Innovating Through Artistry

Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Seed Grants to Student Arts Entrepreneurs

In Art, Author: Linda Essig, Creative Support, Creativity and Innovation, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Music, Networking, The Idea, Theater/Film on November 13, 2009 at 1:40 am

Last week, I got to do the thing that I enjoy most in my job (I also got to do some things I enjoy least, but discussing those would be digressive). My colleagues and I made six seed grants to student arts entrepreneurs. If I ever feel down and out about the future, I can go back and read the 24 letters of intent and 8 full submissions to our p.a.v.e. program in arts entrepreneurship we received this October. Reading through these proposals makes me feel that the arts are relevant, vibrant, vital, and sustainable.

Students have some of the coolest ideas. With their permission, I’m sharing some information about the six awardees with you all. Yes, it’s a little bit of bragging, but it’s also sharing some of the interesting ideas that we’ll be mentoring and supporting in the months to come. (And, yes, there were a few proposals that just made you roll your eyes, but those were very few.) A lot of proposals were for projects that could be termed “social entrepreneurship” as much as “arts entrepreneurship,” a combination I find both interesting and hopeful.
With that, I bring you the Fall 2009 p.a.v.e. awardees:
join cast clipartJoin and Cast Ventures: Two Art (Intermedia) students, Jennifer C. and Catherine A., are producing a field guide to the downtown Phoenix arts scene that is itself a work of art.
radio healer clipart copyRadio Healer: Led by Arts, Media Engineering (AME) graduate student Christopher M., Radio Healer presents mediated performances that foster intercultural dialogue in Native communities.
daht clipartDance and Health Together Awards: Led by undergraduate Dance major Mary P., the DaHT Awards is a combination of dance recognition award and fundraising enterprise benefiting the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

coop films clipartCo-op Film Productions – Film and Media Production/Marketing student Chelsea R. and her team are creating a support infrastructure for student collaboration across arts and design disciplines.
different from what clip artDifferent from What? Film Festival – AME graduate student Lisa T. in collaboration with Education student Federico W. is producing a film festival focused on films by, for, and about adults with disabilities.

scrath theory clipartScratch Theory – Filmmaking Practices major Chris G. and his collaborators are developing a software/hardware interface that will first notate and then play back via synthesizer DJ scratching.

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Contestant #3 Dr. Daniel Broniatowski

In Entrepreneurial Artist Contest Contestants, Music on November 10, 2009 at 7:35 pm

DanielBroniatowski2006_2Why be an artist? This is a fundamental question whose answer ultimately defines our creativity. The most honest and successful musicians will find their answers by looking inside themselves. The beauty of this question is that there are no wrong answers. Do we musicians wish to perform for the world? Or perhaps our focus is on a more limited, select group of people. It is with this mindset that I approach the future.

When I was six years old, my father took me to a violin shop. Some years later, I was told by my grandmother that this trip was inspired by a performance given by a medical resident at the beginning of a conference. Although my initial attitude to the violin was care-free, I always liked music as a child. I remember dancing around the living room to my mom’s piano playing. In fact, there are somewhat embarrassing home videos of me twirling around in circles to a recording of a march by John Philip Sousa.

Soon after the violin was purchased, my parents enrolled me in the Cleveland Institute of Music’s Suzuki Method program – a philosophy that encourages a nurturing approach to learning. Practicing was always encouraged through positive affirmation. The teachers instilled in me the joy of a job well done through stickers, candy, and other prizes. I will also never forget the “play-ins”, where scores of violinists would perform together for an audience of parents and friends, at least twice a year. It was this carrot and stick approach to practicing, coupled with the social aspect of making music together, that would eventually grow on me progressively, yet deliberately.

As I matured into my teenage years, I started to recognize that I had an ability to communicate that made me unique. Whether it was the joy people felt of watching a young violinist and his mother on the piano, or the power of the music I played, people were moved by my performances. Around the time I started applying to colleges I remember thinking “This is what I want to do. I want to move people and influence them positively through my music”. Looking back, I now realize that I wanted to inspire people the way I was inspired. Yet, I didn’t quite know how this was possible. Could the mere act of playing for an audience really create a long-lasting impression?

The short answer is “no”. My four years at the New England Conservatory in Boston were a wake-up call. I realized that although I was gifted, there are plenty of amazing musicians out there who were trying to “make it” purely as performers. We were trained to be soloists and orchestral musicians. We were also told, quite often, that despite our wonderful education, the field of music was horribly competitive and that the ideas that most of us had of how to “make it” were, unfortunately, outdated. I recall spending many nights and many discussions with my colleagues worrying about the future of classical music. Yet, I saw a glimmer of hope. In my last year, I started to teach a private student. Little did I know that this would develop into a passion, later on.

My next stage was a two year Masters program at the Royal College of Music in London. While the earlier pessimism about performing still remained, a voice inside me kept saying, “You’re not finished! You haven’t reached your full potential yet. Keep practicing and be a performer!” This was followed by an additional three years of concerts and coursework at Boston University in the Doctor of Musical Arts Program.

The Boston University program consisted of a rigorous curriculum of solo recitals, regular orchestral playing, chamber music, music theory, and music history. I came out of this program incredibly well rounded.

In tandem with my studies at BU, I also taught for two years at the Powers Music School – a small community-based institution that provides lessons for adults and children. Pivotally, I learned that I could communicate and inspire the way I had always wanted to, not only through performing, but through teaching as well. A further year of teaching in the public schools of Birmingham, England, helped me to confirm the fact that teaching is truly is a medium that enables me to transmit the life-long inspiration that I so longed to impart.

Back in Boston, I now find myself at a crucial juncture. I have just finished my doctorate degree and am teaching privately. I am also preparing to play private concerts in a few months. I am doing exactly what I want to do with my life. This is one of the most wonderful blessings one can ask for. Yet, I now need to create capital and use my talents in a way that is marketable.

It appears more and more likely that my dual-approach to performing and teaching will play a large role in my future. I am thinking very strongly about starting my own school one day. I want to teach all ages, as I have done, and I want to build an audience. I believe that directing my own school could allow me to inspire people, just as I have always wanted to do.

Yet, what I believe makes me unique is my unwavering conviction that music lessons have the ability to transcend the instrument. With the right faculty, a whole new approach to learning can be taught. As the pedagogue Shinichi Suzuki said, too many of us were “damaged by the wrong kind of education” . It is my belief that I have what it takes to find that crucial equilibrium between inspiration and discipline. The best teachers and mentors do not spoon-feed. Nor do they impose their ways. Rather, they empower individuals through a careful balancing act of praise and patient firmness. It is this “I can” attitude that creates the character traits necessary for success in any discipline.

written by Dr. Daniel Broniatowski.
www.musicteachersboston.com

Choosing the Perfect Grad School: Part 1

In Author: David Cutler, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Music on November 10, 2009 at 12:00 am

Choices

The process of choosing the perfect graduate school can be both exhilarating and scary, as you consider the next phase of your life.  But many artists approach this challenge with a faulty set of assumptions, while failing to explore the most important question. 

Assumption #1: Grad school is non-negotiable

In many fields within the arts world, there is a notion that advanced degrees are requisite.   It’s not even a debate.  That’s just what we do.  Master’s Degree, then Artist Diploma, and then in many cases, the Doctorate. 

Now, I’m not one to prescribe one path over another. If you decide to pursue advanced degrees, I wish you the best.  But before signing up, ask yourself why.  What’s your true motivation?

