At the memorial service for the late Joseph Baber, composer-in-residence at the University of Kentucky for almost 50 years, a violinist/friend introduced me to someone as a “composer.” Yeah, that’s the title of this website, but like a lot of artists in a variety of endeavors, I sometimes wonder if I’m just a pretender. On the recommendation of my oldest brother, I read a book by David Bayles and Ted Orland titled Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, which spoke directly to that issue (and others). All artists have those feelings, even the ones who are very well recognized for their work by large numbers of people. I, of course, am not amongst that group. So, what the…? 😉
But I have a unique perspective, since my “career” as a composer is decidedly amateur, residing as it does in a list of other retirement interests — Jeffrey L. Jones, tennis player/husband/volunteer/father/grandfather/student. But does “Composer” belong at the top of that list? It sounds a bit self-aggrandizing to say, but then, if I don’t think the work I’m doing is valuable, I’ll have a hard time convincing anyone else it is. Bayles/Orland say that any artist who’s struggling with their own worth should consult other artists who share the same interests and goals — use them as his/her first source of input. Such people have the background to empathize, and can often give meaningful feedback. The Donovan Scholar program at the University of Kentucky provides me access to some such people, but mostly professors. So far, that group has provided me some positives, some reasons to think my work has value, but then, they’re “salespeople” — in the business of selling their wares, their abilities as a student and teacher of the musical values in which I’m interested.
I constructed this website as a way of providing some detail in the process of composing. It’s been my experience that that’s a very unusual approach, for reasons mentioned above — after all, if you’re struggling with your own value as an artist, you may not be well served by being transparent about its production. Well-known and successful artists often solve that problem by hiring and paying a publicist who carefully sculps an attractive public presence. But my goals make the approach this website uses an ideal concept: 1) I am determined to be me, and don’t care if that comes off poorly. 2) I live comfortably enough so I don’t need money — besides, I’m suspicious of the things money brings to this whole experience. 3) I’m hoping that something I put here might be of some use to others trying to figure out their art and their world.
But the best, most consistently hoped-for result of any artistic endeavor is positive public attention. As the Lexington Chamber Chorale begins rehearsals for my first public performance (October 9), I’m excited that I might just get some of that, too. Dr. Anderson, the LCC conductor, regularly asks me for my input “…as the composer.” That’s me! And there’s more coming. I own this, and I’ve never been so excited!