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Keaton Hoy
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Hi there! I haven't posted on here before, only browsed as a wallflower for a few years. I'm worried about my composition portfolio for college. It's fairly close to being ready, but as a candidate for schools, I think I have many things stacked against me. I have never had any formal private composition training. I have taken piano lessons for several years where I was taught rudimentary composition and theory and finished AP Theory in high school, but my track record ends there. Not a single one of my works has ever been performed - and the performances I anticipated were of course canceled due to the pandemic. Coming from small town Kansas it was a pretty big shock to open up my eyes to the world of students who have not just one but multiple private composition tutors, who have attended numerous composition intensives across the country, and overall have a massive technical leg up on me. There was not a single composition teacher within a several hour radius of my hometown, and my family neither had the resources or the motivation to support me in order to get me to a composition intensive. Now, I am applying for college. I am aiming high but I feel very behind the curve, and honestly quite bitter about my short luck. I have largely taught myself composition through the internet, doing everything I can do be the best I can with what I have. I have not had a guiding hand to help me through this process. I love this art and I don't want to abandon the application process for fear that I will regret canning my dreams and all of my hard work, but I can't tell if I'm even playing the same game as some of these kids. I have a crippling fear that I will just fall flat on my face and be denied entry to every single school I am applying to. I am wondering how I can overcome these gaps in my portfolio/resume and bolster my application in a way that still makes me seem like a viable candidate. I also just want to hear somebody tell me that I shouldn't give up on this!

P.S. - No, I will not be sharing any of my work. I am worried about it being copied or perhaps my fragile ego being shattered. Thanks!

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1 hour ago, Keaton Hoy said:

I also just want to hear somebody tell me that I shouldn't give up on this!

You shouldn't give up on music composition. Why would you if it's who you are? Are you giving up on yourself? Who cares how much knowledge someone else has, there will always be someone who knows more than you about music. That in no way should deter you from really living if you have found who you are as a person.

When I made the decision for music to be my career, my dad was pretty disappointed. He didn't talk to me for a while, and when he finally did, he only told me that artists will suffer. I knew he was right, and I knew he said that because I excelled in school and could have chosen an easier path to success. But I knew who I was, and only you really know that. 

Of course it absolutely helps to have a leg up with tutors. I teach private guitar/piano lessons for a living (I would be performing for supplemental income, but well, you know, Covid in the U.S..................), and sometimes I'm just amazed at what they're learning at early ages. But a lot of them are ungrateful rich kids, and don't have the passion you have. And honestly, I think the passion for composition is the only fuel you could have to move forward, no matter where you're at with your music education. 

Go for something unique in your writing. Be you. Sure you could post another pastiche form that composers 200 years ago did way better than you might ever do, you could adhere to a common practice harmony and study Bach all your life. You might attain a position at a university, teaching the same shiit that a million others do when you could just buy an 18th century counterpoint book. Sure, learn from that, but keep going forward. The evolution of music stems from hearing what the world around you has done and is doing, and putting the Keaton Hoy spin on it. 

The thing is, you'll never know it all, and neither will the ones who had an advantage over you with earlier lessons. You've completed AP theory, I'd say that's a one up over some people who are applying against you. I'd focus on finding your musical voice, absorbing all you've learned and molding it into what you want to give this world. Keep in mind, we live in the information age. It's 2020, dude. I don't know what kind of music you write, but cater it towards the age in which you live and I guarantee with perseverance and lots and lots and LOTS of HARD WORK, you will find success as a composer. 

1 hour ago, Keaton Hoy said:

No, I will not be sharing any of my work. I am worried about it being copied or perhaps my fragile ego being shattered. Thanks!

No one is going to copy your work. And plus, when you post a written or audio form of your music online, it is automatically a copyright. I'd say post your music for peer review if you're trying to put together a portfolio. There are tons of wonderful people here that give great reviews and constructive insight to members works FOR FREE. Take advantage of that! It's truly a humble community, and being here off and on for years has helped keep my inspiration alive. 

Oh, and welcome! 😄

Edited by Thatguy v2.0
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I had the chance, when I was about 20, to study music in school. 

They had one spot open and I passed their theory exam and audition (had to play my guitar with a quarter since I lost my pick in the parking lot). They wanted over 10k per year and offered for the first to teach me the same stuff I just proved to them I knew.

I said "no", and it was a great decision. Instead, I went off to work on a video game score with a more experienced composer. Got paid, did a couple more and got paid too. Then studied a bit about digital audio at a technology institute and got to learn some thing I wanted to know from Juno (they count) award winning sound engineers. 7 years later, I got picked from 10 people in my country to be in the screen composers' apprentice program. Met some bigger name composers who I learned from (still hang out with them every now and then and got to work behind the scenes with the music and recording for some popular shows and stuff).

