Tag Archives: Advice

Profile Friday Roundup

Greetings from San Francisco! (I bet that curtain weighs hundreds of pounds...)

As I try to acclimate myself to the west coast (it’s been three days and I’m finally waking up at 5:30am, rather than 4am. Progress!), I hope you’ll skim through the profiles that we’ve featured here over the last few months.

(Listed in order of appearance.)

Mark Bradley Miller

James Lynn

Melissa Collom

Joseph Craig

Jennifer Empie

Tonya McKinny

Sean McAuliffe

Kim Pensinger Witman

Tracy Cherpeski

Vic Muenzer

Stephen Brody

Annie Burridge

Tom Wright

Peter Zimmerman

Gia-Ninh Chuang

At the very least, there are some salient points to be taken from each of these journeys. At best – and that’s personally where I think these stories and intentions belong – they’re tales of discernment and courage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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More First-Person Advice

Ok, so Monday Inspiration is a little late this week, but it’s worth the wait.

Barry Hessenius from WESTAF posted an essay that is full of first-hand advice from prominent arts leaders. Some of my favorite tidbits?

From Randy Cohen, Senior VP of Research and Policy for Americans for the Arts:

Change is a constant condition. When faced with multiple choices, lean towards the one you fear most—that is usually where the greatest treasure is buried. Be brave!

From Claire Peeps, Executive Director of the Durfee Foundation:

I’ve learned that people are our most valuable resource and that it is in our collective best interest that they be nurtured and sustained. This is true for leaders who must take care of the staff who work for them, and it is true of emerging leaders who must remember to take care of themselves.

From Michael Alexander, Executive Director, Grand Performances, two different pearls:

“When the sea rises, all ships rise with it.” Devote part of your work time and your personal life to the causes that will benefit our field and our world. Your professional life and your personal life will benefit in the process. My most important role models in the arts each practiced this providing leadership by devoting time and resources to our field.

And this:

“To be interesting, be interested.” Former CAC member Fred Sands said he told that to all his employees. I think it is worthwhile for all of us to listen more and talk less. And listen everywhere. Our audiences have remarkable wisdom – even the children. Ask good questions. Remember too that different communities have different ways of addressing challenges.

I find Michael Alexander’s sea image of particular interest. I think that many of us approach the world on two levels, or maybe in two separate spheres: family and work. To treat the larger community as a confluence of those spheres? Well, (aside from being a kickin’ Venn diagram,) it would show the amazing personal power of the arts to transform families, communities…each of us from without and within. And to buy into the idea that one success influences other successes? Call me a Commie, (On a side note, does anyone actually call people ‘Commies’ anymore? Or have I totally dated myself?)but I think that paying it forward in that large a manner can only be a good thing.

(How’s that for inspiration? I hope it was worth the wait!)

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Gia-Ninh Chuang – From Singer-Pianist to Fitness Professional

Ok, Gia-Ninh. Let’s start at the very beginning (“…a very good place to start…” I think there might be a few musical theater asides in today’s profile. It’s just a hunch.)

Well, starting at the beginning does indeed start with a musical! The Sound of Music, to be exact. I was obsessed with that movie as a child, and went to elementary school knowing solfege! I attended a private elementary school affiliated with the Southern Baptist church in my town. My non-practicing Buddhist Mom and non-practicing Catholic father wanted me to be challenged, and even though it was a sacrifice for our family they opted out of the public school. I was a boy soprano – with super high notes – and no stage fright. I sang in the choir. I remember the first time that I realized that I enjoyed performing was during the Christmas pageant. I played the shepherd Jesse, the shepherd that was leading the 3 Wise Men to the baby Jesus.  It was the first time my entire family came to see me perform, and having that support and buy-in felt fantastic! (Full disclosure – some of my relatives didn’t really get the story… one uncle still calls me Jesse the King.) (Ed. -That will be a great WWF wrestling name someday. Keep it!)

When I reached middle school, I hit the opposite side of that fantastic performance coin:  my voice changed in the middle of a solo at the Regional Choir Concert. I pulled a total Peter Brady. It was traumatic! When the teacher suggested that I lip-sync for the rest of the school year, I was crushed and stopped singing. I had started piano lessons the year prior, and threw myself into practicing – hours a day, just because I enjoyed it so much.

When I hit high school, I got back into singing, and found a strong role model (more on her later) in my choir teacher. I accompanied people, started an a cappella group (back before Glee made it cool…we were called The Suspenders – get it??), made it into All-State. As I approached senior year and college I started thinking about being a choir teacher. I won a piano competition at the Peabody Conservatory, and it seemed like studying music was going to be my thing.

