I don’t like whiny blog posts, but indulge me for a second.

One of the really draining things about being a composer – particularly a young composer – is the constant stream (river!) of rejection letters from competitions and grants and colonies. So far this year I’ve spent around $300 on application fees, printing/binding (mostly for “anonymous”/”pseudonymous” submissions – a violent rant for another day), and postage. And so far, every application but one that has been processed has been rejected. (That one being Yaddo, for which I’m on the waiting list, which I’m honestly very, very happy about.)

The worst part about rejection letters is that they’re also form letters. Sure, you can’t reject everyone with a hand-written note, but the form letters are so discouraging.

Most days, I’ve got a great outlook on my career – I have more commissions than most composers my age have, I have the respect of a LOT of my elder colleagues, and I feel as though I have a real direction and that I’m doing a decent job of carving out my space in the music world.

And then a rejection letter shows up and blasts it all to hell for a day or two.

Yesterday, for example, was a really fantastic day. I had a great interview session with David, where we also set up a session for next week with Tison Street and it was made clear that Joel C (David’s third husband from 1979 to 1986ish) is excited to talk to us some time soon, then had a wonderful time catching up with Marc P, my favorite pianist and a very good friend. But when I got home, I found a letter letting me know that I had been only a “finalist” for one of the biggest young composer competitions out there. Yes, I’m happy to have been a finalist, but it was still a rejection letter.

It would be a lot easier if the last (and only) composition contest I’d placed in hadn’t been when I was 14.

So, I do what I always do. I get sulky for the rest of the day, feel hurt the next day, and go on with my life. I must say that the rejection letters don’t make me feel as though I should stop writing or anything ridiculous like that. It just hurts my feelings, and I move on (albeit a little more angry at whatever competition I’ve just applied to for the billionth time, and a little more anxious about competitions in general, and a little less inclined to apply again to that specific one [though I will because not to apply is flat-out stupid]).

So, whining over. I say this only because it’s a MAJOR part of being a young composer, and it’s a side that I think people tend not to be aware of.

Off to write another song….