It is also highly probable you won't learn much of value from modern music study anyway, since they're putting this kind of nonsense into it. I saw it creeping in back when.

https://www.thecollegefix.com/college-music-department-pledges-to-remove-the-systemic-racism-from-its-curriculum/

So why am I telling you this? It's not to brag or something.

It's to show you that you don't have to spend stupid amounts of money and time in school to learn a lot and go places. To be frank, depending on school, you may learn less of value than people in the past did. Further, through just studying on your own, you'll ultimately learn more than someone who just goes to school.

I'd been playing and writing my own music for nearly 10 years before I did that college audition. I knew more than many of the students already in the program by then! One of my friends graduated from the very program I auditioned for, and I would definitely say I've surpassed her.

Study scores, read up on theory, get feedback, study scores and write something short every day if you can; always put new concepts you have learned into practice and experiment. It's all about consistency and commitment, really. And study scores.

5 hours ago, Thatguy v2.0 said:

When I made the decision for music to be my career, my dad was pretty disappointed. He didn't talk to me for a while, and when he finally did, he only told me that artists will suffer. I knew he was right, and I knew he said that because I excelled in school and could have chosen an easier path to success. But I knew who I was, and only you really know that. 

Here's the thing about music careers that no one tells you. It's something everyone actually knows deep down, even if they don't realize it.

This is something that, due to life experience, a lot of things changing over the last few years, and me being almost the big 30 now, which is probably ancient compared to many users on "young" composers:

The truth about music careers is that nobody who pursues them actually cares about making a career out of music, specifically.

What people want, is for the work that they do, how they put food on their table, how they get that daily supply of Federal Reserve notes in an unending cycle of perpetual usury, to actually mean something.

Oh yes, if you go study to be a civil engineer, modern architect, insurance, IT, or whatever: You can definitely get those Federal Reserve notes.

You'll also be doing the same meaningless bullsh*t day after day. Creating absolutely nothing of beauty or value or unique. Just a replaceable cog in a corporate machine, chained to some desk or manual labor, the latter of which you don't even get respect from society for doing anymore.

Medieval peasants, contrary to popular belief which seeks to demonize our past with lies at every turn, worked an average of 20 hours a week. Most everyone grew their own food, and they ate better food (unless there was a famine) than we do today. Most people had better teeth too, because of low sugar in their diets and stuff (they also did brush their teeth with hazeltwigs, salt paste and cloves which is actually effective). Every single person, no matter how rich or poor, could afford a large family. Your taxes were just a fraction of the total land you had and your sons owed military service to the lord.

Other than that, people had time to do all kinds of creative things. Even the peasantry. They beautified the environment around them, they painted, they wrote music and poetry, they had parties and festivals with their neighbors, etc. They did and made things that actually meant something, and have lasted for hundreds or thousands of years after their death.

What do we do now in this plastic dystopia of consumerism and usury? You go to work at a retail job, that is paying increasingly less while your cost of living rises, jobs themselves are becoming more scarce, just so that you can get enough Federal Reserve notes to eat and not be homeless every month. BUT, although you maybe can't afford a family and things that would actually give your life a sense of meaning and purpose, fear not! There are all manner of mass produced, meaningless goods that will give you temporary relief! You can buy ever more legalized drugs to numb the pain! You can buy all these plastic Funko pop figures (that millions of other people have) to line your shelves with to show that you're a fan of X consumer product! You can bingewatch that product on Netflix for the low price of 15 per month! Don't forget to get excited for the next cookie-cutter Marvel film and buy the next AAA video game to escape fantasy land (just like with drugs) for hours on end! Then, get back up tomorrow, and hit that 40 hour work week to get those Federal Reserve notes and do it all over again!

What people who want careers in music, or any other art, actually want: Is an escape from this clown world system.

My advice to n00bz is to try and find a more reliable job that is also in something you enjoy and allows you to be at least somewhat more creative. Because trust me, I've been there, if you don't — you'll be miserable every time you're not writing music. 

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I know many adult musicians who had the option to be really rich doing all sorts of engineer/high-tech jobs but chose the other path.

I wouldn't say that's an entirely bad choice, and it seems that you gave lots of thought to the ups and downs of it- so good luck on your way.

Also I believe that posting some of your works on this forum might not only help you build a better musical skill (I'll come back to that one in a moment),

but might also help you gain some more support and self confidence, especially when you come back here with better and improved pieces.

