Top 5 Tips: Being a Composer – curious arts

Who doesn’t love a little bit of free advice? And who better to deliver it than Stuart Beatch, a Canadian composer and U of A alum, whose music was performed by Pro Coro Canada at this year’s Edmonton International Choral Festival!

Over the last few years, Stuart has generated a large library of compositions and enjoys using the writing process as a challenge to create something innovative. Recently he has been commissioned by JAM (a British charity group) to compose the piece, Voices for Vimy, which BBC singers will perform in Kent this July.

As promised, here’s Stuart’s advice – all based on his own experiences, of course!

The 2016 National Youth Choir of Canada with conductor Michael Zaugg following their performance at the Podium Choir Conference and Festival where they sang a piece commissioned from Stuart, Resurrecto!

  • Getting Started: If you want to try composing, the best way to begin is to simply start writing. Stuart first tried his hand at composing in high school and he will openly admit what he wrote was “mostly garbage.” You shouldn’t expect your first couple of creations to be fantastic, but if you keep at it you’ll undoubtedly start to improve!
  • Inspiration: Finding the inspiration to write a piece of music isn’t sitting around and waiting for an idea to fall into your lap. Inspiration is something you have to create! So get up early, make yourself a nice cup of coffee and get ready to work because “inspiration happens at the end of your pencil.”
  • Be Social: An action that is beneficial for anyone who wants to be a composer is interacting with others. Make friends with likeminded com

    An artsy music sample from Stuart’s sketchbook!

    posers and learn from them, get to know musicians so you can write music for them and even attempt to have conductors to look at your work. The music community is usually very welcoming, so use this as a chance to get help from other professionals and make valuable contacts.

  • Step Outside your Comfort Zone: Although it’s nice to stick to what’s comfortable and familiar, it’s rarely how you improve in music. Learning to embrace change can have a large impact on your music career. For instance, Stuart is from Saskatchewan but he currently lives in London, England. Even though he finds London to be “a big shift” and “a bit claustrophobic,” he knows moving there was a good decision because it “allowed [him] to make important contacts.”
  • It Doesn’t Have To Be Your Career: It’s important to understand that “there are few people who can making a living from composing alone,” and that’s okay! Even if composing music isn’t your sole focus, it doesn’t make your creations less impressive or your passion less important. Even Charles Ives, who was an “innovative and groundbreaking composer by night,” was an “insurance salesman during the day.”

If you would like to hear any of Stuart’s beautiful compositions, or perhaps purchase a score for yourself (since he not only composes for choruses and bands, but solo voice and instrument as well); visit his website at:

Stuart had a piece workshopped through a larger project at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland!

Credit for feature photo: Heidi Atter

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