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  • Writer's pictureJennifer E. Rose

A Favor, Habitat for Humanity, & Free Music

I recently wrote a piece of music for a friend who wanted something that his students could practice to improve such techniques as lip slurs, register key facility, and octave leaps. I know the financial situation he is in with the program because it is the program that I left to pursue composing full time. Like many other schools across the country, we were forced to shut down our fundraiser that we were in the midst of immediately prior to the infamous never-ending Spring Break of 2020. This, of course, left us/them strapped financially.

While I was writing this new piece, I thought, "I should share this with other programs across the country who are in the same position" (which I thought might just be 99% of band programs), so I decided to make it available for FREE.

Now, there is a debate amongst composers regarding this very practice: giving away our work for free. Some composers believe we should not do it because this is our livelihood, our job, our primary source of income, and above all our art. And, of course, there are those who disagree. I believe that it is up to each individual composer to decide.

I decided to make this piece available for free because it is ONE PIECE and it was a way for me to help out band programs around the country that are forced to spend money elsewhere right now. Of course I would love to get paid for my work, but I have many other pieces available to purchase.

When I announced the release of my new piece on different social media platforms, I was refused by one organization that I highly respect. The justification given was that it broke a rule: "[It] is philosophically opposed to composers giving their music away for free..." I respect its opinion, but I disagree on the basis that what I was trying to do was help. I didn't argue with the organization, because I understand its stance and I should have read the rules a little more closely before attempting to share the release of my piece on that platform.

People offer their skills for free in every walk of life, it is called a donation. Some donate money, some donate time, some donate supplies, and some - like me - donate skills. Consider the organization Habitat for Humanity, some of the people that help build and design those homes are professionals in their field of homebuilding. These are unpaid volunteers. Their skill is their livelihood, their job, their "art". But without the charitable assistance of these unpaid volunteers, Habitat for Humanity wouldn't be able to offer homes for people in need.

So, I felt like the only thing I could do to help out a community I love so dearly (instrumental and vocal music directors and their students), was to offer this ONE PIECE for free. I do not intend to offer other music for free because, yes, this is my job and my primary source of income. This was simply my way of helping during an uncertain, uncontrollable, ever-changing situation.

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