About the first point- one might think he's the best author on earth until a more experienced author sees his work and tells him otherwise. Not to say that his work isn't good, it might be absolutely astonishing, but the veteran one should know how to "adjust" the book, help the author create a version that is somewhere between his own inner world and what's expected, accepted and would have a good reception on the outer world.

Have in mind.

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Wow - I could not have expected such a thorough outpouring of support for what I am trying to do and I thank you all very much! I will heed the consistent message that I should go ahead and post my work. I do not mind you all being as brutal as possible with my work! I want to change it for the better, but I also don't really have the time to completely can a project and make a new one at this point, seeing as it is only a month between now and November. I truly appreciate all of the advice and stories I have read on here, and I wish I could muster up an equally well thought-out response to everyone.  

Briefly, I will cover the stories behind each of the three works I have "completed" and am posting here. I picked these three out of the stack because I feel that they best showcase a few different facets of my inspiration. 

First, I began the Suite in A Flat Major when I heard that my cousin was having a baby (named Andreas). At first, it was just one piece, but eventually it grew into a few little works, as I found inspiration in the sounds of French romantic composers (Debussy, Faure, Ravel, you know the drill). I don't love how these pieces came out, and this one I am posting here is the best out of the Suite. 

Second, the Symphony was broadly inspired by the band Godspeed You! Black Emperor (my favorite post-rock band). Listening to my symphony and listening to Godspeed, it will probably be fairly difficult to pick out any parallels or even understand how their music inspired this, but in short order, somehow, it did. I was out for a drive very late at night near the beginning of lockdown, kicking around the local fare of abandoned buildings (woohoo, Kansas!), when I spotted some dry lightning in the distance. It was so beautiful. I knew I had to get home because I was kind of in the middle of nowhere, it was late, and the rain was clearly coming. I got in my car, and within minutes it was a downpour. But it was so pretty. I could see a train in the distance tearing through the darkness, and with that whole mental image and Godspeed playing as I raced home, I got to writing the Symphony. I only have this first movement done. I know, I started in so many months ago, so where are the other pieces? Well, over the summer, I started work full time and it caught up with me. Composing had to take a back seat, so I only recently finished this first movement and I am looking forward to getting started on more. 

Third, the Requiem grew originally out of my discovery of Faure's Requiem - one of my favorite works of all time. I was enchanted by how haunting the Introit was, and how all of the vocal solos were so truly emotive. However, as I wrote it, I discovered that my technical skill is nowhere near Faure, and I eventually tried to bring in my own inspiration to spice things up. I had a significant illness last year which required surgery and months out of commission, and it was a traumatizing event for me, but many of the chord progressions and melodies present in the final product are directly pulled from the nonsense I wrote while my mental state was still raw from what it went through. I picked the Introit because, well, it is the only piece I have finished in the Requiem besides the Kyrie, which is too short and insignificant for my portfolio. 

Fourth, lastly, and also not present, is the Brass Quintet Waltz I am still in the process of writing. I heard Danny Elfman's "Waltz to the Death" from the 1989 Batman score and thought, "damn, I want to write a piece like that!". Arguably what I am laying down is very different (intentionally), a lot brighter, and sounds a bit less like the music is teetering atop an abandoned gothic cathedral, but enough on that. I will post it here when it is "finished", likely within the next week.

Thank you all dearly for your wonderful advice and for sharing your storied experiences. I am humbled to be able to have my work looked at. Don't tear me a new one, but please critique the hell out of it! I hope you might get a moment of joy out of some of the work.

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Keep at it, you definitely have talent.  However, it is very difficult to make a living purely as a composer and success is only measured partly in terms of talent; luck and connections also play a big role.  But, certainly, you have enough to at least get your foot in the door, in my humble opinion. 

I would also advise you post your works in the respective forum categories, you'll likely get more feedback.

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Hi again everyone! Here is my fourth and final piece, it is a little weak compared to the other three but it's because I ended up canning the waltz and using some of the ideas to inform this Woodwind Quintet. I definitely think it could use the most work, and I only really have a month to get there. Honestly, I am a little scared to post my work anywhere outside of this forum. I'm kind of sensitive and I don't want my confidence shot just before I have to submit this work 😞

 

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Nice job!  Note:  I am just going to talk about the Woodwind Quintet you just posted.  I enjoyed the adventurous melodies and trade offs between the different instruments.  The only thing that really bothered me is that sometimes your phrases sound cut off because you have a staccato mark at the end - I would have used a tenuto there (I mean a line over a staccato mark) to avoid that.  Also the horn part is on the whole written a bit on the low side (as a horn player myself I don't think it would be a problem to play - it's just a nit-pick I guess).  Besides that this is really a very enjoyable piece of music!

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