A new word for the urban dictionary


I didn’t make that up.

James Newcomb did.

By the end of our “Musicpreneur” podcast interview, we had established that one of the ways I help make the world a better place to live is to encourage and guide classical musicians towards a well-paid, full-time career sharing live music with others.

It’s not quite Establishment material that I teach.

Yet it’s not exactly anti-Establishment, either.

So James said “we’ll have to figure out a new term to describe that!”

Here’s the 25-minute podcast:

102: The Disestablishmentarianization of Classical Music (feat. Stephen P. Brown)

Everybody Needs Everybody

I run my musical ensembles differently to the norm.

(At least, those I have decision-making authority for.)

Never is it a top-down instructional model, like the dictators of old or like most school music teachers need to be (for discipline and technical reasons, I’ve found).

The Nordstrom Philosophy

The Nordstrom Philosophy, courtesy of Michelle de Haaff at medallia.com

Instead, I run an upside-down pyramid model in which the chief decision-maker (usually me as a Conductor) supports the work of the Section Leaders & Admin committee, whose jobs are to make sure their Performers have everything they need to perform for their Audiences, who have a responsibility to expose the Community to that most precious and generally under-valued fundamental form of human communication of emotions… a.k.a. live [acoustic] music.


Now, how do I accomplish that when standing on the podium?

It has always been my intent to create an environment in which every single performer can grow into the best possible musician they could be.

In other words: every single Performer in every single rehearsal and performance, should leave better off than when they arrived, which usually means learning something about music, performing, or themselves. In my ensembles, even the most skeptical of complainers have made comments such as “I never thought we could accomplish that!” which I take as a compliment. Of sorts.

What’s the motivation behind such an approach?

Because when every individual is doing the best they possible can, then the ensemble as a whole is inevitably – almost as a consequence – going to be quite an awesome thing!

I’ve proved it over and over and over again.

But it still doesn’t answer the question about my motivation.

Well, Margaret Heffernan said it most eloquently when quoting interviewees from her research:

I know I can be at my utmost best when I help everyone around me be the best they can be. It’s been my modus operandi since I can remember. Hopefully it’s been intentional all this time, but I can’t lay claim to that.


I’m human.

And I don’t always live up to my own expectations.


A recent incident reminded me just how fallible I really am, and that although humans are generally expected to make mistakes we really don’t like admitting when we step out of character and far from our own expectations.

Why am I telling you this story?

  • Because my ensembles don’t have a pecking order, which upsets a lot of folk and is very difficult to maintain on a consistent basis (especially when in a stressed mode of conduct).
  • My approach to sharing live music with others is together-focused, not superhero stardom focused.
  • To show that what drives high-achieving ensembles is the social element, not star individuals. Generally society doesn’t know how to deal with that because we grew up in an individualistic, self-focused, “me, myself and I” approach to living.
  • And as Heffernan very cleverly demonstrates with an egg-laying chicken study, when we are in an environment that promotes individuals over a mission, society loses.

Everybody really does need everybody else.

It’s worth watching:

When a strategy has run its course.

Dear #ClassicalMusic Fan,

We are all into Sales.

Our potential customers could be faceless audiences, relatives, life-long fans, or a high school Principal, but ultimately we all have to sell someone on something.

Usually the value of what we have to offer the world…

Even if that’s just an opinion!

There are many ways to sell to folk, and since we first open our eyes, scream our first little scream, and smile our first little cute eye-twinkling smile, we adapt and try alternative means to get what we want.

Sometimes those sales strategies stay with us for life. Other times we try something just once, and once is enough for us to know never to do that again!

I have tried several specific sales strategies over the past ten years or so to help me share live classical music with the world and encourage folk to share it with their circles of influence, too.


But, none of these strategies produced significant sales – enough for me to provide for my family.

This latest strategy of daily letters has produced some sales, but not enough to warrant the planning, development, implementation and follow-up, I’m afraid.

I’ve given this strategy more than four months to settle into its groove, and have written 105 value-packed letters to you. (106 including this one!) I have successfully sold coaching, affiliate products (Michael Hyatts’ goal-setting Best Year Ever program), recordings and sheet music. But in not enough quantities to write to mom about.

I increased my email list sign-up rate by 3%, and lost 8% of my subscribers – a lot less than I was expecting and is normal, apparently.

Anyway, there have been no new email sign-ups for ten days now, and no sales within the past eight days.

I could blame the holidays, but my coaches in this strategy suggest that’s not usually a factor. In fact, sales usually increase over the holidays for the majority of this strategy’s implementers.

To me, it seems this strategy has gotten tired.

It’s run its course.

It’s exhausted its possibilities with my fans and those I could potentially be helping, and with complete transparency and openness I am sharing with you that I will no longer be writing to you every weekday.

(Think about it: 105 letters! That’s a lot of content to produce and give away for free!!)

Thanks for all your comments, replies, purchases and engagement.

Every single email from you that came into my inbox was validation and precious to me.

It has truly been a fun four months – a fair trial run, I’d say, but without sufficient results.

