Don’t forget emotional health!

One thing I’ve noticed throughout this pandemic is the emphasis on physical health and well-being.

Rightfully so.

And there’s even been cursory mention about behavioral health, too.

Good.

But nada, diddly-squat, niente about our emotional health.

There have been suggestions that because we have been isolated from each other and our loved ones and NOT dealing with our emotional status, that our responses to all the bad news, bad politics, bad violence has become far more exaggerated than it otherwise might have been.

As Pinellas County Commissioner Gerard said in a public COVID-19 response meeting this morning, “emotions are running high.”

This issue is fascinating to me because, if you have followed me for any length of time, you’ll know how much I respect Ravi Zacharias’ statement that music is the “language of the soul,” but that most of us see it more as the “language of emotions.”

So why does society continue to neglect it so much?

Especially now.

And here’s the kicker:

Music is the #2 increased activity

Also this morning Culture Track released the preliminary results of a survey they ran throughout the USA mid-April to mid-May, which attracted 124,000 respondents (making it probably the largest formal survey about culture, ever).*

Are you ready for their findings?

Interestingly, 653 arts organizations were represented by the 1/4 mil. respondents, the most coming from museums (336) and the performing arts (285). Only 25 arts schools or services were represented, 4 visual arts organizations, and 3 film, radio & TV orgs.

Nevertheless, 45% of respondents indicated they felt ‘bored’ or ‘less connected’ than before the pandemic began, and 54% wanted more connection and fun, with 53% miss ‘having fun’ the most.

During the 30 days previous to completing the survey, the NUMBER ONE ACTIVITY respondents were doing more of, was cooking.

The NUMBER TWO activity was music.

Yes, music.

More music – especially singing. Be it alone, with others online, or even with others while social distancing.

More people participated in more music activities than they did visual art, knitting, physical exercise, and so on.

60-68% of respondents had found value in online activity, too, including watching performances from before the pandemic, as well as live streamed performances.

Online workshops are most valued

But 68% (the top response) found value in online workshops, because they generated community, intimacy, connection, and learning, all together at the same time.

Thank goodness one of the organizations I work with has been delivering weekly and monthly workshops since March!

While 96% of respondents are looking to cultural organizations for emotional help, it’s fascinating that they observe only 1 in every 3 arts organizations actually doing any activity since events began to be cancelled.

But while almost everyone expects some help, only 13% have paid for digital content.

WHAT?!

And I have to agree – it’s a problem.

Our own workshops have been free. Oh, sure – we’ve asked for donations, and one online festival we produced attracted over 5,000 viewers, but we received barely over a hundred bucks.

Overall, 31% of boomer respondents say they’ve lost income during the pandemic, whereas 44% of Gen Xers and Millennials have lost income. That’s nothing compared to 70% of the Gen Zers who say they’ve lost their income. But then again, that’s age 8-23 according to the survey, so I’ve no doubt their parents have lost pocket money income, or their part-time college temp jobs have disappeared.

How does THAT work?

So, if 96% of 124,000 people surveyed are looking to cultural organizations for emotional support (to laugh, relax, distract, escape and get a break, according to comments in the survey), yet only 13% are willing to pay for it, how does that work?

How are the organizations and the people who work for them who actually create and curate the content supposed to pay their bills?

It’s nice to think that arts for all might mean arts free for all, but no landlord or electricity company cares about that – they want their money because they have their own bills to pay, or they’ve already paid out and need to recoup.

I say, we musicians – pro and amateur – should stop giving away our direct emotional health and well-being services, in a similar way most behavioral health and physical health providers don’t provide their services for free, and CHARGE for how we help our society.

96% of society, it seems.

You are invited to share your own thoughts about music, the arts, and emotional health & well-being, but I expect you to retain dignity and integrity.

Might I suggest you take a look at my comments policy first…?

*Culture Track “Culture + Community in a Time of Crisis” published and accessed 7/7/2020 https://culturetrack.com/research/reports/

Out of the pan into the fire

There is much to worry about right now…

  • The spreading of a virus we have no treatment for or protection against, 
  • Economic upheaval,
  • Societal unrest,
  • Political alienation,
  • Unbelievable (literally) news and social media,
  • Coordinated violence against our own neighbors.

But what I want to share with you today is, actually, not much.

There are days I believe the world wants to hear my voice, my global perspective as an immigrant who has lived and performed in multiple cultures on multiple continents, my empathetic “gentle strength,” perhaps even advice.

