Commissioning projects that include a residency period have
a much greater positive impact than projects in which the
music is simply delivered to the performers. The time the
composer spends in the community getting to know the people
and the place, working with schools and civic groups, creates
a process that results in community ownership of your project.
Based on the experience of the American Composers Forum,
it is strongly recommend that a residency period be included
with any commission. A residency may vary in length: Meet-The-Composers
New Residencies program extends for three years. American
Composers Forums Continental Harmony project
includes four weeks of residency spread over a year. Naturally,
the length of the residency will affect the composers
fee, so residency plans should take into account community
resources. But even a relatively short residency period will
provide great benefits to both community and composer.
During your composer's initial visit, s/he will be taking
the first steps to learn about your community, what makes
your people and location special, and what your community
wishes to celebrate through the commission. From this first
visit to the end of the residency period, it is your responsibility
to make sure that your composers needs are being met
while they are in residence. Your responsibility in this part
of the project is both organizational and financial.
To get the greatest value from the composers time in
your community, we recommend that the residency be spread
out over the duration of the entire project, from the time
you select the composer through the premiere of the commissioned
work. A typical schedule for a short residency like Continental
Harmony might include several days to get acquainted,
a few days or a week of residency activities near the midpoint,
and a week or so leading up to and including the premiere.
The first aspect of a residency that needs to be determined
is where the composer will stay. When seeking a location,
bear in mind: will this be a convenient and comfortable place
for the composer? for the host? If its in someones
home, how will it work to have a houseguest? If its
in a hotel or other commercial location, what will it feel
like for the composer who will be there for several days?
How will the cost of these accommodations be borne, as a donation
on the part of the home-owner? an in-kind donation by a hotel?
your organization paying the bill?
Once housing is arranged, youll need to consider how
the composer will obtain meals. If the composer will
be staying in someones home, is the host expected to
prepare all the composers meals? or is the composer
expected to cook for him/herself? If the composer will be
staying in a hotel, will the hotel also provide meals? or
will meals need to be arranged at other locations around your
community? Would it be easier to provide the composer with
a per diem, so that they can purchase meals at their own convenience?
or would you rather have the composer submit receipts for
Finally, youll need to consider how the composer
will get from place to place in your community. If youre
in a small town, with all locations in a concentrated area,
walking from place to place should work. If youre in
a city, the composer may need to be driven or use public transit
to travel between locations. Depending on the composer you
choose, they may have driven their own car to your community.
If so, youll need to consider where the composers
car will be parked overnight, and at residency sites. And
no matter what means of transportation the composer uses,
youll need to provide the composer with a clearly marked
map of your community, unless you arrange for community members
to drive the composer from place to place.
Perhaps the most sensible way to plan these logistics is
to put yourself in the composers shoes. What would it
be like for me to spend a week in a community? How will I
be able to fulfill my obligations to the host organization
and enjoy my time in the community? While theres no
right or wrong way to handle these logistics, they will need
to be agreed upon by you and the composer prior to the first
visit. Explore with the composer what will feel comfortable
for both parties.
In addition to structured residency activities (see Programming,
below), it is essential that the composer have some time to
get acquainted with your community and its people in
an informal way. This might include:
- getting together with senior citizens or other groups
of community residents
- meeting with local writers or artists
- "hanging out" at places where local residents
do--the post office, the lake, the community center, the
- attending community events
- doing research at the local library, historical society,
or community newspaper
The depth of your composers connection with your community
will be reflected in the quality of the residency activities
and the commissioned work. By allowing time for and encouraging
the kinds of interactions listed above, you will help foster
a more meaningful and rich relationship between your composer
and the people of your community.
The composers residency in your community will serve
a two-fold purpose: to educate the composer about your community,
and to educate people in your community about the composer.
As you plan activities for the composer, please keep this
interrelationship at the forefront. A successful residency
will result in the creation of a piece of music that the community
will feel connected to, and will open the doors to the creation
of future partnerships with artists, both from within the
community and from beyond its borders.
Among the activities that may be planned are:
- educational workshops at schools, colleges, places of
worship, and community centers
- master classes with people interested in learning composition
- lecture/demonstrations for civic and professional groups
- open rehearsals with performing ensembles
- professional development sessions with composers, conductors,
At the location of each residency activity, youll need
to be sure there is an on-site coordinator, preferably
an employee of or a volunteer from the location. As the on-site
expert, this person will be responsible for making sure that
all the logistical arrangements for the composers visit
have been taken care of. Your help in facilitating this will
be essential to the success of the activity. (For a complete
list of logistical needs, please see the Residency
Once all the residency activities have been determined, youll
need to provide the composer with an itinerary that
lists the date, time, and location of each activity. It would
also be a good idea to provide each of the residency sites
with a copy of this itinerary, just to be sure that everybody
involved knows who will be where, when.
At the conclusion of each residency activity, youll
need to devote some time to evaluating the program.
Your candid and thoughtful responses about the program will
help you to learn from your experiences so as to create even
more meaningful, useful and effective programs in the future.