Making It in the Music World

making it in music

Do you have what it takes to make it in the music world?
Do you know what it takes to make it?
What is “making it,” anyway?

Those are tough questions – so we asked two of our featured Road of Creativity Music Entrepreneurship Retreat clinicians to share some of their secrets to success.

Michael Harley is the bassoonist and founding member of the enigmatic contemporary chamber orchestra Alarm Will Sound. He has crafted a diverse and successful career, performing around the globe, collaborating with composers and serving as Director for Southern Exposure New Music Series in addition to his role on the faculty of the University of South Carolina.

Founder and President of business consulting company Corporate Adventure, Meredith Kimbell serves as leadership consultant, psychologist and executive coach to business leaders and teams across the US. She has over 28 years of experience advising top companies and entrepreneurs on defining strengths and goals, communicating effectively and implementing plans for success. A musician herself with minor in music and 15 years of vocal performance experience, she will be a unique asset to participants of the Music Entrepreneurship Retreat.

ROC: What’s one thing you know now that you wish you knew when you were launching your career?

MH: I wish I knew how important relationships are in building and sustaining a career.  When you are in school, you need to remember that you are surrounded by people that are (in the case of your teachers) or will be (in the case of your peers) leaders in your field.

Meredith’s Take: Build relationships.  
Leaders, lovers and friends build strong relationships by focusing on what they want to give rather than what they want to receive.  Ask others what they hope for in life and think how you will help them experience it.  With your focus on giving, most fears of reaching out will dissolve. Your interest generates interest.

ROC: Aside from technical and musical facility, what’s the most essential skill a musician needs to “make it”?

MH: It’s understood that to “make it” you’ve got to be able to play beautifully. But what gets someone re-hired for a job, and certainly what sustains an ensemble, is people skills.

Meredith’s Take: Use great people skills to build ensembles that get re-hired.  
When inevitable disagreements, disappointments and disasters hit, people look for someone who is at his or her best when they are at their worst.  Practice taking the high road in relationships, day in and day out.  Name and call forth the best in people, not their worst.  When you develop strong habits, they will be accessible in even the toughest times.

ROC: You are a founding member of Alarm Will Sound. What’s the first step a budding chamber ensemble should take to make themselves heard in today’s music world?

MH: Find your niche.  What makes YOUR ensemble unique and appealing?  What are the things you do differently, and maybe better, than anyone else?

Meredith’s Take: Find your niche and express what is unique and appealing about you.  
Even established business leaders can’t always name their strengths. One way to identify them is to notice when you are most energized and consumed by what you are doing.  A second simple way is to ask people.  Others love giving their opinions and helping you.  Be bold, ask and thank them, no matter what they say.

ROC: You’ve designed a very successful, multifaceted career. Can you share a time when you took a professional risk, investing in the potential for a fulfilling result?

MH: I left a wonderful, stable, tenure-track position in bassoon to come to the University of South Carolina for a position that was not bassoon-focused and much less secure. I was excited by the upside USC offered — the potential for myself to develop as a multi-faceted artist/teacher in different arenas, especially in the field of contemporary music — but was terrified of the uncertainty and potential risks to my career the move entailed. Fortunately, it has turned out to have been the right move, and has helped my career take on dimensions I couldn’t have even imagined before.

Meredith’s Take: Move beyond the known and comfortable; live with the terror of uncertainty.
“Hope” must be an action, not just a wish. What keeps anyone on the edge of creativity and new success is bold adventurous discovery.  Access your passion and skills, and find the places, people and challenges that will stretch your competence and help fulfill dreams.  Confidence happens after you take a risk, not before.

We couldn’t be more excited to have Michael and Meredith as a part of our team of clinicians for the retreat. If what they’ve shared with us here has resonated with you in any way, take advantage of this unique opportunity to engage with them personally at the Road of Creativity Music Entrepreneurship Retreat as they share their journeys and provide a wellspring of invaluable guidance on thinking like an entrepreneur and designing your most successful and authentic career.

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