This last year has been a great start for the Libera Composers Association consortium project; what started as a short-term venture among friends is quickly expanding to a nationally-reaching collaboration between composers and school music programs. While we are still accepting bands for the consortium this season, my co-director Maxwell Lafontant and I are already making plans for next year. We have learned quite a bit in our first season about how to reach out to band directors and what we can do to make our consortium more convenient for them in the future. While there are some general administrative changes underway–such as switching our operating calendar from a “calendar year” model to a “school year” model–there are a lot of bigger-picture changes we hope to make in the coming seasons.
In order to facilitate a more collaborative experience, we plan to have next year’s composers write their initial scores as piano reductions. In this way, with the main musical material of the work easily accessible and clearly understood, band directors and composers can collaborate throughout the season to tailor the instrumentation of the final product to each band individually. This will also give our composers, most of whom are still in degree programs or freshly graduated, an in-depth look at orchestration and arranging, while also allowing them to more intimately appreciate the kinds of challenges high school bands face. This training will offer them the opportunity to better understand the current high school market for future works and projects, as well as provide them with a variety of arrangements available for future performances.
We have also received a large number of requests to add concurrent series for orchestra and choir, which are also programs across the country in desperate need of projects like this for their students. While we are still looking at how feasible accommodating these requests are at this time, we believe that adding at least one of these ensemble types to our project next year may in fact be possible. We have even discussed the option of using student texts for a future choral series, providing young writers the opportunity to have their words shared across the country as part of our consortium. While we would end up with fewer composers for band next year (only three or four rather than five or six), we would have the ability to work with multiple musical programs within in a single school, thus providing multiple composers (and therefore a wider variety of opportunities to high school students) per program in a single school year.
Max and I have been looking at composers for next year, attempting to find alumni composers in more disparate areas of the country, creating ease of access to our composers for a larger number of schools at a lower cost. We also hope to bring alumni composers together from an even wider variety of disciplines and musical backgrounds.
One of our composers, Dylan Carlson, has been making connections with schools in the Los Angeles area, and we’ve been in discussions with the district about becoming an official arts partner, meaning that those schools would have more consistent access to all of our composers in that geographic area for lessons, workshops, and clinics. These kinds of partnerships could be mutually beneficial for municipalities across the country–Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Dallas. All of these larger metropolitan areas have many schools in a concentrated area that could benefit from young composers working with the students to create more vital, interesting performances for the community, and an even more interactive educational environment for students. Also, with these kinds of partnerships, the potential for interdisciplinary collaboration can be developed as well. With so many of our composers having backgrounds in theater, film, video games, history, the sciences, literature, and the plethora of other fields that our liberal arts education has taught us to synthesize with music, the possibilities for school-wide involvement in this kind of project are endless. We hope to further develop the potential for interdisciplinary work in future seasons, as we work with schools to see what kinds of projects they would like to develop with us.
More than anything, the goal of the Libera Composers Association is to re-engage students in the musical arts and to educate them about the relevancy and vitality of artistic endeavors. We feel the best way to accomplish this is to create well-crafted music, to connect students to living composers who are studying and working in the field today, to collaborate directly with music programs—both those in need of revitalization and those looking to further enrich their students’ musical experiences—and to create stronger, more concrete connections between school music programs and their communities through performance. Particularly at time when funding for the arts has become tenuous and school districts are struggling to meet a wide array of demands with smaller budgets, it is more important than ever to bring projects like this to communities across the country.