If only composing came with an application process. If someone told me that being a composer meant I would be spending 75% of my time marketing, self promoting, networking, finding gigs, meeting potential clients, being rejected by potential clients, panicking when I have too little work, panicking when I have too much work, making websites, making social media pages, and wrestling my printer… I’m not going to lie, it probably wouldn’t have been my first choice. But regardless, here I am almost 15 years later, making the risky and insane decision to finally take action to kick my freelance music career into gear this year.
So why do it? Honestly, I can’t help myself. I am just one of the subspecies of humans that was born to create things. At this exact moment in time I am currently in the middle of writing a novel, illustrating and writing a picture book, scrapbooking a baby book, designing a board game, drawing cartoons for my sister’s Spanish book, taking an online baking masterclass, and I guess now writing a blog. Not including the song, wind ensemble piece, and film music that I am currently composing. It’s just in my blood to create something from nothing (except for clothes. I really can’t stand sewing). And though the lows of composing, the marketing, business, and rejection, are annoyingly low, the highs are addictively high: hearing your piece played for the first time by live musicians; seeing your name across the big screen; getting lost in composing for hours upon hours. It’s a career that I simultaneously wouldn’t wish on anyone, and couldn’t live without.
I’m a composer and orchestrator (hopefully you got that). I’ve been a musician since seven-years-old and composed my first (albeit really bad) symphony my senior year of high school. After lots and lots of years in school, I now have a Ph.D. in composition and theory, and am still composing symphonies (which have gotten way better), in addition to chamber works, band works, brass works, choir pieces, and music for film. My day job is orchestrating for film and television. In my free time…just kidding. I definitely do not have free time. (Being an orchestrator is really like being a parent with a new baby. And being an orchestrator with a baby, is really like having twins.)
While I was still in the resistance stage of this blog idea, I thought it would be better if the blog had a practical theme. Music Notation Software Tips. Composer Snapshots. Instrumental Idioms. But honestly, what would be the most interesting and useful for you, and also for me, would be to write about everything I learn as I figure what those steps to Professional Musical Success even are. My plan is to update this blog once or twice a month (yes, I realize that a successful blog should be updated more often, but as a composer/orchestrator/mom-of-a-one-year-old, I want to make sure the blog doesn’t fizzle out between 2 am deadlines and managing to get groceries). I’m hoping this blog can be interesting to everyone who wonders what a composer/orchestrator does anyway, and useful to any type of artist searching for the answer to the question: “Now what?”
Jumpstart the freelance composition career, focusing on wind/brass ensemble for now. I have always loved band music (as a flutist I’ve played in a band in some form since the 4th grade), and I think it will be beneficial to start specializing in a niche in the vast classical world of music. My orchestration job along with small film projects keep my film music appetite satiated for now. But that will come into play too.
Plan of attack:
Step 1: I need a wind ensemble body of work. It’s already happened several times that directors have asked me for music after hearing one of my pieces performed, and I didn’t have any other options to offer! So I need more music.
Step 2: Get recordings. …I’ll get back to you on this one. I’m not sure how to make it happen at the moment.
Step 3: Get a web presence. OK, I’m not at total ground zero in this area. I’ve got a website (http://jamiethierman.com). I have an imdb page (https://www.imdb.com/name/nm5318816) though it desperately needs updating. And hey, I started a blog! But as my sister/marketing advisor keeps pointing out, at some point I’m going to have to start tackling the social media bear, and website metadata and….other stuff. Blegh.
So there you go. I know that this plan is lacking about 50 steps, and that it’s going to take more than a year or five or ten to get this going. But for years I’ve been too afraid to take these first steps. Why? Probably something in the vicinity of it being too big of a thing to actually work, not knowing where to begin, being afraid to fail, and being afraid to invest billions of hours and dollars into something that might not take off anyway. Even now writing this blog my tiny inner voice is whispering, “what’s the point?” But the point is you pretty much have three options: 1. Quit. 2. Go for it. 3. Stay in musical purgatory where it’s not quite a career but more than a hobby. And I already invested a billion hours and dollars for all my musical education, so I might as well go for it.
I also realized that option 2 doesn’t have to be accompanied by all the emotional baggage. I can take a step. Not worry about if it works or not, or if it leads me anywhere or not. And then take another step. Eliminating the pressure of the outcome is incredibly freeing. Without the stinkbomb of doubt and worry I had hanging over me, all of a sudden I have the motivation and capacity to take a step.
Here it goes.