How to attract very dedicated and advanced students

Why are we talking about teaching?

Because it’s actually one of the most common complaints I hear from musicians… one of the biggest causes of false optimism and hope I hear performers convince themselves they love doing.

And many actually do!

I still love helping those who ask for my help. Really love it. After all, I’m a Conductor, a.k.a. Maestro, translated: teacher.

But I did not enjoy it when my primary income was from teaching whatever percussion students I could get, or teaching every teenager in a school as part of their weekly curriculum.

And now I see myself in thousands of budding classical musicians who get diverted and distracted from their dreams and their goals and end up teaching not because they really want to (I am truly grateful to those whose primary passion IS teaching), but because bills have to be paid and it’s not coming from performing.

People ask me all the time how to make the most of teaching. Specifically, how to attract the very dedicated and advanced students that would make teaching a more rewarding activity.

Well, I used to teach. Peripatetically at first (and had the highest ratio of students go to music college among some 3,000 teachers in the regional music school I worked for), and then in the classroom for a while. 

In fact, in one school we took 600 inner city kids from rebellious outcasts to choral singing on the radio, and even helped a small group release an original song, and later I took two years to turn a music department that failed government inspection to being one of the four strengths of the college.

So, I have experience teaching.

But it failed to fill a void.

In the same way teaching High School mathematics was not enough for Art Garfunkel, or elementary school teaching was not enough for Gordon Sumner (Sting), Sheryl Crow, or Gene Simmons (of KISS!).

And now I hear the same questions from classical musicians today that I was asking myself: How do I find the best, most dedicated students so I can make teaching more altruistic and rewarding for me? Here are four thoughts in response:

  1. If your true passion is performing then why are you not focused on developing that career? Don’t divert your limited energy and effort to anything other than your primary purpose. The more you perform, the more dedicated and interested students will ask you to teach them, and then you can choose.
  2. Music teachers are a dime a dozen. You don’t want the reputation of being just another starving artist trying to make it. If performing is your passion, then become the performer who teaches. You are not a servant who jumps when your customers tell you do – you simply serve your community and choose to make people’s lives better.
  3. Students and their parents must clearly see the benefits of learning to play or sing with you as opposed to anyone else. That means you must be practicing what you preach, i.e. perform. That’s what they’re interested in, so isn’t that the teacher they are looking for?
  4. Consider this: For every hour you are teaching, how much could you be earning as a performer? If implementing my Captivating Concert™ system then it’s quite a difference! Which would better serve your soul and your lifestyle? FOCUS on THAT.

Be very careful where you are putting your precious time, energy and resources. Is it focused on the right activities – the things that drive you, that make you excited, that you dream about?

Let me show you how to choose when, where, and what you perform, with who, and for how much, so that the really dedicated and advanced students seek you out and you can choose who you teach and how often. Give us a call and let’s see if I can help you.

My career coaching programs might feel like another semester in college, but they are way more practical, based on real-world experience and trial & error, and designed to get you results: booking gigs and earning a good living as a classical music performer.

Book a call now.

The Pillars of Success: Relationships

As social creatures, relationship and community are at the heart of our survival and success. Throughout history and even today, those without a tribe don’t tend to farewell. Building relationships is the process of developing critical social connections. It’s a fundamental skill and the basis of reputation and influence. Being good at relationship building is not only important for living a happy fulfilled life, but also what enables us to close deals, get the gig, and move our careers forward.

Relationships - A Pillar of Success

The Lifecycle of Relationships

There are many types of relationships – family, romantic, friendly, professional – but with the exception of our first family relationships, nearly all of them begin as transactional agreements.

Transactional relationships, the “I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine” type, get a bad rap. We think of these as insincere, maybe even selfish, versus what we consider to be “real relationships” – those based on intimacy, and emotional connection. But really, the transactional portion is just the beginning of the relationship life-cycle.

We connect with others in a give-and-get agreement (which is almost always unspoken) and the relationship grows or fizzles from there. The things we are giving and getting aren’t always quantifiable. In personal relationships, they may be things like a sense of belonging, emotional support, excitement. But the truth is, we don’t or at least shouldn’t stay in relationships where there is no give and take. As an example, think of how many times people say of estranged family members, “I can’t be around him anymore. I don’t get anything out of the relationship.”

Often, relationships that begin as very transactional grow into something deeper. We should aim for developing these deeper relationships, otherwise, we end up with a network that is a mile wide and an inch deep. But not every connection we make is destined to become close and lifelong.

