Avaloch porch
Get Out There: Alternative Opportunities for Composers and Performers
At Avaloch Farm Music Institute. Image: Kristan Toczko

Get Out There: Alternative Opportunities for Composers and Performers

Most people in the new music community are familiar with the general range of opportunities for study, work, and networking available to student or emerging composers and performers, such as the many academic conferences and other events like Tanglewood, the Atlantic Music Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, Bang on a Can’s summer program at MassMOCA, the Banff Centre, or overseas festivals like highSCORE and Cortona Sessions.

However, before you can attend these competitive opportunities, you have to be accepted to them, and the first roadblock you encounter might be the high application fee. For example, it costs $75 to be considered for a spot at Tanglewood and $75-$100 for a spot at the Atlantic Music Festival. And with many of these events, you can further expect hefty participation fees ranging into the thousands. At this price point, you will also have correspondingly hefty figures in music leading your master classes and private lessons, as well as access to many other benefits including networking and community building within the new music world.

But there are many opportunities out there for musicians and composers that are both more affordable and more accessible. Some of these are specifically designed for musicians and composers, while others more broadly cater to creatives working in multiple media.

Below is a specially curated list of 24 low-cost (or free) opportunities in the USA and Canada which you may not have heard about before, but should definitely check out. Some are priced comparably low for the resources/experiences they are offering, some are completely free, and some go beyond free and actually offer stipends.

Many of these residencies accept applications from project partners or small teams. When researching them further, keep that in mind. It can be difficult to get affordable studio space and time for a group project, whether you’re working with an ensemble or working with artists in other media—or even with folks outside of the arts. Applying to attend a residency as part of a team that you build could be your chance to work with an ecologist or horologist or volcanologist on those wild and brilliant musical ideas you’ve been keeping on the dusty back shelf.

Not all of these residencies will work for everyone—for example, for those working full-time, year-round jobs, the lengthier events will likely not be feasible. Some are more competitive during the summer (when those in academia would be able to attend) but not as competitive in the fall/winter/spring. As with all opportunities, it’s a good idea to apply to at least a handful to increase your chances. My personal ratio of success is one residency acceptance for every five or six applications. So, check these opportunities out and enrich your musical education without adding unnecessarily to your financial burden.

(Note: Take notice especially of the deadline dates, as many come soon after the publication of this article. Make sure you also visit the website of each opportunity you apply to for the most accurate and up-to-date information.)

 

Peer-Mentored Music Workshops

Canada has in recent years become a hub for new music workshops focused on enabling peer mentoring—that is, skill/resource/talent-sharing among emerging composers and performers. They are made possible largely by the preponderance of funding opportunities for the arts at the municipal, provincial, and federal levels in Canada, in addition to those available from private funding bodies. While these grants do often require that a certain percentage of the participants are Canadian, international applicants are still very strong contenders. For example, at the 2017 Waterloo Region Contemporary Music Sessions (see below), 50% of the participants were from outside of Canada. In other words, apply apply apply!

Montréal Contemporary Music Lab (MCML) is a ten-day performance and creation workshop exploring, celebrating, and creating bonds between performers, composers, sound artists, improvisers, and mixed/multimedia artists engaged in the act of creating new music. Formed in 2011 by seven emerging musicians in Montréal, they are a collective run entirely by and for young and emerging artists.

Deadline: March 2018 (date not posted yet)
Location: Montréal, Quebec, Canada
Application fee: $0
Residency fee: $250 CAD ($196 USD)

Toronto Creative Music Lab (TCML) is a peer-mentored, eight-day workshop for early career musicians and composers, and it’s designed to foster professional development, artistic growth, collaborative learning, and community building through workshops, rehearsals, social events, panel discussions, and performance.

Deadline: 2/1/18
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Application fee: $0
Residency fee: $157 CAD ($123 USD)

Waterloo Region Contemporary Music Sessions (WRCMS) is a weeklong series of workshops, concerts, panels, reading sessions, and activities designed to promote and provide opportunities for emerging and early career Canadian and international performers, improvisers, and composers of contemporary music.

Deadline: 2/15/18
Location: Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
Application fee: $0
Residency fee: $395 CAD ($309 USD)

 

“Master” Mentoring

There aren’t many residencies built around participants receiving mentoring from a master artist while also being more affordable and open to general applicants, so there is just one residency included here in this category. I have been grateful to attend the Atlantic Center for the Arts twice and can attest to it being world-class—it offers a wonderful community, fabulous private lodging, delicious food, and fantastic resources. It also boasts a local friendly tortoise named George (the wooden walkways are elevated above the palm forest floor so he and his friends can walk around as they please). Built in the 1970s by creative visionaries and maintained with love and generous funding from local donors, there really is no experience quite like ACA.

