This fall we broke ground once again at Westminster!
Of all the places that I give seminars, it seems that Westminster Choir College of Rider University is consistently pushing me to break new ground. I know that the same is true for their faculty and students alike. It is just in the water over there. They consistently roll out new and effective initiatives such as their online offerings (including music theory, pedagogy and webinars) and they are pushing ahead on a successful capital campaign (see article on recent $3 million gift) for a new performance venue. That will make a huge difference to this growing school.
Saturday Seminar — Continuing Ed & Cross-Discipline
The office of continuing education, enthusiastically spearheaded by Executive Director, Scott Hoerl teamed up with Joyce Tyler of career services to bring me to town. They were excited to bring these new offerings to enrich the Westminster community!
For the first time, Westminster brought me in for a Saturday seminar marketed to a continuing education audience of cross-discipline artists. The result was a tremendously successful dialog among a highly diverse group of musicians: a classical guitar player with heaps of talent and exposure, a folk/classical singer with an entrepreneurial spirit, a singer who performed with City Opera for over thirty years, a medical doctor with a budding new product.
I offered some straight presentation, we broke up into small groups and attendees shared feedback and creative new ideas. It was a fantastically collaborative day, so much so that the students requested that I put together a class contact list so they can all stay in touch.
And I was able to continue the dialogue with several musicians even after the session. I helped one young lady refine her marketing strategy on her website. She offers several “products” and I was delighted to help her think through how to position herself as a multi-threat, without being a jack-of-all-trades master-of-none.
Hats off to Westminster. Drawing continuing education students back into the university setting is no small feat, and Westminster does it better than most, offering graduate credits for a certain number of Saturday Seminars. In these economic times, developing new revenue streams for a university is a particular challenge.
New Seminar: Engineering Art — How Applying Science Can Propel Your Artistic Pursuits
I developed a new seminar for my session with Laura Brooks Rice‘s Graduate Audition’s Class that I affectionately call “Cool things I learned in Engineering School.”
In preparing for my seminar with Westminster’s graduate level Audition class, and in looking through the roster, I realized that many of these students will have previously attended both my organizational seminar and my business plan seminar. Many of these singers were present in 2010 when I presented to a large portion of the Westminster vocal department, and many of these singers attended The CoOPERAtive Program this past summer. So this was an opportunity to develop new material.
I began developing this new material a few months ago, by asking the question: how did I arrive at my current perspective, and how can I take a group of people down a similar journey? How can I show (ie. “show don’t tell”) them some of the principles I learned in engineering school and in the consulting world? How do I boil down my life experiences into two hours?
Certainly I would want to take them through some cool case studies and show them some powerful technologies. But I don’t want to overwhelm them or distort the bottom line message in a cloud of whiz-bang…
It could not have gone better! This group was engaged in the discussion and shared some very interesting insights into several very complex demos and fun games.
Students laugh playing a game I made up called “Card Chicken” modeled after the famous Prisoner’s Dilemmahypothetical, to demonstrate probability and uncertainty.
Being late in the semester, and having worked with so many of these singers before, I wanted the discussion to be part “Bill Nye the Science Guy” and part motivational speaker. Above all, I wanted it to be fun and encouraging. In fact, the second slide of my presentation was simply two words: Get Psyched. Why? Because you have the power to use your brain and understand where it is you are and where you want to go, as my not-so-beloved high school chemistry teacher used to say.
With that framework, I had a total blast picking some of the most compelling and interesting demos and case studies from my background that supported what I called my nine principles from engineering. Things such as:
- Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research
- Organizing / Sorting / Queries
- Decision Theory
- Synthesis and Reporting
We took a look at the NASA Challenge tragedy and the famous case study that Harvard Business School developed, as a way to show the power of displaying data in meaningful ways. And we also spent a good amount of time tinkering, exploring and unpacking the immensely compelling data loaded into Hans Roesling’s http://www.gapminder.org/world/site. (If you haven’t killed two hours here, be sure you block out some time because it is going to blow your mind.)
The bottom line was to help these singers “get psyched” about their future. You absolutely can think your way into a career in the arts. There is no limit to what we can do when we have the proper framework, a deep understanding of the truth about where we are and tools to make it happen!