Sometimes I think composers — or perhaps people in general — don't see the big picture, particularly when it comes to generosity. I can count on one hand the number of times composers have recommended other composers for my ensemble, the American Modern Ensemble. This even includes teachers recommending students and colleagues recommending other colleagues. It does happen occasionally, of course, but mostly by older, more established composers who probably (and rightly) think they have nothing to lose.
Why is this?
Perhaps young composers feel like it's wasted energy promoting anyone else. Of course, I am not referring to composers running ensembles who promote others by default.
Being generous actually makes you appear confident, and people are more inclined to want to be nice to those who are generous.
So, as a composer, how can you be more generous?
Recommend a friend whose music you like to the director of an ensemble. Of course, you should do this carefully, and only when you truly believe in a piece or composer,and particularly if you know the director. It is very frustrating when someone recommends someone else's music and the recommender doesn't believe in his or her music, or shockingly, hasn't even listened to it. I can usually tell right away, and will then probably avoid that composer's music like the plague. Personally, I want recommendations from people that not only know my group and what it's about (and who have hopefully attended a few concerts), but also know the composer and his/her music they are recommending.
Invite composers—especially younger ones—to speak at your college's Composer's Forums. What I mean by younger is not composers who are currently students, but the ones who have been out in the real world for less than ten years. I think that students would want to know how a composer fresh out of college views the world. Even if you cannot pay a speaking fee, younger composers will be grateful to have an opportunity to connect with college age musicians, particularly at institutions they are not affiliated with. If you can persuade one of your school's ensembles to program a piece by the young composer in question, all the better.
Take a minute to go online and write a nice comment or give a nice review on Amazon or iTunes or any other site for a composer's album. This may not directly help a composer financially, but even if one customer purchases a CD of a composer's music because of your recommendation, that's one more fan.
If you have any money to spare—I know most of us don't, after all, we're composers—consider making a donation to a favorite group whose concerts you attend. Often, even a small amount is appreciated, but even if you can spare $100 once a year for one group, that will make a small but significant difference to any ensemble's operating budget.
When you attend a new music concert, bring a friend, and hopefully one who is not a musician. All ensembles appreciate having their audiences expanded, and if everyone in the audience brought even one friend, the audience would be twice as large.
Of course, I am just scratching the surface; there are many other ways to be generous. The key is to remember that we're all in this together, and that it's never to late to lend a helping hand and say something nice about someone else.