Atlantic Center for the Arts (ACA) is an innovative nonprofit artists-in-residence program. Three “Master Artists” from different disciplines determine the requirements and basic structure of their residency, and through an online application process, they each select eight “Associate Artists” to participate in the three-week program.

Recent master artists in the field of music have included Michael Bisio, Zeena Parkins, John Gibson, Derek Bermel, Natasha Barrett, and Georg Friedrich Haas. Coming up, you can apply to spend three weeks working with composer Laura Schwendinger (apply by 1/21/18) and/or composer Maria de Alvear (apply by 5/13/18). Attend as many times as you are accepted; applications go directly to each master artist rather than to a board or jury. Individual master artists also determine both what is required in their applications and how they will run their residency, so each application is different, and each residency unique.

Deadline: Multiple deadlines throughout the year; the next one is 1/21/18.
Location: New Smyrna Beach, Florida
Application fee: $25
Residency fee: $900, but need-based partial scholarships are available.

 

Interdisciplinary or Collaborative

In her recent interview for the Listening to Ladies podcast, self-described New Renaissance Artist Elizabeth A. Baker emphasized the vital importance (in pursuing the goal of creative growth) of learning about the many intricate worlds of art and culture that exist outside of your specific niche. Interdisciplinary residencies are gold mines for expanding your education and getting inspiration and resources (and lifelong friends) from entirely new and unexpected directions.

ACRE (Artists’ Cooperative Residency and Exhibitions) is an artist-run non-profit based in Chicago. ACRE’s residency takes place each year outside of rural Steuben, Wisconsin. ACRE offers room and board with comfortable sleeping accommodations and chef-prepared meals for 14-day sessions. Set on 1000 acres, communal studio spaces compliment access to facilities including a recording studio and tech lab. Residents can choose to participate in studio visits with a variety of established artists, curators, and experienced educators, along with workshops, lectures, concerts, reading groups, critiques, and other programming throughout each session.

Deadline: 3/4/18
Location: Steuben, Wisconsin
Application fee: $0-$50 (cost rises as deadline approaches)
Residency fee: $600, but 40% of residents receive half-scholarships

EMPAC: The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is where the arts, sciences, and technology meet under one roof and breathe the same air. The EMPAC artist-in-residence program runs year-round. A residency may be used to explore a concept, to research the artistic or technical feasibility of a certain idea, to develop computer programs or specific hardware, develop part of a project, bring a work to full production scale, or document/record an existing work.

Deadline: Rolling
Location: Troy, New York
Application fee: $0
Residency fee: $0
Note: Residents cannot be full-time students.

Marble House Project is a multi-disciplinary artist residency program that fosters collaboration and the exchange of ideas by providing an environment for artists across disciplines to live and work side by side. With a focus on the conservation of natural resources, integration of small-scale organic food production, and the arts, residents sustain their growth by cultivating the surrounding grounds, working on their artistic vision, and forging partnerships within the community. Applications are accepted in all creative fields, including but not limited to the visual arts, writing, choreography, music composition, and performance. There are seven sessions, and each session lasts for three weeks. The residency fee includes a private bedroom, food, and studio space.

Deadline: December 2018
Location: Dorset, Vermont
Application fee: $30
Residency fee: $200
Note: Marble House offers a family-friendly session for artists attending with their children.

Omi International Center: Music Omi invites approximately a dozen musicians—composers and performers from around the globe—to come together for two and a half weeks in a unique and collaborative music-making residency program. A singular feature of the Music Omi experience is the presentation of public performances during and at the conclusion of the residency, where collaborative work can be shared with the public. Everyone accepted to Music Omi receives lodging, including a private room, and delicious meals during his or her stay.

Deadline: January 2019 (this year’s deadline was 1/2/18)
Location: Ghent, New York
Application fee: $0
Residency fee: $0

 

Focused Space/Time

Ample time and space to work on a project are immensely valuable resources. It is too easy to look at a successful artist from afar and call them a “genius,” while (in)conveniently forgetting the multitude of quiet hours they’ve spent honing their craft—not to mention forgetting the necessary, immense privilege required to even access those quiet hours. Historically, wealthy white cisgender men have been those most likely to find themselves with the leisure time and space to do things like compose masterpieces—servants and wives dumped the poo and arranged the households so the men could delve into their intellectual and creative pursuits.

