Musician’s Health Issues — A Reminder to Take Care of Yourself

Posted on September 18, 2012 at 6:40 am by
in Being a Professional
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If you have an interest or concerns about musician’s health issues, you will want to check out this Special Report from Musical America. It covers topics ranging from injury prevention, (with Polyphonic.org frequent contributor, Janet Horvath, prominently represented), to health care plans for performing musicians. Here’s a sampling of “chapters.”

  • Musician, Protect Thyself: A Few Ounces of Prevention
  • Clinics and Medical Practitioners
  • Good News Case Study No. 1: Peter Oundjian’s Personal Journey
  • Turning Performance Anxiety into Your Personal Best
  • Good News Case Study No. 2: Flutist Nora Shulman
  • Insuring Your Staffers: An Informal Survey
  • Group Health Insurance Plans for Performing Artists

The lesson for today is to take care of yourself. It it hurts, take a rest. There are lots of things to work on in addition to developing great motor skills. “Brain practice” is valuable too. .  .  . and don’t forget about intense focused listening.

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Send Yourself a Text to Come in at Letter C

Posted on September 12, 2012 at 6:10 am by
in Being a Professional, Technology
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I subscribe to various list-servs, and one of them is orchestra-l. It’s for musicians who are members of ICSOM orchestras (International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians). Lately there has been a lot of back and forth about musicians using electronic devices in rehearsals when they aren’t playing. Here is a sample.

“Bonjour! — I would like to know how orchestras are dealing with the use of i-phones, i-pads, i-pods, reading-pads on stage during rehearsals?? We use to have magazines or newspapers but now, the electronic is the new reality. In Montréal, the management came with ‘zéro tolérance’ for any use of electronics on stage? What is the situations in your orchestras?” (more…)

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You Want Younger Audiences? Time to Start Listening!

Posted on September 4, 2012 at 1:12 pm by
in Staying informed
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Shoshana Fanizza is the founder of Audience Development Specialists (ADS for short). It’s a company that provides services to help organizations and individuals learn how to apply audience development to their art. Find ADS here. As is the usual case now-a-days, she has a blog, and last June I stumbled across what I thought was an interesting take on audience development and Arts Conferences. Her point is that if you want to develop a younger audience, younger folks need to see younger folks at Arts Conferences, in this case the League of American Orchestras 2012 conference. 

Let’s think about a twenty-something guy who wants to take a date to the local symphony. They get there open the program book and see ads for high-end jewelers, furriers, retirement communities and the occasional mortuary. Yikes. (more…)

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Technology in Music – The Wave of the Present

Posted on June 11, 2012 at 6:31 am by
in Being a Professional, Getting Ahead, Technology

Ask any musician who is ten years older than you how business is, and he or she will probably say, “It’s okay, but it was much better ten years ago.” If that same person asks the identical question to another musician ten years older than he is, he will probably get the same answer. “It’s okay, but it was much better ten years ago.” Why was it always better ten years ago than it is today? A possible answer is that the music business constantly evolves, and the person who was busier a decade ago may not have moved ahead with it. Perhaps this person has skills that were well suited for yesterday’s professional musical environment, but not for today’s.

In my lifetime alone I’ve witnessed several major changes in the music business. In the 1970s and ’80s our Eastman graduates who wanted jazz careers often did their “graduate school” in the bands of Buddy Rich, Count Basie, Woody Herman and Maynard Ferguson. At the same time symphony orchestras were finding increased support from foundations. They expanded their seasons. They were growing. In New York City, Broadway was a convenient thing to fall back on, but the best gigs were freelance recording. That is, until synthesizers and samplers appeared on the scene.

Synthesizers changed everything in the music industry and made it possible to have a very high-end product, at least to the undiscerning listener. Those musicians who embraced technology and moved with it could hope to remain relevant, but those who continued to do what they had always done probably woke up one day to find that time had passed them by. The industry had evolved without them.

