Teaching Students to be Entrepreneurs: A Panel Discussion

Entrepreneur Panel left to right: Luevno, John Reeks, Jeff Andeler, ??, Sean Osborn, Lisa Canning

Entrepreneur Panel left to right: Dr. Kimberly Cole Luevano, John Reeks, Jeff Anderle, Kliment Krylovskiy, Sean Osborn, Lisa Canning

Moderated by noted performer and pedagogue Dr. Kimberly Cole Luevano, a diverse panel of performers, educators, and self-made entrepreneurs discuss the topic of entrepreneurship and what it means for today’s musician: John Reeks, Jeff Anderle, Kliment Krylovskiy, Sean Osborn, and Lisa Canning.

In an effort to better prepare students for the workforce, teachers are having to adapt their teaching practices to accommodate a world that requires students to see themselves as “the CEO of their own business,” not just a performer.

Anderle states that learning how to become an entrepreneur is no different than being a musician – in many ways it is far simpler.  “In much the same way we dissect aspects of our playing or sections of a piece only to assemble it later in a fully constructed and well thought out work, you have to do the same thing with the way you present yourself and your product.   I would never go on stage unprepared and not knowing what I was going to play much like I would never make a phone call or appointment not knowing what I was going to say.”

On the topic of speech, John Reeks discusses how he assigns his students an exercise in rhetoric each year.  Students are assigned a method book (popular, old, or foreign) and are required to make a sales pitch for their assigned book to the class.  In this way he teaches them the power of persuasion and helping develop the skill to sell your ideas and ultimately yourself.  To build a freelancing career, he also teaches them how to get gigs by instructing them on how to approach churches, how to assemble concerts, how to get students, how to make their ancillary skills their marketable skills, and resume writing.

Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, Lisa Canning takes a far more personal approach.  For her, being an entrepreneur is about belief in yourself, your product, and the need for art in the community and world.  Calling musicians “the glass ceiling breakers,” Canning was moved to tears and petitioned the class to “take the risk, hold the belief in your passion and your art, and believe in your impossible or no one else will.”

When building your own business, the panelists all agreed with a few key points:
1) Go to local concerts, introduce yourself to other musicians and ask how you can help them with their project.
2) Reciprocation goes a long way.  Evangelize another groups/individual’s product and let them know!  Down the road, they will want to associate with you and help your cause.
3) Ask questions.  People are almost always willing to answer questions about success and failures, protocol, and “trade secrets.”  If they’re busy and they don’t get back to you, it’s nothing personal – they’re running a business and it’s a lot of work!
4) Engage your community and create an itch that needs to be scratched.  This could even be a global community!  And make sure that community does not just look like you.  Your audience needs diversity; musicians beget more musicians, and before you know it, your growth is stinted and concerts resemble social gatherings as opposed to world changing and engaging art.  Someone different from you has everything to gain from encountering your art, and you have everything to gain by sharing it.  It’s a win-win.  Once you find that community and your niche, find another organization who does something similar and contact them and start asking questions (see #4).
5) Know how to present yourself and reach high.  Don’t dote over “your hero,” you want them to call you their peer, so treat them like one.

–Notes by Melissa Morales
Melissa Morales is a master’s student at DePaul University studying with Julie DeRoche and Larry Combs.  She currently teaches at The People’s Music School and performs with The Candid Concert Opera’s Orchestra Nova and the Chicago Symphonic Winds.

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