So, you went to school for music.

No.

You see, once I started preparing for scholarship competitions and such, I realized that it was going to have to be my livelihood. And that took much of the joy out of it for me. I was struggling a little bit at home, too… I was in the middle of my coming out process, and it was tough. So, I started my freshman year at the University of Maryland with a Psychology major, and a minor in Opera.

Well, those two things aren’t mutually exclusive. But when did your path change?

A pal of mine from the UMD Chorale was teaching aerobics classes at the campus rec center, and pretty much dared me to take a class. It was SO MUCH FUN, and I was instantly hooked.  I thought, “Wait, I could get paid for having fun like this?” Within a month I was enrolled in instructor training.

It allowed me to perform – which was something I enjoyed immensely – but it also allowed me to communicate with people, to translate concepts in ways that they could understand and use (which used the linguistic training I learned as a music minor). Plus, I was surrounded by music – the pulse of my classes was set to music, and having a strong knowledge of musical forms allowed me to customize my spin classes and aerobic choreography in a finely-calibrated way. So I switched my major from Psychology to Kinesiology.

Cool. What happened next?

I dropped out of school.

What?

Well, I was teaching full-time, in addition to my classwork.  But my passion for teaching and helping with my students eclipsed my academic goals.  And I won this big competition – the first ever winner of the AAAI/ISMA Aerobics Star Search in 2002… think American Idol for instructors.  I also had success in fitness competitions as an athlete.  I was 23, and suddenly had all of this visibility and momentum, and I pretty much thought this was my path. Heck, I was on Oprah and ESPN in the same year – if that’s not making it, what is? I decided to stop taking classes and ride that train.

But that certain path that I thought existed: win the competitions, teach great classes, give workshops at a conference, get a sponsorship, etc… well, that momentum started to slow down.  So in 2005 I went back to school. (Stay in school, kids…stay in school.)

When I was back in school, a pal told me that Equinox – a fitness company with a reputation for being the best in the industry – was opening its first location in the DC area. (Ed. – This is where I first met Gia-Ninh…I think it was a kettlebell class? I might’ve wept from the muscle soreness two days later, but I went back for more!) She suggested that I apply for the Group Fitness Manager position there. It was a great place to be – I taught, but I also used that psychology background to support and balance the diverse personalities of my instructors; I really felt that my job was to take care of my staff, so that they could do their best job.  And it taught me some valuable lessons about putting the success of my program and my instructors above feeding my own ego. It was both instructive and humbling.

So, from a boy soprano to a successful fitness professional…what skills or habits transferred?

You know, actually quite a number! A large part of singing well has to do with small, precise muscle coordination, and in fitness, you’re coordinating larger groups of muscles. Plus, both disciplines require a strong commitment to healthy living.  Both singers and fitness professionals ask their body to perform set skills on cue to do their job. Taking care of your body is taking care of your livelihood.

I referred to my high school choir director, Dr. Barbara Baker before, but I cannot overemphasize the influence she had on me, both professionally and personally.  There are several things that she said that have stuck with me through the years, the first being this:

  • The stronger your foundation (or, in musical terms, technique), the more you’ll be able to do, especially in less-than-optimum circumstances. Nerves, illness, they’re all things that performers have to work through… the key is to be able to do so without hurting oneself. I find that this particular message transfers tidily to my work in fitness, too – the better your form and technique, the more you can do and the faster you reach your goals without injury.
  • She also taught us humility, and to realize that we were just one part of a larger whole. No FIG JAM. (Ed. – Huh?) FIG JAM stands for “[expletive] I’m Good, Just Ask Me.”  Let your work speak for itself; everyone else will figure it out.
  • I was also constantly amazed at the ways in which she could ask us/inspire up to do more than we thought we were capable. Even as a fitness professional, my approach is about asking others to stretch themselves…don’t show them what you can do, show them what THEY can do.

What advice do you have?

Be nice. I’ve always wanted to be the guy who was amazingly good at his job, but that’s not enough; I want to also be the guy that people enjoy being around and is fun to work with.  When people want to work with you, countless opportunities to collaborate, learn, and gain exposure come your way.  Now, I’ve not always been 100% successful, but it’s something that I work towards constantly.

Protect your body. Being healthy and having a strong physical foundation in your discipline, lays the groundwork for making life easier and more enjoyable.

