Copyright. Why should we bother?? As a private teacher, I have often said to myself, “It’s such a pain to have students purchase music, when I could just copy one piece out of this book.” Another excuse that I have used is, “Well, this student will only be singing one song out of this book. Why should I have them go to the expense of purchasing the entire collection?”
This past summer, I was the recipient of the NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing) Independent Teacher Fellowship. This gave me the opportunity to attend the National Conference this past July in Salt Lake City. One of the things that really struck me was that original music was used by all of the pianists during the conference. I also had the joy of attending a “Publisher Showcase” during every lunch period.
These Publisher Showcases were opportunities for me to really appreciate all the work that publishers put into preparing new editions of music for those of us who teach. Hal Leonard has some amazing new editions of Leonard Bernstein songs (Bernstein Theatre Songs in High, Low & Duets/Ensembles books and Bernstein Art Songs and Arias in High & Medium/Low keys) as well as a new complete edition of 65 Songs of Samuel Barber (in High and Medium/Low keys). The work and attention to detail evident in these new editions of composers we know and love was evident. Previously unpublished songs are included in each of these new editions. I was also introduced to the new Schirmer editions of the standard Italian Art Songs and Arias. The 28 Italian Songs and Arias now includes (in 5 keys, and for only $10/book without the recording) IPA & historical background of each song, in addition to a few songs that are unfamiliar from the traditional “yellow book” Schirmer edition.
Several other publishers were present, most notably, for me, was Graphite Publishing. This small company from Minneapolis has, I think, a winning formula of price, composer remuneration, and ability to print. Each single piece of music (of some really amazing contemporary pieces by “living composers”) costs $3.50 to purchase. Of this, 50% ($1.75) goes directly to the composer – this information is really helpful to me. I find that if I know how much a composer is going to make from a piece of music, I’m much more likely to purchase it. Also, and this is the best part, each purchase comes with the rights to print TWO copies of the music. One copy each for singer and pianist. This acknowledgement of the place of the pianist in a singer’s life is vital.
After experiencing all this amazing music, I returned to Arizona to be confirmed as the Valley of the Sun NATS Chapter President. As I was going through NATS documents, I found that NATS had, in 2008, codified a policy of use of copies in NATS events. In it, it is explicitly stated that “The use of photocopied music is prohibited at all NATS sponsored events, from the national to the chapter level.” My experience at the NATS Conference gave me new insight into the work that goes into editions of music, even of composers who are no longer among us. Their work is vital to the discovery of new literature.
This summer, the amazing Music Theater composer Jason Robert Brown posted several blogs about the nature of copyright, the composer and those who feel they have the “right” to pass along copies of music. These posts are “Fighting with Teenagers: A Copyright Story” and “The Copyright Sheriff Strikes Again.” His wife, the talented composer Georgia Stitt, also posted on this issue this summer, referencing her post last year “This Issue of Piracy,” and then “The Copyright Debate Continues” this summer.
All of these experiences have brought me to the realization that adherence to copyright rules (yes, it’s okay to work off of a single copy of a piece of music that you own – I do this all the time, as I write extensively in my score and want a “clean” score to be able to present to a pianist) is our job as teachers to pass on to our students. We get so excited when we run across the “perfect” piece of music for our students. I know that it’s MUCH easier to just say “I’ll copy it for you” so that the student can get to work on it right away.
With the advent of music downloads of many pieces of music, I will email the student the exact URL of the piece I want them to purchase (including any necessary key adjustments) in their lesson notes. I try to find collections of books that have more than 3 pieces that they will be able to sing in the near future (at a standard MusicNotes download price of $5.25 to $5.95 per piece, a $15 book of collections without the CD accompaniment versions is quickly “paid for” with this 3+ rule). The more collections of this type are purchased, the more often they will be put together by publishers. This request to purchase takes more thought and consideration. It’s also an additional step that the student must take.
As teachers, we MUST instill respect for the score into our student. If we don’t do it, no one else will. There is some fabulous music being written out there, at all levels of difficulty. Let’s support the composers who write it and the publishers who bring us fabulous new editions with more insight and information (historical, linguistic, additional resources). Without our teaching the students, they will not learn how important purchasing original music is in the creation of new musical resources in our lives.
What do YOU think about this? How do you deal with music in your studio? Do you purchase music for your students? How do you handle the cost of the music? What happens when your students don’t purchase the music for weeks on end? How important is this issue in the continuation of the music industry?