This interview originally appeared in the May 2013 New York Flute Club Newsletter. © 2013 by The New York Flute Club, Inc.
If the morning is about getting ideas out of Katherine’s head and onto paper, the afternoon is about getting her music out of her apartment and onto music stands everywhere…
ZL: So, you’ve composed until you’re done for the day, then what?
KH: Well, I head for the computer: there are always things to answer, like somebody wants a lesson on Kokopeli, and that has to be scheduled. I go to the post office a reasonable amount. I’m very, very lucky that Papagena Press has been enough of a success that about five years ago Theodore Presser came to me and asked to be my distributor, and offered me a very nice deal. So I have to get stuff off to them, from time to time, and then there are a ton of other things, a lot of inquiries. So in the afternoon I handle things like inquiries, and the business level of it.
ZL: Now that Presser is your distributor, what kind of work do you have to do for Papagena Press?
KH: Well, there’s a lot! Getting pieces ready, which includes editing, proofing (ugh!) and designing the publication. And you’ll notice, I do design, very carefully, every cover. First of all, it’s fun for me. And I think it makes a real difference.
ZL: And Papagena is just your works?
KH: I tried once, many years ago, to put out someone else’s work. And my name did not sell anyone else’s work. And it was a lot of effort! So I said, “No more.”
ZL: So your work is creating the product that Presser then reproduces and sells. You have to make it into a printable PDF or something for Presser?
KH: No, for the printer. I pay for all of that, which is the reason they made me such a good deal!
ZL: Oh, so you do literally everything except the distribution?
ZL: So if someone wants to buy your music, they order it through Presser, but basically what they are getting is a physical product that you, Katherine Hoover, have created. That’s very cool! Do you keep all of the music in stock, or did you, until it was distributed by Presser?
ZL: So before the days of Presser, if you ordered a piece of music from Katherine Hoover, it came directly from the hand of Katherine Hoover. Katherine Hoover took it to the post office, and mailed it to you. That’s freaking cool! [Both laugh.] I mean, it’s probably tiring for you, but it’s cool for the rest of us. “This stamp was licked by Katherine Hoover!” [More laughter.]
ZL: Would you say that having your own publishing company, having that control and that vehicle for your work to get out into the world, has been successful?
KH: Absolutely. It means two wonderful things: I really do have a say in where the page turns are, what it looks like, all of this…. And, the other one? It’s a big one: I can put out whatever the heck I please!
ZL: Is it financially successful?
KH: I make some money from it every year. I make enough that it helps.
ZL: So your afternoon is Papagena, inquiries, website maintenance, that sort of thing. And you do that for three hours, five hours, twelve hours, until you’re done?
KH: Well, two to three hours. Then if it’s Monday, as it is today, my son usually comes by for dinner.
Which brings us to…
KH: I have a house to run and a family to take care of and that takes time too, but the days are very different, sometimes you work two, three, four hours, sometimes you work seven or eight hours, and one day will follow the next and it won’t be the same at all. But basically it’s writing, then tending to Papagena takes the next big chunk, and then practicing. Practicing voice and flute.
ZL: So you do that at the end of the day?
KH: No, I do that after I write, when I’m still reasonably fresh.
ZL: So, to complete this “day in the life,” obviously you have a family life you maintain, and a personal life that you also maintain. You’re having dinner with your son. What are some of the other activities that might take up your personal time?
KH: Well, I just had a daughter-in-law and granddaughter here for 10 days from Vienna. And, this is New York, we like to go to things. We don’t get to half the things we’d like to go to! One reasons this has worked so well for both of us [Katherine and her husband, Richard Goodwin, who is a guidance counselor at a South Bronx high school] is that I knew when I married Richard that he had the passion about what he does that I have about what I do, and so we would respect that for each other. He knows music is central to my life and that I wouldn’t be me without it, and I know he would not be himself without what he does, and his kids.
ZL: Well, I think that’s really important. Both of your careers are so challenging, and require such an investment of your personality. It’s not like filling out forms at the bank all day! You have to be able to give each other that permission, at the very least, and support, hopefully at the best.
At this point, Richard himself interrupted the interview to add another answer to the question of her non-composing activities, by showing me some of Katherine’s pottery. In fact, it turned out I was drinking coffee out of one of her pieces, and that the two spend time together every week, working at a pottery studio. The coffee mug I was using was an exception in Katherine’s work:
KH: I was never terribly good at the wheel, so basically I’ve been making things lately for which there is absolutely no human use. And I’ve been enjoying the heck out of it!
RICHARD: She’s in her “Dali” period, I would say…
And so one day in the life of a composer flows, with writing, practicing, business and life, until it is time to start thinking about tomorrow’s writing session, when another day in the life of Katherine Hoover begins.