Earlier this year, I wrote some critical words about Chicago-based chamber music ensemble eighth blackbird’s composer competition that offered only a $1000 prize despite an abnormally high $50 entry fee for composers. While steep entry fees for artistic competitions are problematic no matter who is charging them, it struck many in the composition community as especially bad that a well-known, successful ensemble such as eighth blackbird wouldn’t be willing to meet composers halfway in setting up this call for scores. Since I drew attention to 8bb’s initial gaffe, then, it’s only right that I report the aftermath: eighth blackbird has partnered with MakeMusic and the American Composers Forum to revamp the competition with more money for the winners, additional money for two other finalists, and yes, no entry fee. (All who had already paid the $50 saw their money refunded.) Good for them. Good, also, for MakeMusic (developers of the Finale notation software package) who got naming rights for the competition. I’ve long wondered why MakeMusic and other software companies with products aimed at musicians don’t pursue more sponsorship opportunities like this. In this case, given the controversy this competition had previously generated in the composition community, the revamped version is liable to have even more visibility than it would otherwise. Way to make lemonade out of lemons, folks.
By Ian David Moss on July 16, 2010