No FIG JAM. Don’t tell me how good you are, show me. No one wants to work with people who think they’re the better than everyone else.  It’s shorthand for staying humble and always thinking about how my decisions affect the people around me AND my own reputation.

Just do it. At this point in my career, I’ve taught over 15,000 classes. I take a huge amount of pride in the quality of my teaching, and also have found a deep confidence in that amount of experience.

Gia-Ninh has recently relocated to Idaho, where he is continuing his studies and maintaining a private fitness practice. For more information on him or his services, you can find him on the web at http://kineticedgefitnessconcepts.com/Home.html

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Thursday Link-O-Rama.

In a past blog life, I’d make lists of things that I stumbled across that were interesting and/or relevant. So, in that vein, I present The Inaugural Indirect Routes Link-O-Rama!

  • My fellow introverts? Proof that we know how to have a good time.
  • I tend to panic when I wake up (every night, ahem) at 2:30am, wide awake. This article says that maybe it’s not such a bad thing, and moreover, maybe I should leverage it for some real creativity.
  • The to-do list: more than an organization/procrastination exercise.
  • Creativity. Profanity. Beauty. Wayne White. Can’t wait to see it!
  • It might be heresy, but I wonder if we shouldn’t be thinking of work along these lines more often?

I’m in the thick of the annual talent search (a.k.a. the Dream-Crushing marathon), looking at student résumés and wishing that more of them were better proofreaders…I’m pretty forgiving, but the blatant typos are starting to wear on me. (I’m pretty sure Los Angels refers to the baseball team, and not the town…right?) Final passes for Cincinnati, Chicago, and Houston applications tomorrow, and screening for the home stand on Friday. But, most fun? (Boy, I wish sarcasm read better in print…) a big chunk of time spent trying to figure out exactly how many pennies we have for next summer and our best options for squeezing the most we can from them.

It’s easy work to do, until I try to do it thoughtfully and consistently…then it takes all of the time and brain cells I have. So, if you have brain cells to spare, or advice? I’ll take it!

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Peter Zimmerman – from Performer to Presenter

Peter Zimmerman is the Director of Programming for the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts. He’s responsible for booking the majority of the 200+ shows that the Foundation presents each year in two vastly different spaces: a 7,000 seat outdoor amphitheater (The Filene Center) and a 375 seat rough-hewn jewel box (The Barns). Peter’s a colleague and friend, and we’ve talked often about his path…I’m excited to share his story with you today!

So, Peter; start at the beginning. When did you know that performing was your thing?

Back in the 3rd grade! I played the little drummer boy in my school Christmas pageant – I really wanted to play that drum! And I still vividly remember being on stage, the audience all looking at me… and thinking “I really like this!” I played instruments all through high school – was in the school symphony, played in the pit bands for the musicals, but I was really interested in playing in bands. I wasn’t really planning to go to college: I figured I’d gig for a few years and then be a rock star.

But you went to school – where, and why?

I went to Adams State in Colorado. I initially majored in French Horn performance – got a full scholarship through my H.S. orchestra teachers Craig Bailey and his younger brother Brent Bailey. I really explored everything I could in the arts, and found myself more drawn to the acting side of things. It got to the point where I lost my scholarship because I wasn’t participating in any of the ensembles – I was taking Shakespeare and acting classes (as well as the education requirements that my mom insisted on), and they became my priorities. I was awarded a B.A. in Theater Arts, Speech Communications, Secondary Education and Music. (Editor: Please tell me that it took you more than 4 years to do all that!) I did it in 4.5 years.

Incredible! So, then you’re out of school. What were the Seven Stages of Peter’s Career? (Ok, that riff on the Seven Ages of Man didn’t quite work…forgive me.)

Well, my first gig was as a gravedigger – an important first experience for any arts administrator. (Editor: Seriously? That explains a lot…) I taught for four years in public high schools in Colorado and took the summers to work on my own artistry. I was part of the IATSE crew for the Denver Theater Center, but also acted in the ensemble. (It was a repertory company – talk about learning how to multi-task and prioritize!) Eventually I moved to New York, mostly because I wanted more visibility in Denver, but was told I had to go to NYC to achieve that. I lived there for 2 years and acted – film, tv, stagework, touring -with some real success. But I had some hesitations. My physical type was really common, and I wasn’t a triple threat the way my competitors were; it was going to take a whole lot of work to get me to the next level. And I had a three-year old…the schedule was making it really difficult for me to be the kind of father that I wanted to be.

So, how did you make the jump from acting to presenting?

