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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Make the Client Feel Good

Posted on February 14, 2011 at 6:12 am by
in Getting Ahead
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This short phrase, “Make the client feel good,” is one of the most important things to remember in business. Often when doing recording sessions for television and radio commercials (read: jingles) the “com- poser” may be a person of little of no musical knowledge. He may not even read music or be able to put one note down on the page for others to play. We call composers like this “hummers.” The successful ones hire talented musicians to interpret what they are imagining in their heads, and during the composition process there are often non-musical instructions. Things like: “keep going up here,” “it’s too thin,” “it’s too confusing,” “I want to feel like I’m in a convertible, driving down a country road and the wind is in my hair.” Or this one that was going to be music behind a ski plane landing in the wilderness. “Don’t use a saxophone! Saxophones are for cities!”

The fact is that these people, whether musically literate or not, got the gig. And, you know, they do have something to offer because this product will be seen and heard by the general public and not by concertgoers seated in a theatre audience. Rather than working against them, it is better to work with them and interpret their wishes as best as possible. The music for a cat food commercial isn’t in the same league as a Mahler symphony, but if, in the end, it helps convey the intended message it has done its job. So I let them know it. I want to be extremely cooperative and “into” that commercial. I want them to know that, for that session, I was on their team, and trying my best to add value to the product.

In the above example it is easy to picture the client. But I also think of the word ”client” more broadly. When I’m playing second clarinet in an orchestra, my client is the first clarinetist and the conductor. I want them to feel very good about my work. Is the tuning, balance and phrasing all good? If I were a rhythm section musician in jazz group, when not soloing, my job would be to comp (read: accompany and communicate musically with) the soloist. In my role as an administrator in a music school, my client is anyone above me or below me in the hierarchy. Attempting to please those above you is obvious. We all try to do that. But people below us in the organization chart often come to us to solve problems or ask advice. They can be our clients, too.

When those around us feel personally good about our work and us, we get asked back. And that’s the name of the game—getting asked back. You will if you make the client feel good.

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