I’m already working on an upgraded version of a strategy I tried in the past, but with different mentors and coaches. So far, they are insisting that everything needed is in place before I launch… and that can only be good for me, my family, and the world!

Thanks again for your support and encouragement.

Keep an eye out for what happens next.

In the meantime…

What are you struggling with the most?

Dear #ClassicalMusic Fan,

We all have struggles.

Most performers have struggles.

What’s nagging at you, musically, that you just don’t seem able to overcome, or not do as well as you think you should be able to?

  • Is it technique-related?
  • Is it the number of performances you participate in?
  • Is it the fact that you know what you’re doing, but you also know there seems to be more to know?!

What is it that you’ve been struggling with for the past few years?

I know there’s something.

Tell me what it is, because I’d like to help you achieve your goals and overcome your struggles.


I believe I can help.


What are you struggling with the most?



What’s your dream as a performer?

Dear #ClassicalMusic Fan,

What outcome are you looking for?

What are you hoping to achieve as a performer?

Do you want to get more performing opportunities or perform on bigger stages with better ensembles?

There could be a myriad of things you want to achieve as a performer.

Or is it more that you really want to perform well – the best that you can – but you get tangled up with nerves before you go onstage, or don’t know how to practice?

Maybe your playing or singing is rather hit and miss because you lack the confidence to go out there and do what you know you are capable of.

Or is it simply that you feel you have technical limitations that prevent you from performing as well as you want to?

There could be a myriad of barriers or pain points you want to overcome.

So send me a message, think hard and dig deep (this is only between you and me), and let me know specifically what you want to achieve or overcome as a performer: something we will clearly know when you have achieved or overcome it, and is so absolutely amazingly life-changing that you can see yourself literally clapping your hands and jumping with joy!

Or at least bring a tear to your eye when you realize you accomplished more than you ever thought possible.

Tell me about your musical dream as a performer:



How do you get in front of your fans?

Dear #ClassicalMusic Fan,

How do you get in front of your fans?

What methods do you use?

For several years now I have been reliably emailing my fans on a monthly, weekly, and currently weekday basis.

The world is full of noise and flashing sparkles, yet email has remained a stalwart of communication between us.

I’m very pleased about that.

And it seems you appreciate staying connected at your own pace at a time convenient to you, too.

I know Sue does.

She wrote me this:

‘Brilliant, my friend! Getting in front of people in this manner is necessary! — As always — I read and enjoy each newsletter. A fan 🙂 Sue

How are you keeping in front of your fans and engaging them?

Is it working?

Do you feel connected to them?

Becoming the best performer you could possibly be includes connecting with your audiences, so maybe we need to talk about how you can best do that.

Book a 30-minute phone call now, and let’s get you on the road to becoming all that you can be:



Seeing to believe is not enough

Dear #ClassicalMusic Fan,

You have probably heard the phrase

“Seeing is believing,”

which is a very sad way to approach life as it removes the opportunity for mystery and faith, two very innate human qualities according to Oxford University in 2011.

On the other hand, have you heard of this phrase?

People never learn anything by being told, they have to find out for themselves.Paulo Coelho de Souza
Author, The Alchemist

I have known my student Brian for quite some time, and we recently had one of his monthly Skype coaching sessions.

Over the years we have discussed many issues of what creates a brilliant performance, including the “why” behind the physical effort.

Although he could “see” what had to be done, he never quite “got it.”

He seemed to understand what he was trying to achieve, and believed it was the right thing to aim for, but never seemed to achieve it.

Brian had been working for quite some time on a passage of music he was having particular difficulty with, so I finally asked him to play it during our coaching session. I shared with him my observations and asked if he would like to try something a little different. Which, of course, he did. (It’s always polite for coaches to ask for permission to teach – it’s a delicate boundary).

“Try doing this…” I said, and gave a little advice.

He tried it.

My computer screen suddenly lit up like a Christmas tree: Brian’s face was beaming, his eyes glistened and cheeks glowed red, and his perfect white teeth shone through his camera.

“I GET IT!” He yelled. Literally.

It took me a little by surprise, but we spent a few moments enjoying the moment and exploring the fact that after years of teachers telling him how to do something, and my having mentioned the same thing a few times in our coaching sessions, Brian finally grasped what we were all on about because he experienced it for himself.

He had known it for years, understood what needed to be done, and had even seen his teachers and others do what he was trying to do.

But he had never experienced it.

He couldn’t transform his knowledge into action.

Seeing and believing was not enough for Brian: he had to have that personal experience.

Finally, during our coaching session, so much suddenly made sense to him and he was thrilled!

The rest of that coaching session remains a bit of a blur to be honest because we were both on cloud nine, enjoying Brian’s transformation.

Our few sessions since then have taken a different direction and are now much deeper in topics, conversations and explorations. One thing I occasionally have to put the brakes on for is his enthusiasm! Now Brian “gets it” through his own personal experience, he cannot wait to experience more and dive into everything anyone ever told him about performing and sharing live music.

Have you experienced such a revelation in music?

I’d love to hear about it.

And then, perhaps, we can develop ways to use that experience to help make the world a better place to live: