Do you struggle to be decisive? Find out why and learn how to change it!

Listen in on this excerpt from a live training with Stephen P Brown, conductor, composer, and founder of Concert University, an online coaching program dedicated to helping classical musicians build profitable performing careers.

Want to learn more? Check out Stephen’s next online presentation outlining 5 strategies you can implement today that successful classical musicians use to build a profitable performing career at http://spb.buzz/CUSPBonline.

Interested in receiving more content like this every day? Subscribe to my Youtube channel to receive daily coachings.

How to be a Supportive Person in a Competitive World

We’re all drawn to people who uplift, encourage, and actively help us achieve our dreams. After all, why spend time and energy on Negative Nellys and naysayers (except those well-meaning family members we just can’t avoid) when you can surround yourself with positive vibes that help you get stuff done?

But support is truly a giver’s gain concept: if you want supportive people in your life, you have to be a supportive person.

Support has become something of a buzzword. We talk about supporting ideas, supporting policies, supporting the arts, when what we really mean is we agree with or appreciate those things.  Truly being supportive means giving encouragement and actively giving help to someone who needs it. Support requires action, not just thought.

Supportive - A Characteristic of Attractiveness

Break the Lack Mindset

As professional musicians, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that another player’s success is our failure. After all, if they get the job, that means we don’t get it right? How can you genuinely support someone else’s ambition if it seems to preclude your own success?

Here’s the truth: classical musicians (and classical music in general) face a lot of challenges, but other musicians are not one of them! True, we are all vying for the attention of the public, but what we are battling against is the distraction of modern life – Netflix, Candy Crush, and the host of other easy entertainments that consume the few free hours people have after working long hours and caring for families. It’s simply so easy to sit at home with mindless entertainment these days, and that makes getting people out the door to see live music a challenge.

Understand that a rising tide lifts all boats. If you can create a thriving culture of live entertainment by supporting other players, you too, benefit. Everyone benefits. It isn’t an either/or; it is an and/also.

Everyone has a different gift to give. Respect and support the gifts of others without falling prey to the idea that acknowledging their talent diminishes your own.

How to Show Support

Obviously, showing up to watch performances is supportive, but how else can you encourage and help fellow musicians and the other people in your life?

1. Be an active listener: This applies to every interaction you have and is a sure way to gain people’s trust and admiration. When you’re having a conversation with someone, slow down and listen to what they are saying. Don’t use their turn to just think of what you’re going to say next. Avoid generic responses, maintain eye contact, and ask questions. And please, please, put your phone away.

2. Offer advice only when asked. This one can be tricky, especially if you see something that could use improvement. Though it’s true that tough love can be a form of support, it’s generally better to focus on the positive. Offer encouragement by telling someone what you appreciated about their performance, what you thought they did particularly well. Be authentic, don’t lavish generic praise on a performance you thought was merely ok, but do look for good things to encourage.

If you are asked for advice, remain positive. Instead of, “That middle section was rough,” try something like, “The first movement was great! If you can work on putting the same emotion into the second movement, it will be brilliant.”

3. Don’t gossip. This should be a no-brainer, but sometimes our lesser angels get the better of us, especially if we’re still caught in the trap of competition. When someone shares something with you in confidence, keep it to yourself. This applies to struggles and victories alike. It’s impossible to feel supported by someone who is talking being your back.

4. Share the wealth. If you hear of opportunities that would benefit others, tell them! “But what if they get it, and I don’t?” By being generous with encouragement and information, you are exponentially increasing the odds that others will reciprocate. Next time they may tell you about an opportunity that is a perfect fit for your gifts.

5. Work on your building your own confidence. When you believe in your talents and value what you do, it becomes so much easier to offer support to other 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 ClassicJabber.com 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.

Move Forward or Stay Stuck

Listen in on this excerpt from a live training with Stephen P Brown, conductor, composer, and founder of Concert University, an online coaching program dedicated to helping classical musicians build profitable performing careers.

Want to learn more? Check out Stephen’s next online presentation outlining 5 strategies you can implement today that successful classical musicians use to build a profitable performing career at http://spb.buzz/CUSPBonline.

Don’t forget to subscribe to Stephen’s YouTube channel for more videos like this one.

Whatever Happened to Professional Joy?

It’s a familiar story. A musician works for years through a rigorous music program nursing the dream of one day becoming a professional performer. At last, it happens. Then, a few years later, this dream job has become routine. Wake up, do the work, go home. Something feels missing.

When we turn professional, when our livelihood depends on our music, we tend to kill the joy of it. Why? How? And what can we do about it?