As stated earlier, technology has changed everything on the nonclassical side of the music business. Synthesizers have found their way into practically every genre from Broadway shows to the one-man band playing tunes with play-along tracks at the local restaurant. Forward-thinking musicians have recognized that synthesizers and samplers are not just a passing fancy. Take drum-set players vs. drum machines. An enterprising percussionist would realize that just because a machine can sound acoustic doesn’t mean that every person who buys one can make it sound believable. It still has to be programmed! And guess who is most familiar with what a drum set should sound like? You guessed it—percussionists. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.

When I graduated from college an engineer friend of mine who was also graduating told me he was going to go to work for RCA. (It’s interesting how one remembers these isolated incidents from the past.) RCA was a major electronics company in its day, and my friend was going to be involved with computers. He explained to me something about computers working with 0s and 1s, and punch cards that were used to input data. I also knew that they were very large and took up a lot of space. That was in the mid-sixties, and much has changed since then. It is definitely an understatement to say that computers, the Internet and the World Wide Web have changed the way musicians do business!

Electronics—with its synthesizers, samplers, drum machines and sequencing—has surpassed the piano as the composer’s most valuable tool. Music engraving programs now make the all-night part-copying session a thing of the past. The Internet and its search engines save us valuable time in research. We can get answers to just about anything in a matter of seconds. And if my German publisher sends me some music to edit, I can do it and get it back to her the same day. Social networks like Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter keep us connected and expand our reach if we want to use them for commercial purposes. We can easily get the word out when we want to promote a concert, and our personal websites provide a place for us to offer our wares for sale. Recently, I was considering the clarinet part on Stravinsky’s Ebony Concerto that I would be playing soon in a concert in Rochester. I hadn’t heard it in a while, and I wanted to see how much I would have to practice in order to sound decent on it. Ten years ago I would have gone to the library. But I found a recording on YouTube and the music on the Web in probably less than ten seconds.

If you are old enough to remember this, think back to when telephone answering machines first came on the scene. It was very annoying to have to leave a message. Nowadays if we make a call and no answering machine picks up, we’re bugged! But who makes telephone calls anyway? I do all my contracting of musicians through email and Facebook. Maybe younger people take this kind of information at your fingertips for granted, but it still amazes me. It’s like we’re on a moving train and it’s accelerating!

When I was a doctoral student, I was in a class that had an assignment that asked us to think into the future 20 years and forecast what the music profession would look like. I wish I still had that paper. It would be fun to see how far off I was. Anyway, one student was very frustrated with the assignment. She just couldn’t get into it. I remember one of her comments. “What should we do? Take LSD to help stimulate our imaginations?” Okay, it was the ’60s. But talk about inside-the-box thinking! She was all about what was going on in the present and pretty short on imagination! That student not withstanding, it’s kind of fun to think about future trends.

Here is a thought I had just today. I have a student who is finishing his doctorate in jazz studies, and he is writing a dissertation. I’m not his primary advisor, but I’m on his committee and so I have to read this document, make comments and edits and when it is in good shape I’ll sign off on it. There are three of us on his committee. As I read his dissertation today I thought, “The content is great, but the delivery system is very antiquated. It has a footnote about every other sentence, and because it is about music it has tons of musical examples.” I’m thinking that this is the same format as 40 years ago when I went through the identical process with my dissertation. Why can’t this be done in an electronic format with links to the footnotes and embedded musical examples? It would be so much more user-friendly. The reader could hear the examples while looking at the music. I know that the technology is there. In our website, polyphonic.org, we embedded sound files in one of our articles four years ago. Maybe there is no need to do this for a dissertation (if you assume that it will never be read again except by a handful of scholars), but I will wager that 10 years from now more books will be published in electronic format than hard copy, and that they will have all sorts of interactive add-ons available. The publishing industry is already firmly headed in this direction.

The point of this cursory look at these technological advances is to remind you to embrace the future—technology in this instance—and change. In the current social and economic climate it is definitely “adapt or become irrelevant.” In envisioning the future, I am reminded of this quote that is attributed to hockey legend Wayne Gretzky. It’s a good one. When asked how he always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, and consequently scored more goals than others, he replied, “I don’t go where the puck is. I go to where the puck will be.” Try to be like Gretzky.