These days we have residency models which, while still remaining inaccessible to many (including single parents, those who can’t afford to stop working at their jobs for extended periods, and those who cannot obtain financial resources to travel to a residency) have nevertheless gone some way toward opening up the quiet-time playing field to more participants.

The Anderson Center residency program is open to emerging, mid-career, and established visual artists, writers, composers, choreographers, interdisciplinary artists, performance artists, and translators. Each resident is provided room, board, and workspace for the length of the residency period in the historic Tower View Mansion.

Deadline: 2/15/18
Location: Red Wing, Minnesota
Application fee: $20
Residency fee: $0
Note: They also offer a residency specifically for the deaf community.

Art Farm Artist Residency program is for professionals, emerging or established, in all areas of the arts, humanities, and areas related: offering accommodations and studio space to pursue their art in exchange for a contribution of labor of 12 hours per week to help renovate and maintain Art Farm’s buildings and grounds, as well as other projects suited to skills and temperament.

Deadline: 3/1/18
Location: Marquette, Nebraska
Application fee: $20 (click on the “writers” category; this includes music-makers)
Residency fee: $0 + 12 hrs/week working on the farm

Avaloch Farm Music Institute provides a unique opportunity for chamber music and jazz ensembles (at any stage of development) to have the time and space to: work intensively on repertoire; prepare for recordings, concerts, or competitions; work with composers on commissions; and forge or reconnect to a group musical identity. The New Music Initiative brings together ensembles working with a composer or collaborator on new material during intensive farm-wide new music themed weeks. They will also accept ensemble/composer collaborations during weeks that are not designated as exclusively New Music Initiative times. Avaloch Farm Music Institute offers free living and studio accommodations, as well as all meals, as part of the residency.

Deadline: 3/15/18
Location: Boscawen, New Hampshire
Application fee: $75
Residency fee: $0

Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts residency opportunities are open to national and international artists showing a strong professional working history. A variety of disciplines are accepted including, but not limited to, visual arts, media/new genre, performance, architecture, film/video, literature, interdisciplinary arts, music composition, and choreography. Artists-in-residence receive a $750 monthly stipend to help with materials, supplies, and living expenses while in residence. An unrestricted $500 travel stipend is also provided.

Deadline: Multiple deadlines throughout the year
Location: Omaha, Nebraska
Application fee: $40
Residency fee: $0
Note: Students are not eligible.

Blue Mountain Center, founded in 1982, provides support for writers, artists, and activists. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, the center also serves as a resource for culturally based progressive movement-building. During the summer and early fall, BMC offers three month-long residency sessions. These sessions are open to creative and non-fiction writers, activists, and artists of all disciplines—including composers, filmmakers, and visual artists.

Deadline: 2/1/18
Location: Blue Mountain Lake, New York
Application fee: $25
Residency fee: $0

Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts is a non-profit organization offering time and space for artistic exploration to visual artists, writers, musicians, and composers from all backgrounds, levels of expertise, media, and genres. Residency sessions of two and four weeks are offered throughout the year, depending on availability and the applicant’s ranking in the jury process.

Deadline: 3/1/18 and 9/1/18
Location: Saratoga, Wyoming
Application fee: $40
Residency fee: $0

Djerassi Resident Artists Program offers 30-day core residencies (April-November) at no cost to the artists. National and international artists in the disciplines of media arts/new genres, visual arts, literature, choreography, and music composition are welcome. The program provides core residents with studio space, food and lodging, and local transportation.

Deadline: 3/15/18
Location: Woodside, California
Application fee: $45
Residency fee: $0
Note: Students are not eligible.

The Headlands Center for the Arts Artist-in-Residence (AIR) program awards fully sponsored residencies to approximately 45 local, national, and international artists each year. Residencies of four to ten weeks include studio space, chef-prepared meals, comfortable housing, and travel and living stipends. Artists selected for this program are at all stages in their careers and work in all media, including drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, film, video, new media, installation, fiction and nonfiction writing, poetry, dance, music, interdisciplinary, social practice, and architecture.

Deadline: June 2017
Location: Sausalito, California
Application fee: $45
Residency fee: $0
Note: Students are not eligible.

Hypatia-in-the-Woods (women only): Women in the arts, academia, and entrepreneurship may apply for a residency of from one to three weeks. Nestled on several acres of Pacific Northwest second growth forest on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula, the retreat center provides an ideal setting for women to find solitude and time for their creative work.

