Summer Slump

Summer Slump

Via Facebook, I’ve been following the summer peregrinations of many of my composer buddies. I can’t lie: From my sweltering apartment here in Minneapolis, the parade of fabulous seaside locales and rehearsal shots in my photo aggregator has started to look pretty sweet. I stopped applying to summer programs about five years ago, and every summer I wonder whether I’m shooting myself in the foot by clinging to my hard-earned money rather than flitting away for two weeks of networking and music-making.

I generally rationalize this to myself by assigning, in a completely arbitrary and not especially well-informed way, a value in dollars to the summer program experience, a quantity I then compare to the total cost—travel, food, tuition, etc.—of the program. For me, it never adds up, but I’m sure I have plenty of peers who find that this equation tilts in the other direction. They must be getting their money’s worth; maybe I’m just missing out?

My two experiences with summer programs—UC Davis SummerArts in 2003 and Val Tidone in 2004— were highly positive, but I just don’t know that I’d get quite so much out of it these days. As nice as it would be to get some more international performances under my belt, I kind of feel like I just need to be left alone to write some music, you know? I’m sorry if this whole post sounds like an apology for not supporting arts organizations worldwide by patronizing their summer workshops, but I have to justify these missed professional opportunities to myself. At any rate, if you’ve taken part in a summer program this season or are otherwise equipped to contribute your insight, please speak up. And include a link to some pictures.

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Josh Musikantow is our featured artist over on the New Music Scrapbook this week. A polymath with impeccable experimental credentials, Josh offers his piece HUES for small chamber ensemble. There’s so much happening in HUES that I won’t even try to summarize it: It has to be heard (and, better yet, seen) to be believed. Keep an ear out for the sublime, out-of-nowhere moments in which Josh traffics. Interview (with bonus phone call) also available.

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3 thoughts on “Summer Slump

  1. jennjolley

    Colin, I understand your point of view: these festivals are expensive. Even if they are reasonably priced, they involve a ridiculously expensive plane ticket abroad during high travel season. It’s frustrating.

    However, I recently went to the Music10 Festival in Blonay, Switzerland, and, even though I’m completely broke now and eagerly waiting for my BMI check to hold me over, I thought this festival was better than I expected and was worth my money. If you’re curious, we composers and performers blogged about the experience. (

    Granted, I also wonder if I’m losing out by not going to a festival every summer, and also if I’m losing out not going to two festivals per year. (I’ve noticed this trend with some composers attending Music10 this year.) I really can’t afford this. And yet, will this affect our CV? The composition jobs are already scarce.

  2. Daniel Wolf

    Organize your own summer festival/conference/camp! There’s no need for a large institutional setting nor for substantial funding. Useful models are the legendary Burdocks Festival and the Poto Festival in Grass Valley, CA (

  3. PaulBeaudoin

    The Warebrook Cont. Music Festival in VT is an amazing model of how one person’s idea can blossom into an event that many attend.


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