 

 

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Why 2012 will be year of the Artist-Entrepreneur

Posted on May 29, 2012 at 3:35 pm by
in Being a Professional, Being a Successful Entrepreneur

Here’s an interesting article I stumbled upon a few weeks ago. It was in GigaOM. The title really caught my eye because it is upbeat at a time when one sees so much negativity about making a living in the arts being talked about.  It’s easy for musicians to bemoan the current economic state and to long for yesterday where things always seemed better.  Ask any musician who is ten years older than you how business is, and he or she will probably say, “It’s okay, but it was much better ten years ago.” If that same person asks the identical question to another musician ten years older than he is, he will probably get the same answer. “It’s okay, but it was much better ten years ago.” Why was it always better ten years ago than it is today? A possible answer is that the music business constantly evolves, and the person who was busier a decade ago may not have moved ahead with it. Perhaps this person has skills that were well suited for yesterday’s business, but not for today’s. More than in the past it’s up to musicians to be pro-active and make things happen. Here’s Michael Wolf’s take.

Why 2012 will be year of the Artist-Entrepreneur

By Michael Wolf

While 2011 was a big year for political unrest, another uprising was afoot in the world of content creators and artists. Everywhere you look, artists are taking more control over their own economic well being, in large part because the Internet has enabled them to do so. You see it in all forms of content, from books, to video to music.

A few examples from this year: (more…)

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A Record Label with Real Ideals

Posted on May 14, 2012 at 3:32 pm by
in Being a Professional

If you’ve read my book, Lessons From a Street-Wise Professor, you may recall some space given to the balance of power shift in the record business from label control to artist control.  Here’s a new record label that is committed to operating in the artist’s best interests.  .  .  .and it is set up as a non-profit entity. As Norman Lebrecht states below in his post from Arts Journal, “it sounds almost too good to be true.” There are some lofty goals set here. Let’s wish them success.

May 10, 2012 By Norman Lebrecht
We’ve been sent the first releases by Odradek, which describes itself as ‘the first non-profit, artist controlled classical label’. The artists are not widely known and the music is serious – from Schoenberg to Gubaidulina. But the quality is outstandingly high and the mission statement is nothing short of utopian: (more…)

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Being a Successful Entrepreneur— Think Big—or Go Home

Posted on March 1, 2012 at 6:59 am by
in Being a Successful Entrepreneur
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When I was younger I’m sure I didn’t think “Big Picture” as much as I do now, but today with countless projects under my belt, I’m always thinking big.  I suppose it’s also a function of my job at the Eastman School.  As a senior administrator and Director of the Institute for Music Leadership, it’s my job to be forward thinking.

I’ve found that a successful way to approach any project, or problem for that matter, is to dream about what it could be if there were no constraints on resources, i.e., money and staff to make it happen (read:  the “staff” is sometimes just me!).  When working with others I try to neutralize the naysayers right away.  It’s very easy to throw cold water on an idea at the outset.  I try to have everyone think of all the positive things about the project.  After we have considered those, I ask for challenges or barriers to the idea.  There are usually workarounds for the barriers.  As suggested elsewhere in these blogs, envision the Cadillac version.  Put some numbers to it, then start making compromises if you need to.  This is what orchestra artistic administrators do in planning a season.  They come up with interesting concerts, but then the reality of the budget sets in.  How many extra players are going to be needed?  Leos Janácek’s Sinfonietta might look great programmatically, but with its large instrumentation and many extra players—including twelve trumpets, two bass trumpets, four trombones, two tenor tubas and one tuba—it just might stretch the budget a little.

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Being a Successful Entrepreneur— Envision the Future

Posted on February 16, 2012 at 12:54 pm by
in Being a Successful Entrepreneur
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When I was a doctoral student, I was in a class that had an assignment that asked us to think into the future twenty years and forecast what the music profession would look like.  I wish I still had that paper.  It would be fun to see how far off I was.  Anyway, one student was very frustrated with the assignment.  She just couldn’t get into it.  I remember one of her comments.   “What should we do?  Take LSD to help stimulate our imaginations?”  OK, it was the 60s.  But talk about inside-the-box thinking!   She was all about what was going on in the present and pretty short on imagination!