Deadline: Multiple deadlines throughout the year; the next one is 2/15/18.
Location: Shelton, Washington
Application fee: $20
Residency fee: $0

Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts offers up to 70 juried residencies per year to working visual artists, writers, composers, and interdisciplinary artists from across the country and around the world. Residencies are available for stays of two to eight weeks. Each resident receives a $100 stipend per week, free housing, and a separate studio. The Center can house up to five artists of various disciplines at any given time.

Deadline: 3/1/18 and 9/1/18
Location: Nebraska City, Nebraska
Application fee: $35
Residency fee: $0

The MacDowell Colony provides time, space, and an inspiring environment to artists of exceptional talent. A MacDowell Fellowship, as they term their residencies, consists of exclusive use of a studio, accommodations, and three prepared meals a day for up to eight weeks.

Deadline: Multiple deadlines throughout the year; the next one is 1/15/18.
Location: Peterborough, New Hampshire
Application fee: $30
Residency fee: $0
Note: Students are not eligible.

The Millay Colony is an artists’ residency program in upstate New York offering one-month and two-week retreats to six visual artists, writers, and composers each month between April and November. Each residency includes a private bedroom and studio, as well as ample time to work in a gorgeous atmosphere.

Deadlines: 3/1/18 and 10/1/18
Location: Austerlitz, New York
Application fee: $35
Residency fee: $0

The Ucross Foundation Residency Program offers the gift of time and space to competitively selected individuals working in all artistic disciplines. The Foundation strives to provide a respectful, comfortable, and productive environment, freeing artists from the pressures and distractions of daily life. Residencies last between two and six weeks and include room, meals, and studio space.

Deadlines: 3/1/18 and 10/1/18
Location: Ucross, Wyoming
Application fee: $40
Residency fee: $0

The Wave Farm Residency Program provides artists with a valuable opportunity to concentrate on new transmission works and conduct research about the genre using the Wave Farm Study Center resource library. Transmission Art encompasses work in participatory live art or time-based art such as radio, video, light, installation, and performance, as well as a multiplicity of other practices and media, informed by an intentional use of space (often the airwaves). Wave Farm artists-in-residence receive a $700 artist stipend.

Deadlines: 2/1/18
Location: Acra, New York
Application fee: $0
Residency fee: $0
Note: Students are not eligible, but “exceptions may be made on a case-by-case basis for career artists who may have returned to school for postgraduate work.”

Wildacres Residency offers participants stays of one or two weeks in one of three comfortable cabins located 1/4 mile from the Wildacres conference center, where complimentary meals are available. The program has about 70 residencies available from April through October, and allows individuals the solitude and inspiration needed to begin or continue work on a project in their particular field.

Deadline: 1/15/18
Location: Little Switzerland, North Carolina
Application fee: $20
Residency fee: $0

Willapa Bay Artist Residency offers month-long, self-directed residencies to emerging and established artists, writers, scholars, singer/songwriters, and composers. The residency provides lodging, meals, and work space, at no cost, to six residents each month from March 1 through September 30 of the year.

Deadline: 7/31/18
Location: Ocean Park, Washington
Application fee: $30
Residency fee: $0

For searchable directories of hundreds of residencies, check out the Alliance of Artist Communities and the ResArtis Worldwide Network of Artist Residencies.

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Elisabeth Blair is a composer, vocalist, poet and visual artist. An active feminist, she is on the board of the International Alliance for Women in Music (IAWM) and is the founder and director of Listening to Ladies. She has conducted and edited interviews that appear in Berlin-based VAN Magazine, and additional writing appears in Second Inversion. For more information visit www.elisabethblair.net. In June 2015, Elisabeth began Listening to Ladies, an initiative dedicated to showcasing women composers of classical & new music through online features, a concert series, and a podcast. Each episode of the podcast features an... Read more »


NewMusicBox provides a space for those engaged with new music to communicate their experiences and ideas in their own words. Articles and commentary posted here reflect the viewpoints of their individual authors; their appearance on NewMusicBox does not imply endorsement by New Music USA.

One thought on “Get Out There: Alternative Opportunities for Composers and Performers

  1. Fred Albert

    I would add to this list I-Park in East Haddam, Connecticut. Situated on a 450-acre nature preserve, I-Park offers 50-60 fully funded residencies each year, lasting from 2 to 4 weeks. Artists are given a private room, a private studio, chef-prepared meals, and the freedom to pursue whatever projects they desire. The application fee is $30-$35, and there’s no residency fee. Applications to the 2018 General Residency Program were due 1/22/18, but they are still accepting applications from composers for their Composers + Musicians Collaborative Residency in July. That deadline is 2/19/18. i-park.org

    Reply

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