Why do some relationships grow, and others die on the vine? It’s complicated and different every time, but Will Smith has great advice: “Don’t chase people. Be yourself, do your thing, work hard, and the right people, the ones who really belong in your life will come. And they will stay.”

Analyzing Relationships

There are already hundreds of personal development books written about how to build relationships and grow your network. But a good place to start is to look carefully at the relationships you already have. These three steps can help:

1. Make a list

We all have multiple networks. Make a list of all the people in each of your circles of influence. These may be fellow musicians, people from church, school friends, workout buddies. List everyone with whom you have a relationship.

2. Identify the basis of the relationship

For each person, or group of people, write down what your relationship is based upon – is it a common interest, a common goal, mere proximity? What do you give in these relationships? What are you getting?

3. Focus on service

Now, for each group or individual, think about how you can best serve. Maybe you need to do more to foster those relationships, maybe nothing is needed, or perhaps you need to do less. Sometimes, we discover that we cannot serve people in any meaningful way, in which case you might want to consider how much energy the relationship is requiring, perhaps the best thing to do is to walk away.

We all have limited time, energy, and effort. To build truly successful relationships, we must make sure that we are focusing those resources on the places which will do the most good for ourselves and others.

Why waste your precious energy on relationships where all you do is give and give and get nothing – not even the satisfaction of making a difference? Likewise, why bother with relationships where you take and take and nothing you have to give is wanted or needed?

This is part of our series on the pillars of success. If you would like to hear the live discussion about this characteristic, head on over to now.

If you are ready to learn more about how to build a profitable, fulfilling career as a performing classical musician, check out Concert University, and the free webinar that outlines 5 strategies for success.

5 most popular training snippets

This week we wanted to do something a bit different.

Here are five little excerpts from our live weekly training sessions inside Concert University.

Seriously – they are little! Just a few minutes each and we’ve created them just for you. The snippets we’ve listed below from our most popular live trainings are all under 8 mins so you can digest them right now.

Yes, they are ALL about helping you build a profitable performing career.

Get a sneak peek into the transformational insight we share in my coaching programs, and you can have them now for free! They are my gift to you.

And I’ll tell you what:

If you like them, subscribe to my Youtube channel and I’ll send you a snippet even shorter than these every day to help your career development motivation…

Go on – take a few minutes and be a fly on the wall of what really goes on inside CU!

Thanks for making our world a better place through live classical music.

Classic Jabber Ep. 44 “Value”

Classic Jabber
September 6, 2019

Some people are more skilled at providing value than others, but we seem to find people who provide value as more attractive than those who do not! Why is that, and how do classical musicians come across in society? Click the link above to hear SPB in conversation with his friends and learn more about this.

Consciously Cultivate Joy

The developed world is experiencing more prosperity, convenience, and opportunity than could even be imagined 100 years ago. We’ve essentially eliminated diseases that used to kill tens of thousands of people, developed technology that allows us to grow enormous amounts of food, access education, and even travel 3,000 miles in a mere eight hours. Even so, the majority of people we come in contact with every day seem discouraged, unhappy, and anxious.

This is equally true among professional musicians, which seems particularly ironic. After all, music is beautiful – surely a source of pleasure and connection – and yet, so many musicians seem decidedly negative. It’s no wonder that we are captivated by those who seem to have discovered the secret to joy.  

But developing joy does not require a secret recipe. It simply requires practice. And the dividends are immeasurable.

Joy vs. Happiness

We all know what it is to be happy. It’s the elated feeling you have when something goes your way – you get the job, you nail the goal, the cute stranger calls you back. Happiness is wonderful, but it’s fleeting and almost always dependent on outside events.

Joy, on the other hand, is a much deeper feeling. If happiness is the bubbles, then joy is the underground stream. Joy is an emotion of well-being, a general feeling that you are on the right path, and that things are turning out for the best. It’s an excitement and confidence about the world and your place in it.

It is possible to be joyful and not happy. Unhappy things happen in every person’s life – people die or disappoint us, carefully laid plans fall through. But people who are genuinely joyful see these things for what they are – inescapable parts of the human experience, which is, despite the problems, still a wonderful thing.

It isn’t that joyful people never experience sadness or anger, it’s that they understand these difficult feelings to be the immune system of the soul, an indicator that something is wrong that should be addressed if possible.

The Vulnerability of Joy

Classical musicians as a whole can tend to be a pessimistic bunch. We focus on what went wrong, or what is likely to do so.

It’s a defense mechanism. After all, if you point out your mistakes first, then you can’t be embarrassed by someone else doing it for you. If you don’t get your hopes up, you can’t really be disappointed, right?


