Pitching (no, not that kind)

 
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Don’t worry – this post has NOTHING to do with singing. Unless you’re a vocalist. Then it might. I guess my point is, I will NOT be singing today, and therefore, you are safe.

We’re talking about pitching ideas!

If you’re anything like 2014 me, the concept of pitching an idea might be a little foreign to you, or totally terrifying, or even a mix of both. Whether it’s something you do often or have never done before, pitching can make anyone nervous.

When you have a new idea, it is often very tempting to hold it close to you, nurture it and wait until it has grown into something more real before you share it with the world. However, by the time you’re ready to share it, you’ve invested a lot of time and energy (and sometimes, * cough many times cough *, money) and it becomes hard to adapt to feedback. If anyone remembers my post on the sunk cost fallacy, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  

My husband reminded me recently about how afraid I was to tell him of my interest in entrepreneurship when I first started studying it for myself – I had been quietly getting involved in a few online communities, reading a lot (secretly) and was embarrassed to mention I had a professional interest in addition to playing the saxophone. It seems silly now, but I was terrified to share my idea with even him back then – yet here I am a few years later proudly pursuing my multi-faceted career.

Anyway, pitching is a valuable idea testing tool that I wish we utilised more in the fine arts. Think about it – how often do you stand in front of a room full of people and try to sell them on your new ideas? We don’t even do that for recital programming, let alone for our own marketing ideas, branding ideas, or venture ideas.

 Imagine what would happen if you stood up at the beginning of the semester in your studio class and pitched your recital program to your colleagues? Why do these pieces fit together? What are you trying to have your audience experience through your programming? What historical concept are you going for?  

I’m not saying you need to create a business idea and pitch it to your friends (unless you want to), but pitching is a valuable tool through which you can receive instant feedback on an idea, learn to justify your decisions through Q & A’s and develop confidence that your ideas are well developed and clear.

The even better part? If your ideas are not well developed and clear, you’ll be able to figure out how to adjust and adapt them before you reach the point of no return!

 Side note: I would love to try this in a masterclass with some of my students to see what they come up with!

Pitching doesn’t have to be big and scary and complicated, and the more you do it, the more confidently you will be able to share your ideas and projects.  You might even get some feedback that changes the way you thought about your project in a really great way!

So, get on out there and give it a try! Set yourself a challenge to pitch your recital, event, business idea or project to a group of your friends and see what comes back.

What’s the worst that can happen?!

 

 

5 quick ways your bio sucks (and how to fix them!)

With the influx of MANY MANY summer projects that loads of people are completing: creating websites, teaching studios and writing cover letters etc., I wanted to write a helpful little article with a couple of do's and don'ts to ensure your bio makes you look like the AMAZING, talented and incredible person that you are (and not the person who has never written about themselves ever). 

We all hate writing about ourselves, but its something that as long as you are wanting to be a musician/artist or someone with a job, you will need to be able to convincingly tell people about yourself through text.

There are lots of things I could write about how to get started on your bio, why its important etc. (and maybe I will), but the biggest thing that drives me nuts with bios on websites is how some small, simple errors can really make artists look terrible. 

So, I have made a list of a few of my pet peeves I see ALL THE TIME, (and how you can fix them and make my heart happy in the process). 

1. You forgot to spell check (and so did your proof reader) 

I know this is tedious and obvious, but seriously, with technology the way it is, there is no reason for typos in your bio. Sure, there are things that slip by your eyes as you immerse yourself in telling the world how awesome you are, and sometimes things will get by you, which is why asking a friend or colleague to check over it is a GREAT idea. Seriously, one of your best.

Please note: Preform is not the same as Perform. Form does not equal from. Spelling matters. 

Moral of the story? People will judge your spelling errors (so check them)

 

2. Your sentences are misleading

Be careful of your grammar. Here are some classic, cringeworthy errors that make my head hurt.

Example I) ...received a Bachelors of Music in 2008

Acceptable alternatives:

... earned a Bachelor of Music in 2008.
... earned a Bachelor of Music degree in  2008.
... completed a Bachelor of Music in 2008.
... earned a bachelor’s degree in 2008.
... holds a doctoral degree (or doctorate) from …

Example II) ...Is a member and founder of ensemble X, the Y project, Z band, and the alphabet quartet.

Be really careful that you aren't stating you were the founder of ensembles unless you actually are. You could be a founding member of ensemble x, and a member of the others (or any combination of these), but unless you founded all of these groups, this is misleading and looks like padding. 

This is the same as listing that you have performed and premiered works by... *insert composers*. List the premieres separately so you are being clear with your audience. They're going to get suspicious if you are a saxophonist who has "performed and premiered works by *insert living composer* and J.S. Bach, etc." 

Also...

 
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3. You're obviously padding

If you're a young artist who is still building your bio and portfolio, be really careful not to pad your bio with extra words or accolades that aren't yours, or that are an exaggeration of things you've done in an attempt to boost your status. The people reading your bio can usually tell thats what's happening, and it diminishes all of the wonderful things you HAVE done. 

