The 2011 Conference took place at the historic Player’s Theater, directly next door to the famous Cafe Wha? where Bob Dylan so many of his early songs. I had read about Cafe Wha? in Dylan’s bestselling memoir, Chronicles, Vol 1 and was excited to be taking in the energy of Greenwich Village.
Day 1 Panelists
On the first day of the conference we had an excellent panel of prototypical entrepreneurial musicians. I was blown away at how creative, intelligent, articulate and passionate these panelists were. Classical pianist, rock guitarist and entrepreneur Kimball Gallagher had some anecdotes to share which I have since passed on several times. After graduating from Juilliard, he raised funds to buy a piano by dividing the portion into 88, the number of keys on the piano. “Buy a key” became his hook. Putting in this effort to brand his fund raising turned a difficult and uncomfortable ask into a fun and memorable opportunity for his supporters to get involved. There is a huge lesson in there for all us — both as performers and as entrepreneurs.
The other impressive panelists included violinist, violist and teaching artist Katie Kresek, drummer and theater owner Michael Sgouros and pianist Orli Shaham who created a series of concerts in NYC called Baby Got Bach. I have also repeated the title of her series to friends several times — catchy and descriptive.
Here were some of my key takeaways:
- Schools of music should encourage integration between disciplines and help students take independent initiative.
- We may resist the idea of marketing a product, but we do it all the time — even when we convince someone else to do something as simple as joining us for a movie, that is marketing.
- Emancipate the students from rigid curriculum — facilitate the space required to innovate.
- Encourage students to move away from an encirclement attitude about generating audience.
- Sometimes you have to give your music away without much (or any) financial reward. Some projects may be worth it to you to build repertoire, your network or exposure — consider these non-paying gigs to be investments.
- Some formative experiences came when trying to make a concert relevant to a four year old. It is not dissimilar when entertaining a 44 year old — you have to tell a story and make the concert have an arch of drama.
- Practice talking about your pieces. Often it is the talking not the playing that will truly set your product apart.
- Read the Art of Possibility by Zander.
Discussions, Bucket-Lists and New Friends
The conference discussion was moderated masterfully by composer and bassoonist John Steinmetz. Angela Myles Beeching, writer of Beyond Talent and John Blanchard, director of MSM’s alumni affairs division, also helped bring shape to the conference.
Here were some of my lessons-learned:
- Work to teach attitudes. An entrepreneurial attitude is the most important asset a student can develop.
- Destroy the myth that musicians can either have a) success as a performer or b) work in another career. There are many shades of gray in between.
- Develop a legacy. The concept of a legacy can be a very powerful motivator and a useful exercise to envision where you would like to go in life & career.
- Learning happens “when students are ready” and not before. Our job is to be available and informed for when the opportunity arises to help.
- Music business is project-based. It is not linear as some other careers.
We surveyed many different things that each music student should be able to do by the time they graduate and tried to form these skill sets into three buckets. We labeled the buckets in many different ways, but the simplest way for me to think of the three is 1) personal / life skills, 2) entrepreneurial / business skills and 3) development of the product and performance.
I was fortunate to meet many new colleagues at the conference. Establishing this new network has encouraged me that we can put our heads together and truly solve some of the issues that seem to consistently bog down music students. These experienced professionals generously lent their many years of experience and knowledge to the conference and have already started lending their creative energy toward helping Velvet Singer continue to provide solutions for classical singers.
Thank you to:
- Erik Privert from Berklee College of Music
- Kim Haack from Boston Conservatory
- Sarah Bellott from Boston University
- Nan Childress Orchard from Caldwell College
- Anthea Jackson from Carnegie Hall Weill Music Institute
- David Gilson from Cleveland Institute of Music
- Edna Landau from The Colburn School
- David Maves from College of Charleston
- Michelle Stanley from Colorado State University
- Mary Loiselle from Curtis Institute of Music
- Rob Krueger from DePaul University
- David Cutler from Duquesne University
- Kathy Liperote from Eastman School of Music
- Courtney Blackwell, Sung-ah Han from The Juilliard School
- Ed Klorman, Ar Adler, John Blanchard from Manhattan School of Music
- Jan Bottomer from McGill University
- Justin Kolb from Mellon Music Management
- Felicia Miyakawa from Middle Tennessee State University
- Ruth Morrow from Midwestern State University
- Kimm Julian from Minnesota State University, Mankato
- Tremeur Arbor from Muendo
- Kim Foster Wallace from Music Academy of Monmouth County
- Daniel Swenson from New England Conservatory
- Rosanne Sonatore from The New School for Music / Mannes
- Catherine Radbill from New York University
- Phyl Naffziger from Northern Illinois University
- Ellen Schantz from Northwestern University Bienen School of Music
- Sara Adams from Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music
- Casey Molino Dunn from Octave Performing Arts
- Thresa Swadley from Oklahoma Baptist University
- Rachel Messler from Rider University / Westminster Choir College
- Linda Berna from Roosevelt University / Chicago College of Performing Arts
- Howard Felton from Royal College of Music
- Craig Sabbatino
- Marian Liebowitz from San Diego State University
- Patrece Robinson from Stetson University
- Kazumi Minoguchi from Toho School, Japan
- Linda Holzer from University of Arkansas Little Rock
- Julie Woodard from University of the Arts
- Jeffrey Nytch from University of Colorado Boulder
- Katharine Knight from University of Denver
- Kathleen Hacker from University of Indianapolis
- Dina Pannabecker Evans from University of Kansas
- Nicole Sorge from University of Louisville
- Joe Mount from University of North Carolina School of the Arts
- Susan Helfter from University of Southern California
- Andrew Dell’Antonio from University of Texas Austin
- L. H. Dickert from Winthrop University
- Valarie Jacobsen from Xavier University
- Ashley Starkins, Daniel Pellegrini from Yale University