So Percussion’s Vision and Mission Statements: How Successful Music Entrepreneurs Communicate Their Purpose and Value


SoAction2Arts entrepreneurship is about creating value to society through innovative ideas, fueled by a vision for how to make the world a better place, as well as a mission of how to make that vision a reality.

That’s why successful arts entrepreneurs know their vision and their mission.

People are often confused about what constitute a vision and  a mission.  A vision articulates the big picture ideal state that the organization or individual is going after, while a mission defines the activities that the organization engages in for specific audiences and how these audiences benefit from that work.

Knowing your vision and mission provides focus on what activities to pursue so that you know how to commit your time and resources. In addition, you signal to your audiences what you do and how they will benefit. Vision and mission statements serve as a source of inspiration to an individual, the members of the organization or collaborative group. In addition, they provide clarity and help you stay on track as you deliver on your mission.

I recently helped Sō Percussion, the innovative percussion quartet on whose board I serve, come up with its new vision and mission statements in order to communicate the many ways in which Sō is using music to change the world.

Let’s take a look at the process by which we created Sō’s new vision and mission so that you can create your own vision and mission statements and articulate YOUR version of the ideal state that you want to create!

Launched 15 years ago by four Yale School of Music graduate percussion students, Sō Percussion was founded both to perform the classics of the percussion repertoire as well as to create new repertoire by commissioning works from living composers.

From this performance mission, Sō Percussion’s activities have gradually expanded to encompass a broader range of work. Today,  Sō’s work extends to:

  • performing in live concerts and touring throughout the USA and around the world;
  • recording 16 albums;
  • engaging in a dizzying array of collaborative projects with composers including David Lang, Steve Reich, Steve Mackey, Paul Lansky and Martin Bresnick, and performers including Bryce Desner and The National, legendary drummer Bobby Previte and vocalist Shara Worden;
  • leading several ambitious educational programs including the newly appointed Edward T. Cone Ensemble-in-Residence at Princeton University where they also run the Sō Percussion Summer Institute (SoSI) and the teaching studio at Bard College; and
  • producing a steady output of music composed by members of the ensemble.

Most recently, Sō has embraced the notion of being a socially responsible music ensemble and last summer, organized a food drive in Princeton as part of SoSI to help out the less fortunate members of the community.

Sō was eager to communicate the breadth of its activities to its audiences and we therefore embarked on coming up with a new vision and mission.

Sō’s Vision

To begin the process, we started with Sō’s vision.

A vision is your view of the ideal state that you are aiming to create.

It answers the following questions:

  1. WHY do we exist?
  2. HOW do we make a positive contribution to the world?

Coming up with a vision is a creative process that involves knowing your values, figuring out what you want to accomplish in the future  and brainstorming about what legacy you want to leave.

In coming up with the new vision, we combined Sō’s values of innovation, curiosity, egalitarianism, collaboration and community with a crisp summary of what the ensemble stands for and articulated the vision as folows:

To create a new model of egalitarian artistic collaboration that respects history, champions innovation and curiosity, and creates an essential social bond through service to our audiences and our communities.

Not only does the vision express what Sō Percussion stands for but it also differentiates Sō Percussion from other collaborative ensembles

  • by its commitment to “egalitarian artistic collaboration”
  • a respect for the legacy of great percussion music combined with
  •  innovation and curiosity in all of its endeavors and
  •  the creation of social bonds with its many communities through music.

The vision statement communicates Sō’s purpose and its values. It provides direction about what Sō will accomplish and inspires the members of the ensemble to give their best.  We also hope to inspire our stakeholders to continue to support Sō in its endeavors.

So’s Mission

We then turned this broad vision into a more specific mission.

A mission statement defines your purpose and communicates what you want to achieve. 

It has 3 elements:

  1. What do you do?
  2. For whom?
  3. Why and/or what is the benefit?

Mission statements are valuable because they translate a lofty vision into a concrete set of objectives for a defined audience. A mission statement creates clarity not only for the people involved in executing the mission but also for the target audiences so that they will know what is being delivered for their benefit.

Sō’s new mission statement is intended to communicate the breadth of its activities, along with its commitment to service. It reads as follows:

“Adventurous Music. Education. Service.

Sō Percussion is a percussion-based music organization that creates and presents new collaborative works to adventurous and curious audiences and educational initiatives to engaged students, while providing meaningful service to its communities, in order to exemplify the power of music to unite people and forge deep social bonds.”

Here are the three elements of Sō’s mission:

  1. What does Sō do?
    Sō creates and presents new collaborative work and educational initiatives and provid[es] meaningful service.
  2. For whom?
    The mission statement is intended for three audiences:
    • adventurous and curious audiences
    • engaged students and
    • the communities in which Sō has a presence
  3. Why?
    The final part of the mission statement explains why Sō engages in these activities for the benefit of its 3 audiences: to exemplify the power of music to unite people and forge deep social bonds.

    With its newly articulated mission, Sō is able to translate its vision of music as a uniting force in the world not only through creating and performing fantastic percussion music and educating its students but also in providing service to the communities which it serves.

How to create a vision and a mission statement

Given the benefits of having a clear vision and mission, here is how you (as an individual, collaborative group, ensemble or organization) can create your own vision and mission. If you are part of a group, each member can come up with answers to the questions and then brainstorm together so that you have a shared statement that espouses what it is you are going for.

Allow yourself plenty of time to reflect on the answers and come up with your statements. It may take a few tries before you are able to articulate your vision and mission crisply and clearly. 

Vision Statement:

You can find your vision by answering these questions:

• What is your ideal future state down the road?
• What would you love to accomplish and be known for?
• What values do you espouse and how are these values manifested in what you aspire to achieve?
• How are you making a positive contribution to the world?
• What legacy would you like to leave?

Look for the common themes and words that describe your ideal future state. Then, put these words together in one sentence that tells your audiences why you exist and how you intend to make the world a better place.

Mission Statement

From you vision statement, articulate the specific activities that will carry out your vision, the audiences for whom you do it and how they will benefit from your activities and your vision as a whole:

• What are the specific objectives that you want to achieve?
• What activities carry out your vision and meet these objectives?
• Who are the audience that benefit from these activities?
• In what way do your audiences benefit from these activities?

Now, create a one-sentence summary of your activities, your audience and the benefit that they derive.

Enjoy the clarity that comes from having a well-articulated vision and mission!