Those walls you build to keep out the bad feelings are not filters, they are fortresses. Nothing so bad can get in, true, but nothing so good can either. You are trading in hopeful expectation for premature disappointment and calling it “being realistic.”

Get Real

Many people call themselves Realists when in actuality, they are just Negative Nellies. They look at a world of good things, search out the bad, and say, “See, I told you so.” But just because bad things can and do happen, it doesn’t mean that the world is a bad place. On the whole, there is a lot more good than bad, and almost every “bad” thing carries within it the seed of something good if you’re willing to look for it.

Being willing is the key. Cultivating joy is a conscious practice. It requires being grateful, looking for opportunities, and expecting the best.

Here’s an example: You’ve planned a vacation to New York City, including tickets to a Broadway show. But when you get there, a blackout closes all the theaters. A disaster right? All that planning and saving down the tubes. You could choose to look at it that way. Or, you could consider that without a theater, all of the actors are spilling into the streets, putting on a once-in-a-lifetime acoustic performance and you’re there for it.

Choose Your Perspective Carefully

To use an example familiar to performing musicians, consider calling a venue to book a show. You can approach the conversation with joy or trepidation. Trepidation says this call is going to be difficult, it probably won’t work out, the person on the other end will be rude. Of course, you’re sweaty and anxious before making such a call.

Joy, on the other hand, says you are offering something of value that this person will want to take advantage of. You go in expecting the best. Of course, you’re hoping it will work out, but it isn’t just positive thinking that you’re relying on to save the day. Joy also knows that if this call doesn’t work out you will have gained more experience with these kinds of calls, and now have more time to work with people who will appreciate what you have to offer.

We all want to be around people who are excited and joyful about life and the path they are on. But why stop there? Why not practice BEING one of those people?

This is part of our series on the characteristics of attractive people. If you would like to hear the live discussion about this characteristic, head on over to now.

If you are ready to learn more about how to build a profitable, fulfilling career as a performing classical musician, check out Concert University, and the free webinar that outlines 5 strategies for success.

Classic Jabber Ep. 42 “Favor”

Classic Jabber
September 9, 2019

Some people are better at showing favor to those around them than others, but we seem to find people who show us favor as more attractive than those who are not! Why is that, and how do classical musicians come across in society? Click the link above to hear SPB in conversation with his friends and learn more about this.

The Attractiveness of Being Knowledgeable

As a rule, we tend to like knowledgeable people. That is, of course, as long as they aren’t arrogant know-it-alls. There’s a big difference between talking with someone who can speak intelligently about a subject and a person determined to prove that they are more intelligent than everyone else.

Knowledgeable - A Characteristic of Attractiveness

Knowledgeable people seem competent, and in a world that can seem shaky, competency is very attractive. Furthermore, being knowledgeable shows a certain amount of curiosity about the world. After all, you can’t learn something without being curious about it first. Being around curious people encourages us because curiosity implies a passion for life which is inspiring.  

There is, however, something even better than spending time with people who know what they are talking about: spending time with people who know what you are interested in talking about.

The Knowledgeable Classical Musician

If you intend to study and play classical music in the confines of your own living room, it’s perfectly acceptable to be knowledgeable only about your instrument, the pieces you’re playing, the composer, and perhaps the context.

In fact, if your audience is only made up of classical music aficionados, this knowledge may get you through just fine.

However, if you’d like to have a vibrant performing career, you’ll have to develop the ability to connect with people who may have never experienced classical music before – people who do not know or care about the difference between the Baroque or Romantic period.

In other words, you’ll have to know your audience.

Do Your Research

Chris Thile, of Live from Here, is a fabulous example of a performer who takes the time to know his audience. Every week, Live from Here is broadcast from a different American city. The show features musicians of all genres, and often the audience buys tickets without having ever heard of the musicians that will be performing.


Because Chris shows up and acts like a local. He knows how the people in each city think of themselves, what the city is proud of, and what makes them laugh at themselves. If you listen to a broadcast, you’ll hear inside jokes that fly right over your head, but cause the entire audience to erupt in laughter.

How does he do that, and how can you do it too? Research.

If you are playing in a different town, it’s relatively straightforward. Google alone is a great tool. However, research works just as well in your own backyard.

If you are booked to play in a nonconventional venue, particularly one where the venue is drawing its own audience, do everything you can to learn about the interests of that audience. Perhaps there is an inside joke about the beloved owner. Maybe there’s a bit of well-known history you can allude to. If you are playing as part of a larger event, learn something about the event and the participants.

