I am now closer than I have ever been to having my work considered by a real publisher. A couple weeks ago, I mailed a pile of manuscripts to ____ Publishing House, to the attention of their music department. Most of the pieces were organ preludes based on hymn tunes; a few were choral arrangements, and one was a completely original choral piece. Today I received a letter from _PH indicating that my pieces "will be entered into [their] review process in the order received," and that they "hope to have an answer by July 1st" (emphasis in the original).
That's progress, anyway. I've had little enough encouragement as a composer since my choral arranging prof told me, around 1995 or '96, "You should be doing this professionally." It was the same prof who, as conductor of a major regional choir, considered having his group sing one of my pieces before, ultimately, pulling it from his program. I had another choir perform and even record another piece of mine a few years later, but the director of that group rebuffed my other pieces written for his group, at first with hints that my music was too challenging, and eventually with a cutting remark about my credentials that effectively ended our correspondence.
A fellow pastor, who is also a fine musician, commissioned a choir piece off me but hasn't given me an opinion of the score I sent him, though he has said some of my organ works have decorated their services nicely. Another musical and pastoral colleague offered some very constructive criticism of one of my pieces, but judging by his lack of response to my subsequent sendings, he isn't interested in being my long-term adviser. A friend in the Symphony Chorus who has a church-musician gig read through some of my pieces and remarked only that they were "interesting" and that his church doesn't go for that kind of stuff. Two other guys I asked for feedback simply haven't had anything to say. And then there's my church choir, which has put up with my works because, as their director, I made them do so. Some of their feedback has been rather kind. At other times I have felt like I'm within inches of being fired.
So, while I haven't yet received a message saying, "You really have to stop," I'm not feeling borne up by a wave of support either. The motivation to compose comes to me sporadically. I can compose a piece very quickly, but I don't do it very often. The result, so far, is a very small body of work. But I believe that it could be bigger, if I hear that there is something worth publishing among the works I submitted. Sensing an interest in performing what I write could give me a reason to compose more and more.