One student justified her rationale this way: She read a study showing that people with advanced degrees earned more than those with just an undergrad education.  However, while these statistics may be true as sweeping generalizations, we need to dig further. Do alumni from medical schools, law schools, and MBA programs tend to earn more than those with just undergrad instruction?  Definitely.  Can the same case be made for artists?  Probably not.  In fact, many artists with multiple advanced degrees can’t even land a job.  (Maybe it’s time to become a bit savvier…)

Others claim that advanced training is essential in order to have more time to improve their artistic skills.  Fair enough.  Arts school is a great place to do this.  But when you’re a better practicioner, in two or four or ten years, with all kinds of diplomas on your wall, then what?  Will these outstanding skills entitle you to professional success?  And if improved technique is your solitary goal, why not just take private lessons?

In my experience, here’s the number one reason arts students go to grad school: to postpone the inevitable.  To buy a few more years before they have to earn a living, start paying back student loans, and grapple with “grown-up” issues.  Music school may be challenging, but at least it’s familiar and safe.

There are all kinds of paths to a successful life, and not all require advanced degrees.  Be honest with yourself.  If your primary motivator for attending grad school is that you don’t know what else to do, and you’re too scared of the real world, seriously consider taking some time off.  Use that occasion to determine what you truly want from life, and architect a solid plan for getting there.

There are many wonderful reasons for enrolling in graduate programs in the arts.  Denial is not one of them.

Assumption #2: Only the people who go to the “best” schools will succeed

In the past, the very act of listing a famous school on your resume could open doors.  “Wow, she went to [Juilliard, Eastman, Yale, Indiana University, other prestigious school]!  She must be good!” 

But times and attitudes have changed.  Most people now realize that a wide variety of institutions are capable of providing quality educations, which is absolutely true.  They also understand that even the most famous schools have produced duds and incompetents. 

So instead of focusing solely on the “where,” employers and other opportunity providers are more interested in the kinds of experiences you’ve had.  Did you study abroad?  Tour?  Win the concerto competition? Make recordings?  Initiate an art exhibit? Intern with the ballet? Found a service organization?

Of course, you should still choose a great school.  But different environments are good for different things.  Make sure you know why the school you choose is outstanding, and take full advantage of it.  The best opportunities often lie beyond the obvious choices. 

Assumption #3: The most important aspect when choosing a grad school is your private instructor

Working closely with a strong and revered private mentor can be a wonderful process.  But (if you’re doing things right) many more aspects contribute to your educational success beyond private lessons.  These additional factors should be considered as well, and weighed heavily in your decision.

One of my music students is currently applying to doctoral schools.  As we discussed options, he kept focusing on the teachers at various institutions, as if that were the primary consideration.  But here’s the deal…He is already an astounding player.  There’s no gig in the world where observers would reflect, “You know, this guy just isn’t good enough.” 

But there are many other skills and experiences he desperately needs, and shortcomings that should be addressed: recording, touring, marketing, booking gigs, etc.  He doesn’t yet have a website, hasn’t commissioned much, and still needs to figure out his brand and what makes him different from the competition.  In my view, while a good private teacher would be nice for this student, it should be a pretty low priority item. 

Even if you still have to get your artistic chops together (as most of us do), many additional factors beyond the private teacher should be considered when researching graduate programs.

In Part 2 of this series, I will unveil the most important question to ask when looking at grad schools.

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Love music, but hate to starve? Hoping to achieve more success with your career? Visit www.SavvyMusician.com for a Resource Center with 1000+links, valuable articles, info on the most relevant music career book in print, and more.

The Let it “B” Girl Clarinetist

In Author: Lisa Canning, Creative Support, Creativity and Innovation, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Marketing, Music, The Idea on October 29, 2009 at 6:53 am

I just LOVE this You tube video featuring one of my clarinet customers, Christy Banks. I just LOVE her informal commentary– it makes the video– and makes me not only want to listen to HER but learn MORE about classical music because of her delivery.

CAEF: A**ess This!

In Author: Melissa Snoza, Authors, Creativity and Innovation, Current Events, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Music, Theater/Film, Writing on October 24, 2009 at 11:27 pm


Yesterday, I attended the second in a series of events presented by the Chicago Arts Educators Forum, an initiative started by Merissa Shunk and Nicole Losurdo and sponsored by CAPE. This community of teachers, teaching artists, and organizations explores common challenges and opportunities in arts education in the Chicago area.

This day of discussions and workshops centered around assessment, everyone’s favorite part of the process when designing an educational program or residency. Confronting the negativity that surrounds this process head-on, the organizers created a parking garage for frustrations (participants wrote their biggest challenges on sheets of paper taped to toy cars and “parked” them for the day) and an anonymous confessional that also served as the event’s video documentation.

Why so negative? Many artists and organizations view assessment as something they must do for their funders and for the public. So many of us have found ourselves daunted by the task of evaluating the same programs several different ways using the specific criteria presented by those who have provided support. It begins to feel like the process of assessment is about teaching to the test – making sure that the outcome fit the objectives set forth by the organization and its funders.

But what other purposes can this process serve? A question that became a lightbulb moment for many participants was: “Who is this assessment for?” Of course, we’re responsible to those who provide support, but the assessment and evaluation process is also meaningful tools for students, teachers, teaching artists, and organizations if done in a way that captures the depth of the work. In this way, we begin to connect our larger objectives and the activities that accomplish them to our assessment tools, rather than putting the cart before the horse by using a standardized method.

Another theme that resurfaced multiple times was the question of how to quantify social and emotional progress, or literacy and cognitive skills that become evident in work samples more clearly than in a multiple-choice test. In the case studies we examined, many organizations found themselves asking students to take pre- and post-residency surveys, asking questions like “Do you feel a personal connection to these characters” on a scale from 1-5. Often, the difference in responses wasn’t meaningful.

A great start to the answer of this question was presented in Dennie Palmer Wolf’s keynote presentation. She displayed pre- and post-residency work samples from the same student, showing the difference in the vocabulary and depth after working with the teaching artist. One could feasibly assign a number scale to these factors to chart progress, in addition to having the samples available for review. Or, she showed diaries of a day in the life of two students, one of which was participating in an arts program, with yellow highlights on the parts of the day where the student felt personally and deeply engaged. Having five of those moments instead of one is a measurable and meaningful effect of the influence this program has.

The day really helped me and the rest of our staff think much differently about how we assess, evaluate, measure, and document our work, and how connected those tools must be to our own objectives rather than a pre-designed template. The funny part is, making these tools authentic in this way will result in data that can then be pulled to highlight the factors a funder will want to see, while telling a richer story that will be meaningful to our organization, the students, teachers, parents, and schools we serve.

Melissa is the flutist and Executive Director of the Chicago-based Fifth House Ensemble. Like what you read here? For more music entrepreneurship tidbits, visit www.playingclosetothebridge.wordpress.com, brought to you by members of 5HE.

How Do You Find the Time?

In Author: David Cutler, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Music on October 20, 2009 at 5:51 pm

Practice that technique.  Work on craft. Draft grant proposal. Begin passion project. Be a good friend. Go to concerts. Take kids to the ballgame. Leave a legacy. Develop website. Improve skills. Read blogs. Market CD. Rewrite bio. Pay bills. Build brand. Meet spouse. Teach. Study. Network. Sleep. Think. Eat. Compose. Gig.

 AAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Who has time to do all this stuff?

hourglass_redBy our very nature, entrepreneurial artists always have too much to do, with an eruption of great ideas and initiatives in the pipeline.  Finding time to address everything can be tough.  As a result, many artists make little forward progress on important life goals year after year, despite the reality that they’re constantly frantic with work. If this scenario sounds familiar, here are some tips that can help:

 1)      Write it down.  Study after study have shown that people who write down their “to do list” have an exponentially greater chance of getting things done than those who don’t.

