Junior Composers is a two-week intensive residential summer camp for young musicians age 14-20 held on the banks of the Mississippi River on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis. Randall was General Director 2003-2016 and continues as a faculty member and program advisor. During camp in July, he teaches daily composition lessons and two hours of music theory and ear training. Here is more information about the camp. In 2020, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Junior Composers pivoted its programs to become Composers Online Institute, a 100% online creative intensive for composers of any age. The big innovation was to focus the program around creating DAW (digital audio workstations) projects with professional performers and digital media.
As General Director, Randall shaped the "Junior Composers experience" by challenging students to master musical 1) literacy, 2) fluency, 3) self-expression, and 4) team-work. These four challenges define the experience for both the faculty and the students. Every student is expected to...
document their music with a legible score and audio recording.
Faculty are available to perform and read compositions. A special opportunity is offered to students to compose a work prior to camp for professional musicians (e.g. vocal ensemble, chamber ensemble or large ensemble) which is then given a reading on the first day of each week. Junior Composers holds songwriting and composing as equal forms of musicking. The cultural position that "high" and "low" art are different in nature and in form does not apply at Junior Composers. "Songwriting" faculty (Eric Radloff) are equal to "Composing" faculty (Sarah Miller, Seth Custer, and Randall Davidson). As a result, students have access to all of the faculty members as performers, teachers and coaches during camp.
Finally, there is a popular alumni gathering every summer after camp (EVERYEAR) that is equal parts chatauqua, TED talk, reunion party and happy hour. For more information about Junior Composers, you can check out their Facebook pages here and here (alumni only).
@ MacPhail Center for Music
Randall Davidson offers private composition instruction at MacPhail in downtown Minneapolis and also is on the faculty of the June "Comp Camp" directed by Dr. Sarah Miller and created for young musicians (age 8-17) interested in exploring music composition.
Randall served as a Managing Composer along with his colleagues Stephen Paulus, Libby Larsen and Monte Mason, from 1977-1988. He collaborated with them to design, launch and administer the Jerome Foundation's Composers Commissioning Program which continues to this day as the J-Fund Commissions. He edited the MCF's newsletter, kept membership records and published the Forum's directory for eleven years from 1977-1988. Along with his other co-managing composers, they hosted the 1984 Lyman Conference which was the first of its kind for composer service organization from around the country. More of the story to come...
The name for the ACF was the product of the fertile imagination of composer Stephen Paulus. At the time, we imagined that a logo might be a buffalo or some other image from nature that would evoke the Great Plains. At the time, there was already a number of important and historical composer service organizations operating in the U.S. Many of them are now memories but some are vital members of the wider community of inventive and creative music-makers: NAC/USA, American Composers Alliance, New Music America, the International Alliance for Women Composers, the International Society of Contemporary Music, New Music USA (formerly Meet the Composer), the Society of Composers, Inc, and the list continues to ebb and flow. Randall was one of the first presidents of the newly re-formed board. The web address (composersforum.org) would have belonged to the Composers Forum, Inc. which was based in New York City and lead by the remarkable force-of-nature, composer Bernadette Speach. The Composers Forum flourished in the interregnum between the World Wars and served the wider community with distinction from 1935-2002. But as is the case with so many corporate histories, not everything you can know from the internet tells the real history. And...y'know, Ozymandias. Again, more of the story will come...
The American Music Center was founded in 1939 but a group of composers trying to find some legitimacy for their music. At first, the idea was to house a number of scores at college music libraries and college book stores (mostly in New England) but eventually they were persuaded to create a "government sanctioned" nonprofit organization that would collect and promote music by American composers. Aaron Copland is often given credit for founding the AMC (as it was called) and the offices were established in Manhattan, home of so many of the publishers of serious concert music. Randall served as president for two terms and an additional year as the organization moved its collection of 65,000 scores to the New York Public Library. Before the paper scores were moved, the AMC was one of the first music organizations in the U.S. to place the data online. That database is maintained at this point by New Music USA (formerly Meet the Composer) but access to the scores is still possible at the NYPL Lincoln Center in Manhattan thanks in large part to the influence of Ms Jean Bowen (Bloch), chief of the music division at the NYPL. Much of its operations, funding and programs were divided up in 2011 between the American Composers Forum (all of the members of the AMC became members of the ACR) and Meet the Composer which became New Music USA. But there is more to this story, too.