Here are some classic examples (and solutions) for you!

  • When you've taken 1 - 2 additional lessons or performed in masterclasses with teachers outside of your applied lessons in your studio, it can be very tempting to list these as "also studied with...". However, rather than making you look more amazing, this can look like you're trying to pad your bio and claim that you have spent equal time with these teachers as you have with your own.

Instead, consider writing that you have "performed in masterclasses for..." or "have taken additional independent lessons with..."

This can actually come off as more impressive anyway, because you have gone above and beyond the minimum requirements of the degree program or studies you are currently involved in. 

  • 1st chair does NOT equal Principal (unless it does).

Be aware that not all ensembles assign "Principal" players or "section leaders". Playing the 1st part in an ensemble does not automatically grant you the title of Principal, and including this incorrectly will demonstrate a lack of understanding on your part. 

If its not a Principal part, but you earned 1st chair, go ahead and list it as this. If you're one of a section and in a rotation, or were assigned the part without audition, you don't need to list which chair you were. 

This goes for TA’s, GA’s, AI’s and other teaching or fellowship positions that are available at colleges. If you weren’t an official TA, don’t claim you were. If you held an assistantship for something outside of your applied lessons, make sure you list that. You never know who is going to be reading your bio and is it really worth upsetting people because you failed to list your accolades correctly or diminished someone else’s achievements?

4. Make sure the names and titles of schools, competitions, ensembles and organizations are correct

Whether it is a place you have studied, performed, attended or work for, you want to be sure the titles and names used in your bio match what is true and accurate. If someone was to search for the name of the University where you studied, combined with your professor's name, would they easily find the information you're providing or would they be misled? Some universities require capitalisation of "The" before the title, and others don't. It’s worth knowing what is correct as these details can mean a LOT to others, even though it might seem pedantic to you. 

For example:

Is it Indiana University or The University of Indiana?

How about The University of Texas or Texas University?

 

Finally:

5. BE CONFIDENT ABOUT THE AMAZING THINGS YOU'RE DOING! (and beware of the comparison monster)

You don't have to sell yourself in a sleazy way in order to have an effective bio. You should absolutely be proud of the things you've done, so go ahead and tell us all about them! What have you worked hard at? What have you achieved? What are your favourite things that you've done? What are you passionate about? What makes your journey and career unique? These are the things we want to read. 

Most importantly, don't allow yourself to get hung up comparing yourself with others (or plagiarising). If your bio isn't as long as someone else's, don't worry about it! If you haven't won the massive international competition someone else has - it doesn't matter!

How can you share your individual professional journey with your audiences in a way that’s totally you? 

That’s what we want to see. That’s how your bio will help you!

 

Do you want to know more about how to write your artist bio, or why it’s important to have one? Let me know in the comments! 

TMEA RECAP - Beaumont Music

Hey everyone! 

I know, I know. I promised you some juicy info following TMEA and not only has that long passed, I have since been to the North American Saxophone Alliance Conference in Cincinnati (which is a city name I ALWAYS spell incorrectly, thank YOU spell check). I had a few great moments of realisation at NASA this year which I will probably talk about a little here too. 

But, let me dive in with one of my TMEA favourites - Beaumont Music. Truth be told, I have been an artist for Beaumont Music for a little while now, but I had never had the pleasure of meeting owner Thea before. I LOVE the mission of Beaumont Music  - "Your Music, Your Style" because I have aways wondered WHY instrument cases, neckstraps and cleaning cloths are so boring aesthetically. 

Music is meant to be fun, right? At least, this is what I want to be sure my students feel. 

Beaumont Music seeks to fill this gap in the market and provide stylish, fun and personalised accessories for musicians. 

I mean, how smart is this?! I know there are a few other companies that have attempted to resolve this issue, and provide this customized experience, but what I think Beaumont Music has that others don't, is that their number 1 priority and focus is on making high quality, FUN products for musicians! 

 
 

 

Not only that, but they've used multiple entrepreneurial skillsets to create their business!

A couple of these are:

  • They identified a need, and knew they could resolve it

  • They started with something they knew and improved it

  • They KNOW their market 

  • They have established a STRONG brand identity, and use this in successful marketing campaigns

 

 
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When I was a young saxophonist, I would have LOVED a case that was anything but black. I once crafted my own neckstrap out of bright blue fabric because I wanted to be able to have my own style in my accessories. (I WISH etsy had existed back then...)

 
 

 I LOVE that Beaumont Music are creating products that are functional AND aesthetically pleasing. 

As an artist, I am proud to represent them, and CANNOT WAIT for my moustache covered saxophone case to arrive in the mail (for reals). 

 
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As someone who loves to see musicians as entrepreneurs, I am SO impressed by the owners and their passion to use their knowledge and experience as musicians to make the world a brighter place! 

Check them out by clicking the logo below.

*I am not an affiliate, so if you do purchase anything, ALL of your hard earned money will be supporting this incredible business*

 

 

 

 

What I learned from hanging out in the exhibit hall at TMEA (instead of avoiding it)!