That student not withstanding, it’s kind of fun to think about future trends.  Here is a thought I had just today.  I have a student who is finishing his doctorate in jazz studies, and he is writing a dissertation.  I’m not his primary advisor, but I’m on his committee and so I have to read this document, make comments and edits and when it is in good shape I’ll sign off on it.  There are three of us on his committee.  As I read his dissertation today I thought,  “The content is great, but the delivery system is very antiquated.  It has a footnote about every other sentence, and because it is about music it has tons of musical examples.”  I’m thinking that this is the same format as forty years ago when I went through the identical process with my dissertation.  Why can’t this be done in an electronic format with links to the footnotes and embedded musical examples?  It would be so much more user-friendly.  The reader could hear the examples while looking at the music.  I know that the technology is there.  In our website, polyphonic.org, we embedded sound files in one of our articles two years ago.[i]  Maybe there is no need to do this for a dissertation (if you assume that it will never be read again except by a handful of scholars), but I will wager that ten years from now more books will be published in electronic format than hard copy, and that they will have all sorts of interactive add-ons available.  The publishing industry is already firmly headed in this direction.

In envisioning the future, I am reminded of this quote that is attributed to hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.  It’s a good one.  When asked how he always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, and consequently scored more goals than others, he replied, “I don’t go where the puck is.  I go to where the puck will be.”  Try to be like Gretzky.


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Being a Successful Entrepreneur— There Is No One Model for Entrepreneurs—Gain Experience First

Posted on February 2, 2012 at 6:48 am by
in Being a Successful Entrepreneur
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If you have read my book, Lessons From a Street-Wise Professor, think back to Chapter 9: “Five Non-Linear Career Journeys.”  These are stories of very successful entrepreneurial musicians.  I chose to include them because they represent five different areas of the music business, but I had a secondary reason as well.  They all have reached their goals in different ways.  There really is no one single road to success in music.  If you gain experience, be observant, have good role models and develop an entrepreneurial mindset, your time will come.

Once a friend of a friend asked me what her daughter could do to prepare for a career in music.  Her daughter was then a high school student and was considering a college major in music.  Half-jokingly I gave her a flip answer. I said, “Tell her she should 1) get a paper route, because then she will know how many papers she has to deliver just to purchase one CD; and 2) get a ukulele, because she will learn how to harmonize tunes with just three chords.”  In other words, know the value of a dollar and work on your ears.  But, something was lost in my profundity: I forgot that kids haven’t had paper routes in 30 years.  Got to change that one.

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“You’ve Cott Mail”

Posted on January 24, 2012 at 9:55 am by
in Being a Successful Entrepreneur, Staying informed

One of the listservs to which I belong is Thomas Cott’s, “You’ve Cott Mail.”  As Cott says, “It’s a free service for professionals in the arts,” and he sends it most weekdays. I’m interested in it because it doesn’t just cover music, and we musicians can learn from our brethren in other areas of the arts world. The other interesting thing to me is he doesn’t editorialize. He collects articles and blogs from all over the web and presents similar content under a theme or title.  There are usually 3-4 entries each day. Cott will sometimes summarize an article, but if they are short they are presented in full, and always with a link to the source. Today’s topic (Tues, Jan 24) was: Dealing with Negative Feedback, and the sources cited were:

Dealing with negative feedback on social media  Rebecca Coleman on her blog, 1/23/12

Tuning out negative comments online Michelle, Talenthouse blog, 11/29/11

Why a negative review may not be so bad after all  Matt Rhodes, eConsultancy.com, 6/8/11

Here is a sampling of other recent Cott posts.

Tues, Dec 13: When/How Will Arts Address Lack of Diversity?

Thurs, Aug 25: Double-Dip Recession & The Arts

Tues, Nov 29: Let’s Talk Tourism

Tues, Nov 22: Arts For Free?

Tues, Sep 27: Competing with Cirque du Soleil

We’re in an information age. There is a lot of information out there at our disposal, but the problem is often locating it. With “You’ve Cott Mail” you will know immediately if the day’s articles cover topics of interest to you. Check it out and see for yourself.

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