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!

Why we take any gig that comes our way

Just take this moment with me:

Even if you’re really busy today, just breathe and relax for a moment…

Imagine with me a world in which we are living our dream lifestyles.

The house, the land, the car, the traveling, the instrument, the concert venues, the gifts and letters we receive from fans…

Nice, huh?

Imagine that you don’t have to worry about paying the bills.

You have become so efficient at booking gigs that pay well that you don’t have to worry about your mortgage payments, sending your kids to private school, or buying first-class tickets to get to Europe. 

In that life, imagine your car overheating, and steam pours out from the hood.

How will you react?

You see yourself calmly checking the rearview and side mirrors, putting your warning lights on, and gently sliding onto the shoulder.

You let everyone in the car know everything will be alright, you’re just going to check to see what’s happened, and you look at all the lights on your dashboard, and pop the hood. You check to see if it’s safe to get out of the car and when it is, you go to the hood, find the latch and lift it. You pull up the support arm and place it in its hole and look at the engine steaming away.

Calmly getting back in the car, you call your insurance company’s breakdown service and tell them what’s going on. They send someone immediately (and you don’t even think about the cost), and by the time you get home, there is a replacement car in your driveway already.

Wasn’t that fun? Dreaming for a bit?

But let me ask you this:

Is that how you would react right now if your car overheats later today?

No?

Why not?

But when you build a profitable performing career and choose how many well-paid gigs you do, you CAN live like that! It just happened to me, recently.

Here’s the thing:

I would have reacted the same way before I made my lifestyle course corrections.

Do you know why?

Because I recognized that although I can’t choose my circumstances, I can choose how I react to them.

If you’re feeling down, lethargic, lacking in energy, excitement and motivation to book gigs, then look at how you are choosing to react to your circumstances.

Are you blaming everyone else, or something else, or even yourself?

Or are you choosing to replace those thoughts with something more productive, more useful, more… beneficial?

If you’re ready to pursue your dream lifestyle as a live classical music performer, let’s talk and see if I can help you get there. Let’s see if it’s time for you to take ownership of your performing career by choosing how you react to each circumstance that comes your way.

Give us a call at the Concert University and let’s see if we can help you.

Now, choose to make the world a better place today,

Are you teaching others to not value live classical music?

So many classical musicians hate their job.

Why?

Well, first, which job?! Many musicians have multiple careers which, as we recently explored in my Facebook group Building Profitable Performing Careers, is not what drives success (reminder: multiple careers is different to multiple streams of income). 

Doing several different activities like performing, teaching, administration, and a variety of non-music work is a left-over strategy from the 90s that has proven time and again to NOT WORK.

So let’s focus our conversation on performing.

Many classical musicians hate many of the performances they participate in.

If performers aren’t too tired and distracted by their portfolio careers, then one reason might be because they take whatever gig they can get, regardless of what it pays, whether or not they like that kind of repertoire and irrespective of who the other performers are.

A $120 gig sounds fabulous to many classical musicians. 

For a three hour rehearsal and two hour concert (on different days, no less!), an hour’s drive away, and all the practice time before they even get to a rehearsal. 

That’s about $24 per contact hour or $12 per working hour… even less when taking normal business administration into account (phone calls, bookkeeping, etc.)

But it’s no return on the decades you invested in becoming an expert nor on the resources you, your parents and those who gave to scholarship programs spent on you to become this amazing musician.

So why do we do it?

Why do classical musicians take gigs that simply don’t make sense or add up?

Perhaps you don’t value what you do.

And by demonstration, that teaches society not to value what you do, as well.

It’s so disheartening to see performers and society alike look at live classical music like it’s crumbs on a table, to be swept up and thrown away after the main meal.

To me, it IS the main meal!

This language of emotions is so fundamental to human existence that it stuns me how often it is relegated to simply ‘entertainment’ by musicians themselves!

Imagine what you’re communicating using this language when you take whatever gig comes along.

If you’re as done with that – and not getting paid decently for it – as I became, let’s talk. 

Give us a call at the Concert University and let’s see if we can help you.

Go make the world a better place.

Do you want to become an expert auditionee or an expert performer?

How much have you invested in auditions?

And I mean time away from your loved ones, practicing excerpts, dealing with nerves, training to become an expert auditionee, risking damage to your craft by over-practicing the extremities of your skills, as well as the actual expenses involved.

Auditions are like school exams: You learn how to pass them and you’ll get excellent grades, but how will being an expert examinee help with life?

One of the biggest complaints I hear from classical musicians is the amount of time, energy and resources they spend auditioning, rather than income-producing activities.

There is nothing wrong with taking auditions – it’s the old way classical music has survived and paid for itself. And as long as you consider what your expectations are, and what your priorities are, then great! Go take as many as you can.

But here are two big questions you really should ask yourself before embarking on an audition:

1. What’s my Return on Investment (ROI)?

Of course, there are financial implications to attending an audition – the application video, travel, accommodation, food, fees, tips, etc.

But there are other costs as well: time spent completing the materials, time away from your loved ones, time not spent on income-producing activities, distraction from your paying audiences and students, etc.

There are four areas of ROI to think about when auditioning:

  1. How will this affect my finances? Will I ever recover the costs of attending the audition? Will the fee I get from the job pay me not just enough to survive, but also recoup the expenses of auditioning?
  2. How will this affect my craft? Preparing for an audition usually requires you to learn, study and prepare repertoire that isn’t really in your comfort zone or heart. Often the rep stretches your skills (rightly so!) which has caused damage to voices and fingers by over-extending practice sessions. I know way too many classical musicians no longer performing because they damaged themselves by over-practicing repertoire they didn’t like or was just a little beyond their technical capabilities.
  3. How will this affect my career? What do you want to be known for – being an amazing auditionee, or an amazing performer? Are you hoping to make new connections and network, or get exposure? What has been your ROI in those areas so far… so why keep doing it? Expecting any “opportunity” for exposure or networking to actually help you build a profitable performing career is skating on very thin ice. I’d rather focus my time, energy and resources on actual income-producing activities rather than just hope.
  4. How will this affect lifestyle? We all choose where and how we live. Almost daily I hear from immigrants who escaped truly horrible and oppressive environments to come to the USA, and who choose what they do and where they do it. Our careers are supposed to support us living life as human beings (our “lifestyle”) and we use our craft to build a career with. Is auditioning and constantly moving to where the work is your choice of lifestyle? I’m not judging if it is – nothing wrong with that. If that’s not your preference, then what is the ROI for your lifestyle by auditioning?

The second question to ask yourself is much simpler, yet in so many ways much harder to answer:

2. Will this audition and/or the job being offered help me share my Outcome with the world? 

In other words, how will spending my time, energy and resources on this audition allow me to make people’s lives better by giving them the Outcome they are paying for.

(Don’t know what your Outcome is? We need to talk!)

If you actually enjoy auditioning, awesome. Well done you! I would still recommend you ask yourself those two big questions before each audition.

But if you’d rather just be performing AND earning a decent living doing so, then you might not need to spend so much time, energy and resources on auditions. There are ways you can focus on performing instead and creating actual income-producing activities.

If you want to know more, let’s talk. Give us a call at Concert University and let’s see if we can help you.

Focus on what’s truly important to you: working for others and paying for the privilege, or getting out there and sharing classical music with people who may never have been exposed to it before.