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Call for Stories | Commissioning Music : “Follow up on all leads”

Call For StoriesAs part of our Call for Stories, California-based composer Garrett Shatzer shared an inspiring story about commissioning music. Here it is…


For drama’s sake, perhaps it’s not wise to start this story with the moral, but, then again, this isn’t meant to be a story in the traditional sense. Rather, I hope that my experience will help other composers in some way, so here it is: Pursue any lead, regardless of how inconsequential it may seem, because you just never know what might come of it.

Several years ago I joined an online forum for classical music. I was simply looking for people outside of my academic circle to discuss classical music with because, let’s face it, you’re bound to have different conversations with non-academics, and they can be equally as enlightening, if not more so. As it turned out, one of the members lived just 10 miles from me, so we decided to meet up for a coffee and get to know each other “in real life.” After shooting the breeze for a while, it came up that I teach and play guitar. He mentioned that his stepson (who’s not too much younger than me) also plays guitar and that he’d like to introduce us. As with every other time I’ve had an adult tell me that their kid plays guitar, I assumed that he was a bedroom-guitarist who rocks out to Metallica. But I figured it wouldn’t kill me to meet up with him, so I agreed.

Mason (the stepson) and I met at a concert that featured the premiere of my Piano Trio No. 1. After the show, we had a chance to talk. Well, to my pleasant surprise, Mason is anything but a bedroom-guitarist. He had just finished his bachelor’s degree at the Eastman School of Music and was going to be starting his master’s degree at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in the studio of Sergio Assad. He mentioned that he really enjoyed my piece, so we started kicking around ideas for me to write for him. The rest, as they say, is history.

In the few years that I’ve known Mason, I’ve written The Holiday for solo 7-string guitar and The Transition for his guitar trio, the Mobius Trio (with Matthew Holmes-Linder and Rob Nance). The Mobius Trio has already had remarkable success in its short existence, including a performance at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. in April 2011. And yes, they played my piece there! In addition, they have recently commissioned me to write another trio for their 2012 season, and Matthew has commissioned me to write a piece for solo 6-string guitar. We are all great friends now, and I have no doubt that we will continue to work together as our careers progress. And to think…all of this from meeting a bedroom-guitarist whose stepfather I met on the internet.

Mobius Trio

Returning to the moral of the story: follow up on all leads. Did you meet a pianist at a conference who said she likes new music? Get her email and send her your scores. Did a gentleman approach you after a concert to compliment your piece? Take the time to chat with him for a while and get to know him. Did a friend-of-a-friend who’s also a composer tell you that you write interesting music? Set up a concert together. After all, you just never know…

What did you think of Garrett’s story? Have you had a similar one?

Garrett ShatzerGarrett Ian Shatzer’s (b. 1980) music has been performed by such groups as the Meridian Arts Ensemble, Empyrean Ensemble, Mobius Trio, Citywater, Erato Piano Trio, violinist Rolf Schulte, cellist David Russell, and pianist Geoffrey Burleson in such venues as the Mondavi Center (Davis, CA), the Kennedy Center (Washington D.C.), and Teatro Colòn (Buenos Aires). His current commissions include a song for Grammy-winning countertenor Ian Howell and guitarist Karl Wohlwend, another guitar trio for the Mobius Trio, a piece for the Finisterra Piano Trio, a piece for the UC Davis University Chorus, a nocturne for guitarist Matthew Holmes-Linder, and a triple concerto for the Erato Piano Trio. Visit: http://garrettshatzer.com or follow him on Twitter: @garrettshatzer