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A Life In Music

January 25, 2016

Guest post by Stacy England

I'm excited this week to feature my first guest post! Stacy England and I have known each other since we were kids. We both pursued careers in music, and Stacy has built a diverse entrepreneurial career for herself. In response to my recent blog post, Say Yes, she said, "[Music is]... a word of mouth business based on reputation and referrals. Self-confidence and the chops to back it up [make] the difference." I found that entrepreneurially-minded analysis to be spot on. So in the search for my first guest poster, it was the perfect opportunity to invite Stacy to write about the "gig gone bad," a topic she suggested. (And it seemed like Stacy might have a story or two, as I suspect most musicians do.) I think you will find Stacy's perspective on this key aspect of building a sustainable music career insigh...

January 11, 2016


One key aspect of building a sustainable music career is a willingness to adapt. Multiple research participants in my study on music entrepreneurship cited this as an important mindset. That is, while many musicians would like to have complete control over the type and content of the work they do, the reality is that it will likely be impossible to only the kind of work you desire. Bottom line: you will sometimes have to take music or music-related work that is inconsistent with your personal artistic vision, or (gasp) you may have to take non-music work. For some, this may seem unbearable. And it's understandable, as musicians invest years to hone their artistic skills, only to find that as they enter the professional world, there may be a paucity of work in their specialty. The ensuing frustration may lead some to abandon music altogether. This is unfortunate.


But I also think it’s...

January 4, 2016


Entrepreneurship is a term that’s become something of a buzzword in the 21st century. It seems everywhere you look, people are identifying themselves as entrepreneurs. But what is an entrepreneur? How might entrepreneurship be applied to a music career? Is it needed? I asked these very questions in my research on entrepreneurship instruction in college jazz programs and its impact on graduates’ careers. Here’s what I discovered.


The term entrepreneur originated in 1734 to “describe a person who bears the risk of profit or loss” (Moreland, 2006, p.4). More recently in 2003, the National Commission on Entrepreneurship (NCE) defined entrepreneurship as “the process of uncovering and developing an opportunity to create value through innovation” and noted that “we are living in an ‘Entrepreneurial Age’” (p. 4). 


In NCE’s definition of entrepreneurship, innovation is a key term. For example, the...

December 14, 2015

During my first year in the West Point Band, a colleague advised me to keep a running tally of everything I was doing in the band. He called it an “I’m Great List.” This was sage advice, because when it came time for my annual job performance evaluation, I would simply copy and paste the year’s accomplishments from my I’m Great List into an email to my supervisor. This made it very easy for him to see what I had done and for him to create the “bullet points” that were at the heart of the evaluations. When I became a supervisor myself, I kept an I’m Great List for each of the musicians I supervised, and it was similarly easy to craft the bullet points for their evaluations. 


When I concluded my tenure with the West Point Band, I had amassed a five-page I’m Great List of about 300 individual accomplishments (including date) organized into six categories:




Publicity Proje...

November 23, 2015


​During my first year as an undergraduate music major, my jazz ensemble professor gave me some invaluable advice: save everything. What he meant was that I should keep any physical item(s) associated with an accomplishment. 


Up to that point, I had been sort of doing this already. My mom, a well-organized person, had been saving all my achievements and compiling them into a scrapbook. When I got married and moved out of my parents’ house, my mom bestowed this book to me, and I have it now. It goes as far back as third grade— when I was in the newspaper for the first time for cleaning up a local reservoir with my Cub Scout den— to the end of my first year of college, the point at which my wise professor encouraged me to keep the saving tradition alive.


I listened and obeyed. And I’m glad I did, because now I have hundreds of individual pieces of memorabilia that document nearly every musical...

November 16, 2015


Performing and composing music have been at the nucleus of my musical activity since I was a kid. I eventually began teaching when I was in high school, mostly giving private lessons, but I always conceived of teaching as a financial means to an artistic end— I taught to support my performance habit. Moreover, as I reflect on my early college years, I realize I was somewhat of a snobbish undergraduate performance major, looking down my nose at the non-performance majors, especially the music education majors. My view was, if you’re not performing (or at least composing), then you’re not really doing the thing that music is all about: you’re not creating.


Boy, was I wrong. 


When I became an education major as a doctoral student, I saw things from the other side. I realized that teaching isn’t merely a means to subsidize a performance career. It is an art in itself and a critical profession,...

February 21, 2015


In the spring of 2014, a 17-year old from Long Island named Kwasi Enin did something no one had ever done before: he got accepted to all eight Ivy League schools at once. While it appears unprecedented that Master Enin was simultaneously accepted to Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, U. Penn, and Yale, and that he deserves all the credit for achieving such a distinction, this is not really what I’m writing about. I am writing about what got him in. 


Yes, he had top grades and a phenomenal SAT score. No doubt, you’d likely have to have those two things minimum to get into all 8 Ivies. What really caught my eye was his essay. It’s all about music. Music is Kwasi’s passion. He played violin in the orchestra, sang in the choir, and acted in the school musical. He described these activities as having a profound effect on his development and achievement. In Kwasi’s own words...

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