What’s Working for Music Entrepreneurs?: The Power of Living at Choice

Spring Break is here.  My students are on overload.  They have been performing a lot, as well as auditioning for DMA programs, summer festivals and orchestra jobs, interviewing for internships and jobs on top of all their schoolwork.  We began our last class before Spring Break with a check-in on what’s working.

What’s working is a great question because you focus on the positive aspects of your life.  It is another way to change your perceptions and use the forces of positive energy to motivate you.

Here’s the way it works:

1.    First you identify what is working in your life.

2.  Then you figure out what about it works, analyzing the steps you took to create your success.

3.  Finally, you apply your methodology to areas of your life that are not working as well so that you can overcome your challenges.

Let’s take a look at what is working from my class.


1.  What’s working for my students?

•    Creating a 10-concert tour culminating in the degree recital, including master classes and a sold-out concert
•    Being accepted to her first-choice DMA program in order to study with a master teacher
•    Being accepted to a conducting workshop for a student whose goal is to transition from his major instrument to conducting
•    Being accepted to an international competition in Paris, creating the motivation to host a fundraiser to pay his way
•    Landing a coveted internship and 2 summer job offers
•    A composer’s having a series of premieres, including one at the Kennedy Center
•    Receiving an inquiry to perform with a national arts organization
•    Speaking to audience for first time as part of an audience outreach concert and enjoying it!

2.    What about it works?

These steps show you your personal methodology for getting things done.

•    What steps did you take to create that tour or get into that DMA program? 
•    What strengths did you draw on to power through the long hours of practice and preparation?
•    How did you retain your focus?
•    How did you remain your best self”?
•    What about this situation was important to you?  What values did it represent? How did it tie into your long-term goals?

Common answers included organization, focus, inspiration, being at flow, trusting and using your best self, playing into strengths, and doing what you love,

3.    How can you apply your methodology to other challenges you are having?

For example, the student who was initially afraid to speak in public now knows that he can do it again and he can apply his methodology to overcome his fears.  The student who was accepted to her first-choice DMA program can use the experience of being at flow to motivate her through upcoming orchestral auditions. 

This technique helps you to tap into your strengths, identify what you value and create an internal motivation to help you power through your challenges.  This, in turn, reinforces your choices.  Living at choice is at the heart of being an entrepreneur because it means that you are taking charge of your life.

And indeed, my students learned that they were able to “power through” their challenges when each activity represented a heart-felt choice that aligned with their strengths and values.  Being at choice looks different to each person:

•    Foreign students who want to stay in the US in order to deepen their experience and knowledge before returning to their home countries
•    Getting a DMA because you really want to teach
•    Creating new music to perform with your ensemble because you are excited about collaborating with other people and contributing to the body of work for new audiences
•    Performing and getting yourself out there because you love connecting with your audience
•    Composing the kind of music your love

My students are learning the value of living at choice, as opposed to doing what is expected.  As a result is that they can handle a lot more than they think they can by focusing on one thing at a time and staying in the moment.  Stay tuned for more from these talented young music entrepreneurs!