David Zabriskie's Idea for Instantly Downloadable Sheet Music with a Label
Friends for Nearly Four Decades
I have known composer, David Zabriskie since we were undergraduates at Brigham Young University. My first memories of him were during fall semester of 1978, when we both studied music composition, listening to each other’s music on a weekly basis. Dave was composing and orchestrating an oratorio to be premiered by BYU Oratorio Choir (now BYU Singers) under the direction of Dr. Ronald Staheli. I was a little intimidated by Dave’s ability to take on such a huge project with such skill. I attended the premiere of his oratorio, “Joseph,” and stood in quiet awe of this guy who would eventually become one of my closest friends.
About 20 years ago Dave called me. I had no idea who it was. I answered the call, and without a “Hello” or any introduction from him at all, he said, “Okay, listen to this,” and he played the piano. I recognized the music. He exclaimed, “It’s brilliant! It’s stunning and I love everything about it,” he said in an animated voice. And then without breath’s hesitation he continued, “Now listen to this section,” and he played it and asked in a distressed voice, “What were you thinking?? It would be so much better if it were something like this…“ and he played what he thought was the better solution.
I knew I was listening to my music, but I still hadn’t quite figured out who I was talking—er uh—listening to.
“Who is this?” I asked politely.
After a cavernous silence came a hearty, gut-busting laugh that only Dave can produce, which finally gave him away to me. Our friendship, conversations, and fun have been similar ever since. But most importantly, he was right. I didn’t do a great job composing the contrasting section, and I had a friend who not only loved my music but was willing to tell me the truth. So we continued to tease, encourage, and speak honestly to each other, and now 38 years later, we remain allies and best friends.
Both of Us Have Been Commissioned to Compose Church Music
Dave composed the score for “Savior of the World,” commissioned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which performs twice a year at the Church’s conference center theater. I composed the music for Lee Tom Perry’s beautiful hymn text As Now We Take the Sacrament. (Lee is Elder L. Tom Perry’s son.) When I would see Elder Perry, he would invariably say, “I’ve never had so many wonderful compliments for a hymn I never wrote.” And we would both chuckle. Then he had the habit of following up with, “Are you still composing music?” Slightly intimidated I would answer, “Yes! I am!” His reply was usually the same, “Well, good. You’re supposed to! Otherwise you’d have to be accountable for not doing it!”
Dave and I were honored to be invited by the Church to contribute our music as gifts, and we’ve reaped rewards because of the experience and opportunity. But still, we’ve had to find other ways of making a living as composers.
Another Side of Being a Composer
For years Dave talked about starting a publishing company because he felt that composers should be better treated and represented. He also felt strongly that so many gifted composer friends and associates had musical treasures ready for eager, searching performers. The best part for customers would be that once their order is completed, they would be able print out purchased copies instantly. Though not a completely new idea, there is also the problem of how to make home printer copies legal. Dave's solution was to have labels sent after music is downloaded to be placed on each purchased copy, making it legal. No more guessing whether any printout of photocopy is illegal. The label, affixed to the printout, is evidence it's a legal copy.
"Holy Sheet Music!"
After some setbacks, frustrations, and transitions, Dave called me one morning out of the blue, in August 2013, and said, “I’ve got it!! I’ve got the name for the website!” Then, almost shouting into the phone he exclaimed, “Holy Sheet Music!” and roars with laughter. I burst out laughing, too. We both knew that no one would ever forget a name like that even if they wanted to!
By November of that year, Dave collected several noted composers along with many of their best pieces, and the website, HolySheetMusic.com launched. Slowly but surely it began to show up in searches with a few trickle orders the first year. But steady, encouraging growth continues as its buyers now reach into almost 18 foreign countries. Four dozen composers are represented with a catalog of over 300 pieces, growing daily.
Dave wants more than just religious music at his website. He wants the best music in all styles and genres, sacred and secular. Music for solo performers, choirs, duets, and other vocal ensembles, and instrumental solos and ensembles. What a great resource for music teachers, students, and performers of all kinds. Noted composers Janice Kapp Perry, Kurt Bestor, Dr. Ronald Staheli, violinist Kelly Parkinson, and world renown Christian composer, John Carter are included in the catalog, to name just a few.
Search by composer, title, topic, key word, or occasion to find your potential treasures. Then click on any music title to see the music, and listen to the entire piece. Key, range, and difficulty are noted, along with a complete description of the piece, which often includes history, interesting details, and words of the composer, arranger, or author.
“We thought we would just offer instant downloads of sheet music,” said Dave, “but as more people found us online from all over the world, we started receiving requests from buyers to include CDs, mp3 downloads, and even hard copy music and books. We have all of these products, and we are constantly assessing customer needs and requests, and working to fill them.”
Customer and Composer Satisfaction
Recently a customer couldn’t find a suitable piece of music for a special occasion, so she contacted Dave with her request. Dave immediately responded by calling her, since she included her phone number, shocked at how fast Dave responded.
“We have over four dozen, eager, talented composers who would love to compose a piece that would suit a customer’s needs,” Dave said, “so I told her that I would get in touch with a composer I had in mind and offer the invitation to write something especially for her. The results between customer and composer were delightful. It invited a new friendship, inspired new music, and created customer satisfaction above and beyond her expectations. HolySheetMusic.com is about creating value and service for everyone. That way, everyone wins.”
More by this Author
The Story of the Hymn, "As Now We Take the Sacrament" by Daniel Carter. Seven different versions of the hymn were rejected from the LDS Hymnbook, but finally the seventh was accepted.
Music video of beloved Christmas song by Daniel Carter and Sherri Otteson Bird. Story of how the song came to be. Sheet music available. Links included.
Diagrams and easy to follow text that will help musicians learn to read music whether as a singer or instrumentalist.
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