2)      Prioritize by urgency.  Rate each activity on your list in order of urgency.

3)      Prioritize by importance. In a separate column, rate each activity in order of importance as they relate to overall life goals. 

4)      Compare ratings.  In all likeliness, these two hierarchies look quite different.  “Urgent tasks” may be taking over, preventing progress on truly important aspirations.

5)      Re-prioritize.  Find ways to reduce the number of urgent-but-less-meaningful tasks.  And re-think your priorities—there should always be at least 1-2 life goals in your urgent column!

6)      Get more done: do less. Most of us have about 80 pressing things that need attention at every moment.  Yet when overwhelmed with demands, little noticeable progress in any aspect often results. Pick periods of your life to focus primarily on one or two major goals, rather than trying to do everything at once.

7)      Map your activities.  Many artists have no idea where all the time goes.  To find out, keep tabs on everything you do during an average month. Then analyze the results, and make changes as needed. You will be enlightened by the results.

8)      Identify and eliminate distractions.  It may only be 2 minutes here and 5 minutes there, but little diversions add up.  See what kinds of inefficiencies corrode your schedule, and exterminate or minimize them. Some common time wasters:

  • Checking e-mail constantly
  • Answering phone calls throughout the day (which also interrupts momentum)
  • Surfing the web
  • Watching TV
  • Drinking coffee
  • Chatting about nothing

9)      Schedule your schedule.   Compose a detailed plan showing how your minutes will be allocated throughout the week.  Then stick to it. Though this requires a time investment upfront, the efficiency that results makes the investment extraordinarily valuable.  

10)  Be specific.  Sure, you scheduled an hour for “personal marketing.” But what does that mean?  Work on web design?  Network?  Write a news release?  Clearly specify which objectives should be accomplished during each window.  This way you’ll know just what to do, and can clearly observe whether you made adequate progress.

11)  Get into routines.  Make your schedule as consistent as possible.  Habits save time.

12)  Don’t procrastinate.  When it’s time, just do it. Don’t permit excuses, distractions, or delays.

13)  Just say “no.”  There may be hoards of people asking you to help with this and work with that.  But if you don’t have time, politely decline the offer. Saying no doesn’t mean you’re a bad person!  They will understand. 

14)  Delegate and outsource. There are undoubtedly time consuming, non-specialized tasks in your life that others could help accomplish.  Farm it out.  Find a local high school student to help for a small fee.  Have your niece do the work in exchange for flute lessons. Do you know about virtual assistants?  These workers are available for hire to do just about any kind of clerical work imaginable. 

15)  Take a break. Nobody can work 24-7.  Most of us wind up taking breaks periodically throughout the day, and then feel guilty about them.  Instead, schedule breaks into the master plan, and enjoy every moment. Work when you work, and play when you play!

16)  There is never enough time; there is always enough time.  Life may always seem busy, but if something is important enough, there is a way to get it done.

Career Mentorship: The Lost Education

In Author: David Cutler, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Music on October 3, 2009 at 10:11 pm

Most of the artists I know are highly educated.  Many have multiple degrees in their field of expertise.  Along the way, they typically work closely with several mentors who move them forward in their journey towards artistic excellence: private teachers, classroom instructors conductors, etc. Obviously this form of apprenticeship is quite valuable. 

But most never even consider adopting a career mentor.  Without doing this, is it really such a wonder that we have so many outstanding artists who are unprepared to thrive when it comes to professional demands? Imagine how helpful this practice would be! 

In a class I’m teaching to musicians at Duquesne University called “Career Perspectives,” my students are required to identify and cultivate relations with two career mentors.  If you hope to become a working artist, or already are one but desire increased success, I highly recommend you do this as well. (In fact, I’m a huge advocate of the mentorship process for just about everyone on every level.) As a starting point, seek one mentor in each of the following categories:

  • Artist mentor.  An artist who has achieved success in an aspect of the industry that is part of your career profile.  For example, if you hope to work as a freelancer, find someone who does this now.
  • Entrepreneurial mentor.  An entrepreneur in the old fashion sense—someone who has started and runs a business. Serial entrepreneurs (people who have begun many businesses) are even better.  The best candidates often have little or no knowledge about music, so conversations can focus on business and philosophical concerns.

When identifying potential mentors, keep the following 7 points in mind:

  1. Don’t be shy. You’re not asking for a job or money or their child’s hand in marriage here. Just guidance.  Most people love to talk about themselves, and will be flattered by your offer. And what’s the worst thing that can happen? They turn you down or don’t respond to your request?  No biggie…So just ask and see what happens.  
  2. Find mentors you don’t currently know. Working with people you haven’t previously met has several advantages.  It not only expands your network, but gives you experience approaching someone new with a request.  This is a valuable transferrable skill that all musicians need from time to time, whether approaching a potential donor, presenter, contractor, or other new contact.  
  3. Look beyond the rich and famous. Sure, if you can make a connection with Wynton Marsalis, Steven Spielberg, or Donald Trump, go for it. But the rich and famous may be too busy to handle your request.  And the issues they face may be less pertinent to your situation than those of a mid-level artist.
  4. Geographical issues. The obvious advantage of having a local mentor is that you can meet in person, perhaps over lunch (on your dime!).  There is no better way to solidify relationships than face to face encounters. But even if your mentor lives far away, it is possible to have personal encounters over the phone, through video chatting, or other forms of communication. 
  5. Mustn’t be your mirror image. Just because you play the violin doesn’t mean your best mentor has to be another fiddler.  In fact, perhaps finding a saxophonist (or even a dancer) would be more helpful. They may be able to shed a valuable and contrasting perspective.
  6. Supplement weaknesses.  The best mentor is someone who has skills that you don’t. If you want to raise money, but haven’t fundraised before, find someone who has. If marketing terrifies you, locate a promotional wizard. The purpose of having a mentor is to grow.
  7. The mentor boomerang. You’re just asking for advice, no? But picking the right mentor often opens doors down the road.

 

 

Love music, but hate to starve? Hoping to achieve more success with your musical career? Visit www.SavvyMusician.com for a Resource Center with 1000+links, valuable articles, information about the most important music career book in print, and more.

How Arts Schools Prioritize Career Development

In Author: David Cutler, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Music on September 27, 2009 at 12:44 am

In my last post, I argued that prospective arts students should favor schools that actively prioritize career development and entrepreneurship.  After all, this shows a commitment to producing working artists, as opposed to simply outstanding ones (who are likely unprepared to deal with professional realities of the 21st Century).  Even if you ultimately decide on a career path outside of your area of study, these kinds of experiences can truly help you succeed.

In this article, we’ll look at wonderful career development initiatives currently in place in some forward-thinking institutions. Obviously, the more a school does on this front, the more commitment to professional success they demonstrate. Most of my research comes from looking at music schools, but outstanding programs in other areas of the arts have taken equivalent steps. 

I have no interest in advocating or discounting any particular school here. (If anything, I hope this post provides inspiration to programs currently falling short.) For this reason, university names are not listed below.

Please note: the phrases arts business and arts administration denote something different than what is addressed here.  Typically, arts business programs focus on preparing students to work with for-profit companies such as the recording industry. Arts administration majors learn about the non-profit sector. Contrastingly in this article, I’m more concerned with the development of performers, composers, dancers, actors, visual artists, private teachers, and other largely self-employed individuals.

