I am thrilled to be teaching a new class at the Yale School of Music entitled “Creating Sustainable Careers in the Arts” and we have gotten off to a great start. I teach a combination of
• How to create a positive mindset and project confidence;
• How to be an authentic, powerful and unique artist; and
• Entrepreneurial skills that will help you advance your music career.
Over the course of the semester, my students will learn how to adopt the mindset and learn skill sets and the processes necessary to become successful music entrepreneurs. Here is why this is so important, no matter what kind of career you envision as a musician.
My students are a mix of instrumental majors, a composer and a singer. All are dedicated to having performing careers. Most envision creating something new in the field, which we will explore in greater depth through a semester-long project. Many want to teach, either privately or at an institution.
Among the first week’s assignments were two pieces of wisdom from Steve Jobs:
One of my students posed an interesting question:
Why are we reading about business entrepreneurs when all I want is to work as part of a performing arts organization and not create something new?
Here’s my answer:
With the state of the arts world as it is, it is more important that ever to be the kind of person who thinks like an entrepreneur:
- How strongly do I believe in myself and my unique gift?
- What is my vision?
- What are my passions?
- How can I make a difference through my music?
- What are my opportunities and how can I make them happen?
Status quo is no longer an option. Established performing arts organizations are in transition and are faced with the challenge of how to survive, let alone thrive, in the 21st Century. Music conservatory graduates, no matter how talented they are, need more than just raw talent. Indeed, with no guarantees of success as a musician, even musicians who do not envision creating a new enterprise and are looking to join an existing structure need to be asking themselves the following questions:
- How confident am I that I can land a coveted spot in one of these organizations?
- What guarantee is there that this organization will be there for my entire career?
- What else can I be doing to launch my career?
The good news is that there is a lot you can do. With these realities in mind, here is what can make a difference as you launch your career:
1. Know your authentic, best self and what makes you unique. This will help you to be positive and inspire confidence in those around you.
2. Look for opportunities and don’t wait for them to come to you.
3. Be flexible and open-minded about your opportunities.
4. Learn from your challenges and build on your experience.
5. Get support and create a network of like-minded people with whom you connect and share.
6. The corollary to the foregoing: Be a generous, supportive colleague so that people will want to work with you and ask you back.
That’s what my course is about: to help these amazingly talented young people gain the confidence in themselves to create a vision of success, look for opportunities to make that happen and go after them with the goal of creating a financially sustainable career.
Stay tuned for how we make that happen.