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 was also a function of my job at the Eastman School. As a senior administrator and Director of the Institute for Music Leadership, it was 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 my book Lessons from a Street-Wise Professor, 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.