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Angela Myles Beeching | Beyond Talent Consulting
The Professional Musician's Roadmap
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Beyond Talent:
Creating a Successful Career in Music
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Opportunity Blindness

MONDAY BYTES — February 8, 2016

I have a new appreciation for a common musician affliction: opportunity blindness—a form of situational short sightedness rendering us unable to see opportunities within our reach.

design

Most of us view our careers by measuring what’s missing, what we haven’t accomplished—the glass half empty. We’re so distracted by what we don’t see, that we’re unable to perceive our actual circumstances: our contacts, support, community, and resources—so we may miss opportunities directly in front of us.

In the career advising meetings I do at the Chamber Music America conference, I hear  talented, accomplished people talk about their goals and challenges. And then my questions were often about what has worked well in the past and what resources do they have going for them now.

One musician I met with produces a concert series, renting expensive performance spaces and hiring additional terrific performers for creative programming, and doing all of the organizing and publicity himself.

The problem for the musician is the expense and exhaustive effort it takes to do this several times a year. Although the concerts go well, he says they don’t seem to be gaining traction or leading to other opportunities.

So from an entrepreneurial perspective, here’s a project that doesn’t seem to be a good return on the investment. And so the question is what to do about it?

In talking to him, I found out he also teaches part time at a college and also works a church job.

So my questions were about the potentially free performance spaces he’s connected with where he might create an ongoing “home series” for these concerts and build an audience. To me, this seemed like missed opportunities—venues as potential institutional collaborators and partners instead of costly rental situations.

For this musician, though, the lure of the fancier “name” halls in the nearby city had all the attraction. Creating a home series from scratch out in the burbs just wasn’t appealing.

So behind this “missed opportunity” was the real question—for all of us—what is it we actually want?

Is it to be performing regularly for appreciative audiences and in the process building our reputation as a valuable contributor in our communities?

Or is this about “proving” ourselves by performing at a high profile venue, hoping to get reviews in order to be “discovered”?

It’s up to you to choose the goals you go after—just make sure you’re honest with yourself about why!

The realization I walked away with is that there are opportunities all around us, many of which we’re blind to because of distraction, exhaustion, or because we’re unclear about our motivation or goal.

Opportunities are like footholds, they are platforms for career growth. And it’s a lot easier to see our opportunities when we’re clear about our goals and motivation.

This week: I invite you to take on the “Where’s the Opportunity?” challenge.  Track the number of career-related opportunities (big or small) you can identify this week—opportunities that you could potentially help you achieve your goals. From a new contact you meet to a ventures you read about—consider your possibilities.

Why do you do it?

MONDAY BYTES — February 1, 2016

Do you know your WHY? Can you articulate what motivates you to do your work? Can you describe it in a way that others understand?

Your WHY can be a bridge that connects you with your audience through a shared human experience. It’s about being real.

Your why can focus and strengthen the impact you make. It can energize the narrative of your grant proposals, bio, video intro, elevator pitch, your networking, cover letters, and more.

Why’s can come in the form of an anecdote that shows what makes your work meaningful. Here’s an example (found through the terrific Dallas Travers) from an actor and musical theater artist—this is Caesar Samayoa, who uses his WHY story to close his bio with:

“My first professional gig in New York was being one of four actors playing all of Shakespeare’s R&J off Broadway. One night, as I exited the stage door an audience member grabbed my arm and explained, ‘You made me remember what it was like to fall in love for the very first time!’ That was worth a Lucille Lortel award!

That’s the impact I want to have on everyone who sees my work. That extraordinary connection only shared by an actor and his audience. It inspires lives.”

Caesar’s story helps us (readers) connect with him and helps make him memorable—before we have even seen any of his work.

Not all of us have such concise stories for our WHYs. So here’s another approach—one that focuses on finding the essential belief that your work is based on. Here is the WHY of Douglas Detrick’s AnyWhen Ensemble (it’s used as the first paragraph of the ensembles’ bio):

“We believe in the unexpected. Our signature instrumentation sets us apart, but we make our real impact through bold new compositions that integrate chamber music conception with jazz spontaneity. We believe that great music can happen anywhere, anyhow, anywhy, and anywhen — ours is fitting music for this bright and rushing world.”

For a group rooted in improvisation, believing in the unexpected is part of their creative DNA and also part of how they experience life—this clear WHY is memorable and enlivens the brand of the ensemble.

Check out Douglas Detrick’s blog post with terrific tips on writing your work statement.

And I recently set myself the challenge of explaining my own WHY in a public speaking context: here’s a short segment (2:41) of the talk I gave for the Chamber Music America‘s First Tuesday series, in which I address why I work as a career consultant:

Screen Shot 2016-01-30 at 10.34.57 PM

 

So what’s YOUR why? Think back over your work and life: what experience or core belief communicates why you do your work?

As always, I’d love to hear your ideas and feedback!

PS: Thanks to everyone who wrote in about last week’s post offering terrific additional skills and perspective gained through music study—I appreciate your input and the building on of ideas!

PPS: Details on working with me are HERE.

Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well

 

What’s on Your List?

Calder

Alexander Calder sculpture, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem

Think about your own music studies and what transferable “life” skills that came from this.  What skills have you gained? And if you teach, what skills do you see your students gaining?

Like shadows on the wall, transferable skills are part of the effect of the learning: there’s the concrete music we learn and the long shadow of residual effects.

Below is what I came up with a few years ago for a post I contributed for MajoringinMusic.com about studying music in a down economy. What would you change or add?

• self-discipline
• communication skills
• ability to concentrate for long periods
• collaboration/team work skills
• attention to details
• problem-solving skills
• resilience
• strong work ethic
• presentation skills
• ability to conceptualize the abstract
• creativity
• interpersonal skills
• persistence/determination
• ability to synthesize abstract ideas
• confidence
• leadership
• analytical thinking
• ability to handle criticism/feedback

Now of course, these are mostly “soft skills” (or at least somewhat fuzzy).

And although there’ve been a number of studies publications on this topic, I have found nothing that helps us understand how best to instill these collaterally developed skills through music study, nor how to best assess and quantify the development the full range of such skills.

Still, anecdotally we have all seen the benefits of music study, and reviewing how this has worked in our own lives can help ground us in our pursuit of excellence. There’s also a specific way to use the list:

Flip the collateral side effects to direct them back to the actual work at hand. Direct the shadow at the object.

This week’s challenge: review the list of transferable skills (including your additions and edits) and select the one skill you most want to bring to your work this week—the skill that you either have been neglecting or the one that will make the most needed impact on your work this week.

To remind yourself of this focus, you might add the word into your online daily calendar, and trying saying it out loud as a reminder before you start a practice session, rehearsal, meeting, or lesson—whenever you need to remember how you want to aim your attention to put your best foot forward.

For instance, if you want to focus on positive problem solving skills, think how this intentional focus could change how you approach your next practice session or the next lesson you teach or meeting you attend?

As always, I’d love to hear your results!

Find info on working with me HERE.

Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well