One of the most rewarding education experiences for both students and music educators  is the opportunity to work directly with the composer as a clinician/conductor. As an active clinician, I have presented clinics and conducted honors bands worldwide.

There are 5 different types of clinics that I have been honored to present:

1) Honor Bands One of the most exciting and rewarding experiences for me professionally is to have the opportunity to conduct Honor Bands. For over 25 years, I have conducted clinic and honor bands at every level, from All-State to District/County bands, and at every level of development from Collegiate to Elementary/Middle school. 

Having the opportunity to prepare and perform a complete concert over a period of a few days with groups of talented young musicians is an extraordinary experience for all involved. As the composer, I will bring my talents as a conductor as well as my motivational skills to provide these students unforgettable musical experiences. 

Just one example was in 2007 when I had the privilege of conducting the Dixie Band camp on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas.  I had completed Purple Heart in June of 2007, written as an elegy for a former student that was killed in Iraq in 2005.  I decided to program the premier of the piece with the Dixie Band Camp honor band that summer.  Throughout our rehearsals, I was able to covey the emotion of the composition, giving the students insight into my compositional process.  I spoke frequently with them about Michael Cifuentes, whom the piece was written for, so that they would have an understanding of his energetic spirit (he was a tuba player).  On the evening of the performance, I asked for them to perform the piece with an inner spirit to bring alive the emotion of the composition.   I must say that I have never had such a moving experience as the premier.  This group of 60 very talented musicians played from the soul.  It was simply an unbelievable performance.  As I gave the final cut-off, there was not a dry eye in the ensemble or the audience, including myself.    That was a moment that everyone in attendance will always remember.

2) Guest Conducting Each year, I am asked to guest conduct my compositions with civic bands, collegiate/high school ensembles and performances of ensembles at state and national conferences.  These events are usually a one-day event in which the music is prepared in advance, and I make a one-day appearance to work with the group for a single rehearsal and conduct the piece on an evening concert.   This is good opportunity to work with the ensemble members for a short period without the expense of a commission work.

3) Commission premiers With the completion of the commissioning process, comes the premier of the piece.  I highly encourage the commissioning parties to utilize me as the conductor so I may share my thoughts and insights about the creation of the composition. As an incentive to have the conductor be part of the premier, I include this experience as part of the commission fee.   It is a wonderful opportunity for your students to work directly with the composer and be part of the world premier of a new piece of music.

4) Clinic presentations Over the years, I have given clinics/presentations on several different topics related to music composition and music education at state music conferences and collegiate masters programs. Recently, I have developed two new topics for clinic presentations:

Don’t blame me, I’m just the composer
This clinic presentation focuses on developing effective rehearsal techniques strategies for younger musicians.

It’s all Smoke and Mirrors
This presentation utilizes a clinic band and is a strategy for selecting the right music to make your younger musicians successful. 

5) In-service One of the most rewarding experiences for me as an educator is to spend several days in a school district, working with every level of instrumental musicians within the school system.   I will usually conduct rehearsals with several different ensembles, critique their performances and work with the directors on the preparation of contest or concert programs.  One aspect of the multi-day in-service clinic is the opportunity to have the composer work with all instrumental musicians within the district.  Many of these in-service clinics will culminate with a district-wide concert.

For more information about commission works and personal appearances, contact David Shaffer at:

"A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their music on silence."