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Angela Myles Beeching | Beyond Talent Consulting
The Professional Musician's Roadmap
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So Embarrassing . . .

MONDAY BYTES — May 23, 2016

I’m nearly two years in to taking Qigong classes (sometimes described as the “parent” of Tai Chi) and class almost always leaves me feeling like a VERY slow learner. On some days, I feel like an uncoordinated idiot. Thank the gods there are no mirrors in the classroom!

Qigong is a form of meditation in motion. The daily practice involves ongoing refinements and nuances to a set of exercises that improve your balance, energy, posture, and focus. Every day I feel as though I need to unlearn and then relearn many of the same lessons.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my class and my teacher is amazing, but the learning curve is steep and slow!

It’s humbling.

Not unlike music, right? Or for that matter teaching, coaching, or any other life long discipline.

My qigong practice is a helpful reminder to re-connect with . . .

The Beginner’s Mind
“It is more an attitude than a skill – a refreshing sense of openness rooted in humility, and a true readiness to learn,” from Cultivate a Beginner’s Mind.


It’s about being:
Open to Change
Willing to be Taught Something New
Willing to Be Embarrassed, to Feel Slow, to be Corrected

Of course, when you are closer to being an actual beginner (as I am I with qigong), it’s not such a stretch. But when it’s work we’ve been doing a long time, it’s a challenge to reconnect to our
‘newbie’ mindset.

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”
— Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki

Here are tips to getting the beginner’s mind activated:

In the practice room 
To listen to yourself with fresh ears and new perspective:

Devise a new warm-up routine.
Use a practice journal to be more intentional and specific.
Record / video your practicing to become more objective. Vary what you listen for and focus on.
Assess your physicality as you play or sing, looking for ways to release tension and to more directly convey your musical intent.
Notice your process and note your results.
Set small goals for short time segments.
Ask a colleague to listen to you and give you feedback.
Practice mindfulness, be fully present.

in teaching 
To become more creative and engaging:

Ask more questions to understand your students’ process.
Notice where they get stuck in applying ideas and skills.
Notice your “go to” interventions—your habits.
Challenge yourself to respond in new ways. Expand your toolkit.
Experiment with at least one new mini exercise to get your students:
listening in new ways
problem solving
goal setting for practice sessions

Using the beginner’s mind is about being truly in sync with your student learners. Because we are ALL learners. It’s about focusing on the process, taking one step at a time, and being tuned in to how our students process new ideas and skills.

in mentoring or coaching
For me, it’s about learning as much as possible about how a client is viewing their situation.

This requires Active Listening as opposed to making assumptions and using a one-size-fits-all approach.

I want to understand how the world looks from her/his perspective, in order to offer the tools and feedback that are most helpful.

Helping clients articulate their goals is essential. Once we have clarity about goals, the action steps and journey ahead is much easier to plot and to get going on.

And once the journey is started, it’s about dealing with any obstacles (actual or perceived) that arise.

Some mantras to tune in to the beginner’s mind:

Don’t get it perfect: just get it going

One step at a time: just focus on the next step. Learn as you go.

Lose yourself (your ego) in the action 

See short video explaining Beginner’s Mind: see short video on
The lesson of the overflowing tea cup

More tips:
Beginners Mind: The Art of Starting Over


And for those of you in Boston, I’ll be speaking at the upcoming Classical Singer Convention next weekend and would love to see you there!

Check it out—lots of professional development (Career Feedback) sessions as well as master classes (maybe good to gather more teaching ideas)

My session will be Sunday May 29, 12:30-1:30: Your Next 5 Career Moves.


Info on working with me HERE.

Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well

The #1 Interview Question

MONDAY BYTES — May 16, 2016

Among the essential interview questions out there, this is the one I focus most on because it speaks directly to the employer’s mindset. It’s really what’s behind all the other tough questions you’ll be asked, because it’s the one question the employer is trying to answer for herself:

Why should we hire you

Yeah, it’s awkward: most of us don’t like to brag about ourselves, our teaching, or even our students’ accomplishments.

But this question isn’t designed to test your ego or trip you up.

It’s simply the essential question on employers’ minds during interviews. Whether they ask it outright or not, it’s often the unspoken question in the room, coloring all the other questions.

The employer needs to choose one person for the position and your job is to provide specific reasons for choosing you over the 199 others.

