The Music Of Catherine McMichael

Commissioned Works

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Musical Note A gala celebration for a sculpture gallery...

Musical Note A symphonic overture to greet the millennium...

Musical Note A kickoff for a new high school music festival....

Musical Note The 25th anniversary of a summer strings institute...

Musical Note The installation of a new minister at a Baptist church...

Musical Note A baptism song for a special child (what child isn't?).....

Musical Note A 90th birthday observance for a world-famous artist....

Musical Note A graduation of a young man going off to teach in China.....

Musical Note Special music for a cathedral choir to take on a European tour....

Musical Note A showcase piece for the final concert in a chamber music series...

Musical Note A piece with specific instrumentation or to work with a specific musician...
Catherine McMichael

These are all examples of realistic reasons to commission new music, and in fact, are the very reason for some of the music I've written just since 1998. You may be thinking, "I'd love to commission a piece of music too, but I don't know the first thing about it!" Some of your questions might be answered by the following FAQ's... FAQ's

Musical Note How do we get started commissioning a piece of music?

You or your committee agree that you want to do something musically unique for your event or ensemble. You call me, and we talk. Ideas will emerge that are meaningful to both of us, and we start down the path of developing a creative plan that will meet your needs. Other things we discuss might be the date of a premiere, duration, complexity, your audience, your budget, and a possible estimate of charges.

Musical Note How long does it take you to write a piece after we talk?

Seven Saints and Sinners, Premiere May 1998

For a large work, it may be a year from our first conversation to a premiere. I always have other works in progress, and your project will "get in line". Occasionally a smaller project like a short church anthem may sneak in sooner. Once the basic purpose of the piece is decided, the quest begins for the thematic thread: it might be poetry or art that has meaning for you, personal information, qualities you want the music to have, or a specific intent you hope the music will express. It's the thematic germination that takes the most time, and is the most fun. Actual writing can often take less than a month. Once the piece is written, editing and other minor housekeeping revisions take another month or so.

Musical Note How can you write for an instrument you don't play?

I listen, and I know what I like, and I find out what you like. I'd want to listen to you play, or your ensemble. I've been known to follow musicians around for a series of concerts to hear their particular characteristics. You know how you want to sound, and I try to give you that sound. If I'm writing for an event, part of our partnership is to decide which group you'd like to perform the work and how you'd like them to sound.

Musical Note What does it cost to commission a piece?

Charging for the creation of new art is an inexact science, but after years of trial and error in finding a fair way to charge, my fee is based on a combination of a three tiered rate structure consisting of the following components: Complexity, Finished Minute, and Part Preparation.

Finished Minute actually means a certain rate which is multiplied by the finished length of the piece, but it includes much more than that. It involves my musical and personal investment in your piece, which includes time, energy and much, much thought. I research books, the Internet, and expert sources if the piece is based upon material that demands study. I gather information and ideas from you to develop your piece in its structures, forms and themes, regardless of the complexity of instrumentation. The Finished Minute approach implies the obvious: that a 5 minute piano piece will cost less than a symphonic piece of 30 minutes, not only because of the length, but also because of the variety of instrumentation which involves a high level of arranging, editing, generation of individual parts, etc.

The three-tiered rate scale is tied to the number of instruments involved. Solo instrument or voice with piano accompaniment, or solo piano, harp or organ is charged at the lowest rate. Chamber music, which can include several instruments and go up to 7-8 staves is at the next higher rate. Music for band, chorus or orchestra, or a combination of those, is at the highest rate. Part Preparation is a per-part, per-movement charge which reflects the time and care spent to make the parts readable, clean, accurate and easy to use. In a solo piece or chamber work, it's not a huge amount, but when a band piece with 29 separate instruments in 4 movements is involved, it takes a very large amount of time and attention, and consequently, the Part Preparation fee reflects that.

The final fee will not be a surprise to you. We discuss and agree upon the many aspects of the piece to develop a very close estimate of your costs. The fee reflects a balance of what you want, what you can afford, and what I expect to spend time-and-energy-wise to write a piece for you that you'll always treasure.

Musical Note Where does funding come from?