But today is not one of those days. At least, not in any sort of upbeat, energetic, positivity-spinning “here’s a solution!” sort of way.

Why not?

Because I don’t have a solution right now.

I have plenty of ideas, certainly, and some confidence in ways we might overcome our current fears and concerns.

However, sometimes the voice we need is the one that simply says, “I’m here, and I’m listening.”

When I think about it carefully, that’s what my nearest and dearest have been saying to me over and over again, for decades. Close friends, loved ones, mentors, my really good business and performance coaches I come back to time and again.

These are the people who have enough space and strength to let me be who I am and let me do what I’m going to do, without interfering, without trying to change me, without quashing my own dreams and desires to help musicians ignite their passion and find the confidence to unleash spectacular performances.

And I want to reflect their precedent and say the same to you, to anyone who may be struggling or afraid or downright confused at this time:

I’m here. I’m listening.

Tell me your worries, your concerns, your fears, as well as your celebrations, in confidence. 

Let’s enjoy a virtual pot of tea, and send me an email. I’ll get back to you in a few days, just letting you know you’ve been heard, if that’s all that is needed.

We each contribute to making our community what it is. Let’s not let go of that responsibility. Together, let’s keep our community strong.

I do hope you continue to be cautious, caring, and optimistic as our society transitions from one crisis to another.

Be well, deliberately.

Exploit those fridge visits!

Have you found yourself visiting the fridge a little more often than usual, now you are stuck at home at lot more?

There are enough folk telling us what not to do… “Don’t this!” and “Don’t that!”

And there are lots of cartoons and memes making light of it.

But what if you could embrace those visits to grab a boredom snack instead?

Here are my top 5 reasons to exploit your extra visits to the kitchen:

1 – Enjoy one meal a day

That’s right. Instead of breakfast, lunch and dinner, how about just having a big breakfast? Or, as in the case today, Easter Monday, a large lunch of leftovers? The rest of the time you can snack. Your metabolism will thank you. The problem comes when we eat like we normally do AND throw in a few extra visits. One meal a day also means less cooking, prep, and washing up, too.

2 – Mix it up

One thing I’ve found is that denial sets in really quickly. Pretending that our bodies don’t need or crave sweet things, or the occasional manufactured food, is unrealistic. So, among the plums and pears, little bowls of blueberries and walnuts, it’s OK to grab half a cup of Life cereal (with or without milk), or some chocolate cookies. As my doc says: eat what you want, as long as you didn’t eat it yesterday.

3 – Walk it off

How many times did you walk up and down the stairs yesterday? Add two more trips today. Honestly, stairs provide the most amazing and easiest cardio exercise you could want, without needing a mask. No stairs? Walk around the house or the block once. Just once! Not because it’s healthy, but because you want to make room for that cup of tea and little snack you’re going to head for when you get back… as a reward. Actually, you might find yourself forgetting that particular trip to the fridge, so well done you!

4 – What’s new?

When approaching your fridge or pantry, keep your eyes open for something that’s new. Look for the sell-by date on everything you can get your hands on easily. If it’s at least next month, put that item at the back of the shelf and bring something else forward. That way, you get to use stuff up and also avoid having to throw away food you’d [conveniently] forgotten about.

5 – Give it a good scrub down

When was the last time that shelf had a good clean? On your next visit, just start taking everything out as you consider what’s immediately snack-worthy. Only leave it out until the shelf is absolutely empty! And while it’s got your attention, get one of those nearby handy disinfectant wipes and give it a good clean. Perhaps even change the liner if you have one. Then put everything back by sell-by date order.

There… you’ve actually EARNED a snack, now!

Happy exploiting those fridge visits 🙂

How not to get too bored at home

What with so many music events cancelled, performers and fans of live music alike are finding themselves with a lot more time available to them. Even non-musicians working from home have extra time without their commutes.

So how can we stay active and not get swept up into a vortex of Youtube videos or Netflix binge-watching?

Here are some jigsaw puzzles I completed not too long ago, all over 1,000 pieces. How many can you do in the next eight weeks?

