Keeping it fresh! Renewing the mind, body and spirit!

Filed under:Advice and Tips,Announcements — posted by admin on June 1, 2009 @ 10:38 am


One of the biggest concerns I hear from other composers is “I have such a hard time finding the time to compose. I have to work a regular job and seem to run out of hours in the day.”

With the exception of those fortunate few who have the privilege of composing full-time, most of us are in the same boat. We all have to pay the bills by often working a job that isn’t directly related to our love of writing music.

Finding time to write is a challenge for many of us. We all have the same twenty-four hours in the day, but how we use that twenty-four hours is drastically different from one person to the next.

I’d like to say there is some magic formula to add a couple of extra hours in the day, but I’d be lying if I did. The reality of it is it comes down to certain choices. We need to set priorities and spend our time doing the things we truly value. It really defines who we are. Aristotle said, “We are what we repeatedly do.” If we want to “be” a composer, we need to compose. The problem is, we don’t always feel energized and consequently we are not always fruitful in our compositional endeavors.

We can’t add hours to the day, but we can renew our mind, body and spirit. We can make choices that help us to be refreshed and ready to create.

  1. Try to compose at a regular time. If you work 8-5, there are only a few choices. Can you find an uninterrupted 1 or 2 hours?
  2. Make a realistic plan. Don’t set yourself for failure by saying, “I’m going to get up and compose from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m., jog from 5 a.m. –5:30 a.m., eat, shower and go to work, pick the kids up from school, write again from 9-11 p.m. and then get up and do it all over again. Make a realistic and doable plan.
  3. Be willing to adjust as you go. Life has a certain ebb and flow. Realize that if you run into a conflict, you may need to adjust your schedule to accommodate life. Maybe you have to move your time for a few days from the morning to the evening or to a Saturday morning. Go with the flow. Just avoid putting it off altogether. An adjustment here and there is just fine.
  4. Understand that you CAN’T do it all. If you try, you’ll get your life turned upside down emotionally, physically, spiritually, professionally and musically. For myself, if I have a deadline, I give up the non-essentials for a while. For instance, I may give up television for a week or two, sometimes longer, in order to free up another half hour in the day.
  5. Be sure that you don’t run yourself ragged. Sleep well and sleep regularly. The value of sleep is underappreciated. You can keep yourself going for a time with coffee and Red Bull, but eventually you are going to crash, AND CRASH HARD! At that point, you will become completely unproductive and end up wasting a week or two recovering or, worse, become ill. It’s very much akin to giving up candy for Lent and then gorging yourself for the 50 days following Easter until you weigh 60 pounds more than when you started.
  6. Find balance in your schedule. Do things that make you feel good in the long run. Rest, recreate, eat well, sleep well, compose, etc . . . If you sit in front of the TV or Playstation for 2-3 hours every night for 6 months, you will start to think only about TV and the Playstation. Trust me! I know this from personal experience. You probably will be able to compose odd unimaginative ostinati that sound strangely familiar to you favorite television theme or game, but in other aspects of composing you will be lacking. Ultimately, you have to make the choice of what is important to you.
  7. Get out of the house or apartment. Find a green space. Walk! Really examine the world around you. Read a book outside. Enjoy a 7-Up or sparkling water in the park. Breathe and take it all in! Remember garbage in = garbage out. Fill your body, mind and spirit with good things. The mind/body/spirit connection affects “the Muse.”  Nurture all three!

Most of the time we can’t “find” time to compose because we are “exhausted” from our daily schedule. We run ourselves ragged and by the end of the day all we want to do is crash in front of the TV and eat Cheetoes. By regulating one’s life, we create new pockets of energy in our day and, if you choose, develop new priorities.

Take care of your mind, body and spirit. Feed your mind with knowledge, wisdom and challenges. Nurture your body with rest, exercise and healthy eating. Renew your spirit through, meditation, quiet time or prayer. You will find that by taking care of yourself, you undoubtedly will desire to do things that are creative and artistic.

Good luck in your renewal and in your writing!

Attention Composers!

Filed under:Announcements — posted by admin on June 12, 2008 @ 12:26 am

If you would like to be a contributing author on THE COMPOSERS NOTEBOOK blog, contact Nolan Schmit at:

Any topic relating to composing music or songwriting is welcomed!


Episode 11-Chapter 6-My Motivic Makeover: Manipulation and Modification

Filed under:Announcements — posted by admin on May 23, 2008 @ 1:29 pm

Want some advice on ways of varying your cells, motives and melodies? Listen to Episode 11 of THE COMPOSERS NOTEBOOK podcast. In this episode, Nolan discusses expectancy in music and methods of varying motives by using the following techniques:





•Meter changes

•Rhythmic changes

•Pitch substitution

and the importance that the choice of keys and tempi has on the character of a composition.

UPDATE: As of 4/20/15 the audio podcasts are currently offline. Stay tuned for their return.

The Nebraska Composers Alliance

Filed under:Announcements — posted by admin on May 20, 2008 @ 11:01 pm

The new Nebraska Composers Alliance web site is up and running! From this web site, you will be able to make connections with Nebraska Composers, learn about commissioning a piece of music, and connect to resources for integrating composition into school music programs.

Check it out at:

Television Interview

Filed under:Announcements — posted by admin on May 16, 2008 @ 10:17 am

Hey friends!

Here’s the interview I did with NTV from this past Wednesday. We discuss my new work for brass quintet called, “PRISM: The Dance of Light.”

Check it out here:

Podcast: Dr. Timothy Mahr

Filed under:Announcements,Podcast — posted by admin on @ 10:07 am

What’s next on The Composers Notebook podcast? Look for the interview with Dr. Timothy Mahr that is posted at THE COMPOSERS NOTEBOOK podcast page. Dr. Mahr is an internationally respected composer and is a professor of music at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, where he is the Conductor of the St. Olaf Band and teaches courses in composition, conducting and music education.


You’ll find the podcast here:

UPDATE: As of 4/20/15 the audio podcasts are currently offline. Stay tuned for their return.

American Dances, The Nebraska Brass in Concert

Filed under:Announcements,Events — posted by admin on May 9, 2008 @ 10:07 am

Join the Nebraska Brass for “American Dances,” the finalé of its 2007-2008

season, “American Premieres.”  At this final concert, the Nebraska Brass will

feature the world premiere of Lincoln composer, Nolan E. Schmit’s new work

for brass quintet, “PRISM:  The Dance of Light.”   This piece is dedicated to

the memory of late UNL Professor Emeritus Robert M. Beadell, Nolan

Schmit’s first composition professor during his undergraduate career at the

University of Nebraska.

Thursday, May 29, 2008 • 7:30 p.m.

First United Methodist Church

614 Hastings Avenue

Hastings, Nebraska


Friday, May 30, 2008 • 7:30 p.m.

First Unitarian Church

3114 Harney Street

Omaha, Nebraska


Sunday, June 1, 2008 • 3:00 p.m.

First Presbyterian Church

840 South 17th Street

Lincoln, NE


Omaha/Lincoln: Adults $15  _  Seniors $12      

Hastings: Adults $12  _  Seniors $10 

Children and Students are FREE

Tickets available at the door or in advance by calling (402)-477-7899.

Welcome to The Composers Notebook blog!

Filed under:Announcements — posted by admin on May 8, 2008 @ 7:31 am

I decided that having a blog was the way to go! Finally I can update the site more frequently and let you know what’s going on!

I’m really excited to begin and will begin posting soon!

Check back frequently for updates.