Do you ever just stop and think about the origins of what it is you’re doing right now? Wherever you happen to be at this moment in time, whatever it is you’re working towards, do you ever stop and ask yourself where that has come from? What caused your interest to develop?
What was that initial spark that lit the fire inside of you?
I was talking with a student recently about the entrepreneurship class I am leading in the spring, and after a really great conversation that covered everything from teaching to artificial intelligence, they turned to me and asked…
“Why are you doing this? What started this for you?”
Now, I am sure this student was expecting a quick answer about the job market, the changing economy, the need for diversity in training, the value of developing an entrepreneurial mindset etc, and all of these are of course true and important factors, but I took the chance to reflect before I replied.
I didn’t really do this intentionally, but our conversation had been so interactive that I felt they were asking me this for a bigger reason than to just have me give a quick justification of “why entrepreneurship?”.
So, I paused.
It had been a little while since I’d really thought about what the actual beginning of it all was for me, but I know myself well enough to know that if I give myself the time to wait for my brain to formulate a response, the words that come out of my mouth not only make sense, but might also be helpful.
Either that or they will be a very clever pun, right? …..Right?!
So, when I started to speak again, I actually surprised myself with what I heard.
I started talking about how our industry loses so many talented people each year because we never prepared them for what was to come after school. Other industries are benefiting from the incredible depth of training and creativity that we are developing through music, because we are not able to retain our talent pool.
I told them that every year I see incredible people do absolutely amazing things because they leave the arts, and while it’s inspiring to see them taking control of their lives, it’s also sad to know that we weren’t able to retain their sheer awesomeness within our industry.
We’re missing out on seeing what it was that their unique perspective could have brought to our world through their music.
This is something that I had forgotten I felt.
Let me just also say here that if you are one of those amazing people who has found your success outside of music, my point here is not to single you out for stepping out. Honestly, I would LOVE to know more about how we in music can and could have supported you in order to help you find the success and happiness you have now, but earlier. I honestly wish we (as a community) could have found a way to keep your magic in our industry because you’re so clearly valuable!
So, jumping back, it’s not that I haven’t been seeing this forever, but it took this conversation to remind me of a specific friend who I saw leave their pursuit of music because they felt they wouldn’t be able to make a living from it. You probably know someone like this. They’re incredibly gifted, admired for their hard work, high achieving, winning competitions all over the place, determined, and may have been voted “most likely to become famous” in high school (and we all know that those high school predictions are true! ha!).
This friend’s experience leaving the arts in order to feel like they could support themselves was my origin.
I remembered that even before I had learned about the value of applying an entrepreneurial mindset to our music careers, I had seen my friend leave the arts because they didn’t know how they could use their training to stay in the industry. And I remembered that even before I knew about any of this, I had felt sad that these incredible, passionate people stepped away from the arts because it seemed impossible for them to succeed.
We lost them.
As more and more of us become exceptionally highly trained, extremely talented performers, and remarkable musicians, I fear that this is going to continue unless we do something about it. So I told this student that if I can help our industry retain and not lose one person’s talent, that’s why I am offering my course.
So let me ask you two questions, you remarkable musician.
1. If we have the ability to be valuable in industries outside of our specialty, why do we have trouble being of value inside our industry?
2.What is it that makes you incredibly valuable, and how can you leverage your training to serve and be present in the industry and community that we all love so much?
Music has the capacity to be transformative for people all over the world! As a musician, YOU have the ability to use your abilities, training and perspectives to be the catalyst for this transformative work!
Don’t get hung up on ideas of “If I can’t make it in X job, I won’t make it in the arts”, because our industry is WAY bigger than 1 or 2 job options.
Take the time to remind yourself of your origins. Find the spark again and use that energy to fuel your dreams.
We need your voice.