CENTERS

Some schools host music/arts centers that provide a number of valuable services. They help students get gigs, learn about opportunities, prepare marketing materials, set up outreach activities, etc.  These centers have names like:

  • Music Career Center
  • Entrepreneurship Center for Music
  • Institute for Music Leadership
  • Institute for Leadership & Engagement in Music
  • Arts Incubator
  • Arts Enterprise
  • Camerata (named after the 16th century Florentine Camerata, which brought together artists, patrons, and students to foster innovation in the arts)
  • Center for Engagement and Outreach
  • Community Engagement Program

CAREER COUNSELORS

Some schools have part- or full-time arts career counselors on staff, available to meet one on one with students.  In other cases, universities hire career specialists who work with students from all majors across the university.  While these employees can be helpful for general issues (resumes, traditional job interviews, etc.), someone who is not an artist will likely be unprepared to address the nitty-gritty and specific concerns of the arts industries. 

COURSES

Some schools offer career development courses, with titles such as:

  • Career Perspectives 
  • Building a Music Career
  • Practical Aspects of a Career in Music
  • Chamber Music and Professional Development for the Freelance Musician
  • Audience Development
  • Audience Connection
  • Web Design for Musicians
  • Digital Portfolio Creation
  • Arts Media & Promotion: Perfecting and Pitching Your Message
  • Music Entrepreneurialism, Leadership, and Relevance
  • The Professional Artist Seminar
  • College Teaching
  • How to Win an Orchestral Audition
  • The Joys and Opportunities of Studio Teaching
  • Getting Your Sh*t Together

SPEAKER SERIES

Some schools regularly organize talks and workshops by faculty members and visiting professionals, addressing various professional concerns.

PORTFOLIOS

Some schools require students to compile a professional portfolio before graduating, including items like:

  • Headshot/photo
  • Bio
  • Resume/Curriculum Vitae
  • Sample cover letter
  • Repertoire list
  • Press release
  • Business cards
  • Program notes
  • Recordings
  • Videos
  • Work samples (for visual artists)
  • Website
  • Business cards
  • Marketing plans
  • 5-10 year career goals

MOCK INTERVEIWS/AUDITIONS

Some schools offer mock interviews and auditions, proceeded by preparation sessions and followed with feedback.

INTERNSHIPS

Some schools require arts majors to enlist in some sort of internship program.  Others highly recommend them, and maintain a database of potential opportunities.

COMPETITIONS

A few schools sponsor wonderfully creative competitions where students are invited to pitch projects that are evaluated on both artistic and entrepreneurial factors.  Winners receive seed money to enact their proposal.

ENTREPRENEURIAL ENSEMBLES

A few schools now offer ensembles where students are required to do more than simply show up on time and be prepared.  Participants are asked to play an active role in program development, marketing, publicity, setting up performances, working with presenters, or even the overall ensemble vision.

TEACHING ASSISTANTSHIPS

Some schools hire graduate students to teach courses.  Obviously, this hands-on job training is beneficial for those interested in educational work.  It also looks great on the resume.

GIGGING SERVICE

Many schools contract gigs (weddings, bar mitzvahs, private parties, etc.) for their students, providing real life experiences and a source of revenue. While you should definitely take advantage of this wonderful service and real life experience, keep in mind that it only focuses on one slice of the industry. Additional resources are necessary for deeper career guidance.

CAREER WEBSITE

Some schools maintain extensive websites devoted to career and entrepreneurship issues, with articles, podcasts, databases of opportunities, and more.  However, even students without this kind of in-house resource can take advantage of sites like www.SavvyMusician.com (for an extensive list of helpful sites, visit The Savvy Musician Resource Center), so don’t discount a school just because it lacks this feature.

REQUIRED READING

Some schools that do not yet have many or any of the initiatives above at least require their students to read a few books on the subject of arts careers and entrepreneurship. A number of excellent and affordable texts have become available in the past few years. (Incidentally, schools have students research areas that they deem important.  For example, every music program requires music theory and history reading; these topics seem to be universally valued. If no career books are assigned anywhere in the curriculum, this is another sign that the school does not prioritize professional success for its alumni.) 

 _____

As you can see, there’s quite a lot that arts schools can do to better prepare students for professional success.  Now you know (at least a portion of) what’s available. So if you’re serious about developing into a working artist, make sure you have a clear idea about how each school you consider plans to help you achieve this goal.   This way, you’ll have more than outstanding artistic ability and a beautiful diploma to look forward to.  You may even have some marketable skills!

 

Love music, but hate to starve? Hoping to achieve more success with your career? Visit www.SavvyMusician.com for a Resource Center with 1000+links, valuable articles, info on the most relevant music career book in print, and more.

An Essential Question When Applying to Arts School

In Author: David Cutler, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Music on September 12, 2009 at 10:28 pm

Not all arts schools are the same.  Where you study will have a huge impact on the kind of artist you become, skill sets you develop, and network you cultivate.  In order to make a wise decision, many important questions should be posed during the application process.  Who will be my primary teacher? How rigorous is the curriculum?  Which courses are required? What kinds of experiences are offered? How much scholarship money is available?  What’s the town like? 

But if you’re serious about the prospect of becoming a working artist (as opposed to a really accomplished hobbiest), here’s an essential inquiry: What kind of career training do you offer? This is particularly critical for those with majors like music performance/composition, acting, painting, and dance, where few traditional full time jobs are available and competition is fierce. Insist on specific answers.

This week, I phoned over 100 of the top music schools in America and asked exactly that. Some were quick to illuminate the many wonderful things they were doing to better prepare students for professional life.  These conversations were exciting and inspirational. (For my next post, I’ll outline some innovative and forward thinking initiatives.)

But, to my great disappointment, many institutions do next to nothing.  In some cases, they didn’t even understand the question. With a little digging, it became apparent that little time had been spent pondering this issue. A couple of people commented “huh, that’s a great idea…” As if it never dawned on them that students—who are taking on enormous debt in exchange for educational guidance—would benefit by developing marketable skills during their college years.

Of course, few simply admitted “we don’t do careers here.” After fishing to find a suitable response, several explained that “each private teacher works on that in lessons.” Implying that this priority is so central to their mission that every student gets one-on-one career training. Sounds great!

But I know better. In an overwhelming majority of cases, this statement is simply false. Don’t just believe me. Ask any music school grad. With few exceptions, these conversations do not happen. Private lessons address performance excellence, developing “chops,” learning literature, and other wonderful things. That’s what they’re supposed to do. But few teachers devote significant time to marketing, developing a niche, building an audience, creating opportunities, personal finance, raising funds, branding, contracting, etc. Many applied teachers, though wonderful musicians, don’t even have a grasp of these issues.  And when career matters are mentioned (by good luck as opposed to design), discussions are typically limited to 1-2 lessons out of four years of study. 

Of course, budgets are tight.  I’m sure every school would love to expand in a thousand directions if they had unlimited resources. But they don’t. So universities hire only the faculty they can afford, focusing on topics they value.

Every music school offers applied lessons. This means they want students to become better players. All curricula require multiple semesters of music theory and history, demonstrating a commitment to creating well rounded musicians.  Feel free to draw analogies to your own field of study. The implications are clear.

If a school truly prioritizes preparing viable professionals, in addition to outstanding artists, doesn’t it seem logical that they would hire at least one employee to address this issue? Yet many don’t offer even a single-credit elective course, let alone mandatory training for all.

I do not wish to endorse or discount any arts school in this blog. They are all made up of good people, and it is my sincere hope that within the next decade, every program will prioritize the all important subject of careers. Those that don’t simply won’t be able to attract students.  But we’re not there yet. Far from it.

