Composition Submission Tracking

As it turns out, there are quite a few composition contests, calls for scores, conferences, and other opportunities available to composers each year. And, following the advice of Eric Whitacre, I try to submit things as often as I can. But I kept falling into this pattern:

  1. Find a contest.
  2. Prepare everything for the contest.
  3. Let the paperwork sit on my desk until deadline has passed.
  4. Repeat.

This obviously didn’t work that well for me. So at the beginning of this academic year, I decided to try something new. I thought, if I can somehow automate (or nearly automate) the contest submission process, then I’ll be spending less time sending off compositions (or rather, less time not sending off compositions) and more time composing. Or watching police procedurals. Or both! So I built HOE.


The Hammer Opportunity Engine or HOE is essentially a composer’s to-do list on steroids. It tracks composition opportunities, which pieces to send, whether the deadlines are postmark or receipt, and it prints the mailing and return address labels, all coded with QR codes. It plugs into Hammer’s composition database (which drives so new compositions are added automatically. And it basically reminds me incessantly when submissions are coming due.

While I’m sure I could go on about how HOE works, it’s probably more interesting to talk about what I’ve learned by using it. Here’s a list of things in no particular order:

  1. The system actually works. Since using HOE, I’ve won the Belvedere Chamber Music Festival Student Composers Competition (BCMFSCC?) and was selected to have Creatures from the Black Bassoon performed at ICMC2012. (which means travel to Memphis and Slovenia, both of which are famous for their barbecue. Or I might have made part of that up.)
  2. Anything looks more legit with a well-placed QR code and a logo.
  3. I’ve sent out ~40 submissions this year, rather than the 2-4 I usually send.
  4. A good chunk of contests don’t respond when they’ve picked winners, which means they sit in a “submitted” state until you search for them.
  5. Contest fees range from the free to the astronomical. The reasonable amount I pay is somewhere between the two.
  6. EasyChair is kind of a ridiculous service, though it seems to work.

So there it is. My programming geekiness meets my composerlyness.