Remember this: never burn bridges. My student teaching supervisor from college, Ken Foster, and I kept in touch throughout my public school years and my sojourn in New York. That connection got me my first presenting gig, at Penn State, where Ken headed the department. I started a little bit at a time, at first throwing myself into implementing Ken’s vision, and eventually to bugging him for more responsibility. He let me create a children’s theater series – and actually witnessed one of my biggest flops…Peter and the Wolf…don’t ask. He gave me the freedom to succeed OR fail – he was both a safety net and a sounding board, but if I didn’t seek it, it wasn’t forced upon me. And, even after the Peter and the Wolf fiasco, he never chastized me – just asked me what I had learned from the experience.

I cherished his mentorship – I stayed at Penn State for 9 years. I found that I could still be involved in the theater, but could also have the stability I needed in order to have a family.

Heck, I can’t imagine leaving – what could’ve been better?

Well, actually, there was something! I took a job as the CEO/Executive Director of the Colonial Theater in Keene,  New Hampshire. (Keene had been a big town during railroad heyday, but when I was there the population hung right around 60,000.) It was a beautiful small vaudeville theater with a lot of character, and interesting programming – The Kinks, Little Feat, the Smothers Brothers, all acts that I got to know when I was there. I LOVED it. It fit all of my skill sets: raising money, grant writing for 2 successful capital campaigns for theater and marquee renovations, presenting live acts and film. We increased our staff and our budget was in the black, so I think I was good for the theater, but the job was great for me, personally, as well.

OK, now I’m totally stymied: were you looking to leave the Colonial? How did you end up at Wolf Trap?

Actually, it was a personal ask from (Wolf Trap President & CEO) Terre Jones. Through some common acquaintances and a star-crossed raffle at APAP,  we got to know each other. It seemed like time to take a risk, to step up. And it was a good move – I’ve been here for almost 14 years.

What aspects of your current job/profession give you the greatest satisfaction?

I am a fan of the deal. There’s a price on my head for how much I have to book, how much money I need to make for the organization. Confirming a booking gets me jazzed – closing a deal and following through to completion is the best feeling. Speaking honestly, however, there are lots of amazing acts that get away – probably two for every one that actually takes the stage.

I also loved teaching – I feel that impacting young people is important, and I get a lot of professional satisfaction from mentoring. If I had to go back to teaching at this point, I think I’d love it!

And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to getting a bit of a rush from being one of the folks that has access to some of the best performers in the world. There’s a status that’s accorded the level of access that I have, and while it’s not the whole picture, I still feel pretty awesome when a performer that I respect calls my cell to say hi.

Indeed! I’d kill for a few of those numbers, myself! So, it’s advice time. What words of wisdom do you have for the next generation?

Make connections: there are geographical ramifications to this business, and it can be hard to advance in the same geographic/organization. Extend your network!

There’s weren’t any Master of Arts Management programs when I was starting out, so I’d recommend talking to a talent buyer who’s in their mid 30s-40s to get the lay of the land. And examine the differences between non-profit and for-profit companies – the cultures are very different, and the goals are as well.

Find out how your current skills overlap with the job you want. For example, I learned budgeting and marketing when I was gigging in college…from there it wasn’t so hard to parlay that into production schedules for my educational theater productions or to Penn State or the Colonial. I learned time management when I was working that rep/IATSE job at Denver Theater Center. It all transfers.

I’d also learn how to say no. In my business, ‘no’ is the 2nd best answer. (‘Yes’ is obviously the best!) Maybe is my least favorite word – decisiveness saves time and money.

As I said before, don’t burn bridges. No matter how crappily you’re treated, suck it up. I have a million stories from colleagues across the nation to back that maxim up, but it bears repeating. Show up early. Stay late. Make yourself indispensible to your superiors

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Profiles, from another angle.

I am a big fan of Lifehacker. I get it delivered to my inbox, and make a habit to scan the whole thing before filing (yes, filing…sending them to the trash would be akin to throwing away gold on most days.) it away for future perusal.

They have a great feature that’s called How I Work. In it, they feature profiles of interesting, creative people like Maria Popova and Christopher Jobson, and track the ways that they use technology to make life easier, their secret abilities, and the best pieces of advice that they’ve received. (I am a big fan of Maria Popova’s Best Advice. Sometimes simple is indeed the best.)

I invite you to hop over to Lifehacker for some words of wisdom (I’ll be spending some time with this), and then join me back here tomorrow for a new Profile Phriday. (This week? My pal and colleague Peter Zimmerman, a reformed-performer-turned-talent-buyer.)

originally viewed on Colossal (www.thisiscolossal.com)

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Monday Inspiration

Again, Jessica Nagy of Indexed totally has my number. (Today’s example is this graphic, “Not Just for Kids”)

As does Bikram Choudhury.

“Never too old, never too sick, never too bad to start again.”

Indeed.

What would you start, if you thought you could?

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Tom Wright

This week we’re talking with Tom Wright, the Director of Artistic Planning for Vancouver Opera. I met Tom during the Opera America Leadership Intensive, and it’s true what you’ve heard about Canadians being amazingly nice – Tom is a great guy! But even though his path has been consistently in the arts, he’s taken an interesting twist or two during his career. Here’s his story:

Ok, Tom. It seems like almost everyone I talk to started out as a singer. Are you a reformed performer?

Well, when I was in school I was musical – as a child I played violin, cello and piano. But I was really a theater guy. All through high school I was involved in technical theatre, setting up sound and lighting systems for everything from assemblies to full productions of musicals and plays.

Between grade 11 and grade 12 my high school (Handsworth Secondary School, North Vancouver, B.C.) granted me a scholarship to attend the Banff School of Fine Arts in Banff, Alberta, Canada. Banff is a beautiful town in the Canadian Rocky Mountains about two hours west of Calgary, Alberta. The Banff Centre (as it is called today) is a long standing campus of training in all aspects of the arts, including the dance, theatre, music, opera, literature and visual arts.

I went to the Banff Centre with hopes of becoming a lighting designer. However, after the first month of the program I realized that I was slightly colour blind; so I started exploring other options. 🙂 I then turned my attention to learning as much as I could about all aspects of technical theater: costumes, make-up & wigs, electrics, sound, scenic painting, carpentry, and stage management. After my first summer in Banff, I realized the stage management was something a really enjoyed. I went back to the Banff the summer after graduation from high school and was placed on the stage management team of the opera.

Ok, so after graduation you must’ve found your way back into the opera field. 

Yes! During the summers of 1986 and 1987 when I was back in Banff,  I was involved with Colin Graham’s productions of Falstaff and Eugene Onegin. They were probably the two defining projects that ultimately pushed me into opera.

After the summer of ’86 I received and offer to work at Calgary Opera starting as an Assistant Stage Manager…long story short, I was there until 1998, when I had been promoted upwards to be their Director of Production.

My boss was then head-hunted for Arizona Opera and he asked me to join him. In Arizona, I was the Director of Production & Artistic Operations. However, in the first years I also oversaw a massive IT overhaul of the company where I implemented a wide area network between the Phoenix and Tucson offices. (Ed. – we have difficulties producing in 2 theaters that are .5 miles apart…I can’t imagine the logistical planning that must go into producing in two different cities!) When I left Arizona for Vancouver Opera in 2007 I had spent 9 years running the Artistic and Production operations of a company producing 5 operas a season in two cities completely double cast. Whew!

What is your current profession?

I’m currently the Director of Artistic Planning at Vancouver Opera. I oversee all Artistic, Production and Education programs/operations for the company.

What aspects of your current job/profession give you the greatest satisfaction?

This year’s launch of the Yulanda M. Faris Young Artist Program is a very satisfying achievement. I have been developing and implementing this program since I started here five years ago.

Well, to totally date myself by quoting a Virginia Slims cigarette ad, ‘You’ve come a long way, baby!’ Any regrets?

I do regret not continuing my music studies as a child but I was bit with the theatre bug and sports in high school and dropped music. Also, sometimes I feel that I should have gone to university to advance my education, (Banff Centre is not a accredited college or university so no degrees or certificates are awarded.) but in the end, I have always been employed in the arts, so I can’t really complain.

I’d say not! 🙂 But that’s a lot to figure out on your own…did you have a mentor?

My mentor was Colin Graham, first Artistic Director of the Opera Theatre of St. Louis and Program Director of the Opera program at the Banff School Fine Arts (82-88) He was the director of the opera program and it was his mentorship of me that brought me to where I am today. He took my love of theatre and my passion of music and really taught me about the beautiful marriage that happens with this in opera.

Advice time: what would you tell a student struggling with his or her career path?

Move forward with whatever makes you smile and make sure you have a passion for it. Passion, desire and love of what you like to do is really all that matters. I hope that students who are thinking about their futures, who have a passion and drive in a certain field, will see that it is possible to be gainfully employed in the arts. Passion, drive, networking and a bit of luck is what has taken me on my journey thus far.

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Show up.

