Commissioning New Music for Choir – Process

Commissioning Music for Choir - Michael John Trotta

We surveyed over 50 choir directors to find out what they wanted to know about the commissioning process. Among the many questions, the following is a list of the top three responses, in order of importance.

Top three things choir directors want to know about commissioning new music for their choir:

  1. What is involved in the process?
  2. How will the composer interact with me and my choir?
  3. What resources do I need to take part in a commission?

You can check out the original blog post here.

The following includes a detailed description of each of the following stages of the Process:

  1. Vision

  2. Writing

  3. Rehearsal

  4. Performance


  • Contact (The commissioner contacts the composer)
    • Website
    • Phone call
    • In person
    • Email
    • Online intake form
  • Online intake form (The commissioner/conductor fills out the intake form with the following information)
    • Delivery date
    • Vision for work
    • Budget range
    • Voicing
    • Length of work
    • Any text requests
  • Proposal (The composer reviews the information and sends a proposal to the commissioner with the following features)
    • 3 choices
    • Each for a different budget
    • Difference in length and scope
    • Payment Terms for a variety of budgets
    • Additional opportunities for interaction with composer
  • Selection (The commissioner notifies the composer of their choice or asks for additional time to gather resources
    • The commissioner chooses the level of service that best fits their:
      • Goals
      • Resources
      • Budget
      • Payment Schedule
    • Once the selection is made, the initial paperwork is sent to begin the agreement
  • Agreement
    • paperwork sent (The composer sends the following to the commissioner)
      • Agreement (one-page outline of project)
      • Invoice (for first payment or deposits)
      • Terms (outlining roles, responsibilities, and rights)
      • Tax Paperwork (Commissioner files with their business office)
    • Acceptance of the job is official after when agreement is signed, and deposit is received.


  • Composition questionnaire (filled out by commissioner)
    • Refined over 10 years, it maximizes the interaction between the the commissioner, composer, conductor, and choir
    • And online form that considers the following
      • Vocal rages
      • Music elements to be included
      • Music elements to be excluded
      • 3 pieces in the style/mood that best express the vision of the work (any composer)
      • 3 pieces in the style/mood that best express the vision of the work (Trotta)
      • Level of difficulty
      • Additional text to consider
      • Additional thoughts
    • Gives the commissioner and conductor direct input into the process
  • Research (Composer immerses himself in learning more about
    • Text selection
    • Text setting
    • Translation
    • Other artistic expressions of similar themes (fine art, dance, pop culture, theatre, poetry)
  • Large scale sketching
    • Thematic elements suggested by the research
    • Small Ideas
  • Questions for conductor (Composer confers with conductor on initial ideas)
  • Small scale sketching
    • Composer works up a tentative version of the work
    • Incomplete
    • 1stdraft
    • Handwritten copy
  • Revising and editing (Composer refines initial ideas)
  • Engraving
    • Music is transferred to a computer program
  • Proofing
    • Music is checked against original ideas
  • Orchestration/Score/Parts
    • Full Score is created as per the agreement
    • Parts are extracted, revised, and proofed
  • Working score is delivered
    • Subject to revision after rehearsals


  • Vocal Score is delivered
    • Via PDF
    • Score is reproduced for choir
    • Client acknowledges receipt
    • Theoretically error free, minor changes can be made
    • Client acknowledges receipt of work within 7 days
  • Rehearsal Period begins
    • Amount of time can be a few weeks to months, to years
    • Composer collaborates, clinics choir
    • Notes any errors on a list
  • Composer may make minor changes
  • Full Score is delivered
    • Several months prior to performance
    • For study by the conductor
    • Printed conductor’s score is most common
  • Parts are delivered
    • One month prior to performance
    • For distribution to the orchestra players
    • Printed parts most common
  • Printed Parts
    • Conductor’s score
    • Orchestra parts
    • Saves the conductor of librarian time
    • Avoids awkward page turns
  • PDF Vocal Score
    • Reproduced at the expense of the choir
    • Saves shipping costs
    • Excellent for eReaders
    • Allows time for minor edits to be made
  • Final copy of the vocal score
    • Provided at the time of publication
    • At the expense of the composer
    • Often one year or more after the premiere
    • One copy for the conductor
    • Additional copies for donors upon request
  • Optional interactions with the composer
    • Skype Clinics (virtual)
    • Clinics (in person)
    • Phone Calls
    • Sending recordings of rehearsals to choir
    • Composer residencies
    • In person appearance at premiere


  • Composer’s Appearance at the Premiere
    • While the composer makes every effort to attend all premieres this is dependent on a number of factors:
      • Location
      • Time of year
      • Composer’s schedule
      • Resources of the commissioner
    • The composer may attend in any of the following roles
      • Guest conductor
      • Clinician
      • Honored guest
      • Audience member
    • When an in-person appearance is not possible, every effort will be made to provide interaction in the following ways
      • Skype session
      • Video chat
      • Marketing support
      • Public relations
      • Promotion
    • Concert Recordings
      • The commissioner, conductor, and choir typically make a recording of the premiere
      • This recording is sent to the composer for archival purposes
      • The recording may be used for promotion of the print music
      • The recording may be by the choir
    • Professional Recordings
      • Should the choir wish to make a professional recording, such recordings are subject to the usual and customary agreements between Performing Rights Organizations (ASCAP, BMI, etc.) and the commissioner is responsible for securing all such permissions and rights with such agencies
    • Following the premiere and recording
      • Client sends list of notes and recording to composer
      • Composer updates score
      • Composer provides a finalized PDF to choir for their archives

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  • Benefits of Commissioning New Music – Detail
  • Complete detail of the Process
  • Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
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