“Entrepreneurship in Music: What’s It All About, and Why Should We Care?” A Talk with Ramon Ricker

The 2014 ClarinetFest theme, “The Clarinetist as Entrepreneur,” is off to a roaring start! This year I.C.A. is focusing on the “tricks of the trade” as successful artist-businessmen and women share their experiences and seek to influence up-and-coming generations. These presentations are also great for anyone already ‘in the game’ who may be looking for a new direction or a way to rejuvenate their current career.

Dr. Ricker’s presentation is the first of many sessions dedicated to this topic. As the retired Director of the Eastman School of Music’s Institute for Music Leadership, he has been on the ground floor of Eastman’s innovative courses in entrepreneurship, careers, leadership, and other areas of the arts. His overall premise of his belief is “…the transformation of an idea into an enterprise that creates value.”

Dr. Ricker explains that the main question to the modern artist is, “How to get people to pay us for what we do and how to make a career doing it?” Obstacles mentioned were limited availability of job openings, over-saturation of the already highly-competitive talent pool, and the commodity market.ramonRicker

The answers in this session can be boiled down to a few key concepts: (1) You are building YOU, Inc. If you are not in charge of your career, no one will be. (2) Musical skills are a must, but you also need to acquire social and business skills. (3) In this referral business, you are the store and whomever you play with and for are your clients. Aim to satisfy your clients while balancing personal satisfaction.

Dr. Ricker highlighted a few entrepreneurial traits of successful artists including: (1) a strong belief in oneself, (2) a broad education, (3) an “anything is possible” spirit, (4) a commitment to follow one’s dream, (5) a generally optimistic disposition, (6) a desire to be in charge of one’s life, and (7) great drive and energy.

In closing, the audience was reminded that they should be ready for a non-linear path. Remember to recognize and take opportunities as they come. Keep sight of perspective. AND, at the end of the day, take time to remind yourself why you play music. Remember, if you are not the CEO of YOU, Inc., no one will be.

–Notes by Senior Airman Jennifer M. Daffinee
Jennifer is a member of the United States Air Force Band of the West and is also finishing her DMA at the University of North Texas with Kimberly Cole Lluevano.

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