Enterprise, Creativity, and the Digital Culture


One new blog that caught my attention is The Musician’s Way Blog, which is part of a companion site to a new book, The Musician’s Way: A Guide to Practice, Performance, and Wellness by Gerald Klickstein. A recent article there is on the topic of Music education and entrepreneurship.

I have noted several trends out there. One is certainly related to the general topic of building up the musical enterprise and creativity of music students. As Klickstein explains,

The music education community is swirling with talk about how best to prepare university-level music students for modern-day careers. And for good reasons. The music business is undergoing economic and technological upheaval, and many musicians and colleges are struggling to adapt.

Actually, some musicians appear to be thriving – those with entrepreneurial mindsets.

Entrepreneurial musicians find multiple outlets for their talents. For them, loving music and making a living from music are one thing. Like Isaac Stern, they adopt ways of life that bring both fulfillment and income.

For example, a professional saxophonist I know combines teaching, performing, and recording with a penchant for technology; among other things, he’s developing music-related apps for the iPhone. Similarly, a Juilliard-educated violinist felt the tug of rock music and then built a career as a rock violinist while also presenting hundreds of school workshops and launching a successful line of electric violins. A trombonist in a top-tier symphony composes and teaches and also performs in recitals of new music.

Several of his examples above have to do with uses of technology. Reading on, I would agree that not only do musicians need to a degree make their own opportunities, but also that this mindset has to be a part of their training to equip them to succeed in music.

In sum, entrepreneurial musicians don’t wait for job openings to appear. They make opportunities by forming broad artistic visions, expanding their skills, and generating demand for their music and ideas. Some are self-employed and carve out distinct niches for themselves; others hold traditional sorts of posts in orchestras, bands, universities, and schools, yet they expand their horizons beyond the conventional.

From an educational standpoint, then, how can music colleges equip students to be high-level performers – with all of the intense practice and study that musical excellence requires – while also arming them with the entrepreneurial tools they need to succeed in the new economy in which traditional music jobs are scarce?

The rest of his article lays out six ideas that a music school could apply to their curriculum to help develop creativity and an entrepreneurial mindset. Be sure to read his list but I would like to highlight one area that he identified and is making use of.

What is that area? If you are reading these words now it is an indication that you are connected to at least elements of an emerging culture, the digital culture. This culture is rapidly growing in several directions and at the same time traditional media is dying. Klickstein has launched his blog in relation to a new publication but given some time and effort the blog could easily develop into something with a wider reach than any print publication.

It is a large topic that I cannot hope to define very well in the space of this post, but is worth scratching the surface of now to offer some perspective. I heard a colleague say very recently in relation to the changes heading our way something to the effect of either we can get on the bus or we can watch the bus go by us. There are opportunities provided and challenges created.

Recently there have been changes in my own department in relation to this. The article Herberger Institute crosses boundaries in name of innovation begins by noting that “Arizona State University positioned itself as a leader in the investigation of creativity and creative practice when the Arizona Board of Regents approved the establishment of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts this past spring.” The following is a key portion of the article, which opens with a quote from my Dean.

“Artists and designers, regardless if they are researchers, practitioners or scholars, all contribute to our understanding of how we adapt and grow in complex environments,” Kim says. “We believe that an education in design and the arts enables our students to succeed in the world after graduation regardless of where their career path takes them.”

The Herberger Institute looks to place this examination of human experience within the context of four central themes: how digital culture and digitally mediated environments impact and activate our world; how health and wellness are influenced by creative research and practice; how art and design facilitate entrepreneurialism in the space where creativity and innovation intersect; and how design and the arts respond to and interact with ASU’s desert environment.

Not easy words to parse but certainly a challenge to try to integrate fully into a traditional music school approach to learning and ultimately in employment.

Returning to The Musician’s Way Blog, book, and website, from what I can see from the site it should be an interesting publication and again the blog looks to be one to follow, do check it out.

University of Horn Matters