A Basque Noel, commissioned by the Tower Brass Quintet for their national Christmas tour.

Depending on the organization and its resources, some may find they can budget ahead for a project that they expect to pay for next year. Often special events have special budgets that can include monies for celebratory items. Others write specific grants. Some groups gather contributions from interested individuals, or simply pay for it themselves, perhaps as a wonderful gift for a special person or group.

Musical Note What is your style?

I write melodic, tonal, descriptive music. My pieces have been inspired by sculpture, painting, poetry, literature, American legends, Celtic myths, Biblical subjects, Renaissance motets, individual people, dance forms, roses, children, lakes and mountains, just to name a few. My philosophy of writing is to please my performers by giving them music they feel challenged to play beautifully, that expresses their personality and performance style. I believe that if the performer enjoys playing the music, the audience will receive the deeper message. Passionate, romantic, humorous, gorgeous, exciting are all words that have been used to describe my works. There are many valid and expressive styles in classical music these days that are not so easy on the ears. I try to make a new statement with more traditional use of harmony and melody, using ethnic, world and varied contemporary music flavors when appropriate.

Musical Note What if we don't like the piece after the work is done?

So far, in fifteen years of writing music for people and their celebrations, that has never happened. Most people who commission a work have a fairly good idea of the type of music they want and whether it matches their chosen composer's style. You wouldn't ask Beethoven to write a rap piece, nor would you ask Bob Dylan to write bubble-gum pop music. If you listen to some of the commissioned works available at this site, you will know if my style suits you. During the development process we keep in touch as ideas take shape, play through themes, discuss mood, investigate resources. Once writing actually begins, we're in very close communication regarding length, level of difficulty, and other instrumental specifics. I never let a piece go until I absolutely love it. And if I love it, and if you love other pieces by me that you've already heard, chances are you will be pleased with your finished piece.

Portraits by Catherine McMichael.

Musical Note Who owns the rights to the music after it's done?

I do. The composer retains rights, and holds the copyright. That means that if I choose to submit a piece to a publisher, or if it is professionally recorded, the contracts and royalties accrue to me.

Musical Note What about making recordings, CD's, etc?

It's in both of our interests to get your music performed and heard. We can work together on any projects that involve future performances or recordings of your pieces for public distribution.

Musical Note Can I hear some of your music?

The musical examples found on this page are copyrighted midi files taken from computer scores, not recordings of actual performances. Permission must be obtained from the composer for any use outside of this website.

A gala celebration for a sculpture gallery:
Warrior Saint from The Seven Saints and Sinners (1998)

A symphonic overture to greet the millennium:
The Navigator (2000)

A kickoff for a new high school music festival:
Tango de Teri from Café Suite for Strings (2000)

The 25th anniversary of a summer strings institute:
Lake Music (1999)

The installation of a new minister at a Baptist church:
Song for My Brethren (2000)

A baptism song for a special child (what child isn't?):
Baptism Blessing (1994)

A 90th birthday observance for an world-famous artist:
Temptation from The Seven Saints and Sinners (1998)

A graduation of a young man going off to teach in China:
Go Forth and Serve The Lord (2000)

Special music for a cathedral choir to take on a European tour:
Song of Ruth (1999)

Music written for a brass quintet's national Christmas tour:
A Basque Noel (1993)

A showcase piece for the final concert in a chamber music series:
Solomon and Sheba from Le Porte del Paradiso (2001)

A piece with specific instrumentation or to work with a specific musician:
Sapphire Saxophone Concerto, (2000)
Galliarde from The Académie of Dance, (1999)
Stopping By Woods from American Voices (1999)

Musical Note Other music samples available by request.

Musical Note Sounds fantastic! How can I obtain some of the music you've already written to program on a performance?

Some music is published by other publishers, some published by my company Camellia Music, some are available for rent or purchase of parts from me. Contact me by e-mail through this site, or phone (989) 798-4461 for further information and I will direct you to the source for the piece you'd like to have.

Musical Note I'd like to talk to you about writing a piece for me. How do I get in touch?

Contact me by e-mail at this site, or phone (989) 798-4461 to talk. I'm looking forward to hearing from you.

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The Music Of Catherine McMichael