If you’re a prospective student hopeful to make a living through your art, be sure to choose a school that values career development. And if you’re a faculty member concerned about the future success of your students, but your school fails to deliver adequately, consider broaching the topic with your colleagues and administration.

I look forward to the day when every music school insists that career training is just as important as augmented 6th chords, the three stylistic periods of Beethoven, and playing a perfect scale. I can’t wait until dance programs teach the choreographic stylings of Balanchine AND how to market a show, or painters are educated on water colors AND running a nonprofit. At that point, there will be one less question for prospectives to ask.  But we’re not there yet.  So do your homework…

 

Love music, but hate to starve? Hoping to achieve more success with your career? Visit www.SavvyMusician.com for a Resource Center with 1000+links, valuable articles, info on the most relevant music career book in print, and more.

Do You “Play” Music?

In Author: David Cutler, Emotional Intelligence, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Music on September 4, 2009 at 9:00 am

In my experience, few things in life are more enjoyable than the act of making music. Music is fun!  How wonderful it is that we use the verb “play” to describe this endeavor!

Yet for too many musicians, the activity pursued when singing or touching their instrument couldn’t be further from play. Instead they tense up, get nervous, or even break down. “Musicing” is used as a vehicle for proving self-worth. Obsessed with impressing others and (more importantly) themselves, damning condemnations come with every mistake or less than perfect articulation.  Each time a note sounds, the ego’s Gestapo-like jury weighs in. And the verdict is usually—guilty.  No wonder so many performers look miserable on stage. No wonder so many fail to connect physically with the sounds they create, or invoke even a smile. Who could possibly enjoy this kind of constant, brutal self-interrogation?

 But take a step back.  You’re not exactly doing hard physical labor, fighting a war, or stuck in a boring office job. You get to make music!  So love every moment.

 Successful musical performance is not about perfection. It is about connecting with others. It’s also about empowerment and liberation and a spiritual journey into an extraordinary place that no other human experience can deliver.

 Music is a blessing.  Remember this, with every wrong note you play.  Remember this every time you lose a competition or perform less than your best.  Be thankful that you can participate in such a miracle. And when you exude exuberant joy through your art, everyone around will cherish the moment as well.  We can all use more blissful energy in our life, and music is an ideal tool.

 So relax. Enjoy. Play!

I had a revealing exchange with an Indonesian gamelan composer a few years back.  He told me that after each performance, the players gathered around and discussed how things went that night.  Just like we do. They would recall bloopers from the performance. Just like we do. But then the conversation would take an unfamiliar turn: “Did you hear when I clammed that note during the quiet section?”  “Yeah, that was awsome!”  And they’d laugh about it. Laugh until they turned purple. No apologies.  Ever. Because music is fun. Because music is play.

Love music, but hate to starve? Hoping to achieve more success and impact with your musical career? Visit www.SavvyMusician.com, “Home Base for Music Careers,” for a Resource Center with 1000+links, valuable articles, information about the most important music career book in print, and more.

The Institute For Arts Entrepreneurship- Opening Fall 2010!

In Art, Author: Lisa Canning, Cooking & Food, Creativity and Innovation, Emotional Intelligence, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Fashion, Health & Wellness, Leadership, Marketing, Money, Music, Outside Your Comfort Zone, Risk, The Idea, Theater/Film, Writing on August 21, 2009 at 11:07 pm

InstArtsEntrep_BoldIn the fall of 2010 The Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship will open at 3020 N Lincoln Avenue in Chicago, Illinois.

As an independent but collaborative effort with Jim Hart’s Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts, IAE will be devoted to the development of the artist as entrepreneur.

Lead by my vision and passion, The Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship will be seeking applicants from any artistic discipline. Requirements for enrollment will be a minimum of a 4 year degree–a bachelors degree– in an artistic discipline. The program will be a two year program that is focused on artistic venture creation and servant leadership. It will begin as a school in the fall of 2010 with full accreditation. Auditions will begin February/March of 2010 for all interested applicants.

For more information about enrollment or if you are interested in partnering with either Jim Hart or myself, in some way, please email me. Lisa@EntrepreneurTheArts.com

Batteries Included

In Art, Author: Lisa Canning, Cooking & Food, Emotional Intelligence, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Fashion, Health & Wellness, Leadership, Music, The Idea, Theater/Film, Writing on August 21, 2009 at 6:26 pm

horse
bug
viagra

While there are lots of ways to feel like your batteries are super charged in life, I think the only one that really works is following your heart.

Unlike your camera, computer, watch, or the clock you own that needs batteries to run, you are self-empowered and come with a life long battery included.

You see your heart never needs a new battery to super charge your life. Nor does it need the thrill of riding on a mechanical horse, or zooming around on the wings of a battery powered bug, or the jolt of a pill to get your juices flowing.

If you think you need any of those things to jump-start your life, your taking your one ever-lasting battery for granted. Don’t do that. It won’t stay super charged anyway for very long if you do, unless you give it the energy it really needs by fueling your life with passion.

Yeah, I know. We have talked about this a few times before: passionate pursuits are never easy. It sounds great to pursuit what you love, doesn’t it, until you find yourself riddled with moments that don’t seem passionate at all- times when you simply are grateful you do come with a battery included so you can just keep on running.

Sure we all have moments like these on the road to our adventure. But keep your eye on your vision, pursue your passions, sleigh your dragons anyway, beat back the bushes with your home made machete, and be the first to walk where only your dream can see.

After all, this is why you do come with batteries included…

Rodney Hatfield, Artist- His Story

In Art, Author: Lisa Canning, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Leadership, Music, Risk, The Idea on August 20, 2009 at 3:05 am

"The Girl from Someplace Else"
I love Rodney Hatfield. I bought one of his paintings when I was in Santa Fe this past spring at my favorite gallery- Selby Fleetwood. His work, The Girl From Someplace Else, hangs over my desk and I just love her binocular view. She is my entrepreneurial gal- always looking for opportunity through the multi- lenses she sees through…

Here is a link to a video about Rodney’s story. Check it out. You’ll like it.

Are You Relevant?

In Art, Author: Lisa Canning, Cooking & Food, Creative Support, Creativity and Innovation, Emotional Intelligence, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Evolution, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Fashion, Health & Wellness, Leadership, Money, Music, Outside Your Comfort Zone, Risk, The Idea, Theater/Film, WEBSITES & BLOGS, Writing on August 17, 2009 at 4:48 am

Are you relevant? Do you define your artistic work based on its practical, economic and social applicability to satisfy the needs of those who experience what you do? And if not, then I cannot help but ask the question, why not?

I realize that we all have a need to create and experiment in life. By doing so we are offered extraordinary opportunities to not only affirm who we are but get to know ourselves better. We learn from what works and, more often, learn the most from what does not work for us– which often allows us to find new more meaningful paths to explore.

But at what point in life do we need to become more practical, more disciplined? Is it ever to early (or late) in life to do this? And when you do, or find the help to, what are the benefits you receive for doing so?

The other day I had a young talented clarinetist– a sophomore in college- in the shop. We were discussing his future career aspirations and performing was right at the top of his list- like most of my clients. When I asked him what about performing was so motivating for him, his answer was ” Well, for a long time I was not sure I could rise to the occasion and play well enough to become an orchestral musician. It is only recently that I am starting to feel I can. Now the question I am asking myself is, do I want to do this?”

I realize that as a young adult- and even as an aging adult- coming to know who we are is a very important part of our educational journey. And alongside this process of growth and development routinely we must be challenged to answer questions like: “And if you do want to perform who specifically will want what you have to offer?”