Here are 10 suggestions:

  1. Pick a piece of music to work on each week and invite other performers to work on it as well. Discuss your progress and challenges, and look for videos or recordings to listen to, follow along to, and discuss with your peers.
  2. Explore music new to you using free sheet music resources such as imslp.org [Edit: Many libraries have a free streaming service to NAXOS recordings! Thanks, Karena]
  3. Revisit old repertoire in your library you haven’t seen for a few years, even some of those student materials can focus your mind and get your fingers moving again.
  4. Unless we are placed under lock-down/ quarantine, meet with one or two other performers at home, and read through chamber music or practice parts together.
  5. Each day, look through your contacts and choose someone you haven’t spoken to in a while – call, private message or email them, just asking how they are doing and how they are keeping themselves busy (or, not bored).
  6. Utilize existing resources to stay connected with other performers and fans of live music, such as the Building Profitable Performing Careers Facebook Group
  7. Plan and write down the musical activities you would like to participate in for June and beyond, to avoid over-doing and over-committing yourself once restriction are lifted. Look for concerts to attend as much as perform in.
  8. Look out for and participate in new online events such as the Dunedin Music Society‘s repertoire workshops, playing challenges, virtual ensembles, etc.
  9. Read one chapter a day of a composer’s biography or musical non-fiction book. I will share a list of recommendations before the end of this month.
  10. Do something different – cook a meal you’ve never cooked before, walk a trail, do a jigsaw puzzle, grow some flowers or herbs in pots.

Remember: we are not yet confined to our homes, we are not likely to lose power or access to resources (such as after a hurricane), and we are not prevented from meeting with others at all.

21 Ways to Renovate Classical Music

I recently came across some short articles I’d written a long time ago and compiled into one document full of massive realizations and transforming perspectives.

Would you like it?

It’s now revised and updated.

You may have read it before, but if not, here it is:

If you have any technical issues, let contact us and we’ll email it to you.

Five times I should have listened to my Dad

My Dad enjoyed life.

He worked really hard and played really hard, too.

He was one of those little cheeky kids that never really grew up… thankfully!

Me and my Dad on my wedding day in NJ
Me and my Dad on my wedding day in NJ

And although he was very gracious in letting me try lots of things in life (and providing the opportunities), he always respected my own decisions. Many times he would actively engage, too, like making posters for concerts, hauling and setting up equipment (I was a percussionist, remember?!), and actually taking using his lunch break to cross central London and attend my concerts.

His perspective in life was much wider than many, but still somewhat limited and he enjoyed learning from me as much as helping me when I asked for it… and sometimes when I didn’t.

Here are five things he shared with me that I’ve come to realize was sound advice, even though I didn’t realize it at the time:

1. Pay yourself first

This seems like common sense, but I only halfheartedly implemented it a few times in my younger days. I always thought the Outcome I offered was more deserving than my own bills and would pay out to host events and other people before I took a cut. When I was a little kid and earned pocket money for chores, Dad even made a faux savings book! Didn’t really have much of an impact on my creative mind, though. Fortunately, after adopting this perspective full-time my life got a LOT easier! After all, why does anyone have any business at all if not to make their life better?

2. Do what you want, but you’re really good at programming!

Working for the British government as a Project Manager meant Dad had easy access to a lot of the latest technology. It wasn’t unusual for him to come home with a BBC Acorn or Commodore 64 computer before they were generously stocked on the shelves of retail stores. As a teenager in High School in the USA, all my electives were either music or computer technology, and I excelled at both never scoring lower than 96% on any homework, test or exam in my programming classes. Imagine the musical impact I could have paid for in life if I’d earned the kind of income computer technicians from the 80s were/ are earning!

(Just to clarify – I don’t have any regrets about the decisions I did make! It’s just that life would have been very different had I listened to my Dad when he said this – not necessarily better, just different.)

3. Do it on the cheap… to start with

I did, and still do, love high quality stuff. Not just traveling in luxury, but clothing and home goods, too. We always seemed to have good things around us but I never realized how much Dad made himself, or bought second-hand. He wasn’t a miserly cheapskate like Scrooge by any means, but he gave us lots of experiences and an envious lifestyle by doing things on the cheap. He said he would be sure to enjoy life later because he wouldn’t squander now. And he really did make the most of it once he did retire! Maybe I still haven’t fully grasped this concept yet in some areas of life – in many areas I have, but there’s still room for improvement!

4. Work for the government

I thought he was just a patriotic military man because while he was in the Royal Air Force his best buddy introduced him to his future wife of 50+ years. Turns out I see it in both the UK and the USA how much government work can benefit not only society, but hard-working creative and organized individuals as well, especially those who don’t get involved in the party political side of things – “Don’t share your opinions,” he would say. “Just do your work really well, whatever work they ask you to do.” I think he always wished I would follow in his footsteps as a Project Manager, and I still don’t know what he thought of my decision to pursue music but not join the Royal Marines Band Service.

