“Learn from as many people as possible, always with a goal of becoming who you are meant to be instead of a copy of someone else. Jazz musicians should always be seeking what the masters sought. Writers should find good editors and trusted readers and take every suggestion seriously.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Adam Cole, a Jazz Musician Who Writes Books. He is the author of Motherless Child, a dystopian look at the future of the United States, as well as numerous books on music and music instruction. He is well-known as a top influencer in music and self-publishing.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I began my career as a jazz musician straight out of college in 1991. All the years I was working around Atlanta, I was chronicling my journey in books and online, telling people what I was learning about as a musician and a person. Over the years I’ve developed a faithful following.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you in the course of your career?
I met Ahmad Jamal after he played a concert in Spivey Hall. He was greeting people and I came up and said, “Hi, I’m Adam Cole and I’m just a working piano player here in Atlanta.” He said, “Nice to meet you. I’m just a working piano player too.” That made me feel terrific!
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
When I learn something, I write about it, publish it and share it. Sometimes it’s something almost no one has written about, like Ballet Accompanying. Other times its a topic that has been covered a lot, like how to teach children to read music, and I think I can explain it better. My favorite thing to do, though, is put what I’ve learned in novels like Motherless Child, where my characters can act out my inner struggle, to be free, to be different, to survive.
If someone would want to emulate your career, what would you suggest are the most important things to do?
Learn from as many people as possible, always with a goal of becoming who you are meant to be instead of a copy of someone else. Jazz musicians should always be seeking what the masters sought. Writers should find good editors and trusted readers and take every suggestion seriously.
Is there a particular person that made a profound difference in your life to whom you are grateful? Can you share a story?
I’ve had dozens of teachers who have answered “yes” when I said, “Do you believe in me?” One of the most important was my piano teacher at Georgia State, Dr. Geoffrey Haydon. In my lessons, he heard my anxiety about wanting to create perfect performances, wanting to be immune from mistakes. “But what if it’s the last time I ever play this piece?” I said to him. “It’s never the last time,” he said. I loved that. It changed the way I thought about everything.
So what are the most exciting projects you are working on now?
I have opened the Grant Park Academy of the Arts with Ms. Katherine Moore in Atlanta. We’re enrolling students and developing new ways every day to teach kids, teens and pros how to exceed their expectations as musicians and people. It’s a whole new chapter in my life and I’m thrilled to have the best business partner on the planet to make it happen.
Also, I’ve just entered into an agreement with Royal Fireworks Press. They’re publishing a number of my non-fiction books that have previously only been available as E-books. To support the books and the school, I am anticipating doing a lot more speaking around the country. I’ll also be offering some online courses through them, so everyone should follow me through my website and social media (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) to find out about the classes as they open up.
What are your “Top Five Ideas About How Influencers Can Monetize Their Brand” . (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Know who you are and what you can do. I spent a long time teasing out the best things I could offer out of the many I enjoyed doing and was interested in. Those are the things I present now.
- Know what you want. I want my work to reach my audience. I don’t need my history or personality to be the focus, but I will do whatever’s necessary to bring my work to them.
- Know who your audience is and what they want. My audience is made up of people who see the bigger picture. They may be outsiders looking for a community to belong to, folks who live outside the box, who want to know they’re not alone.
- Build a community out of people who want what you are offering. I share a blog and a chapter of a book every week on my website and social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook) I reach out to my readers and look to hear their voices telling me I’m on the right track.
- Do something to move yourself in what you think is the right direction every day (maybe taking one day off a week!) If I can do one thing that moves me forward, be it writing a letter to someone that has helped or inspired me, editing a few paragraphs of my book, or creating a better marketing initiative for the school, I go to bed satisfied. And that’s important, because the road never ends and all life offers you is that chance to keep moving down it.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this. 🙂
Bruce Springsteen…he always served as my biggest role model, in terms of how to be a great artist and how to manage one’s success and still have a family. He offered so much of his inner life in his recent autobiography and I found that very helpful. I would love to be able to look him in the eye and thank him for all he’s shared, especially that was risky and personal, so that folks like myself know we’re not alone and we’re not crazy.
Originally published at medium.com