I cannot help but wonder what we are really learning about the meaning of art, not to mention effectively reaching an audience who cares about what we have to offer from our chosen artistic field of study, if we are not challenged to explore questions like these. If you excel at Music Theory from the Middle Ages, even if you get a PHD in it and can teach it at the college level– who is it relevant to– besides you?

Take a look at my dear friend Gary Beckman- Arts Entrepreneurship Educator’s Network founder. His received his PHD in musicology in 2007 from The University of Texas at Austin. During his doctoral course work, Gary realized that his course of study was not really all that relevant and went on to pursue something that he felt was not only more relevant, but also deeply motivating for him– developing arts entrepreneurship curriculum. Now don’t get me wrong. I learned a lot from my musicology courses and loved my professors who taught them. I also think it is GREAT that Gary has vision for the growth and evolution of arts entrepreneurship curriculum, but think of what he could have accomplished, and how much happier and entrepreneurial he might have become sooner, if he had been challenged to think about how relevant his field of study was, to him and for others, at an earlier point in life?

Questioning and experimenting with our relevancy through action is at the heart of WHY the arts must become a field of entrepreneurial study in addition to traditional skill building. THE ONLY WAY artists can create sustainable happy career paths for themselves is to learn how to produce a product– relevancy.

As a young clarinetist I too asked myself the same questions my young client shared with me. I remember wondering if I could become good enough, play perfectly enough, musically enough and in tune enough to win an orchestral audition and be at the top of the heap. I challenged myself to get there with no other focus than to succeed. ( And of course, without a course or educational guidance to help me think about my goals differently.)

I started out almost last chair my freshman year at Northwestern. By my sophomore year I was at the top of my class– beating out all the masters and doctorate students, some of whom were finalists at regional orchestra auditions around the country. And when I reached that goal, all of a sudden I realize I had no idea what was next. It was not the feeling of eternal bliss I thought I would have, nor was anyone beating down my doors asking me to audition for any major orchestra. Instead it was in the middle of my senior year that I realized that I did not feel relevant. I did not feel that what skills I had developed really mattered to anyone significantly, except for me.

So it was then that I asked myself “how can I use the skills I do have to be relevant?” and from that thought I tested my ideas by putting my solution into action- by opening up a clarinet shop and helping others develop their career paths by helping them find the perfect instrument for their “relevant” music making. It was only then that I actually understood what truly it felt like to become relevant. It’s kind of funny to me, right now, that I am back where I started- after a 20 year adventure building a large business- but life is funny like that. I am being given a second chance to look at how I am relevant and I, again, am figuring it out.

But you see what I realized the first time, at 17, was that what I did have that was relevant was a gift to help and connect to others. I also had a gift to play the clarinet well. I also knew that artists needed to feel better about who they are and find their own confidence, through finding their own relevance, to become kinder to themselves and to others and strong enough to trust themselves that they could actually change the world.

Don’t ask me how exactly I knew this then– call it my God given vision- other than I did not then, and often still do not now, see the kind of inspirational collaboration or connectivity amongst others I crave in the world to see. Of all places- the arts should be outstanding examples for others of both.

Finding my relevancy at 17 gave me my first glimpse into what it meant to make a difference in life. Is it ever too early or too late to find your own? (It’s ok too, btw, if you need a school and a mentor to help you. You don’t have to find your relevancy, like I did, alone.)

Finding your relevancy will give you vision to lead. It will temper your being into a refined piece of artwork that the world wants and that you will be happy to share.

Finding your relevancy means you will feel at peace- because you are valued. You are payed- because you are needed. And that you will feel confident- because when we feel connected to ourselves and to others simultaneously, life does not get any better.

“Are you relevant,” I ask? If not– it is time to learn how you can be….

Music Entrepreneurship Helps Young Musicians Chart Careers in a Crowded Market

In Author: Lisa Canning, Leadership, Marketing, Music, Risk, The Idea on August 12, 2009 at 2:00 am

This article is about ETA blogger David Cutler and his new book, The Savvy Musician. It was written by Andrew Druckenbrod and ran in in Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Sunday August 9th, 2009. The picture was illustrated by Stacy Innerst/Post-Gazette. I highly recommend David’s book if you want to learn how to become a “savvy musician!”

20090809musicianmoney_si_160Overpopulation, poverty and stagnation: The way the classical music industry is described these days you’d think it’s a Third World country. The recession has made an already tough existence even tougher for music students and those already looking for jobs.

“It is an extraordinarily difficult time to compete for traditional full-time jobs, like those in academia and in orchestras,” says David Cutler, a music professor at Duquesne University. “The market is over-saturated with talent, people are keeping their jobs for longer and orchestras are cutting back, not adding.”

But have things really gotten so bad that a student should follow that classic parental advice and go to medical or law school instead?

Not according to a new movement called music entrepreneurship that is gaining ground at schools around the country. Cutler is among several professors at the forefront of this change in attitude; his book, “The Savvy Musician” (Helius Press, $19.99, due out in November) is a guide to navigating these uncertain waters, targeted to those facing the “real world.”

More information about “The Savvy Musician”
• Advance copies of “The Savvy Musician,” to be released widely in November, can be purchased at http://www.savvymusician.com.
• Have you ventured off the beaten path for your musical career? If so, we would like to hear about it. Go to ClassicalMusings to share your story.
Among the topics, the book discusses details of marketing, recording and grant writing, but it spends most of its time articulating bigger concepts of the “entrepreneurial mind-set.”

For years, conventional wisdom has been that leadership in the classical music industry should work to increase demand so that more young musicians can get jobs. Better funding, it is said, should be found to expand orchestras and develop audiences, and music should be cultivated at all levels. But for advocates of entrepreneurship such as Cutler, it is the musician who must adapt to the shrinking and changing marketplace.

“The days of being just a classical violinist or jazz saxophonist are over,” says Cutler. “The musician of the future considers the whole package. You should be a great player, but that is not the goal, but the minimum.”

Many feel that music education in America — slow to change in the past half century — has failed students in this regard. “We have created more extremely talented musicians than ever before,” says Cutler. “But in curriculum, we have completely ignored many other essential issues such as how to make a living or how to make an difference in society.”

Cutler and others see the new environment brimming with possibilities, even as it has shut down or backlogged traditional routes. “It is hard, but there are opportunities that weren’t there before,” he says. “If [your quartet] tries to get a gig at Carnegie Hall, you might be up against 300 quartets, but if you go to a smaller community you can make it work.”

One sterling example is the Ying String Quartet, which began its career in the 1990s as the resident quartet of Jesup, Iowa, a farm town of 2,000 people. It performed in homes, schools, churches and banks, with a philosophy that “concert music can also be a meaningful part of everyday life.”

The Ying Quartet’s off-the-beaten path garnered national interest and forged its musicality as a group so that today the quartet is considered one of the top in the world, playing more typical venues such as Carnegie Hall.

Another alternative route was taken by a group of Chicago musicians who created a split business model. They formed two companies, a nonprofit called Fifth House Ensemble that gives concerts and education and a for-profit called Amarante Ensembles that plays parties and gatherings. Having both puts the musicians on more even financial footing and spreads out risk.

Other examples of innovative thinking abound, from the genre-bending and branding-savvy Kronos Quartet to John Cimino, a baritone who uses music-making as a metaphor for creativity and leadership in presentations to Fortune 500 corporations.

So, the problem isn’t that there is a glut of musicians, Cutler and others argue, but that there are too many seeking traditional jobs without really considering the alternatives. Colleges and conservatories traditionally have not equipped students with the right tools to prosper in a shrinking marketplace.

Gary Beckman, founder of the Arts Entrepreneurship Educator’s Network, realized this deficiency firsthand long before the economy laid it bare for all to see.