5. Save 10% of everything

No matter what his income was or where it came from, 10% was always put aside, even from his retirement income. I do that now, of course – in fact, perhaps a little more – but I so wish I had paid attention and done that sooner. I remember in my little savings book he made there were columns for income, balance, and 10%. I guess I never really grasped what was supposed to happen to that 10% so I always looked at the balance to see what I had to spend. Can you imagine what 40+ years of 10% might look like today?! Maybe you already know!

So there you have it, five times I would have led a different life had I listened to my Dad sooner than I did.

What advice did your parents, guardians or mentors give you that you should have listened to at that time?

Or, what did you adopt that you’re very glad you did when you did?!

Let me know on my Facebook page.

How to stop losing money

The biggest expense in your performing career is the gigs you are not getting.

I know – it’s difficult to appreciate that sometimes.

We all get so focused on the bills and money flowing out of our bank accounts that it’s hard to focus on the money that’s NOT coming IN! Am I right? Of course.

But unless you learn to focus on the money you’re not making, you will probably struggle to reach a six figure income as a performing classical musician. 

And even struggle to hit lower goals than that, too.

Why?

It's hard to focus on the money not coming in.
We spend more time and energy focusing on what’s going out.
It’s hard to focus on the money not coming in.

The time you spend practicing your craft still feels right. It’s what you know to do, and you can do it well. What doesn’t feel real is the $1,000 gig that would have come your way had you spent a little of that practice time calling venues, or reaching out to your audience members.

Those actions don’t feel real to you, because they haven’t happened.

But, as the owner of your own performing career – and therefore business – you have to learn to ask yourself “Can I imagine?”

  • Can I imagine what life would be like if I booked three or even five $1,000 gigs a week?
  • Can I imagine what it would feel like to pick and choose which students I teach, i.e. just the advanced seniors preparing for college?
  • Can I imagine being surrounded and supported by a caring community instead of trying to make this work alone? 

You can’t see those gigs that slip through the cracks…but that is where the money is. That’s where your freedom is. That is where your impact is.

There are lives that need to be changed, and you can change them with your music. There are people who are suffering, struggling, and you could have helped them cope. But they didn’t find you, they didn’t attend one of your gigs, and now they are lost to live classical music.

Every time someone books a Breakthrough Session with the Concert University, I know their lives are on the line, their business is crumbling at best – probably non-existent, even. 

It’s the same with you and your gigs.

Every time you book a gig, you know there are people near that venue whose lives are devoid of live classical music. Someone’s life is on the line. Or their own business. Their marriage. So much of life gets in the way and if we can’t help them experience a little light through our music, then we’ve blown it… we’ve let them down. 

And every missed paid performance opportunity adds up to a lot of people sliding further and further away from classical music – that incredible form of communication, the language of emotions that helps our world become a much better place.

Imagine speaking to three venues this week but they all say ‘no thanks.’ That’s $3,000 lost… not to mention the impact you could have had on the hundreds of lives in those audiences. Those three missed gigs are your income goal – does that make sense?

All I did to go from broke and teaching in a classroom full-time to over six figures a year from performing, is to stop missing out on decently paid performance opportunities. 

That’s it!

But to capture those opportunities, you have to see them. And then you have to do what it takes to seize them, too. 

Otherwise, you might as well keep practicing for that elusive big break that’ll never come (remember: every overnight success takes about 20-30 years to happen) and constantly miss your income goals, your performing goals, and your impact goals. And it’s your audience members and the communities you operate in that will pay the price. 

But what happens when you start seeing AND seizing those extra opportunities? 

A few more gigs booked. 

A spike in the number of people you get to perform for.

And then, all of a sudden, your monthly income goal from performing seems remarkably within reach – you realize you’re going to hit it much sooner than you ever dreamed!

That’s why I want you on the inside of Concert University.

How many gigs did you miss this week? This month? Over the past 12 months?

If you had booked five or more gigs a week for the past year, what would that have been worth?

And what would be the lifetime value of those audiences that you could have owned a year ago?

Here’s the truth: If the answer to those questions is more than the investment for enrolling in Concert University, then it’s a very simple solution… you need to enroll!

The lifetime value of a loyal audience member
What’s the lifetime value of a loyal audience member?

My coaching program was designed from the ground up to help you avoid making the really obvious mistakes everyone still makes (that I made two and three decades ago), and it combines all the years of toil, trial and error that we see the majority of classical musicians making time and time again. We want you to see every performing opportunity you are currently missing so you can finally stop leaving money on the table and start being a winner at your career, not just your craft. 

