Know Your Purpose and Share Your Vision: How Music Entrepreneurs Find Their Collaborators


CollaborationClassical music faces a lot of challenges today and my goal in teaching and working with musicians is to help them find their place in the world of music and contribute something valuable and innovative.

This fall, I began teaching a new class at Yale, entitled “Collaboration, Entrepreneurship and Innovation”. The premise of the course is that today’s artists need to be creative thinkers, as well as creative beings, in order to tackle the many problems that confront the world of the arts. My goal is to inspire my students to take entrepreneurship to the next level and become the cultural leaders of tomorrow.

My course teaches musicians how to generate and implement breakthrough solutions to these problems by working in collaboration with other musicians. One of the elements of successful collaboration is a shared vision by equal partners in order to create something that is bigger than the sum of its parts. To find that shared vision, the first step is to know your own purpose and then seek out collaborators who rally around the same cause and commit to working together.

Let’s take a look at how our students discovered their purpose and then found collaborators with whom they have committed to work on their visionary projects.

Articulate Your Vision and Purpose
Successful collaborators have a vision of what they want the world to look like. That’s why we started our inquiry with a life purpose statement: how you use your talents and passion in the service of an audience with whom you are connected by a greater purpose in order to make the world a better place.

The entry point is to create a vision of what the ideal world looks like. In our class, students had varying visions for classical music in our society:

  • Full houses for concerts with people of all ages;
  • Music education for everyone starting in early childhood both at home and in schools;
  • Classical music as the go-to cool thing to do that generates as much excitement as the Rolling Stones;
  • A society where music is the galvanizing force that helps people to slow down and pay attention to each other and are not distracted by technology;
  • A world where people love music of all genres;
  • Classical music is no longer viewed as elite and is as revered as sports; and,
  • Classical music is valued because it communicates depth and meaning to audiences.

Know Your WHY
From this vision of the perfect world, the students identified

  • the audiences whom they were most drawn to

which ranged from young children to teenagers to people in their 20’s to anyone who loves classical music to people who are looking for community and/or spiritual and emotional well-being through music

  • their roles in effecting the kind of change that they dreamed of

which included performing, teaching, composing, creating new organizations, finding new venues, promoting interdisciplinary collaborations, and

  • why it was important for them to engage in these activities for these audiences.

WHY is a powerful question because audiences are more likely to follow you if your WHY intersects with the audience’s WHY.

As Simon Sinek explained in his TED talk on how great leaders inspire action,

“We follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to. We follow those who lead, not for them, but for ourselves. And it’s those who start with “why” that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others who inspire them.”

Once you connect your WHY with your Audience’s WHY, it will create a powerful bond that will attract your audiences to what you do.

This is how we turn arts entrepreneurs into cultural leaders!

In class, the students articulated the greater purpose underlying WHY they do what they do: 

  • To create more meaningful and deeper engagement with the world and help people to experience fulfillment and happiness through music;
  • To inspire and uplift people in a community and unite them through music;
  • To provide an escape from everyday worries and bring people into a world of emotional richness and enlightenment;
  •  To unite, uplift and educate the world around me;
  • To provide spiritual inspiration through music;
  • To help audiences understand themselves and one another through music,
  • To spread joy and happiness through music

Thus, by knowing WHY you make music, teach, perform and compose, you are on your way to becoming the kind of leader who inspire others to follow and support you!

Find Collaborators Who Share Your Vision and Your WHY
The final step in our process was to connect students with collaborators who shared their visions.

To do so, each student pitched a project idea that encompassed his or own version of the perfect world. After listening to all of the ideas, the students engaged in a “speed dating” exercise where they sought out the people who shared their vision around how to solve a critical problem in the world of classical music. Once they found their people, they refined their ideas to come up with a project that would solve that problem. 

The result is four collaborative groups who have rallied around the following statements of purpose:

  1. Music in Hospice
    To provide musical performances in hospice by Yale School of Music students for families whose loved ones are dying in order to provide solace and comfort to those who are grieving, as well as bring music to communities who have limited access to music. We seek to foster a lasting connection between a music community that is constantly seeking new performance outlets and a grieving community that is in need of an emotional musical outlet.
  2. Web App that Matches Music to Your Mood
    To expand the audience for classical music for people who are curious about discovering new music by creating a web app that matches music to your mood based on the individual curation by the members of the collaborative group.
  3. Interdisciplinary Chamber Opera
    To create and perform an interdisciplinary chamber opera in a casual cabaret setting and expand the audience for opera by drawing people to music that they might not have heard before, as well as providing a behind-the-scenes look at how interdisciplinary collaborations work by documenting the processing on YouTube.
  4. Music and Wellness Festival
    To create a festival of spiritually-enriching music, yoga, meditation and other modalities in order to promote physical emotional and spiritual well-being.

Finding your collaborators through shared purpose is just the start! The collaborative groups have worked hard all semester to refine their projects and deliver a test run. Next time, we will explore how the creativity problem solving process helped our students to come up with breakthrough ideas that provide meaningful service to their audiences.