Learning from The Savvy Musician

Don’t forget that I’m vitally interested in solutions to classical music’s problems — new approaches, things you’ve tried, things that worked, even things that didn’t work, because I’m sure we all can learn from those, as well as from things that succeeded. And things that fall in the middle between apparent failure and apparent success.

And note the “Solutions” page on this blog site, where (with help from Doug Laustsen) I archive solutions — mine, and many from other people  — that I’ve posted here. Send me yours!

So here’s a solution-oriented book — David Cutler’s, The Savvy Musician, subtitled “Building a Career, Earning a Living, & Making a Difference.” There are many books about making music careers, both in the old ways and in the new entrepreneurial space. This — stressing entrepreneurship — is one of the best. Maybe, if I were planning a book like this, I wouldn’t separate marketing from “Pounding the Virtual Pavement” (or in other words promoting yourself online), as David does, by putting them in separate chapters. Online promotion is now a central part of marketing. But then maybe David wouldn’t separate these things, either, if he were writing the book now. Life changes fast!

But that doesn’t matter. For one thing, anyone can read what David says, and update it to fit a changing world. The principles don’t change. And this is a superbly valuable book, sharply written, fun, and compassionate. What makes it especially useful are 165 concise little case studies, graphically set off from the rest of the text, that tell you how a multitude of groups and individuals have promoted their careers out in the real world. It’s hard to imagine anyone — including me — not getting endless ideas, just from reading these case studies alone.

(Maybe David could have these printed on a set of large cards, for all of us to flip through at odd hours of the day, or before we go to bed.)

And don’t forget David’s terrific Savvy Musician website, featuring, among other things, the best list of resources I’ve ever seen, on a site like this (I could learn a lot from it), and an invaluable blog. To my shame, I hadn’t look at the blog before writing this post, and there are two posts on it that ought to be required reading for all music students: “Re-imagining the University Ensemble Experience” and “Re-Imagining the Music Degree Recital.” I guarantee that I’ll require them next year in my Juilliard course on the future of classical music.

I’m tempted to quote extensively from both posts, but I won’t. Click on the links. You’ll find out how much music schools and music students miss out on, by making their recitals (and their ensemble performances) so routine. With larger implications duly noted — it’s not just student recitals that cry out to be brought alive, but all classical music performances. Click the links. Read David, and see.

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