Innovating Through Artistry

Posts Tagged ‘Eastman School of Music- Preparing the Generation-E Musician’

Eastman School of Music grad Maria Schneider jazzes up her musicianship with a keen business sense

In Interesting Articles, Leadership, Music on January 18, 2009 at 8:00 pm

Hey Eastman Institute for Music Leadership thanks for the great plug! It really is all about community!

Written by ANNA REGUERO • STAFF WRITER for The Democrat and Chronical • JANUARY 18, 2009
bildeI have such nostalgia for that school,” says Maria Schneider about the Eastman School of Music, where she received a master’s degree in 1985, studying closely with Bill Dobbins and Rayburn Wright. “It was just higher learning at its best. I worked so hard there.”

But Eastman wasn’t easy for Schneider, who did her prior studies at the University of Minnesota and University of Miami. She was rejected the first time she applied.

“I really, really appreciated it when I did get in,” she remembers. “I think one of the most valuable things about the school, the level of the musicianship is just so high. When you’re around other musicians striving and everyone’s at a high level, it just pushes everyone higher.”

Schneider returns to Eastman on Friday to perform a concert with her 18-piece jazz orchestra — the same band from her two Grammy-winning recordings — as a benefit to help deserving young jazz musicians afford tuition at Eastman. A number of Eastman graduates are members of her band, including Charles Pillow (alto saxophone), Rich Perry (tenor saxophone) and Gary Versace (accordion).

Schneider, who can’t help but speak openly about her insecurities, remembers fearing disappointment during her time at Eastman; she wanted to prove that she was worthy of being accepted to the school.

I think you can rest easy now, Maria.

Schneider’s musical voice has become unmistakable. Her compositions are mostly through-composed with specific solo sections, meaning that her music is written out much like a classical composition, rather than simply a head melody with chords. Yet the music remains within a complex jazz vocabulary and allows for areas of improvisation, using all the available sounds in a jazz orchestra. Her compositions are large works rather than merely tunes.

Most noticeable is that they’re melody-driven. Schneider creates unique beauty and expression through her warm-bodied compositions.

Since Schneider’s school days, she’s become more than just a composer of some of the most original big-band music out there. She’s also become a symbol of entrepreneurship, a hot topic now for the next generation of musicians.

After ditching a record company for fear of losing the rights to her own creative material, her 2004 recording Concert in the Garden was the first recording to win a Grammy (best large jazz ensemble recording) without in-store distribution; instead, it was dispersed solely over the Internet.

Using the same method, her composition “Cerulean Skies” (from Sky Blue), a piece inspired by bird watching, where bird calls fold into an atmospheric dreamscape, won a 2008 Grammy for best jazz composition.

Schneider was the guinea pig for a Web site called ArtistShare, which allows artists to not only sell their finished recordings but also documents the making of the project. Those who want a CD become participants who pay for different levels of access to Schneider and her creative process and ultimately fund the recording along the way. At the highest levels, for example, a fan could meet Schneider and even witness a recording session.

It’s Schneider’s willingness to try out an uncharted business model that’s brought her as much fame as her breathtaking compositions.

At Eastman, Schneider will also be a featured conference speaker in “Preparing the Generation-E Musician: The Place of Entrepreneurship in Higher Education Music School Curriculum.” The conference, which runs Thursday through Saturday, invites music school leaders from around the country for timely workshops.

“She’s the poster child for this with all the work she’s done with ArtistShare,” says Ramon Ricker, the director for Eastman’s Institute for Music Leadership. “I think this Internet thing where she is actually connecting with her audience by allowing them to be in the process with her, she has the kind of personality that can do that.”

Schneider advocates for musicians to be more than one-trick ponies. “Classical music and jazz, all these forces in schools need to come together,” Schneider says, giving her advice to schools. “The musical world out there is becoming integrated and eclectic.”

It would make sense, then, that Schneider’s latest entrepreneurial and musical risk has been crossing over to classical music. She was commissioned to write a piece for the soprano Dawn Upshaw and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra called “Carlos Drummond de Andrade Stories,” which received a performance in October.

“Originally I was really scared,” she admits. “How am I going to bring my voice to the classical world? I’ve heard lots of jazz people write classical music and suddenly you wouldn’t know it’s the same person.”

