Today we’d like to introduce you to Dale Trumbore.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I’m a composer of contemporary classical music or concert music. I’ve composed for orchestras, chamber ensembles, and voice, and the majority of my compositions have been for chorus. Some people still associate composition with dead composers—Mozart, Bach, Beethoven—but it’s still very much a thriving contemporary art form. For the last six years, I’ve also been writing and blogging about overcoming the mental hurdles of a creative career, as well as the business side of what it takes to make a living as a musician. And after years of taking part-time work as a babysitter and nanny, a music editor, and a piano teacher, I’m finally making enough in my business to support myself solely through writing music and words.
I started composing when I was young, and I decided to pursue writing music in college after winning a few composition contests in high school and receiving encouragement from my music teachers to keep going. After undergrad at the University of Maryland, I moved to Los Angeles in 2009 to get my master’s degree at USC. I’d always thought I’d return to the East Coast and live in New York, but I unexpectedly fell in love with Los Angeles. It might have helped that as a teenager, I loved reading White Oleander and Francesca Lia Block’s books set in L.A. While I think everyone experiences this city differently, I may have already been primed to love it when I arrived.
I’ve lived in Eagle Rock for the last five years, and I love it here. I love how in LA, your neighborhood can still feel like a small town—my partner and I know a bunch of our neighbors, and we can do most of our errands and even meet up with some friends without having to get in a car—and then when you’re ready for a change, the entire sprawling city is there. Even after ten years, I still feel like I’m encountering new facets of LA, or little pockets of neighborhoods I haven’t yet explored.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I don’t think any creative path is truly a smooth one. Even if luck has generally worked out in your favor, there’s still the day-to-day struggle to create something new, as well as all of the anxieties that can accompany the uncertainty in a creative or freelance career: not knowing exactly when your next commission will come in, whether someone you’re working for will pay you on time, whether people will respond to your work in the exact way you hope they will, etc.
All of that said, I’ve experienced a mix of hard work, luck, and privilege. I’m privileged in that I grew up with a family who could afford to send me to weekly private lessons and pay for half of my college tuition, though it was my musical portfolio that got me a full-tuition scholarship and a paid teaching assistantship at USC. I’ve had a few lucky breaks where my music made its way into the hands of new collaborators at exactly the right time, but I’ve also been working since I was seventeen years old to establish and maintain working relationships with other musicians.
Ultimately, I’m doing what I love for a living. This career requires a lot of persistent work; for me, that’s a mix of actually creating new music and essays, traveling to speak about my work or collaborate in person with other musicians, and, on more boring days, managing what feels like an endless stream of emails. But no matter what facet of this career I’m working on, I’m also appreciative that this is how I get to spend my time. It’s still a privilege.
We’d love to hear more about your work.
My current mission statement in my work is to create art—whether that’s a piece for a chorus to sing, an orchestral composition, or a new essay—that moves listeners or readers to a better emotional place at the end of experiencing that work, or that recognizes the nuanced complexity of a given emotional experience. That goes for my music and my writing; I’m interested in what those fields do best, whether that’s music depicting something hard to put into words, or words summing up a challenging experience and then moving you through it.
This year, I’ve been really proud that my most significant work, a half-hour secular requiem for chorus called How to Go On, was performed by three different ensembles across the country: The Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum, an undergraduate ensemble at Harvard; The Singers – Minnesota Choral Artists, a professional ensemble based in the Twin Cities; and the Los Angeles Master Chorale here at home. LAMC is one of the best choruses in the country, if not the world, and it’s always an honor to work with them.
As far as writing goes, this spring I’m releasing my first book, Staying Composed: Overcoming Anxiety and Self-Doubt Within a Creative Life. It’s a long subtitle, but I’m hoping it’ll let other creative people in any field know that this is a book for them, not just a book for composers! It’ll be released on June 4, and I can’t wait to hold a copy in my hands.
- Website: daletrumbore.com
- Instagram: instagram.com/daletrumbore
- Twitter: twitter.com/daletrumbore
- Other: youtube.com/daletrumbore
Jamie Pham, Krysti Sabins, Lucas Hausrath, Arnaud Pivka