Commissioned Composer Guidelines


MTNA is dedicated to encouraging the creation of new works by American composers and annually assists its affiliated State Associations with the generation and performance of new music through the national Composer Commissioning program. A newly commissioned work receives its premiere performance at the convention of the State MTA responsible for that commission.

To further promote and recognize outstanding contributions to American music, MTNA annually has its State Affiliates submit their commissioned works to a panel of recognized composers for selection of the MTNA Distinguished Composer of the Year. The new work of the selected composer is presented in a concert performance at the next MTNA National Conference, and the composer is proclaimed the MTNA Distinguished Composer of the Year. The selected composer also receives a check for $5,000.

Definition of a Commission

A commission is a formal, written agreement between two or more parties authorizing the performance of a certain task-that is, the act of entrusting, of placing confidence in someone to carry out a task that person has been authorized to do. In terms of the MTNA Composer Commissioning program, a commission is for the successful creation of a new musical work, for which the commissioning State MTA will pay a commission fee, including MTNA's matching funds up to $750. A commission is not a prize for an extant composition; rather, it is meaningful encouragement for a recognized composer to create a new musical work after formal agreement is reached.

General Considerations

MTNA makes no stipulations regarding composer choice, performance medium, composition length or compositional style. These decisions are left to each state association and its commissioned composer.

However, three practical considerations are worth noting:

  • First, the new work by the selected MTNA Distinguished Composer of the Year is presented in a concert performance during the next MTNA National Conference. The total time allotted for this, including recognition of the composer and presentation of the award, is twenty (20) minutes. When the length of the composition exceeds this amount of time, a representative portion of it may be presented.
  • Second, the selected composer is responsible for providing the performer(s) for the presentation of the new work at the National Conference. MTNA provides no honorarium to defray expenses for this performance.
  • Third, a composer entering a contractual agreement for commission of a new work will have his/her labeled score and audio recording deposited in the MTNA Archives at the University of Cincinnati Libraries and accepts the fact that the scores and recordings will not be returned. This is intended to encourage other performances of a commissioned work by making the score available for study and interlibrary loan. In an effort to protect the rights of the composer, the staff at MTNA National Headquarters affixes this notice to the score:

Important Notice
Reproduction of this score, in whole or part, by mechanical or handwritten means is prohibited. The composer holds all rights pertaining to the attached score, including performance rights. Permission to perform this work must be obtained from the composer. The Music Teachers National Association can assist with contacting the composer. Contact or call (888) 512-5278.

Suggestions for Conducting the Composer Commissioning Program at the State Level

Choosing a Composer

  • The State MTA President may appoint a commissioning chair to work with a committee to solicit and consider nominations.
  • Any member or local association may recommend composers for further consideration at the state level.
  • Each state should develop a procedure for selecting a commissioned composer. To be considered, a composer may be asked to submit scores, tapes, CDs and resume (or curriculum vitae) for review.
  • The State MTA board should approve the final selection.

Commissioning a Composer

Generally, commissioning is done one or more years in advance of the premiere performance. Some states allow two years. A minimum time of ten (10) months between commissioning a composer and the premiere performance at the state convention is recommended.

  • Additional money may be provided by the State MTA for extraction of parts.
  • The Internal Revenue Service requires that a Form 1099-MISC. (ellaneous) be issued to any person receiving more than $600 per year. Therefore, the State must issue this form to the Composer by year-end in the year of payment, as well as file a copy along with a 1096 Transmittal Form to the Internal Revenue Service. Forms can be obtained from any office supply store, as well as the Internal Revenue Service. The 1099-MISC. form must be issued to the composer by January 31 of the year following payment, and the 1096 form must be filed with the Internal Revenue Service by March 1 of the year following payment.

Presenting the Premiere Performance

Previously commissioned works may be performed along with the new work.

  • The commissioned work, the winning compositions of the State's MTA-MTNA Student Composition Competition, and a work by each of the judges of the student composition competition may be programmed together to make a distinctive convention session.
  • The commissioned work and compositions by members of the State MTA may be programmed together.
  • Funds are sometimes provided by the State MTA to aid the premiere performance at the state convention.

The continued success of the MTNA Composer Commissioning Program depends on constructive input from the state MTAs. Questions and/or suggestions should be directed to the National Composers Commissioning Chair, found on the Leadership page in every issue of American Music Teacher.