“I went through undergrad and grad school, and I saw many musicians who were more than capable, but because they didn’t get training and information about economic reality they didn’t go on to play,” he says. “So many are lost each year.”

Beckman, Cutler and others at schools, such as the University of South Carolina, the Eastman School of Music and the University of Colorado, are on the cutting edge of entrepreneurship programs and courses emerging to train students to forge their own paths.

“We need students that have a broad view about their careers,” says Beckman, who is a visiting professor in South Carolina’s Institute for Leadership and Engagement in Music. He estimates that as many as 100 colleges offer at least one course in arts entrepreneurship. “In the context of 6,000 universities with arts departments, that it isn’t taking [academia] by storm, but steps are being made and the seeds are starting to germinate.”

“Entrepreneurship is gaining traction because it offers something significant to every student considering a career,” says Jeffrey Nytch, director of the University of Colorado’s Entrepreneurship Center for Music. It’s not just about sending musicians to the campus career center, he says, but totally rethinking their career.

“Deans and provosts are behind it,” says Beckman. “Everyone realizes there is a problem, but it is a very delicate negotiation between faculty, accreditation, community, students, funders, administration. About half a dozen colleges add a course every year, and I think there will be a explosion in the next three to five years.”

Duquesne University’s Mary Pappert School of Music will offer its first classes on entrepreneurship and leadership this fall, coordinated by Cutler, who joined the faculty in 2001. Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh do not offer entrepreneurship courses, but both bring in speakers on the subject and address the business of music on a one-on-one manner. “Many people have great ideas, but if you have the skills to make them a reality, then it is a success,” says Noel Zahler, head of CMU’s School of Music.

“We have an ethical responsibility to address these issues,” says Cutler, who also will re-configure Duquesne’s contemporary ensemble to be student-driven to “function like a chamber ensemble would in the real world.”

“This is about empowering students,” says Beck. He thinks Cutler’s book brings that same confidence to those in schools or already struggling to make a living as musicians. “What David has done has helped to outline how broad an education one needs to have a career in music.”

Are Artists “Creative Professionals”?

In Author: David Cutler, Creative Support, Creativity and Innovation, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Music on August 8, 2009 at 1:23 am

I recently served on a panel focusing on Entrepreneurship “for Artists and Creative Professionals.”  During the discussion, we addressed various exciting ways that creative professionals solve problems in our communities, businesses, government, and schools. We celebrated their potential to lead, innovate, and serve as catalysts for change. The talk was undoubtedly inspiring.

But I was particularly stuck by the phrase “Artists and Creative Professionals.” After all, there are two ways to interpret this statement:

1)      Artists (one category) and creative professionals (a separate category)

2)      Artists and other creative professionals

Of course, the intent was clear.  There exists an assumption that artists are inherently creative. We’re not like mathematicians. Our field is creativity.

But is that the reality? And are we training arts students with this goal in mind?

In music training (I’m best equipped to address my own field), the unfortunate answer is overwhelmingly no.  Students are typically required to follow “correct and authentic performance practices.” Classical majors play standard lit—often chosen by their teachers or ensemble directors—in standard venues, wearing standard attire, for standard (and small) audiences. Composition projects are rare, with improvisational expressions rarer. Risk taking plays no role whatsoever, as mistakes are considered the enemy rather than a healthy and welcome part of the process. And forget about creativity training on larger issues.  Oddly absent are discussions on cultural relevance, how to create a viable and prosperous career, or finding solutions to real problems facing our world. Truth be told, we train musicians a lot like math majors.

In a world economy/environment where many tasks are outsourced to computers and citizens of third world countries, it’s easy to understand the necessity and power of creativity. And I love the notion that artists have the potential to be important players in today’s paradigm. But artists, as individuals and a community, will only play this role if they are trained accordingly.

If arts education continues to focus simply on developing accomplished practitioners (which we currently do quite well), the outcome will be predictable. We will continue to have an army of over-trained, under-employed artists struggling to capitalize on the shrinking number of existing opportunities available to them.

But if we somehow modify our educational system to train creative professionals who use their art form as one of several potential tools, the equation will change. Not only will the role of arts organizations grow exponentially, but artists will increasingly become dynamic forces in other sectors. Businesses looking to stand out will favor hiring individuals with arts training. Government will turn to artists to help solve problems of the day—from national security to crime to health care to economic growth to foreign affairs. Schools will hire artists to help restructure curriculum both in and outside the arts.

To be sure, “creative professionals” are already doing this important work. But there’s a genuine need for more creative minds, and too few artists are among this group. Of course, there are some, but they develop more by accident than design. By transforming arts education into creativity education with an arts emphasis, we not only help our students, but also our communities and the nation at large.

Then, suddenly, everyone will want an arts education. 

 

David Cutler balances a varied career as a jazz and classical pianist, composer, arranger, educator, and conductor.  Visit www.SavvyMusician.com for information about his book (now available!) The Savvy Musician: Building a Career, Earning a Living, & Making a Difference, a Resource Center with 1000+links, and much more.

When to Take a Gig

In Author: David Cutler, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Tool Box, Music on August 5, 2009 at 1:52 pm

All artists, and especially entrepreneurial ones, are presented with many opportunities throughout the course of their artistic life.  When a gig or other opportunity comes your way, you will be confronted with whether or not to take it.  Some offers are clearly too good to pass up, while others are riddled with problems and not worth your while.  But sometimes the choice is not so clear.  Perhaps the opportunity would require you to refocus energy in a completely new direction.  Does it have the potential to unlock new doors in the future, or will it just be a distraction from your primary goals?  When deciding whether or not to accept a gig, weigh the amount of time and life energy it will take against the benefits it has to offer, which may include: 

1)      Pay.  Will the compensation make it worth your time?

2)      Connections.  Will it build relationships with potentially important people?

3)      Future Projects.  Will it open the door to new opportunity?

4)      Personal Satisfaction.  Will you find fulfillment from the work?

5)      Prestige.  Will it add to your reputation?

6)      Skill Development.  Will it help you develop a new ability?

7)      Portfolio Building.  Will it fill a gap in your work experience?

8)      Artistic Challenge.  Will it help you grow musically or intellectually?

9)      Debt.  Will it repay an obligation to someone who has helped you in the past?

10)  Service.  Will it allow you to contribute something meaningful to the community?

Rating Scale:

# of Benefits Comments
8-10 Take it!  This is a dream gig.
5-7 The gig has an incredible amount to offer you.  Take it if at all possible.
3-4 This still sounds fairly appealing.  As long as you don’t have too much on your plate, take it.
2 If you really need the work, you may need to take it, but in the meantime, try to create some more opportunities for yourself.
1 Only consider this if you are desperate for work.
0 Run and don’t look back.

 

David Cutler balances a varied career as a jazz and classical pianist, composer, arranger, educator, and conductor.  Visit www.SavvyMusician.com for information about his book (now available!) The Savvy Musician: Building a Career, Earning a Living, & Making a Difference, a Resource Center with 1000+links, and much more.

Asparagus: The Long View

In Author: Melissa Snoza, Cooking & Food, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Money, Music, Risk on June 13, 2009 at 2:42 am

Perhaps it’s the economy, but garden centers nationwide are finding themselves having trouble keeping vegetable plants on the shelf this season. Having started my journey with a few tomato, cucumber, and squash plants myself over the past couple of years, I was one of the many inspired to take my efforts to a whole new level this season.

So, I dutifully go off to my local home improvement center, rent some heavy machinery, and cut out 50 more feet of plant bed to house my new garden. I till, I mulch, I compost, and finally, I plant.