Once she started writing, she realized how easily her ideas translate to classical music — the intricate harmonies, the counterpoint and especially her keen sense for melody. The hardest task was writing for voice.

Schneider has been known for her use of vocalese, where the singer sings a pitch without words, masked as another instrument in the texture.

“The next transition was writing for words,” she says. “I was surprised to find out that I love it. My initial thought was, it’s hard enough to write music; how am I going to write with this extra limitation on it?”

The musicians, she says, seemed to be taken aback with the freedom of expression she asked for, including Upshaw, who works with a number of contemporary composers.

“I’m not even talking about her improvising, just going ahead and behind the beats,” says Schneider. “It shocked her that I would give her that liberty.”

She expects to work more with Upshaw on future projects. She’ll also be doing a good dose of classical composition, as she’s just accepted a commission from the Kronos Quartet. She’s also in talks with Peter Sellars about writing a staged theater work.

“Everything is a first,” she says. “The thing I learned from the Dawn Upshaw thing was to just jump off a limb and do something different.”

Singing a New Tune in Support of Music Entrepreneurship

In Current Events, Interesting Articles on January 14, 2009 at 12:47 am

This article was written by David Moltz and appeared on Jan 12, 09 in Inside Higher Education.

As someone who has been in the “trench” with artists trying to help them develop an entrepreneurial mindset since 1986, when there were only 16,000 college students across the country talking about entrepreneurship inside the best business schools, I have waited a long time to see these kinds of articles be written! This article makes my heart sing.
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Professional musicians are not typically thought of as entrepreneurs. Given the difficulty of a career in the fine arts, however, most of them need to pick up the skills of one to survive and flourish. In addition to performing, most musicians dabble in teaching, administration and business. Instead of leaving their graduates to cobble these skills together into a functional career, some music schools are now embedding entrepreneurship in their traditional curriculums in an effort to make their students more
business savvy.

Later this month, the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester will host a three-day workshop, in which a number of music schools will participate, entitled “Preparing the Generation-E Musician.” The
workshop will explore the place of entrepreneurship in higher education music school curriculums. This discussion comes at a time when many music schools are hoping to ease their graduates’ transition into a world where itis increasingly hard for fine arts majors to make a living.

In recent years, a number of music schools have developed additional academic programs to give students more practical skills to market their talents. The University of Colorado at Boulder, for example, started its
Entrepreneurship Center for Music in 1998, while the University of South Carolina opened the Carolina Institute for Leadership & Engagement in Music in 2007 and has just recently started a search for its founding director. Elsewhere, schools that have emphasized entrepreneurship in the past are redoubling their efforts. Eastman is planning to open a Center for Music Innovation, complete with a business school-like project incubator.

Heidi Neck, professor of entrepreneurship at Babson College, in suburban Boston, said programs encouraging entrepreneurship have recently expanded from business and other professional schools to more liberal arts institutions. In recent years, the Kauffman Foundation has been spurring the growth of these programs by providing music schools such as Eastman and other non-business institutions with funds to integrate the skills of marketing individual talent into their curriculum.

“People equate entrepreneurship and business with profit,” said Neck, who will lead the Eastman workshop and advises music schools on how to create such programs. “Sometimes I have professors tell me, ‘Every time you say profit it makes me want to take a shower.’ We have to figure out what we mean by profit. But, with anything you do in life, you have to generate revenue. At the end of the day, it’s all about value creation. Just because you’re a fantastic cellist doesn’t mean you have the ability to make the most of your talent and make a career.”

It is essential, Neck said, to convince music faculty that such skills are worthy additions to their school’s curriculum. She added that if some faculty view entrepreneurship and business-related coursework as tainting the craft of performance, students might perceive it in a similar way. Liberal arts institutions that take on this new curriculum, however, she says, have to be careful.

“I worry that sometimes these schools are saying they’re adopting entrepreneurship but are really adopting business basics, such as just how to write grants and how to file taxes,” Neck said. “Business fundamentals are essential but not all you need. If you’re really going to teach entrepreneurship, then you’re going to have to teach opportunity creation and not just the day-to-day activities.”

