Directory Update #2

This blog is a part of The Directory of Contemporary Musical Theatre Writers, found online at www.contemporarymusicaltheatre.com
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Please excuse my absence! I’ve been finishing up my semester at Marymount Manhattan College and catching up on all the submissions I’ve received for the directory. The number of writers and songs included in it has grown considerably since I extended the submission deadline to April 15. I am elated to announce the directory now highlights the work of about 145 writers, including over 350 songs!

With this vastly increased volume comes a lot more work. I’m almost done listening to the submitted songs, taking copious notes on each one. It’s very important to me that every piece is properly vetted to be part of this directory. It’s also imperative that I honor the work of each writer. They have entrusted their songs to me. The least I can do is give them the respect of listening to them and contact each submitting writer with specific thoughts on their work.

I would say about 95% of the submitted songs are responsibly written for the voice. I hope you find that as exciting as I do. Many of these writers are also performers in their own right and are, therefore, fully aware of the possibilities and limitations of the human voice. Even the more contemporary or pop/rock-influenced songs don’t require singers to belt unnecessarily high (though sometimes the singer does in the submitted recordings). I’ve been careful to review each song based on the merits of the score, not the recording.

I’m also happy to report that 85% of the submitted songs are well-written, and I’ve flagged over a quarter of these for highlighting superior craft. Of course, I take into account the fact that my own personal tastes will not match every teacher or performer who utilizes the directory. I have done my best to showcase a wide variety of talent while making sure the directory will be seen as a high-quality resource.

As I expected, there are writers and song submissions I don’t feel are appropriate for this directory. It’s a very difficult situation because, in creating this document, I have put myself in the position of making value judgments on other writer’s work. While I am confident I’ve been fair in my assessments, I need to put into place a system of checks and balances to ensure each writer (and song) gets a fair hearing.

For this reason, I am putting together a small panel of artists, including a writer, voice teacher and director to blindly review material.  As I previously mentioned, the writer’s work will never be distributed.  To foster impartiality, none of the professionals selected for the panel are submitting writers to the directory.  If the reigning decision by the panel is that the work is not suitable, I will feel more confident in letting the writers know I have done due diligence in considering their work.

Happily, this is the exception. Perhaps my biggest challenge is limiting my initial roster of fantastic song submissions to produce a concise Top 25 Songs list, which will be a take-away for teachers at the NATS Conference and the subject of several blog posts this summer. There are at least 80 songs that are contenders for this special honor. I will likewise have my panel of artists blindly review these and make recommendations.

I hope to finish listening to all the submitted songs in the next couple days so I can begin putting together the actual directory. I have a format I’m pretty fond of, and I hope the work will go quickly once I begin copying and pasting the writer’s information into the document.

The most challenging part will be cross-referencing writers.  For those who are working with multiple artists, I will need to create a page for each of their collaborators and cross-reference their work in the directory.  I know how I want this to look on the page, but God only knows what will happen when logistics come into play!

The other time-consuming part of this directory will be the index.  I hope to create an index of songs by voice type, genre (comedic up-tempos, ballads) and a number of other helpful categories that will make the directory easy to use.  The list of musicals from 2000-2012 Lorene Phillips and I released in our last post will also be included in an interactive format Lorene designed.

It also dawned on me that, once I have all this information in place, I can then fold in links to any YouTube clips or online sound files the writers would like to supply.  This will make the directory even more convenient because the viewer will be able to click on the title of the song and immediately hear the work.

As you can see, there are so many facets to this directory, which is why I’m thrilled to be working on it.  Now that I’m almost done listening to the 350 submitted songs, it’s time to make some tough decisions about what writers and songs to highlight and jump into the tedious work of creating the directory.

I have a little less than two months before the conference.  It’s doable.  I can always sleep in July!

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Visit www.contemporarymusicaltheatre.com for more information on over 180 contemporary musical theatre writers and 550+ songs, all searchable by voice and song type.

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