Of the many types of veggies I laid in the ground this spring, one of the most curious is asparagus. I had never attempted to grow this odd little vegetable before, and most people don’t have any idea what the plant looks like, or how it grows, based on the look of the tender spears we buy neatly rubber banded together at the grocery store.

Starting an asparagus patch begins with tilling the soil deep, breaking up rocks, adding rich organic material, and digging trenches in which the bare roots will be laid. Then, you cover with a couple of inches of loose soil, and wait.

Finally, little baby spears come out of the ground, and you begin, little by little, to add more soil to the deep trenches. With patience, you’ll have topped the plants with enough soil to level the surface. Each asparagus spear grows straight out of the ground, reaching its full height in a single day. They don’t get taller or fatter after this point, rather, the tips that we enjoy munching on leaf out and become like miniature christmas trees, sucking up sunlight and feeding the roots below.

So, once you see the little shoots emerge, it’s dinner time, right? Wrong.

Even with 2-year crowns, most gardeners wait a full one to two more seasons for their first harvest. Those tempting, green stalks that scream “EAT ME!” during that time have to be left alone, because the newly-laid roots need the energy they provide to establish strong roots that will produce year after year.

And now, the point. Those of us who have made the commitment to create, establish, nurture, and feed a new entrepreneurial project have much to learn from this ferny wonder. As freelance artists, most of us are trained to think in gigs – how much $$, how much time. Being an entrepreneur is something else entirely. When you seek to write the checks, not have them handed to you, you make the commitment to take the long view.

One of the most successful ensembles I know spent their first five years feeding their roots. During that time, every dollar of income they made went straight back into their business. Forgoing the usual small income that they could have paid themselves initially, they chose instead to put their money into marketing, press materials, and large artistic goals.

At the end of this nurturing period, they had enough money to commission a very well-known composer. As a result of this project, they became the ensemble of choice for the newly-created work, performing it at a large venue in NYC, which came with a stunning review in the NY Times.

Then, their world changed overnight. Booking agents who had stubbornly refused to answer their calls were responding with engagements, and tours were scheduled nationwide. Dates were planned so well in advance, that the players were able to create a yearly budget, prioritize providing health insurance, and pay themselves a salary for their work that was more regular than a per-service fee.

Had they chosen to harvest too early, they may have been able to afford more trips to Starbucks, but wouldn’t have achieved the commission that launched them to national attention. Consider how the lowly asparagus might have something to teach you. Would a web redesign yield more profit than expensive dinners out? Would better quality press kits make more of an impact than a couple of months of cable? Sacrifices in the short term lead to long-term, sustainable success. The asparagus patch understands this.

After that initial few years of gaining strength, it continues producing heavily with very little effort for over 25 years. I can’t say that a career in the arts will take as little attention as this, but it can certainly feed you as well if you give it the right start.

Melissa is the flutist and Executive Director of the Chicago-based Fifth House Ensemble. Like what you read here? For more music entrepreneurship tidbits, visit www.playingclosetothebridge.wordpress.com, brought to you by members of 5HE.

Never Surrender

In Author: Melissa Snoza, Music on April 3, 2009 at 2:11 am

First off, I just have to say how excited I am to be a part of the Entrepreneur the Arts blogroll! Lisa has done a fantastic job of building this community, and I’m looking forward to sharing some tips from the road that I’ve picked up as a young music entrepreneur. To get a sense for what I’ve been up to when a wiser person would be sleeping, please visit Fifth House Ensemble’s website at www.fifth-house.com.

This being my first blog post for ETA, I thought I’d explore a little-discussed truth that affects us all as artists, and one that applies whether you choose to explore the entrepreneurial life or not.

I did my undergraduate degree at the Eastman School of Music, and one of the many things I loved about the school was that its size was such that there was hardly a face you didn’t know while walking down Gibbs Street. As a freshman, having the opportunity to work (and play) with upperclassmen was a definite bonus, and allowed me to take advantage of the culture and work ethic that pervades the school.

During my first year, I got to know a fantastic trumpet player who was a senior at the time. Aside from showing me the ropes at the school, including how to dodge the security guards to get into the best spaces to practice late at night, he gave me a piece of advice that has served me well to this day. Put simply:

Never suck.

Ever.

Under any circumstances.

I remember him telling me that you never know who is going to be listening, and when they’re going to be in a position to sign your next paycheck.

As student or professional musicians, we’ve all been there. It could be that rural church gig on a dreary Sunday in February, the interminable joy that is 8:30 am conducting seminar, or a reading of a newly composed work that you don’t know well enough to enjoy yet. There are so many circumstances when we can be tempted to let our musical guard down, surrendering to the lowest common denominator of apathy and artistic morning breath that can become the norm on some types of jobs.

We slouch, we play with an unsupported sound, we daydream. In short, we don’t do our best, because it doesn’t matter, right? Who’s going to care if that high C doesn’t speak? And who ARE these people? Do they even have music degrees? Did this composer learn how to write music by watching Meow Mix commercials all day long?

And then, it happens.

For me, it was the summer after I received this little gem of advice. I was in my first of two summers at the Aspen Music Festival and School, a place which I highly recommend for any student who can afford to go. Looking back at the experiences I had there, I know that it’s one of the best places in the country to meet other artists who can and will have a real impact on your career someday.

Always at the mercy of the rotation system that exists in the orchestra program there, I was placed in the pit for the opera students’ production of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress. It was a work that not many of the orchestral musicians knew. Secondly, being in the pit tends to feel like the name would suggest to some instrumentalists, despite the fact there is so much to learn from listening to beautifully executed vocal music.  And lastly, the conductor was young, and someone that most of the orchestra hadn’t had the pleasure of working with, or apparently hearing of, before the first rehearsal.

You can guess what happened next. Most of the orchestra played the first rehearsal as if executing a collective eye-roll. A horrifying moment happened when the conductor asked the principal trumpet player for his first name when making a musical comment to him, and the answer was, “J*&# (changed to protect his reputation), what’s YOURS?” Determined not to let the insouciance affect the rehearsal, the conductor simply responded, “You’re clever,” and moved on.

I remember thinking to myself that the “never suck” principle was going to have to apply here, tempted as I was to join in the apathy. I stayed focused, nailed my part, and found myself enjoying both the piece and the conductor, who I thought was clear, concise, and possessing of a well-formed musical point-of-view.

Fast forward a few months to February, when I received the sort of out-of-the-blue phone call that, when you’re a student, you think only happens to other people. It was the conductor that I had worked with for The Rake’s Progress in Aspen, calling from Frankfurt. Apparently he and his colleagues had been discussing who they should invite to fill a flute position at a new summer chamber music festival (MMCK) in Japan, and, remembering my work, he saw fit to look me up via my flute teacher. The following year, I had a fantastic three weeks in Kazusa and Tokyo, working with artists from all over the world, and generally grateful for the advice that put me there.

There are many other stories that I could tell about how not surrendering to the lowest common denominator afforded me jobs, opportunities, relationships, and paychecks that I would never otherwise have had. As a freelance musician, the kind of reliability that this attitude brings becomes your calling card. People know that when they call you they’ll get a job well done, and that’s invaluable.

Oh, and as another little tidbit, the conductor in question was Alan Gilbert. Though many of the student musicians at Aspen in 1999 hadn’t heard his name at the time, he’s gone on to do quite well for himself, as we know.

Point taken.

Melissa is the flutist and Executive Director of the Chicago-based Fifth House Ensemble. Like what you read here? For more music entrepreneurship tidbits, visit www.playingclosetothebridge.wordpress.com, brought to you by members of 5HE.