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FAQs about Commissioning Music

A gala celebration for a sculpture gallery...

A kickoff for a new high school music festival....

A symphonic overture to greet the millennium...

The 25th anniversary of a summer strings institute...

The installation of a new minister at a Baptist church...

A baptism song for a special child (what child isn't?).....

A 90th birthday observance for a world-famous artist....

A graduation of a young man going off to teach in China.....

Special music for a cathedral choir to take on a European tour....

A piece with unique instrumentation or to work with a specific musician...        


If you’re reading this, it may be because you're wondering how one commissions a piece.   

It needn’t be stressful.  In fact, for most people, it ends up being an enjoyable, exciting adventure.  True, it is unfamiliar territory, but I’ll help you get the information you need to make your decision.

Premiere of "A Force For Good" inspired by Grace A. Dow, philanthropist.

Midland (MI) Community Orchestra, Gina Provenzano, Music Director May 2019

How do we get started commissioning a piece of music?


You want to present something musically unique for your event or ensemble. You contact me by email or phone, and we brainstorm.

Ideas will emerge that are meaningful to both of us, and we start down the path of developing a creative plan that will meet your needs. 

We discuss a timeline, performer(s), duration, level of difficulty, your audience, and your budget. 

Based on our conversation, I can make an estimate of the fee right then for you to take into consideration.


What does it cost to commission a piece?

Fees are based on a combination of three elements: Complexity, Finished Minute, and Part Preparation.


Complexity:  This refers to the number of instruments involved. There are three fee tiers:

          Solo instrument or voice with piano accompaniment, or solo piano, harp, organ or handbells.

          Chamber music, which includes several instruments and/or voice and involves up to 7-8 staves

          Large ensemble such as band, chorus or orchestra, or a combination of those.


Finished Minute: the length of your piece.  It’s “finished” when any tweaks required are complete and the piece meets with your approval.


Part Preparation:  I write in score format, so each part must be extracted from the score.  This fee is the per-part, per-movement charge which reflects the time and care spent to make each part readable, clean, accurate and easy to use. Think of it as the magic that creates the actual page of music that goes on each player’s stand. In a solo or small ensemble piece, the number of parts is low, so the fee is low.  But consider a four movement symphonic band piece with 29 separate instruments.  Part extraction will require significant time and attention, and the fee will reflect that.  

Your total fee estimate:  (Complexity X Length in minutes) + Part Preparation [number of parts X movements] = Estimated Total

The final fee will not be a surprise. We discuss all the elements of your piece at the beginning to develop a close estimate of your cost.  Payment is expected within 30 days of delivery of the finished piece.


How would my group find the funding?

Depending on your organization and its resources, you may have already budgeted ahead.  Others write specific grants from sources such as community foundations or instrumental associations that are committed to funding the creation of new repertoire. Some groups gather contributions from interested individuals, hold fundraising activities, start a crowdfunding appeal, or simply pay for it themselves.


How long does it take you to create a piece after the project is a "go"?

For a large work, it may be a year from our first conversation to the premiere. Often it takes less time than that.  However, there are usually other works in progress, and yours will "get in line".  Once the nature of your piece is decided, the quest begins for the thematic thread.  It might be poetry or art that has meaning for you, history, location, personality, qualities you want the music to have, or a specific intent you hope the music will express. This quest takes the most time, and is the most fun.  It involves my musical and personal investment in your piece, which includes much, much thought. I research books, the Internet, and expert sources if the piece is based upon material that demands study. I gather information and ideas from you to develop your piece in its structures, forms and themes. Then, it all goes in the pot and simmers a while. Actual writing can often take less than a month.  Editing and tidying up take another month or so.  Once I'm as close to done as possible, you'll get PDFs and sound files for any revision needs.  I make final adjustments, create a hard copy and send it to you.

You're a pianist.  How do you write for instruments you don't play?

You know how you want to sound, and I try to give you that sound. In our initial conversation I’ll be asking about your range, favorite note, special techniques, pitfalls to avoid.  I've been an accompanist for instrumentalists, vocalists and choirs, a chamber musician, handbell director and orchestral pianist in many types of ensembles for decades, so I have a broad general knowledge of each instrument's capabilities.  I've been known to follow musicians around for a series of concerts to hear their ensemble's particular characteristics.  You might send me samples of your own playing.  I consult with you, and other fine musicians to make sure your piece is technically idiomatic. 


What is your style?

Neo-romantic best describes my melodic, tonal and descriptive approach.  I try to make a new statement with more traditional use of harmony and melody, using ethnic, world and varied contemporary music flavors. Inspiration has come from sculpture, painting, literature, American legends, Celtic myths, Biblical subjects, Renaissance motets, individual people, dance forms, roses, children, lakes, constellations, Tlingit totems, mountains, planets and even dogs, to name just a few. My philosophy of writing is to please the performers, to give them music they feel challenged to play beautifully, that expresses their personality and performance style. I believe that if performers enjoy playing the music, listeners will receive the deeper message. Passionate, humorous, gorgeous, exciting, even cinematic, are all words that have been used to describe my works. 

How can I hear some of your music?

There are a number of musical samples on my home page, and hundreds of recordings of my music on YouTube.  Enter a specific title, or just my name, and pages of performances, both wonderful and not so wonderful, can be heard.  If there’s something you’d like to hear that you can’t find online, contact me and I can send you an mp3 file, in most cases.

What if we don't like the piece after the work is done?

So far, that has never happened.  People who commission a work have a good idea of the type of music they want and choose their composer based on their style. If you listen to some of the works available at this site or on YouTube, you will know if my style suits you. During the development process we keep in touch as ideas take shape. Once writing actually begins, we're in close communication. I never let a piece go until I absolutely love it. And if I love it, and if you love other pieces by me that you've already heard, chances are you will be pleased with your finished piece.

Who owns the rights to the music after it's written?

I do. The composer retains rights, and holds the copyright. That means that if I choose to submit a piece to a publisher, or if it is professionally recorded, the contracts and royalties accrue to me.

 What about making recordings, CDs, posting our performances on the Internet, etc?

It's in both of our interests to get your piece heard. We can work together on any projects that involve future performances or recordings of your pieces for public distribution.

Can I obtain some of the music you've already written to program on a performance?


Click on "Shop" above to purchase many of my pieces directly from the on-line store.

Click on the sub-heading menu item "McMichael Works Published by Others" to see music published by other publishers and the links to my page in their catalogs.

Contact me by e-mail through this site, or phone (989) 798-4461 and I can direct you to the best source for the piece you'd like to have.

I'd like to talk to you about writing a piece for me. How do I get in touch?

Contact me by e-mail at this site, or phone (989) 798-4461.  I'm looking forward to hearing from you.

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