A few weeks ago, I launched a new sheet music publishing company with wife and business partner Ina Dykstra. This is how it came to be, what it is, and what we will try to make of it in the near future.
If you don’t have time to read this, please just go to http://vistaheightsmusic.com where we have posted videos showcasing recordings and excerpts of the sheet music.
The project really began in 1975 when I graduated from the University of Alberta with a degree in classical music theory and composition. My main instrument is piano, and many of the pieces I was writing were for solo piano. My dream was to be published and hear performances of my works by other musicians.
Over the years, I found time in between paying musical jobs to write new pieces, and I filed them away hoping to accumulate enough good candidates for a book of original music to approach a publisher. This dream started to crash when I noticed that some of the music stores that specialized in sheet music went out of business. I was further discouraged to find out that all print media was in jeopardy, including books, magazines and newspapers. Digital media and the internet were providing for free what people used to shop in stores for. This evolution is still very much in play, and it was not encouraging to talk to the people who decided what to sell in stores. The message was that even the best sellers weren’t doing as well, and there was zero demand for new product. If it wasn’t famous, then there was no need for it.
Last June, I was having my daily morning walk, and I had a moment in which a number of ideas came to me all at once. Central to this, was that if I could convince Ina to join me in the pursuit of creating a series of piano music books, that the job would not only be done swiftly, but would benefit from her substantial creative talents and be exponentially more interesting. Over coffee, I presented the vision to her, and in a matter of days, she had created several piano pieces and we started to toss around titles for the books and ideas on how to put them together. By the end of August, we had enough music that we both liked organized in three volumes, and we talked to a local printer to get information on what the next steps would be.
It took another four months to come up with a business name, register it, hire a graphic artist, and refine the music to get it up to publication standards. About a month ago, we received our first printing of the books, and I set up a website for Vista Heights Music that showcases the works and allows customers to order books directly from us. We are talking to music stores about carrying the books, and have our next three books well under way. In the first week we sold 10% of our inventory, and we are just getting started, with one showcase to a group of piano teachers under our belt and half a dozen more planned for the near future.
But the real joys of this are the simplest of pleasures, those of creating and sharing. Our piano students are now playing the pieces, and this Sunday we are putting on a small concert where they will be giving first public performances of some of these works.
If you are a musician, I do hope you will check out our website. And if you are a composer, I hope that you find this account inspiring and helpful, so that you too will make the move into having your works made public and performed.