Opera America Grant Dreams versus Composer Realities

operaYesterday I had an opportunity to speak with a representative from Opera America about the grant I recently applied for but did not receive. The grant was for a new opera I would like to put together called Alicia and the White Rabbit. Primarily a children's opera, the opera focuses on a young girl who must make a decision between moving in with a parent that she is never met, or going to the nefarious children's home full of gloom and sadness. The opera has a distinct Latin American music sound and is inspired by Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland stories. Although the story does not follow Alice's crazy exploration into a psychedelic dreamland, there are distinct aspects the parallel the original tale.

While the opera grant proposal was not accepted, I did receive some encouraging words to help me if I choose to reapply to the Opera America grant. We discussed ways I could improve the grant application. Some of the the suggestions were fairly obvious ones that I knew. For example I hadn't had time to put together actual samples from the new opera. Instead I applied using previous work that was not representative of the new work. Because of this the grant was a little confusing since the work that I submitted ran the gamut of sacred choral music to jazz, and not just traditional operatic work. 

Part of the reason that I did not complete the application the way that I had originally intended was that I was in my third trimester of pregnancy and dealing with health complications. In fact, as I was discussing ways to improve my application I was also nursing my newborn who was newly awaken from his nap. Thankfully, the person I was speaking with did not mind the extra sounds and worked with me as we tried to discuss opera, classical music, and new music.

As I have started and stopped this blog several times to get my newborn who cannot decide if he wants to sleep or eat, I have come to the realization that balancing life, real life, with an artistic career can sometimes be a daunting task. 

I talked about these issues candidly with Opera America. I discussed how frustrating it can be when when your music is immediately judged not by the quality of the music but by who you are and who you are not. 

I discussed how difficult it can be to be a full-time mom, composer, and professor. I talked about how difficult it can be to write music that is cutting edge and combines technology andclassical music, in a world that often seems contents with repertoire that is centuries old. 

I discussed how I had given up on the grant process for most organizations, or even writing for professional organizations, because I found that innovative performers at the university level and independent level were more willing to take on the avant-garde work that I enjoy composing. The discussion was very helpful, and my hope is to reapply in the next two years, if real life will allow it.

My entire musical career has been a challenge. I chose to be a percussionist, a male dominated field. I dealt with discrimination and crude jokes and harassment and groping. In my career I've been passed over numerous times, not because I wasn't qualified but because I was female. 


I have long since decided that I would forge my own path, that I would find a way to create what I want to create, and that I would reach the audiences around the globe that want to hear my work, with or without anyone's permission or help.

I mean this as an encouragement to anyone out there who is struggling in their artistic career whether they are writers or composers or filmmakers or poets or painters, or any other creative person that you can possibly think about. 

Stop hoping that you will get permission to write or create what you want. There are organizations and performers out there that want to do your work. The Internet has opened up the possibilities infinitely. And it is just a matter of finding those people and connecting with them. 

Leave behind institutions, people, and any detractors who discourage you from creating what you want to create because of who you are or because they don't understand your art. 

That doesn't matter. 


Some of our greatest masterworks were never understood in their time. While in this Kardashian world we wish for instant fame, 
sometimes simply surviving the creative process is worth the effort.


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