‘Savvy Musician’ Author David Cutler Urges Classical Musicians to Think Like Entrepreneurs at University of South Carolina Workshop

By Louise Burton on Jun 06, 2014 01:53 AM EDT

An innovative music workshop taking place at the University of South Carolina focuses on inspiring classical musicians to become entrepreneurs. The idea is to give musicians the tools they need to forge their own careers in a field where traditional performance opportunities are dwindling.

Musicians, of course, are highly creative individuals. But until recently, many have not used their creativity to think entrepreneurially about their careers. Programs like USC's The Savvy Musician in ACTION deserve accolades for pushing musicians to be just as creative in dreaming up new ensembles, approaches, and audience development tactics as they are when interpreting Mozart and Beethoven.

"We live in an era where all the rules are changing, requiring constant evolution and innovation," David Cutler, the workshop's director, declared in a recent video about the workshop. "Although the marketplace is over-saturated with outstanding technicians, many are unequipped to cope with 21st century realities."

Cutler, who is associate professor of music entrepreneurship at USC, is also the author of a book entitled The Savvy Musician.

What the music world really needs, according to Cutler, "is a new, savvier breed of musician. In addition to their artistic distinctions, these individuals are virtuoso entrepreneurs and leaders and collaborators."

The Savvy Musician in ACTION, which is currently in session, is designed for both professional musicians and college students. Participants at the four-day workshop are encouraged to come up with business ideas that transcend the boundaries of traditional chamber ensembles and concert formats. A full description of the workshop is available on the USC website.

Who knows what might result from encouraging musicians to use their creative minds to dream up new performance opportunities? The U.S. is currently experiencing a boom in entrepreneurship, with new business incubators and tech startups popping up in many communities nationwide. Why should the field of classical music be any different?

And the workshop, as it is described by Dan Cook of the Columbia, S.C. Free Times, actually sounds like the entrepreneur bootcamps popular at many technology incubators. Cook writes that the workshop "puts musicians through a unique and rigorous regimen of entrepreneurial training, mentorship sessions, peer teaching, mini-lectures and, ultimately, a pitch-session competition."

The musicians will also receive advice and feedback from professionals in the music industry, including Margaret Lioi, CEO of Chamber Music America; Howard Herring, president of the New World Symphony; Ranaan Meyer, bassist of Time for Three, and many others.

Time for Three is a trio of young musicians who met as students at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. They recently stopped by Classicalite's offices for a chat and a live performance. Here they are in a Classicalite A.V. Club video, talking about being the "outside of the box dudes" at Curtis and finding success as a genre-defying professional chamber ensemble:

For the entrepreneurially-minded musician, there are several other programs in music entrepreneurship offered in other parts of the country. Two that look particularly promising are the Center for Music Entrepreneurship at Manhattan School of Music, and the Entrepreneurship Center for Music at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

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TagsUniversity of South Carolina, The Savvy Musician in ACTION, David Cutler, Entrepreneurship, The Savvy Musician, Ranaan Meyer, Time for Three, Classicalite A.V. Club, Dan Cook, Free Times

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