I’ll be teaching a workshop in June, at an entrepreneurship retreat for musicians. This retreat is something new, created by Connie Frigo’s under her brand name Road of Creativity, Connie being a saxophonist, sax teacher at the University of Georgia, entrepreneur, and my friend. The dates are June 3 to 9, the place is the University of South Carolina’s School of Music, which is the host, and has its own entrepreneurship center, the Carolina Institute for Leadership and Engagement in Music. A cosponsor is the D’Addario musical instrument company, which will have people there leading workshops.
My workshop will be on branding yourself. What I’ll be doing is like what I’m doing in my Juilliard course this spring on the future of classical music. Though it was really Connie’s invitation to take part — along with some work I’ve done, to help create an entrepreneurship thread at a major music school — that got me thinking along these lines.
For a long time, in my course, I’ve asked students to make a brief presentation, just five minutes long, about a piece of music they love, typically something they themselves play. Or have written. I ask them not to talk (as program notes so often do) about the history of the piece, or about technical details of its musical structure. Instead I ask them to be personal, to speak from the heart, to tell us why they love the music they’ve chosen.
The results, over the years — both at Juilliard and at Eastman, where I’ve taught this course, too — have been spectacular. The students open themselves, and what they say has been both touching and memorable. From the French student who talked about growing up in the same town as Ravel, and going to Ravel’s church, to the violist who told us how playing the slow movement of Beethoven’s Op. 74 had brought feuding members of a string quartet together…sometimes, in class, we all get goosebumps. (No exaggeration.)
So what would happen, I thought, if I took this further? What if the students could use what they said as a step on the way to forming a personal brand?
So that’s what we’ll do in the retreat. (And in my course.) Each participant will talk about how they make music. Out of what’s said, we’ll distill — working together — a phrase or two or three that embodies what matters most to each musician. We’ll try to craft those phrases so they can be used in press releases, ads, posters, flyers, on websites, Facebook, Twitter, wherever.
And each participant (each student, in my class) will search online and in print — in newspapers, magazines, wherever — for graphics that resonate with the words we’ve chosen. Graphics that could be the start of the images used in a personal brand, images that, once again, could be used in publicity, marketing, posters, flyers, websites, wherever. The idea, of course, isn’t to brand anyone cheaply, just to go for what we think might sell. Instead, it’s to find a way to express the essence of everyone’s work, the things that matter the most — so that others who like what the musician feels can respond. Or, to take a step back, can know that the musician feels and plays this way. And then might want to hear for themselves, to buy concert tickets, recordings, streams.
I’ll be joined at the retreat by others, conducting many other workshops. It’s quite a smorgasbord, a cornucopia. The early bird discounts are higher if you register quickly — so that might be what you’ll want to do. It’s a wonderful concept, a wonderful program. I hope it continues for many years.