Long-term Love Is a Choice

Committing to a career, especially one as personal and emotional as music, is a lot like marriage.

There was a story on the radio recently about a man who’d been married for 65 years. He was talking about how he and his wife had managed to stay happily married for so long. He said, “Over the past 65 years, I’ve been married to 10 different versions of my wife. She became ten different people, and I chose to fall in love with every one of them.”

He chose to be in love. Over and over again. Happiness is a choice, and it requires a daily commitment.

When we go into professional music, especially after striving for so long, it can feel like a huge celebration, a wedding party if you will. But every day is not a party, and we shouldn’t expect it to be.

No one, regardless of career, goes to work every day and loves their job every moment that they are there. A life in music is hard work. Wonderful, yes, but also work. Managing expectations helps repel disappointment and disillusionment. So remember, every day is not the wedding day. Sometimes it’s the garbage night. And that’s ok.

Take Responsibility for Your Happiness

Often, when musicians are disappointed in their careers, it’s because they feel stuck. They feel like they are no longer in charge of what they do, and what they find themselves doing is draining, or even boring. It’s easier to blame a director for their unhappiness than it is to admit that, ultimately, the responsibility for happiness lies in their own laps.

But the truth is, no one is keeping you where you are. You have the ability to craft a career you do love. There are no hard and fast rules about what a professional music career must be. If you don’t like the situation you find yourself in, even after accepting that some days will be better than others, then change it.

A word of warning: if you don’t like the career you’ve crafted, you’ll have no one to blame but yourself. However, you always keep crafting!

Remember Your Audience

Disgruntled performers make boring performances. Full stop.

Consider the influence your attitude is having on the people you are there to serve. Even on your worst day, your job is to communicate the emotional language of music to people who may have never experienced it before. You can’t do that if you are selfishly obsessed with how much fun you aren’t having.

Think about the people who are listening to a piece for the first time, even if you’ve played it a million times before. Be an actor. Communicate the emotion of the music. Find it, and amplify it to the audience. It’s hard to be bored when you’re invested in honestly communicating emotion.

You may have decided on a career in professional music because it was the most fun you’d ever had. That’s wonderful, we want our professional lives to be fun. But it’s important that when you step over that threshold from avocation to vocation, from wedding to marriage, that you remember that you’re making a commitment – a commitment not only to your career but primarily to your audience. You’ve committed to making the world a better place by communicating through the language of emotion. That’s something to be happy about, even on the rough days. 

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 Classic Jabber 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. 31 “Calmness”

Classic Jabber
June 7, 2019

Have you noticed that some people are calmer than others, but we seem to find people who are calm 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.

What shocks me may surprise you

With the latest old-school icon from the hippy era crumbling under accusations of serious misconduct, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to reconcile expectations with responsibility.

The #MeToo movement continues to reach deeper and deeper into society, and classical music is clearly not exempt.

Now that Placido Domingo, one of the original Three Tenors, is under fire for sexual harassment since the 1980s, to be perfectly honest with you I am utterly shocked at three things…

Actually, they are the same three things I have struggled with over the past few years as these various stories come to light.

And what shocks me may surprise you:

  1. I am shocked that anyone is surprised by these post-hippy-era stories,
  2. I am shocked that anyone would consent to any form of what is now considered gross misconduct under any circumstances (let’s explore that in a moment), and
  3. I am utterly shocked and saddened that there are STILL people in the classical music industry who use these very painful experiences as a hook to promote their services!

WHAT?!

Yes, I just received an email from a cheap, multifarious classical music “coach” who launched an unsubstantiated attack on Domingo and then spent the second half of her missive justifying an upcoming event and incorporating the Domingo story into descriptive links for her coaching programs and social media accounts. 

That makes me almost as sick as when hearing about the original story itself.

To me, it signifies just how low our industry has stooped – that it’s become OK to sell our wares on the backs of those who endured absolutely awful experiences with lifelong impact.

It is, perhaps, one of the most underhanded, despicable and unprofessional selling tactics anyone could possibly imagine. 

Aren’t we better than that?

Why aren’t we better than that?

Now, I am not diminishing anyone’s victimhood AT ALL, but I am saddened anyone thinks it was ever ok to either ask for sexual favors or that actually giving or engaging in such behavior was ever necessary.

It doesn’t take a degree to understand right from wrong, yet for whatever reason so many of our peers seem unaware of the impact of their words and actions.

What may be said in jest by one person could actually be very harmful for another. Stack such comments on top of each other over time, and a mindset of self-worth and wanting to make our world a better place through music may be damaged beyond repair.

