Participating in the VCU Jazz Composition Competition was a fabulous experience. This would have been true even if I had not been a winner. Receiving the thorough, constructive criticism from the VCU professors was a huge help, as I previously had not had this type of opportunity. It was evident that both Professor García and Professor Richards took a lot of time providing me with feedback on the music that I submitted. The comments were invaluable (particularly since I have had little instruction in composition) and greatly helped me to edit my charts and see in what areas I could use improvement.
Of course, winning was a great opportunity as well. Coming down to Richmond for the performance was a remarkable experience. To begin with, it is always amazing to be able to hear a piece you wrote being performed. This was how I felt when I heard the band rehearsing my composition, “WL Guidance Department.” In addition, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to perform my piece with the group in front of an enthusiastic audience. I had actually had the opportunity to meet and have lunch with Professor García at the IAJE Conference in Long Beach a month before the performance, but it was really great to see him again and also to meet Professor Richards as well. I also really enjoyed having the opportunity to meet and work with this very professional group of music students in the jazz band.
A performance of the piece was not the only result of winning. In addition to receiving a monetary award and a scholarship, I was able to receive several extremely useful composition books that are essential to every musician’s library. These books have helped to further my education as a musician, and I was very excited to receive them.
The final benefit of winning the competition is that Professor García is now helping me make final edits on my piece in order to try to get it published. As a result of a partnership with the competition, Warner Brothers Publications has priority in reviewing my composition.
Overall, my experience in the first VCU Jazz Composition Competition was fantastic, as it helped me really grow as a musician. I learned a lot as a result of the process of writing, editing, performing, and working towards getting my piece published. The competition is a win-win situation because even if you are not a “winner,” everyone involved ultimately benefits.