It is time to get cracking on a new piece today, I think.  I have the orchestral work and the piece for violin and narrator in sketch form, but both need some outward confirmation before they can progress much further, so in the meantime there is a competition that tickles my fancy.

Some composers, including one who is doing very well indeed, thank you very much, say that competitions are a waste of time, but I disagree strongly.  I think that they offer many useful opportunities for writers, win or (more often) lose, and provide a chance to hone skills in areas which might not otherwise come onto the radar.

I particularly like the Fifteen Minutes Of Fame project, which asks composers to submit pieces which must be no longer than a minute long – each recital therefore consists of fifteen such works.  I have had a couple of pieces picked and performed for these, and enjoy being able to tinker with a small technical problem in a confined space.

Other competitions require bigger and grander pieces, and those, naturally, require more investment of time, but that is harder to justify if one is fortunate enough to have commissions on the table, so I have leaned more towards calls for scores recently, with some success.

As a previous (ahem, multiple) winner myself, though, it is hard to tell other composers not to enter these things, and I actively encourage my students to explore them.  I even won a poetry competition once (yes, I am technically an award winning poet), one line of which ended up being published on some very niche T-shirts, so I enter everything with a sense of “got to be in it to win it”.  Positive thought, and all that.