Like many I was saddened by the news of composer Jack Beeson’s passing last week. Others who knew him better have already contributed touching personal notes. So I’ll echo their words only with the observation that among other charms and achievements, Jack was a director of the Douglas Moore Fund for American Opera, which is the organization that backs my fellowship with American opera companies that I’ve been writing about on these pages. It goes without saying that Jack Beeson’s role in helping to secure and maintain this crucial and dearly needed opportunity for American composers is one that I appreciate deeply.
The recent VNPAC reporting by Anne LeBaron and Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum only shed further light on the fact that while many composers wish to write operas, the opportunities available for them to do so—from learning/apprenticeship programs like I’ve been involved in all the way to the kind of accessible, national network for connecting different talents—are few and far between.
On one hand, the framework for more outside-of-academia, on-the-job training already exists but is underfunded and modest in scope; on the other hand, many elements of a rationally-planned network for new opera development (such as a national travel fund for scouting new shows) don’t even exist in skeletal form. Who will create this new infrastructure? It’s quite a huge task to ponder, and right now it makes the seemingly vast undertaking of composing an opera seem comparatively small.