Jump to content
Black Orpheus

Composer Struggles - Vent Your Concerns & Frustrations Here

Recommended Posts

I thought it might be a good idea to start this thread as a place to share concerns and vent frustrations related to being a composer and working in the arts. I'm going to start by responding to this thread, which was veering off topic:

http://forum.youngco...on/page__st__10

CO, I understand that struggle between goals/dreams and necessities as well. I'm starting to feel like continuing my education in a PhD program is a bad idea. I applied to five programs, was accepted into one, and I was offered zero financial aid. I accepted the offer of admission because it's a public school and much cheaper than most. I'm about to move into Manhattan so that I can be within twenty minutes of my school (I spent the last two years living in a a place where I couldn't have guests and traveling an hour and a half, one way, to get to school, so it's time for a change) and, as you know, this is not cheap. I'm very fortunate to be able work from home as a sheet music engraver. I can essentially work as much as I want and I'm trying really hard to pay for school without taking out more loans (I'm already over $30,000 in debt from undergrad and a master's program), but I don't think I'm going to be able to manage. In order to live in Manhattan, pay for loans, pay for school, and eat I need to work nearly full-time WHILE attending school. I am not looking forward to this upcoming year, in which I'll have to probably put friendships and new relationships on hold. I'm making music my life but I wonder if I'm going to end up feeling resentful and like I wasted my twenties. The thing is with my job I could just walk away from it all and live nearly anywhere in the U.S. I want, have extra money to travel, and actually live a life where I could set music aside at night and spend time with friends or pursuing other hobbies. The catch would be nearly giving up composing or teaching as a career, or coming back to it after years of paying off debt and saving money, by which point I might have a family to think about.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I hope you don't feel resentful putting all this work into your aspirations, Austin. Have you looked at other grants from the dept of Education that you have to apply for separately from the FAFSA? I was on a website the other night looking for funding for the $8k I'm short this semester and was astounded at all the resources available to those seeking a post-graduate degree (Masters and Doctorate). Let me get a list up later this week when I get settled in Indy with my family.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well Jason , there are funds available thru FSFA IF you go full-time and you do not make too much money (which in this case is something very very low and NYC unliveable).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah, the FAFSA can help a lot during undergrad, but sometimes it screws people over. It does NOT help in graduate school, unless there is state-sponsored aid or you want to take out more government loans (which actually have way higher interest rates than private ones in my experience - the only upside is that subsidized Stafford loans do not accrue interest while you're in school). Crazy!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Bachelors of Music Composition. I move on campus next Saturday. SO stoked about it! Just a little worried about the financing part. *sigh* Are you from the midwest?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A Plethora of collegiate and high-school band and orchestra conductors will be there. It's at McCormick West. Roosevelt does a lot with it also. Therefore, you may be able to get in cheap. It's worth the cost and you meet tons of people there! Google it "midwest music conference"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Jason

Definitely get a job part time.

As for the loans, I hate to say this but Sallie Mae went from being a program that seemed to help students with their education while happy making a modest return. Now it is become a big business where they try to suck you into signing with Geico and all other "partners".

Try also foundations - go to the Foundation Center and seek out grants for adults in yuour situation. And let as many of your profs and dept head know.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

BO, why are you moving into Manhattan if you can't afford it? Get a place in Astoria, LIC, Williamsburg, or Hoboken. Even Harlem would be drastically cheaper.

What college BTW?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh, taking Tokke's advice, Greenpoint is cheaper than Astoria, but stay close to the Greenpoint/Williamsburg border as areas of Greenpoint are HEAVILY polluted (around Newtown Creek where cancer rates are significantly higher) . The area of Greenpoint bordering Williamsburg has had an influx of cool bars and clubs and cafes in addition to the Polish markets and nightclubs. The good news is the EPA is cleaning up Newtown Creek so hopefully the area will become much more attractive.

If you want to move to Astoria, let me know and I will show you some of the more affordable areas (basically below 36th Ave, west of 21st Ave and near the Queenbridge Projects - the area around it is very safe and the projects themselves are fine). Astoria has one bedrooms running 1300 a month in most areas, and 2 bdrs are in short supply because rents have gone up and people realize it is cheaper to split a 2 bedroom. My building in Astoria is not great but has some affordable rent stabilized apts open up once in awhile, I'll keep you in mind. Other areas to consider in Queens: Sunnyside and Woodside; Brooklyn: South Williamsburg, Sunset Park (best to be near one of the express stops). Manhattan: actually some pockets of Inwood and Washington Heights are still affordable for the space you get (especially the area around Columbia Presbyterian is developing quite nicely and there are some lovely apt buildings around there, below 163rd it can get rather noisy and dumpy and east of St Nicholas all the way up to 181st can be noisy and not as nice - which is a shame as there is Highbridge Park and a great walking bridge to the Bronx that has been closed since the 70s - hopefully they will reopen it one day).

Finally, there can be found once in a great while a bargain on the Upper West side above 86th Street and even in Yorkville (but the best deals in Yorkville tend to be far from the subway stations)

I hope this helps and pm me - I love being a tour guide for my friends and I think I can help you with the search for housing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for the advice, Tokke and Chris. I actually am moving into Harlem (East Harlem), but from what I understand from the other students I'll be living with, the rent in the apartment increased 7% from last year! That should be illegal. If it happens again there's no way I can stay there for more than 1 year. I originally tried to get a place in Harlem/Morningside, and there are some decent places for around $700 a month (3-4 bedrooms), but I wasn't chosen to live at any of the places I looked at. I looked for a long time and I'm sick of the search. The place I'll be moving into is one of the nicest apartments and closest places to my school that I've seen for the price. Plus all three of the other students go to the CUNY Graduate Center as well. The only downside, aside from price, is that the area's a bit sketchy at night. I might consider Long Island City after this year.

