I would dream up wonderful schemes and plans

This week is when the Northern hemisphere’s Summer begins (June 21).

Of course, some schools in the USA have already been on their long break for a few weeks, whereas others are preparing for their couple of months off.

Not like the modern “real world” at all, is it?

Kids used to take off school for the Summer to help on the farms and pull in the harvest. Not sure the majority of kids are still doing that these days, but I know a handful who do, actually. I recently heard on the news that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics* revealed the number of teenagers working Summer jobs has gone from 72% in 1978 to 43% in 2016.

Anyway, when I was teaching in the UK I really didn’t like the Summer vacations, myself.

With all that sudden spare time I would dream up wonderful schemes and plans to earn a fortune as a performer so I could drop most of my teaching, and would commit to spending my hard-earned cash on things that never panned out.

Summer boredom produced the weirdest unprofitable plans

Summer boredom produced the weirdest unprofitable plans

Everyday I am truly grateful I don’t live like that anymore!

What are your plans this Summer?


How will you spend this Summer making the world a better place through live classical music?

(Whether or not you are a performer!)

Which do you choose: Bed Bugs or Butterflies?

Which do you choose: bed bugs or butterflies?

My wife and I recently stopped over in NYC for a few days, one of our favorite places to visit for… well, oh so very many reasons.

One thing I find annoying about visiting major metropoles, though, is how much effort it takes to choose how to look at things.

Perspective is everything, as we know.

And realizing that we get to choose our perspective about everything often takes a long time. Some folk never actually realize it’s their choice at all, which is really sad.

And with so much mass media and “reality TV” sensationalizing everything they can in order to sell more commercials (there’s no such thing as “impartial news” in most societies – they are in the game to make money, which is done by selling commercials, and they can only sell commercials when people are watching or reading, and they can only get people to watch and read through shock tactics and pulling at your heartstrings), it’s no wonder that so many people in the Western World have such a negative perspective towards life. Especially if negativity is all they surround themselves with.

So it didn’t really come as much of a surprise when we suddenly realized that we, too, were getting caught up in the whirlwind of worst-case-scenarios as we talked about things.

Even the little things.

In just one conversation ants, bed bugs and cockroaches wormed their way into the forefront of our minds and we became concerned and worried.

It’s not normally the kind of perspective we subscribe to, by choice.

But here we were focusing on the dark stuff.

When that shift backwards in our perspective hit us we immediately justified thinking that way with “Well, NYC has them all!”



But so does Florida, where we live.

(And such creatures are quite a bit larger in Florida than they are in New York City!)

Nothing wrong with acknowledging the existence of “danger” and being aware/ cautious of what could go wrong with our trip (such as finding ants or cockroaches in our shoes, for example. As happens in Florida quite often with ants at the beach and palmetto bugs in buildings.), but when we start overbearing our living with those minutely frustrating issues, it means our perspective is no longer based in reality, but is focused on negativity.

And that’s not healthy.

Maintaining a positive mindset – not necessarily all guru-fancified happy-g0-lucky waves of the universe sort of positivity, but just keeping good and bad in a more realistic balance – takes years to become habit yet can be undone in a matter of days, and then begins that slow, arduous climb back into the real world.

As happened to us.

Hearing ourselves fearful of ants, bed bugs and cockroaches was a little disappointing, so it didn’t take but a moment to counter our negativity with something more balanced:

“Well, NYC has birds, butterflies and smiling pansies, too!”

A giggle later and we understood we had been swept up by the common mindset of large, competitive, “look after #1” cities that pervade a lot of the thought-based input we feed ourselves everyday through various media.

Take a moment.

Right now.

Think about the words you use to describe and compare.

Are they generally dark and negative, or do they brighten those around you and put a smile on your face?

Focusing on either one exclusively is never a good thing, but how well are they balanced? Zig Ziglar, Earl Nightingale and Toby Robbins all agree on this: what you focus on the most is what you become. Focus on the negative, you become a complainer – tired and old – someone people get fed up with and don’t want to be left alone with at a party. Focus on the positive, you become an influencer – a breath of fresh air – someone people want to be around.

So remember this:

It is ALWAYS your own, personal, individual choice which perspective you dwell on the most.

Which do you choose:

Bed bugs, or butterflies?


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: