Find inspiration where you can find it. Entrepreneurship can be like writing novels or composing symphonies--only we convince, earn the trust of, and bring out the best in people. People--with both our audiences and our players--are our raw materials. We should do something worthwhile with the unlimited possibilities that come from combining the time, the talents, and the attention of the richly diverse people we can pull from.
Your ensemble’s music probably isn’t universal--but it probably has deep meaning to someone. If you haven’t found that someone, maybe you should try looking somewhere you haven’t yet looked.
It can feel good to be around other people. If you’ve spent a ton of time sending emails, practicing, or conducting research, take some time to go be around other people (even if or especially if you’re an introvert like me!)--talk about what you love and listen to what they love. It can pull you out of your bubble and help remind you why you’re spending all that time by yourself.
Musicians practice. When we can’t play something, we go into a (small) room, and play something in various ways until we can play it to standard. As entrepreneurs, our practicing becomes attempts. We work at building enough of the right relationships until we can achieve our goal (a performance, a tour). Making a mistake in the practice room usually isn’t a big deal. Unfortunately, mistakes in entrepreneurship cost money, time, and reputation. But we will still make mistakes. And being self-conscious about it won’t help. Plan and do. Build and repair. Mistakes are part of the process, so don’t let them stop you from sending that email, going to that party where you’ll meet people you’ll click with, or accomplishing what you know you want to do. When do make a mistake, reflect and work to prevent it in the future.
The best ensembles create new music, play old music in new ways, and/or help us discover something more about ourselves. In order to do this, we have to think about (though not necessarily understand) how our art fits into the broader world. For me, art is in service to humanity. Achieving the perfect performance can be deeply meaningful to the individual (“Yes! I did it!”) but can have little meaning to no one else if it’s not played for the right audience or in the right context. I’m convinced perfect performances can only happen when we wholly give up ourselves to the moment, to our colleagues, and to our audience. The audience will feel something magical, and we as performers/ organizers are changed.
Sometimes you have to build habits, do things over and over at regular times. This requires less effort but over more time. And the other times when you have to just sit down and do or finish something require more energy up front. We need to be able to do both--and to know when we need to do them. Learning Japanese can’t be done in a few marathon study sessions of 8 hours--you’ll quickly burn out. For ensembles, it’s easy to do bursts of work to finish that website, send those emails to prospective musicians, or raise $5,000. But doing that work is only the beginning. While we have the excited energy from the newness of project, we can more easily work longer. But we also need to pace ourselves--and work on establishing those sustainable habits so that step-by-mundane-step we can achieve an extraordinary organization of highly talented people who are invested in the group and who actively want to change the world for the better. Bursts work at times, but the turtle always wins.
We all make mistakes. It’s easier to just admit the mistake and learn what you can from it--and then move on. Unless there’s a very good reason to dwell and reflect, there’s just too much to do to spend time deflecting or figuring out fault. Fault is only helpful in determining how to avoid the problem or fix the issue in the future. When the focus is on learning, it’s ok even for you to make mistakes. Under this paradigm, you have a responsibility to make bold mistakes.
The best ensembles create new music, play old music in new ways, and help us discover something more about ourselves. What are you doing to create, bring new perspectives, or help us examine ourselves?
Musicians tend to be concerned with control but true Art requires letting go—and it requires trust in yourself and your fellow musicians. Nobody has to be a musician. You almost certainly had to decide to be where you are, through choices big and small. So why not choose to trust and start your music making with that trust? It’ll make true Art that much closer.
Under the old/ normal way, we glare, make comments about, and even sometimes threaten musicians who make mistakes. Founders following the new way understand that musicians are inherently self-critical and want to play well—and that the best music happens when they are in a safe environment that allows mistakes by encouraging the exploration of the outer limits of their capability. When the group finds and pushes that limit, they might even touch real Art (whatever that might be for them). It’s up to the founders and the leaders of ensembles to create these environments that create an expectation of reaching the limits of the group by inspiring them to their best and forgiving requisite mistakes on the road to excellence —and and to foster the safe environment that allows musicians to focus on their artistry. What kind of environment do you want to create?