There was a freakin' sweet deal I found in Washington Heights (had a private bathroom in a huge bedroom, the room was furnished, and the other tenants were musicians), but the catch was that they wanted me to head the lease and there's no way I would take full responsibility of the rent.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

When my family lived in Astoria we were lucky enough to get in a 2 1/2 bedroom for $1600/mo, a steal up there. We also got it without a lease since we helped the landlady out on some legal stuff with the city if I recall correctly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yeah I know East Harlem , my theory teacher resides on 112th near 5th Ave. The area could be gorgeous if the area could be fixed up a little more. East Harlem has a ton of potential and many students and singles are moving there as it is one of the few affordable places. BUT I have met quite a few people in Astoria who moved from there because late at night parts are sketchy.

I warn you LIC is expensive now - especially around the Vernon-Jackson stop on the 7 line due to the high rise luxury condos springing up around Gantry State Park. As I wrote before, look into the areas around Queens Plaza (that is Aves from 36Ave stop on the N &Q south, St on R , north of the condos on Queens Plaza. Also, 21st- Street Queensbridge is on the F line, that would bring you near the Queensbridge Projects but you may find something.

Also, consider the stops along the 7 from 40th to 51st. You can find some decent deals.

Again, pm me and I can show you around.

PS. 7% rent increase is not illegal - they are probably in a rent stabilized apartment. Unfortunately the rent increases are authorized by our nitwit New York State government reps who are beholden to the developers.

PPS. If you are really struggling to find someplace affordable there is East Williamsburg and Bushwick but like East Harlem some parts are fine others are sketchy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I constantly worry that my music is not good enough, or that my sketches are not good enough to be developed. I also tend to compare my own work to that of more skilled composers in a negative way. Which is frustrating to get over.

I'm also goddamn terrified of 1. the question of getting into a good school and 2. getting enough scholarship money/grants/financial aid to pay for it.

I'm ALSO freaked about wtf one does after school. Those are my fears/frustrations.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I constantly worry that my music is not good enough, or that my sketches are not good enough to be developed. I also tend to compare my own work to that of more skilled composers in a negative way. Which is frustrating to get over.

I think most of us feel that way at one time or another. There's so much good music out there already, how can we expect to make a significant contribution to the art? Who will want to listen? Here's the thing, though: you're the only person who can write music that you want to hear, built exactly to your specifications. No one else can make what you can, and as long as you want to listen to your creations outside of your head and you're seriously trying to grow/experiment/challenge yourself as a composer then you're going to keep getting closer to what your idea of a great composer is. Try not to be too harsh on yourself; just do your thing and learn from the greats.

I'm also goddamn terrified of 1. the question of getting into a good school and 2. getting enough scholarship money/grants/financial aid to pay for it.

I'm ALSO freaked about wtf one does after school. Those are my fears/frustrations.

Very real stuff here. As long as you put in the work and have decent grades, getting into a decent school is far less troubling than money and jobs. I can't help too much with scholarships since I'm having issues with that myself, but for a job there are a number of music-related things you can do with a Bachelor's degree in music or composition. You can look for jobs in journalism, music engraving, editing, publishing, working for a record label, working at a library... I'm not going to say that it isn't tough to get a job in these fields, but if you know your stuff, you're aggressive, and you don't limit yourself to simply composing, then you should be able to find a music-related job. You could also teach/perform on your instrument. Here's the dirty thing about a master's degree - in most states it does almost nothing for you in the job market. What can you do with a master's degree in composition that you couldn't already do with your Bachelor's? Possibly teach theory at a private school or sub for music teachers, although those jobs are usually given to people with degrees in music education. If you want to get your master's, you do it because you want more training and connections, or because it's a stepping stone to the DMA/PhD. Then if you actually finish a doctoral program... *Sigh* Yeah, don't expect a comfy job as a professor. Perhaps by then the economic climate will change, a lot of professors will croak, or you will figure out something else you can do with your training. Some people put together their own ensembles and make a living by touring/performing/lecturing/composing for the group and taking on commissions when possible. Again, not an easy route and you have to be really savvy from a business standpoint (the business end will take up a TON of your time), but it's a possibility.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I constantly worry that my music is not good enough, or that my sketches are not good enough to be developed. I also tend to compare my own work to that of more skilled composers in a negative way. Which is frustrating to get over.

I'm also goddamn terrified of 1. the question of getting into a good school and 2. getting enough scholarship money/grants/financial aid to pay for it.

I'm ALSO freaked about wtf one does after school. Those are my fears/frustrations.

My teacher would always tell me that is a normal fear, and that he never walks into a project feeling confident. He's pretty well known so I'd take his advice. Keep in mind that school is important; the portfolio is much more important, I believe. Just try to get into a school that has a least a decent composition department, aka, the comp. teachers are good. Look into them, if you can. But mainly, look into schools that performs and records your music by good professional performers. I know of a school were they hire the student from their school to perform and a lot of time it doesn't come out well, because, they're still students. Also, start looking into composition competitions. Really, that is how you'll get your 'break,' or at least one of the ways. Their are some score calls that if you win; you are set. Those may be high right now but their are tons of smaller competitions that will at least get you 'recognition.' The list of jobs already mentioned is good but keep in mind that you'll come out of undergrad. with serious copyist skills, and orchestration skills, which can be utilized by other composers who don't want to make their own parts, etc. Its normal to be worried about any job, but use it to stay sharp and looking for opportunities.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...