AND, you get to do it surrounded by people who love you, support you, and want you to succeed. Most of all, people who understand you and your dream…even when everyone else around you doesn’t really get it.

If you’ve been stuck, leaving opportunities on the table, or not hitting your goals, Concert University will snap you out of it and get you back where you belong.

Book a 45-minute Breakthrough Session now, and find out if we can help you pick up some of those opportunities you’ve been leaving on the table every month:

http://ConcertUniversity.com/talk

Book your call now. 

Registration closes when you close your mind to the urgency to overcome what’s still holding you back.

If you are like most classical musicians, you can delay no more. You can ‘think about it’ no more. It’s either time to get on with life as a performer, or you’ll continue juggling plates in a trendy but unsustainable portfolio career forever… nothing will change unless you decide to change your decisions and actions. 

Get on a call with us now so we can all make this world of ours a better place through live classical music.

The team and I look forward to seeing you on the inside…

Deficiencies in the Education & Business Side of Performing

One of my favorite podcasts to be a guest on is “Operation Opera,” and it’s great for both singers AND instrumentalists!

We talk openly and honestly about why anyone should care about a 400 year old art form, but also the pitfalls and ways to navigate our way inside its industry (or outside of it) as performers.

This was a particularly fun and thought-provoking episode.

I even warn performers about a big barrier to success: trying to make your career look like Hollywood wrote it!

Ep 31: Deficiencies in the Education & Business Side of Performing w/ Conductor Stephen P Brown

Follow this link to listen on Soundcloud

And be sure to let me or Alisa know in the comments which bits you like, and which you might still disagree with.

Looking forward to the discussions…

Are you waiting for crumbs or taking action?

Do you know what is meant by the phrase “a sense of urgency?”

Most classical musicians don’t.

Like I used to, most performers have two settings – on or off. 

Panic, or ‘I need to think about it’ (aka analysis paralysis).

OCCASIONALLY one of those options is appropriate, but in my experience, it’s often the middle ground that is best – I need a considered result sooner rather than later.  I learned that the sooner I deal with something, the better the outcome. 

Will I miss out on something else, something better? 

Possibly, but I also learned that once a decision has been made, I need to stick to that decision unless it is life-threatening NOT to take an alternative position. Yes, you are allowed to change your mind (like politicians are allowed to change party membership), but only on the strongest of convictions should you change a decision you already made. No to and fro, no humming and hawing, no frivolity, no back and forth that will generate a reputation of unreliability and untrustworthiness. 

One of the things that holds us back from achieving the performing career and lifestyle of our dreams is that we dwell on decisions and taking action. We forget that we are allowed to make our own decisions now. We don’t have to take up mental capacity worrying anymore. We no longer have to wait for our parents, our teachers, or anyone other than our spouses to make decisions.

I have found that most people who like to delay, who like to ‘think about it’ or who generally just don’t take action have no idea of the impact their lack of decision-making will have. 

It’s simple: someone else’s life – possibly even YOUR life – might suffer unnecessarily as a result of your indecisiveness. Probably more often than we would like to admit. You really don’t want to be the person known for making life difficult simply because you don’t take action or decide, right?

Interestingly, Andrew Hitz (via Jason Heath – we hope we got the source right!) suggests that academia and classical music are the slowest moving industries in the world.  And we are engulfed by both! So no wonder we wait for others to make decisions for us. It’s time to change that, especially if you want to successfully build a profitable performing career.

Yes, there is always risk involved – you will NEVER, EVER have ALL the information you want or even need to make a decision, so you might as well go ahead with what you have now. So what if it’s not the ‘right’ decision? It’s the BEST decision you can make right now with the info you do have. Go for it. 

All of this to address the fact that there are still classical musicians who wait for the phone to ring to offer them gigs. They wait for others to mention an opportunity, a job, an audition, or an opportunity to perform and/ or earn money.

Don’t wait.

Please.

You can no longer wait for others to offer you crumbs. You don’t have time for that anymore. It’s time you took ownership of your own career and lifestyle and begin making decisions/ creating opportunities/ calling and offering to help. Now is that time. 

Do you feel that sense of urgency? 

Good. Because it’s real.

It’s right here, right now.

Wait no more. They may not come.

Get up, get out, and let’s make this happen, whatever “this” is for you!

Let’s talk and see if I can help you weigh the odds and make a decision NOW about the rest of your life.

Give us a call at Concert University: http://ConcertUniversity.com/talk

On your mark, get set, GO!