When the New Year turned over, what did you say you wanted to do? Where are you with it now? If you’re on track, good job! If not, reassess and go from there. Was it a silly goal? A goal that you’re too afraid of so you make tons of excuses to not do it? Too big of one? Make some decisions and go after it--or cut it loose.
It’s not very funny when you’re seen as a joke--someone who can’t complete things. Doesn’t do what she/he says. How do you become someone who finishes? By finishing what you begin. Start small. Grow. Plan. Execute. Revise. Plan. Execute. Suddenly you finish things and people take you seriously.
*One of things I’m working on in 2019!
I just don’t think I should have to convince anyone classical music is worthwhile. It’s self evident. TRANSLATION: I don’t want to do the hard work of connecting with an audience.
I shouldn’t have to play something I don’t like. TRANSLATION: My audience doesn’t matter.
I’m a musician. I only play my instrument/ sing/ conduct. TRANSLATION: I’m not in the business of making connections.
Having the the right ensemble with the right audience matters. Coal miners probably don’t want to listen to Mozart. Or maybe they do--but not in a concert hall. If you’re a Mozart-playing ensemble in a concert hall, coal miners are probably the wrong audience--not matter how much convincing, begging, cajoling, and bribing you do. Pick an audience--and focus on them. Lavish them with what they already want (or perhaps didn’t know they wanted). Spend a ton of energy figuring that out, and then the audience is yours (as long as you remain receptive to their cares and desires). Nobody likes it when a salesman tries to sell something no one wants. Go to households that need a vacuum.
If your new ensemble had been around for a while and suddenly disappeared, would anybody miss it? Do you meaningfully contribute to your (however defined) community? Do you treat people with respect? If nobody would miss you, what could you add that makes you invaluable to the community? That the loss of your ensemble is a real loss to that community? Meaningful contributions to the community translate into market value--either donors will want to give or audiences will want to buy tickets. Outside of the arts, a business closes quickly if it fails to find a community that can sustain it. Inspired customers and donors will attend concerts. Otherwise, what’s the point?
To be in peak shape, we must take care of ourselves. We need sleep. We need food. We need physical activity. Oddly enough, these make us more confident, more resilient, more creative, and better able to handle the many challenges we face. Here’s an invitation to get some sleep, to eat a nutritious meal, to go for a walk or run or to the gym.
Some will say you should wait to start your project. You need more experience, more knowledge, permission, the right circumstances. Things will never be perfect. Sometimes waiting is good, but don’t wait. Hesitation kills millions of great ideas everyday. Come up with a plan and then execute it. You have all the tools you need, even if you don’t know what those tools are.
How do you know if your project is important? 1) Does it connect people? 2) Does it do something new or provide a new perspective? 3) Does it improve the ecosystem? There are many reasons why a music project might be important, but these are a great place to start. Generally, if you’re acting to make something better, then it’s important. We need you to do it.
How do you know if you’re doing something “correctly” or “incorrectly”? What if that last email could have been interpreted differently--was your tone professional enough? Too professional? What about that letter to the potential sponsor. You thought you used all the right vocabulary, but they seem to have misinterpreted you. In the end, the correct way to do something is with the thought of building a relationship behind it. Maybe you do sound terse or perhaps the other party misunderstands you. You can always adjust and say what you meant in a different way. “Nos” become data for you. Make changes. Be more polite. Be more casual. Be less detailed. You can work with a no. Non-responses are completely useless. If you keep getting non-responses, try to get a no.
We probably don’t want to do most of what we have to do. Sending emails. Writing business plans. Attending networking events (for the introverts). Spending long hours by yourself (for the extroverts). Maybe all you want to do is play your instrument, conduct, sing, but you don’t see anyone else making things better in your area. You take matters into your own hands. At the same time, nothing can beat the feeling when the musicians are assembled and beautiful (however defined) sounds come from the group. It’s fleeting, but it’s what we’re after. In many ways, it’s like music itself, which never persists. Music is followed by silence, gatherings followed by scatterings. Those brief moments, though, make all the other things worthwhile. And maybe you even come to like them.