There is ALWAYS a way out, but many times it is REALLY DIFFICULT to see it, act on it, or prioritize it. Especially when a primary income is at stake. So we put up with the comments and taps and slaps not realizing just how bad our situation is.

LET’S BE CLEAR:
We are NOT talking about rape.
We are discussing harassment.

Why would anyone think there is no alternative?

We live in an era in which sexual freedom is popular, that followed an era in which sexual experimentation was popular.

On top of which classical musicians are ensnared in an industry that promotes one way of thinking, one way of doing, and only one possible path… a path that was created 100 years ago and is no longer suitable for the real world.

Well, no matter how many options and opportunities there may be to get out of a potentially sticky situation, it doesn’t surprise me that sexual harassment is rampant in the established classical music industry. I witnessed it many, many times in my college days.

But it shocks me when others declare surprise.

And although it doesn’t surprise me that talking about such important topics occurs within our circles of influence (it’s what we’re doing right now), I DO remain SHOCKED TO THE CORE that some of our classical music peers ride on the lifelong pain of others in order to make a buck… and woe be coming to those who get swallowed up by such cheap Machiavellian antics.

Craft vs. Career

Every year, thousands of students graduate from music programs across the world. These are talented, dedicated students, and yet, many struggle to build fulfilling careers as performing musicians. Why?

Because they haven’t learned the skills required to build those careers.

Craft or Career?

What School Doesn’t Teach You

There is an enormous difference between mastering the craft of music – our instrument or voice, composition, conducting – and mastering the skills required to build a career sharing live music with people. Many people spend 10, 15, even 20 years figuring out the craft, but expect the career to just be there upon graduation. It doesn’t work that way.

Is it the fault of the music programs? Not really. University was never intended to be a vocational school. You have to look elsewhere to learn the day to day skills required to find and book gigs. You may need to beef up on your people skills or your selling skills.

In the movie, The Founder, Ray Croc, the man who brought McDonald’s to the world, realizes that he is not in the hamburger business, he’s in the real estate business. Similarly, you are not as much in the music business as you are in the people business. You must put the same effort into mastering your relationships with people as you did mastering your instrument.

Thankfully, there are some skills that transfer between music training and career building.

  1. Diligence: In order to master your music craft, you had to be extremely disciplined and dedicated. Think of all the hours spent woodshedding in practice rooms. The same diligence serves you well as you craft a career.
  2. Resilience in the face of rejection: Every time you failed an audition or were passed over for first chair, you experienced a little bit of rejection. Hopefully, you learned to take that in stride and keep going. Learning to deal with rejection is one of the most important career skills you can master. A lot of talented people leave music because they do not understand that frequent rejection is just part of the package. Nine times out of ten, you will hear no. That’s ok. That means that one time you will hear yes, and it all rides on that one time.

Insecurity is Unimportant

As a classical musician, you spent years before teachers, fellow students (competitors), and judges, having every single move picked apart. They focused on the three notes you could have done better instead of the 5,000 notes you played perfectly. That was their job, but it still leads to fear that everyone else is scrutinizing your playing in the same way. Years of that level of critique makes it easy to believe that you are less talented or worthy of success than you really are. Bam. Fear of failure.

But what if you’re successful? What if you land the gig, or garner the praise? Well, deep down, you don’t believe you deserve it. Someday, someone is going to realize that you are a fraud. This is called Imposter Syndrome, and it’s a big driver behind what people refer to as “fear of success.”

These are all perfectly normal, even common fears. Never should you imagine that you are not capable of having a successful career in music because you harbor these kinds of self-doubts. Nearly everyone does! The key lies in overcoming them and learning the other skills that will allow you to build a profitable, fulfilling life in music.

Tips for the Road

These tips are critical for building a career in music, but they apply equally to building a career in any profession.

  1. It’s not who you know; it’s who you know that wants to work with you. How do you make people want to work with you? Be your best self every time you show up.
  2. Everyone you meet in your field is a potential colleague. You never know what opportunities or connections are lurking behind a new face. Be nice to everyone.
  3. Be your own best advocate. No one is going to come knocking on your door to offer you your dream job. You have to go out and create it for yourself. Don’t wait for someone else to give you permission – you’ll be waiting a long time.

You’ve mastered the craft of music and already overcome numerous obstacles. Spend time mastering the business of music (the business of people), and you’re on your way.

If you would like to hear the live discussion about this topic, head on over to ClassicJabber.com 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. 29 “Supportive”

Classic Jabber
June 7, 2019

Some people can be more supportive than others, but we seem to find people who are supportive 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.