not interested in the music, I would have little chance of having the piece performed or arranged for another instrumentation. In other words, a big gamble. Still, the challenge thrilled me.

Having submitted the piece to the competition, I have now learned that they have received over 250 entries. So here we are. My odds are 1 to 250 or 0.4%. My composition will live or die and its odds are worse than those of winning at blackjack, roulette, or a plain slot machine. At least I have painting to keep me from thinking too much about the return on investment of my musical calling and my artistically reckless and risky behavior.


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