1. Write a ton of music. I write about ten pieces of music each year for student string orchestras. On top of that, I've been working on a new opera and some other minor projects, but my main focus is on string orchestra music. The goal is to produce a wide variety of music in different styles and at different ability levels, to give the selection committee as much choice as possible and to hopefully get more music selected.
2. Get organized. In mid-April I took all my newest scores and laid them out on my office floor, organized by grade level and tonality into nine categories. Sort of like this:
Major Key/Beginner Minor Key/Beginner Novelty/Beginner
Major Key/Intermediate Minor Key/Intermediate Novelty/Intermediate
Major Key/Advanced Minor Key/Advanced Novelty/Advanced
Usually, I have more than one piece in each category. This year I had two or sometimes three new pieces ready to fill each specific need.
3. Make some decisions. I selected what I thought was the best piece in each category and removed the others from the piles, leaving nine pieces. Then I looked again. This left me with two major-key pieces in a similar style and two Latin dances and two pieces that featured the same bowing technique. So I switched some things out and played around with the lineup. Again, the goal is to balance the portfolio as much as possible, to give the selection committee nine completely different and highly attractive options.
4. Look to the past. Finally, I decided which were the least-outstanding of the remaining pieces and replaced them with music from my back catalog – pieces that I'd previously submitted that weren't selected, but about which I still feel strongly. I tried to find two of those, but in order to maintain a good balance, I only entered one re-submission this year.
5. Pack it up. I decided on what order to present the final nine pieces, wrote out descriptions of each in a letter to my editor, burned a CD of Finale recordings, packed it all up, and mailed the letter, CD, and scores.
Now I wait. The selection committee meets sometime in June and I usually hear from them by late July, around my birthday. It's always a tense time, knowing that I've done my best and put a lot of work into the submissions, but realizing that there are a lot of factors that go into their final decision. I'm sure the folks at Alfred go through the same process, but with hundreds of submitted scores from dozens of composers, whereas I started the process with only about 20 pieces.
Until then, I can look forward to the roll-out of last year's selections. They're already available for sale at jwpepper.com and the recordings should be released soon!