Angela Myles Beeching  

The Entrepreneurial You

Angela Myles Beeching
June 17, 2019

Editor's Abstract (Click to Hide)

Angela Myles Beeching has revised her well-known book Beyond Talent: Creating a Successful Career in Music; the new edition is due out in November, 2009. Ms. Beeching is director of the New England Conservatory's Career Services Center, and has been advising musicians for years on how to create a career in music. In essence, she teaches everything you need to know about being a musician except how to play your instrument.

Ms. Beeching was a panelist on Polyphonic's Virtual Discussion Panel Entrepreneurs in Music, and we are pleased to offer this excerpt from the new edition of her book.

- Ann Drinan

Musicians don’t usually view themselves as entrepreneurs, even though they are the quintessential “multi-preneurs.” Musicians regularly launch new ensembles, start their own teaching studios, create record labels, and publish their own works. A satisfying work life for the successful musician may include concurrent start-up ventures. This is just one benefit to being a musician: the diversity of ways you can contribute to society.

Musicians create their own start-up projects for a variety of reasons. They may catch the entrepreneurial bug because of frustration with limited traditional opportunities or because they seek the satisfaction of being in charge of their own project. Perhaps they want additional income or the opportunity to perform certain repertoire with particular colleagues. Sometimes entrepreneurship begins with a musician identifying a specific community need and a way to use their musicianship skills to meet that need.

Boston-based pianist Sarah Bob had always been interested in the connections between contemporary visual art and music. In 2000, she founded the New Gallery Concert Series to present the two arts in dialogue. Each concert is presented in collaboration with a corresponding visual art exhibition at the Community Music Center of Boston, where Sarah is on faculty. She selects the visual artwork and commissions composers to write musical responses to it. As of 2008, the series had hosted 26 concerts with over 123 musical compositions, 30 premieres and hundreds of works by over two dozen visual artists from around the world. The series includes works that span the spectrum from classical-contemporary, improvisation, electronic, jazz, and avant-garde music, paired with sculpture, painting, indoor installations, photography, and film.

Another music entrepreneur is oboist Jennifer Montbach. She started Radius Ensemble—a mixed chamber group with its own concert series—so that she could program the music she wanted and experiment with reaching a broader audience.

While she was a grad student, Jennifer gained valuable arts administration experience helping in the start-up of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, and later took on a job working in the publicity department for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Through this work, she acquired the necessary skills and professional contacts to launch Radius.

Within its first two seasons, Radius had already received great reviews, created an impressive website and fan list, and was playing to full houses. In addition to all the practice and rehearsals, the work involved forming a non-profit organization, fundraising, writing program notes and press releases. The payoff for Jennifer was seeing her vision realized.

Toni Sikes is the founder of “the Guild,” a company that markets and sells online original artwork by thousands of artists. In a workshop presentation at the University of Wisconsin Madison, she had this to say about being an entrepreneur, “It’s not a job title: it’s a state of mind.” And in terms of what’s necessary to move forward as an entrepreneur, Toni says you need to be adept at:

1. Dreaming; do you have a vision? In business schools budding entrepreneurs are asked, “What’s your ‘BHAG’? The acronym stands for your Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal. 2. Bootstrapping: can you take your vision and break it down into manageable pieces, start small and work long and hard to bring your idea to life? 3. Networking; you need to get out and meet people, to gather ideas and suggestions for your work. Toni says, “Schmoozing is a contact sport: you need to rub up against others.” 4. The Art of Pitching: you need to be able to communicate an engaging and concise “pitch” of what you have to offer others. 5. The Art of Doing: entrepreneurs have a bias towards action; it’s not good having great ideas if you don’t act on them. Toni says, “The hardest thing about starting is starting.”

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