Good morning and Happy Tuesday! 

Last week, I attended the Texas Music Educator's Association (TMEA) conference in San Antonio and had a GREAT time! I love catching up with friends and seeing presentations and performances, and also learning about new products on the market for musicians. 

I love to network and chat with people, and to connect with people I haven't seen in FOREVER, but I usually avoid the exhibit halls like the plague. 

They're loud, crowded, busy and even though they're usually MASSIVE, I always feel kind of claustrophobic.

I had even considered setting up shop (or holding court as I have been calling it) outside of the exhibit hall to catch people as they entered or exited the exhibit hall because of my desire to avoid. 

Weirdly though, I spent most of my time IN the exhibit halls this year. 

I guess its perhaps not THAT weird, but for someone who has historically been fairly disinterested in the "gear" and "gimmicks"  for my instruments, it was weird. 

By hanging out in the exhibit hall this year, I learned a whole bunch of new things which I am excited to share with you all over the coming weeks. The biggest takeaway from this year though?

Everyone in that hall, behind those exhibits were there making their career work for them in a totally unique and awesome way.

For many of the exhibitors, they had created products to solve a unique problem they saw in their world. You look around the hall and realise that there is so much more that goes on behind what we all do, and that there are ENDLESS possibilities for us in our own careers. 

These exhibitors had spent time identifying WHAT it was that someone was struggling with, and HOW they could create something to resolve it. They saw a pain point, an opportunity to help, and created a solution. 

This is one of my own personal challenges to myself. I even have a post-it note stuck to my computer that says "What is your biggest problem, and how can I help solve it?" see?!

 
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Its a well loved, not-at-all-subtle post-it, but its a daily challenge to myself to be thinking bigger than my immediate space. 

Anyway, after spending time in the exhibit hall this year, I realised that by avoiding these places in the past, I had missed even greater opportunities than just seeing the products being showcased. I had missed opportunities to connect with some AMAZING musical entrepreneurs. 

So, over the next few weeks, I'm going to share a few of these stories with you. Not only because these products are SO COOL, but also because I was inspired by these incredibly exciting, young, music based entrepreneurs and I know you will be too. 

I'm also going to fill you in on a couple of my other discoveries from TMEA about continuing to grow my own career, and hopefully these experiences will get you thinking creatively about your career too!

The moral of today's post? Put yourself in uncomfortable, (sometimes claustrophobic) environments, and figure out what you can learn from the people in those spaces. You might surprise yourself!

Real artists don't starve - A book by Jeff Goins

OK, so I'm going to be a little real with you all today.

A few months ago, Jeff Goins released his book "Real artists don't starve" and when I heard about the book, I had some pretty massive feelings of resistance toward it. It probably sounds a little silly - after all, its a book, but I was really worried that Jeff had written the book that I was meant to write, and that I would feel like I'd totally missed out. 

I also didn't want to read it just in case all of my ideas were the same as his and that people might think I was copying or stealing his ideas for myself. Or, that all of my ideas were terrible and I was wrong about everything!

So this week, I finally mustered the courage, took a deep breath and used my audible subscription to purchase the audiobook for my drive to work. And, while listening to it over the last couple of days,  I realised that both of my fears above had come true. 

Jeff has written a fantastic book which not only perfectly describes the way my brain functions and outlines the way I think about careers in music, I also TOTALLY feel like I missed out on writing the book myself. 

The even crazier part of this is that two years ago, I started writing a book on this topic. And promptly freaked myself out about it and put it aside. 

Anyway, this week I found myself loudly exclaiming in agreement to Jeff as he read his book to me, texting my friends about how this man has managed to write down my entire life so perfectly, and having long conversations with my husband about some of my favourite artistic career geniuses - Michelangelo, Vincent Van Gogh, etc. 

I realised that I was scared by a lot of the things that I thought because I wasn't sure if I was onto something or not, and my fear actually prevented me a couple of years ago from diving head first into my book as I had set out to do. I mean, I still have a few pages of the draft lying around somewhere. I would be curious to compare them to see just how similar they were.

Today, I wanted to share this book with you all because Jeff has done a WONDERFUL job of explaining how and why its so important for you to value your work as a musician, how necessary it is for you to think about your career as an entrepreneur, and I just LOVE the references he makes to some of the earliest known artistic entrepreneurs. I mean, he even talks about Henri Murger's book "Scenes de la vie la Boheme" and its influence on society as we know it! If you've been following along, you know I LOVE to talk about this book! Craziness! 

I cannot get over how incredibly remarkable it is for someone who I have never met to have written a book that feels so much like something I could have put on paper - although perhaps not quite so eloquently (he's quite the wordsmith).

If you've ever been curious about catching a glimpse into my brain, you HAVE to read this book.

Probably more importantly, if you've ever been really curious about building a sustainable career as an artist in the world, you MUST read this book. 

 

Click the image link below to grab a copy. I promise you won't regret it!

 

You can also check out Jeff's website HERE

 

Also, I'd LOVE to hear what you think of this book. Let me know in the comments below!