1) Where do I even begin?
2) How am I to navigate the complexities of this profession?
3) Will my music ever compare to the music of the composers that I idolize?
4) Is it practical or plausible for me to make a living off composing?
My answers to these questions are not definitive. They are still being crafted. With time, more questions arise. Nothing is etched in stone. Every day, I learn something new and am reminded that I know nothing.
1) Well, the easiest way to begin something clouded with uncertainty and veiled by mystery, is to begin. Just do it. Your first piece will most likely not be a masterpiece. Your second piece also won't. And that is okay. I can honestly tell you that the first several pieces I wrote were atrocious. Why do you think they aren't posted onto this website? The truth is, you begin by beginning.
2) I don't navigate this profession. At least, I don't do it alone. I am eternally grateful to my previous and current educators who have supported me and helped me better understand this extraordinarily complex industry. Since I know nothing, I cannot expect to be successful by myself. Thankfully, I have the luxury of being able to rely on great educators. Like Jamie Weaver (scroll down to see him), my middle school band director, who changed his flight so that he could be present at the world premiere of Portraits of the Southern Sky in March 2014. Or like Dr. Nicholas Williams, who graciously offered to perform my band piece with the GDYO Wind Symphony...twice...in one semester(!!!). To get started as a composer, you may have to ask for help, but I assure you that, somewhere, there is a willingness to help future composers that exists in the musical community.
3) Unfortunately, your music will never be to others what it is to you. This is reality. However, I think it is of paramount importance to remember that other non-composers do not experience music in the way that you do. Just because your music does not have the affect over others in the way that (ex.) Joseph Schwantner's "and the mountains rising nowhere" affected you, does not mean your music cannot have a profound effect over others. (If you don't know that Schwantner piece...you should.) Remember that no two people experience things in the same way. Try not to get discouraged when someone doesn't appreciate or enjoy your music as much as you do, or - more importantly - as much as someone else does. You are you and they are them. Be careful not to write music for others. Sure, writing music with the intent of a specific person performing it is quite common, but ultimately, you are writing the music for you. If you like it, others will too.
4) No, making a living as a composer is not practical or plausible. If it were, more people would do it. But even though it isn't, trust yourself anyway. Have an almost irrational confidence in yourself. If you want to write music more than you want to live, you will. There will be many loose ends, and you will tie them up. This is the human spirit. Although it does not have to be, holistically, music composition is as complex as you make it.