Choosing the Right Moment

by Edna Landau

To ask a question, please write Ask Edna.

Dear Edna:

As it is now late August and booking season is heading our way, I was wondering when you think is the best time to catch orchestra executive directors. I will be sending out materials through regular mail and e-mail. If I move too soon, they will be on vacation and have a lot to sort through when they return. If I’m too late, they may have already started the decision making process and my name most certainly won’t make it on the list! When is the best time to reach out? —A Violinist

Dear violinist:

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact time that any orchestra makes decisions about guest artists. In truth, it is an evolving process that might begin about eighteen months before the start of a season and continue until six months before the start of the season. It all depends on the size of the orchestra and when they traditionally announce their season. I admire your industriousness but hope you realize that the number of orchestras who will respond to unsolicited letters and promotional materials is rather small. Make sure that whatever you send clearly highlights something that might be of interest to them (perhaps a premiere or rarely performed work of genuine substance or appeal). Assuming that you are writing to mid-size or smaller orchestras, from now until Thanksgiving is an ideal time to be in touch. If the orchestra has an artistic administrator, you would do well to write to them instead of the executive director, as chances are a bit better that they will take note of your approach to them. Good luck!


I am grateful to my longtime friend and colleague, Ed Yim, former president and current board member of the American Music Center and Artistic Consultant to the New York Philharmonic, for his assistance in preparing my response to the following question.

Dear Edna:

I am a composer whose career is beginning to take off. I was fortunate last year to win a number of prizes and I have been receiving commissions. I also have signed with a very fine publisher who is eager to promote my work. Recently, I was contacted by a manager who is interested in representing me. I would appreciate your advice on whether a composer needs both a publisher and a manager. Thank you so much. —A Curious Composer

Dear Curious Composer:

Thank you for writing in with a question that I am sure will be of interest to other composers. It is wonderful  that you are already in a position to be represented by a fine publisher. Congratulations, too, on having won a number of prizes and already secured some commissions. It sounds like things are going very well for you. At the present time, I don’t think you need to have a manager. Part of your publisher’s job is to investigate possible new commissions and to promote your published works, hopefully leading to increased performances of them. There may come a time in the future when, if your career has grown exponentially, you might want to hire a publicist or manager to call attention to certain works or projects you have undertaken. They would also be an added ally to help monitor your publisher’s effectiveness on your behalf. In general, most composers don’t have managers unless they have their own performing ensembles (for example, Steve Reich) or are active as performers in some other way (e.g., John Adams as conductor).  Those performance activities generate an income stream that makes them more attractive to managers. Another raison-d’être for a manager’s or publicist’s involvement would be if the composer was undertaking substantial projects, such as extended residencies, or was the focus of major retrospectives. I hope that your current partnership with your publisher brings significant new opportunities your way and that whenever the occasion arises, you find time to share your experiences and mentor some younger colleagues. Composers’ careers develop differently from those of singers, conductors and instrumentalists, and they are always grateful to receive advice and encouragement from someone such as yourself.

To ask a question, please write Ask Edna.

© Edna Landau 2011

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