To prepare a great response to the question, ‘Why should we hire you?’ we need to dig a little deeper. Put yourself in the employer’s shoes and think about what she or he is wanting and needing to know.

I’ve identified three underlying questions behind the ‘Why should we?’ question, to help you answer what the employer really wants to know:

1. What distinguishes your teaching from that of the other 199 applicants?

Forget about comparing yourself to anyone else. Comparisons are never a good idea.

Instead, tell us what your teaching is actually like. Come prepared with 2-3 concise anecdotes that illustrate HOW you teach. (Just make sure you’re not describing it generically, the way 90% of the other applicants would.)

Describe a challenge you faced in your teaching and how you overcame it. Use a vivid example of a specific student (or ensemble or class) struggling with a particular issue and describe the creative solution you used to work through it and what the results were.

And note, not all interviewers are well prepared or experienced. You may need to find a time to bring up these key points and your examples. Prepare for interviews by identifying the main points you want to make and the anecdotes you want to use to illustrate these and then work them in to your interview responses.

2. How will you fit in at our institution?

For this you really need to do your homework before the interview. Read the school’s website carefully.

Find out about the demographics of the students, the community, and the rest of the music program areas beyond your specialty. Read up on the school’s recent concerts and projects. Learn about what the graduates are doing, read carefully the school’s mission and its news releases about the school and the music program.

Why do this?

In the interview you need to be able to speak genuinely and knowledgeably about why you want to teach at that institution. Make note of what you find remarkable. As you read, be on the lookout for ideas and opportunities for collaborating with other faculty and program areas. In the interview you want to demonstrate that you will be a good colleague and team player.

3. What can you do for our students and our program?

Look for ways to offer added value: to go above and beyond. Most schools will want you to actively recruit new students, so be prepared to detail the kinds of outreach work you’ve done and your ideas for engaging students in community work.

And if you prepared question #2 above, you may have further ideas for collaborative projects that build on the school’s strengths and offer students additional learning experiences.

The idea here is to think beyond the specifics of your teaching specialty area and consider how you can be of service to the department and the school—ways you can help the program succeed through cross disciplinary or other strategic partnering.

Want more help?

Here’s a related post:

And for a view of this question from a corporate perspective, check out Pamela Skilling’s article at:

As always, I welcome your feedback and questions: love to hear your interview horror or success stories and what interview prep has worked for you!

Looking for more personal help with a job search?
Info on working with me HERE.

Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well

Value of Rituals

MONDAY BYTES — May 9, 2016

To honor this commencement season, we’re examining—using minimal pomp and circumstance—the value of rituals for musicians.

Graduation ceremonies are rituals that mark the end of one chapter in a person’s life and the beginning (commencing) of another.

There’s the goofy outfits modeled on medieval clerics robes, the marching in, the speeches, the bestowing of degrees, the moving the tassel (it’s right to left) — more hullabaloo than the Catholic church.


A ritual can be broadly defined as a “ceremony or action performed in a customary way.” Rituals are dictated by social norms, family traditions, or personal habits.

Performances (and music itself) are all about ritual, as Christopher Small‘s fabulous concept “Musicking” makes clear. From his 1995 University of Melbourne lecture:

” . . . to take part in a musical performance is to take part in a ritual whose relationships mirror, and allow us to explore and celebrate, the relationships of our world as we imagine them to be.”

Rituals help delineate a group, binding like-minded individuals into a collective “we” to create a sense of belonging and community.

What’s in it for you?

Rituals help us to:

  • Remember we are part of a community—that we’re not alone
  • Mark the importance of an occasion or event (think wedding, christening, inauguration, memorial)
  • Be fully present, in the moment
  • See our actions as part of a long tradition and therefore connected and having meaning
  • Create a sense order and cohesion in our lives
  • Reflect on our lives, our past and our intended future

The only way any ceremony or custom becomes valued is when we invest our emotional currency in it. We are the ones who imbue it with significance.

In that spirit, whether you’re collecting a diploma or celebrating with those who are, commencement is a terrific opportunity to reflect back and project forward.

This week: Reflecting back on this past year:

What are the top three things you are most proud of?

What is the most valuable lesson you learned from a recent challenge you faced?

And looking ahead, what’s the change you want to bring about?

Happy Graduation all!

As always, I’d love to hear your comments and feedback.

For bespoke career coaching find info on working with me HERE.

Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well