Innovating Through Artistry

Posts Tagged ‘The Savvy Musician’

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.

RELATED POSTS:

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.

Advertisements

Isn’t it Time You Became a Savvy Artist?

In Author: David Cutler, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Entrepreneurial Tool Box on November 3, 2009 at 3:56 am

Chapter03It’s clear. The evidence is indisputable.  You’re a talented artist.  Really talented.  And accomplished.  You work hard, and have a top notch education.  Heck, you’re even good looking!  A prosperous life in music is nearly guaranteed, no?   

Unfortunately, no.  Not by a long shot.  But you surely realize this already. 

Being talented is wonderful, but technical skills alone do not assure a successful life in this business! Savvy artists have huge advantages over the others, and it’s no mystery why. They work pro-actively to build their career, making smart choices that allow them to earn a good living, and make a positive difference. In addition to outstanding artistic ability, the savviest artists:

  1. Dream big
  2. Think creatively
  3. Take risks and are willing to fail (or even succeed!)
  4. Create opportunities where they don’t exist
  5. Understand the nuts and bolts of the business
  6. Invent remarkable products
  7. Distinguish their work
  8. Take the initiative
  9. Follow through
  10. Build a strong brand
  11. Prioritize both content AND presentation
  12. Market extraordinarily
  13. Comprehend money matters
  14. Fundraise effectively
  15. Educate powerfully
  16. Embrace technology
  17. Excel with people skills
  18. Maintain a strong network
  19. Assemble an outstanding team
  20. Leave a legacy

Obviously, few people are experts in every category above.  When a weakness occurs, you have three options: 1) develop the skill (costs energy), 2) hire someone else to help (costs money), or 3) forfeit opportunities (costs success).  But most people who architect a fulfilling life in music exhibit many of these characteristics.

My new book, The Savvy Musician: Building a Career, Earning a Living, & Making a Difference (officially released today, though pre-release copies have been available for a few months), tackles each of these issues.  Though focusing on musicians, lessons taught apply directly to artists of all disciplines.  This comprehensive resource is packed with detailed strategies for success alongside examples of real life role models.  Whether hoping to augment income, stand out from a competitive field, add variety to activities, or erect an empire, The Savvy Musician will help you find ways to thrive under any circumstances. 

But it’s only a book.  As Ranaan Meyer, bassist of Time for Three, noted: 

The Savvy Musician unveils a vision for a healthy [artistic] future, articulating 99% of what we need to do.  The missing percentage is YOU.”

 Isn’t it time you became a savvy artist?

To learn more about “The Savvy Musician,” and for a wide array of free resources, visit www.SavvyMusician.com.

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.”