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The Kindness of Strangers

This is embarrassing on two levels.

First – I find myself once again trying conjure up an excuse for blogging soooo infrequently.  But it always boils down to the same thing: I get so wrapped up in composing, or editing what I’ve just composed, or demoing what I’ve just edited, or mixing what I’ve just demoed, or re-editing what I’ve just mixed, or building YouTube videos of what I’ve just mixed and re-edited, or creating Facebook posts about all of the above – that I can never find the time or the energy to blog about anything all that interesting. So, I just don’t. Blog, that is.

I hesitate to even look back to see when my last blog was posted, and I can do nothing now but offer Sheepish Apology #1. Consider me duly shamed.

But – as evidence that I have been productive (and not just piddling around), last month I released five new anthems – three for traditional choir, and two for contemporary choirs.  If you haven’t already, you really should check them out.

Plus, I’m in the midst of creating a new line of arrangements for the modern pop orchestra, which I hope to launch in the coming weeks. I hope you’ll be on the lookout for those.

Second – I’m more embarrassed because, while it’s not in my nature to plead for any sort of help, the current state of the music business has made every composer of sacred music into a version of Blanche Dubois, who must, to one degree or another, “depend upon the kindness of strangers.”  Well… strangers, plus family & friends, plus people who barely remember us from high school, and people who know our music but who don’t know us personally, along with our dental technicians, haircutters, the chatty cashier at HEB, and anybody who ever dares to ask, “So what is it exactly that you do?” (Such a loaded question to ask a composer.)

And the simple “kindness” we composers all seek (“Beg” would probably be a more accurate descriptor.) is that you would: 1) Listen to what we create, and 2) Tell others about it.  

“But that’s two kindnesses,” you might say. And you’d be right. But I’m begging, remember? So let’s not split hairs, okay?

If it helps, I know fully well that what I am asking is no small thing.  On the surface, it seems like a tiny enough favor: Listen to some nice music and tell your friends about it.  But in our busy, fractured days, it is a significant request to ask someone to bring their demand-ridden calendar to a screeching halt for even a few minutes to listen without interruption to new music.  But that is what it has come to – for sacred composers and arrangers of every stripe and style.  

Now, more than ever, we who write choral music depend more directly on the individual consumers of our work to do some genuine “hunting & gathering.”  If you want new music, you may well need to seek it out more proactively than ever before.  Publishers, who for years spoon-fed new music to consumers, have been dropping like flies. Those that remain have slashed budgets, and can no longer send out free goods by the truckload. 

Then there are those of us crazy enough to step out on our own.  Why did I choose to self-publish after four decades of successfully publishing with some of the largest music publishers in sacred music? That’s a story unto itself. For now, just know I never wanted to do it. I tried my best to avoid it, but in the end, it seemed the “least bad” choice to make.  

In the past several years, I’ve encountered more than a few people who assumed, because my name wasn’t appearing often among publishers’ new releases, that I was retired. Or dead, even. For the record, I’m neither.  In fact, I’m confident that the music I’ve written for my website in the last eight years, taken collectively, is the highest quality choral and orchestra music I’ve ever written.  But it doesn’t matter how good it is if people don’t know it exists. So, I need folks to 1) hear the music, and 2) tell others about it.  After that, I’m willing to let the chips fall where they may.  If people don’t like what they hear, there is nothing I can do about that. But if people never hear the music in the first place… Well, that’s why I’m writing this.

Obviously, I’d love for every choir and church orchestra director in America to be regular visitors to my site. But 99% of them don’t yet know the site exists. If you’re reading this, and you direct a choir or an orchestra – thank you, thank you, a million times – Thank you!  Now – please tell your colleagues about the site, and the music at the site. Don’t keep it a secret. If your choir has successfully sung one the new anthems at the site, let me know.  More importantly, let others know.  There is music here for traditional choirs, contemporary choirs, concert choirs, and orchestras.

And hey, if you’re wondering what to say, maybe something along the lines of, “Robert Sterling is a genius, and the music at is nothing short of amazing.” That’d be nice…  But put it in your own words, of course. 

If you’re a member of a choir or an orchestra, and you like something you’ve heard here —  Puhhhleeeeeeze — Tell your director about it. Over lunch. You buy. (I’d offer, but clearly, as a church music composer I can’t afford it.)

I really can’t ask (or beg) for more than this. And on behalf of every church music composer, please do the same for them as well.  Just start with me, is all.  (wink, wink…)

Thanks for reading. Even more thanks for listening to the music. Still more more thanks for telling somebody else about it.

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