I’m going to save the Leadership Intensive recap for another day as, quite frankly, I’m still processing a lot of the information.

Maria Popova, who curates Brain Pickings, came across a letter that Tchaikovsky wrote to his benefactress, Nadezhda von Meck (aside: that might be the coolest name ever, for the record.) about the correlation between work ethic and creativity. She parallels it with a video from Jack White of pop music fame. It’s certainly not a new thought, the slogging through when the Muse blows off your invitation and you’re left with a blank piece of paper, an empty mind, possible even a white text box on a blogging program…

I digress.

I would, however draw some additional parallels between creativity and work ethic and leadership. There’s a great article in Forbes by August Turak, that makes the argument that great leaders also need to be great followers.

In both cases, whether you’re wrestling an idea onto the page or climbing up the corporate ladder, you need to:

  1. Show up. You have to do the work, or at least be ready and willing to do the work, even if nothing comes. (There’s the Woody Allen quote about 80% of success is just showing up. There are days when that first step is indeed the most difficult – I totally get that. Show up anyway.)
  2. Be aware. Surroundings. Language. Subtext. In both situations that additional information can only help to clarify/troubleshoot/inspire.
  3. Stay flexible. The path down which you need to walk may not be something you had planned to tackle… but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the wrong path.

I find that #2 can be the trickiest…we can get bogged down enough in our own to-do lists, with our own inner judges that it can be difficult to really watch, listen, perceive. When we take that time, though, don’t all manner of things get easier?

I have thirteen days left in the summer festival season. My plans are to take my own advice (well, to try to anyway) for the next two weeks and apply it to my job. After that I’ll be making an early run at this, as a way to discipline my inner writer. (I got about halfway through – about 25,000 words – last year, before the fall audition travel schedule made the daily quotas impossible. Without that distraction maybe I’ll make it to 30,000!)

Today, if you do nothing else? Just show up.

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A Framework for Creative Change

There’s a lot of buzz out there about the creative class… those people, regardless of industry (and while I might take some serious flak for it, I am of the opinion that not every person pursuing a performance degree/career is, in fact, creative. But that’s a topic for another post.) are innovators. In his book The Rise of the Creative Class, Richard Florida states that “access to talented and creative people is to modern business what access to coal and iron ore was to steel-making.”

 

That quote is 10 years old, my friends.

 

Adobe did a research study on UK workers, which showed that most people – fully two-thirds of those surveyed – felt that they were not living up to their potential. To quote Dylan Jones-Evans (Western Mail, 7.14.12)

“Four out of five believe that there is an increased pressure in work on being productive rather than creative. In addition, risk aversion is seen as a barrier with “playing it safe” being the strategy usually adopted by organisations which results in those who are innovative and entrepreneurial having their ideas stifled by those who are less creative. They also feel there was a lack of time to create new things and that they cannot afford to be creative.”

 

Hello, US Classical Music Market.

 

We’re seeing the big 10 operatic warhorses in heavy rotation. We’re seeing young artists inhabiting the roles usually given to established singers. We’re seeing a heck of a lot of Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms on chamber music programs. Companies are cutting back, scaling back, folding. Audiences are aging and shrinking. In terms of building a younger audience? We are the 98-pound-weakling trying to woo the quarterback’s girlfriend. (She’s mostly not giving us the time of day, but we’re not giving up yet.)

 

How much of that, I wonder, has to do with an art form in serious transition? In its heyday, having season tickets to the opera was akin to what having season football tickets are today. (singers/athletes; audiences; financial models and arenas…the sports analogies are really endless.) But that nostalgic glow is only attractive for a small margin of the population; those folks who are in a position to donate, to keep small companies afloat and to shore up the finances of larger ones.

 

It’s a difficult time to be an artist. (although, let’s be frank…has it ever been easy? I mean, we all know how Bohéme goes, right?)

 

In the current climate, it’s only natural to harbor some doubt… there’s some serious math to be done, weighing passion against sacrifice, talent and preparation against the national field. Personal preferences can take a backseat to financial necessity.

 

What if you’re the one playing it safe? With a desk job and a 401k and a nice apartment? And a constant headache and difficulty getting out of bed in the morning and the tendency to self-medicate because you’re just somehow not feeling it?

 

The Harvard Business Review has some advice. As a former (reformed?) teacher, there’s something inherently less scary/more doable when imagining a career leap as a curriculum or night course…setting up an experiment, finding ways to gather more information, sticking to a timetable rather than experimenting endlessly. (That’s called ‘having hobbies.’)

 

What scares you the most about making that transition?

 

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