This isn’t to say that knowledge about the music you are presenting is unimportant, or shouldn’t be shared. Only to say that if you put in the effort to learn about what your audience is interested in and show that you are interested in them, you will be rewarded with a loyal following. And fans and followers is what a successful performing career rests upon.

This is part of our series on the characteristics of attractive people. If you would like to hear the live discussion about this characteristic, head on over to now.

If you are ready to learn more about how to build a profitable, fulfilling career as a performing classical musician, check out Concert University, and the free webinar that outlines 5 strategies for success.

Developing Understanding

Understanding is the bedrock of empathy. There’s no doubt that empathetic people are attractive to others – after all, we all long to feel connected and supported. However, before you can be empathetic, you have to understand. Empathy is the emotional manifestation of understanding.

Understanding - A Characteristic of Attractiveness

Understanding has a host of gifts to offer beyond just building empathy, of course. When you understand the circumstances surrounding the composition of a particular piece of music – who wrote it, when, and why – that context colors and improves your performance of the piece. Suddenly, the music is no longer just notes on a page, but a communication from one human being to another. Understanding is the baseline of connection.

Tolerance vs. Understanding

A dictionary definition of understanding is sympathetic awareness or tolerance, but perhaps a better definition would be sympathetic awareness beyond tolerance.

Tolerance has become quite the buzzword, and over time it’s become a bit corrupted. To tolerate something now implies that you are putting up with it, despite not liking it very much. There’s no curiosity there, simply a willful disregard of disgust.

Understanding on the other hand, requires curiosity. And curiosity often requires courage. No wonder people shy away from it. Asking why people believe or behave or create as they do opens you up to discovering answers that may make you uncomfortable.

The Courageousness of Living

If you want to develop understanding, appreciating courage is a great place to start. Everywhere you look, you see courage whether you recognize it as such or not. It takes courage to just show up for life. Following through, making a million small decisions a day, all of that requires courage. Life is not for the faint of heart.

Pursuing a life in classical music requires an additional level of courage. You’re constantly putting yourself out there, facing rejection, facing failure. And the musicians around you are doing the same thing. Everyday. You may not know exactly what is going on in someone else’s life, but there’s one thing you can understand – they made the decision to get out of bed this morning and get on with it, and that deserves some respect.

Understanding Your Role

Sympathetic awareness begins with understanding the big why. Why is that person doing what they are doing? Why are we here, performing this piece? Once you understand the purpose, you can determine what your role in the whole is. Are you the leader? The giver? The receiver?

Once you understand your part you can demonstrate that understanding to the people around you.

This is part of our series on the characteristics of attractive people. If you would like to hear the live discussion about this characteristic, head on over to now.

If you are ready to learn more about how to build a profitable, fulfilling career as a performing classical musician, check out Concert University, and the free webinar that outlines 5 strategies for success.

The People Pleasing Power of Creativity

Human beings are by their nature, creative. We imagine, invent, compose, and design constantly. Not all of these imaginings make it into the physical world, but they nonetheless are created in our minds. We all possess the spark of creativity.

Creativity - A Characteristic of Attractiveness

Even so, many people feel they need permission to be creative. Watching others be creative gives them that permission, and this is one of the reasons that we find creative people so attractive.  

The Trifecta of Creativity in Performance

We generally associate creativity with a specific creation. A work of art, a novel, or in the case of music, a composition. But this act of creativity is only the first of many involved in a classical music performance.

After the composer has created a piece, an artist then interprets the music – imbuing it with the emotion and dynamics she feels are most appropriate – creating an experience for the listener.

The creativity doesn’t end there, though. The final piece of the puzzle is the audience member. We know that if we ask five different people to tell the story they imagine while listening to the same piece of music, we will get five different stories. This is the creation that the listener brings to the table. And as a performer, sharing your creativity, this is the permission you give to your audience to experience their own.

Passion and Creation

Perhaps the most attractive, dare we say, sexy, thing about creativity is that it is born of passion. To create you have to care. That’s part of the reason that some places are more conducive to creativity than others, and why some people can be creative in careers that others find mind-numbingly dull.

You may have had the lucky experience of being taught something you weren’t much interested in by someone passionate about the subject. Suddenly, it’s more interesting, maybe even compelling. That’s the beauty and power of passion.

We aren’t all sparked by the same things, but we’re all drawn to passion and the creativity it breeds.  

This is part of our series on the characteristics of attractive people. If you would like to hear the live discussion about this characteristic, head on over to now.

If you are ready to learn more about how to build a profitable, fulfilling career as a performing classical musician, check out Concert University, and the free webinar that outlines 5 strategies for success.