An ideal music course focusing on entrepreneurship, Neck said, would be case-based and analyze either successful businesses or individuals within the music industry, showing students how other musicians have marketed their talents. Alternatively, instead of providing independent courses for music students to take, she said it would also be possible and more seamless to integrate the lessons of entrepreneurship within traditional music curriculum. How exactly this could be accomplished in the music classroom, she said, is a matter for debate among the music school attendees at the workshop, as she herself is a business school professor. In many ways, she said, embedding these skills might require something akin to a culture change for many conservative and performance-centric institutions.

The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia requires all upperclassmen on track to earn a performance diploma or enrolled in a degree program to take two courses on entrepreneurship, said Mary Kinder Loiselle, director of community engagement and career development services.One of the courses, “The 21st Century Musician,” covers everything from creating a press kit and personal biography to working with taxes and becoming a freelance musician, she said. “Foundations of Engagement” focuses on outreach training and instructs students on topics as varied as how to properly speak from the stage to how to court donors.

“We’re still very clearly focusing on the performing musician,” Loiselle said of Curtis. “But this will help enhance their skill set and shape the career they want. Number one is being the finest musician that you can be, and the rest is how to make that work for you professionally. For me, when I teach, I instruct my students how to develop what they have into their own package. They don’t need it to get a job, but they need it to have a fulfilling job.”

In addition to the implementation of these new requirements, Curtis recently opened its office of Career Development Services. Loiselle said the office is different from those found at traditional undergraduate institutions. Instead of simply housing a job bank, its office counsels students about what they might be able to accomplish with their particular skills. For example, a student skilled in marketing as well as playing an instrument could run a themed music festival, or a student known to engage audiences particularly well could help work with his or her orchestra on a development project. This is helpful, she said, in directing students to alternative careers and opportunities outside of performing, such as managing a smaller ensemble or running a summer performance festival.

At Eastman, the idea of entrepreneurship in music is not altogether new. It began offering courses with titles like “Business for Musicians” in the 1970s and founded its Institute for Music Leadership in 2001. Currently, the institute offers its students about 25 courses in what it calls its Arts Leadership Curriculum. The courses range from digital portfolio creation and intellectual property law to grant writing and one called “How to win an orchestral audition.”

Ramon Ricker, who directs the institute and is working on a book entitled “Lessons from a Street-Wise Professor: What You Won’t Learn at Most Music Schools,” said Eastman has decided not to require these entrepreneurial courses of students, in order to leave them more freedom in course selection. He noted, however, that these programs are very popular among students and gaining acceptance among faculty, some of whom had worried the school’s performance degree programs might suffer from the inclusion of these courses.

“Although there wasn’t a lot of overt resistance, we did get some,” Ricker said of the introduction of the new curriculum. “We’re not trying to make music entrepreneurs. We’re trying to make musicians who have some entrepreneurial skills. When the faculty found out that we’re not going to dilute performance, there was nothing to argue about.”

The Institute for Music Leadership at Eastman has been received so well among students and faculty that the school recently approved a proposal for the creation of a Center for Music Innovation. The school plans to develop a new certificate in music innovation, centering curriculum on existing Arts Leadership courses within Eastman. Additionally, the new center would host a “music company/project incubator.” Like similar models at business schools, the incubator would use business contacts as well as Eastman faculty and resources to help shape student ideas into “viable companies.”

For example, Ricker cited the latest winner of the school’s “New Venture Challenge,” a contest not unlike the incubator they are about to create in which a student’s music business idea is picked for its viability. The winning student developed an idea to sell tuxedo tails to performance students, who often enter school without proper concert attire. The incubator, Ricker said, would take this student’s idea and give him the resources to get it off the ground.

In additional to calming the concerns of the parents of music school students, who often worry about the value of their son or daughter’s education, Ricker said the new entrepreneurial coursework and projects have intrigued alumni. He added that he often gets letters of support from graduates, expressing their regret at not having had similar opportunities while they were in music school.

“As we say, you can’t make a living playing the piano,” Ricker said. “You can make a living teaching piano. Still, we’re teaching students how to tap into different income streams. This set of courses can bridge the ivory town and the real world and help our graduates have better traction out there. It’s an idea whose time has come.”