Tuesday, March 13, 2007

BEING AN ARTIST: Teaching & Managing (2 of 2)

This week's topics deal with two things that make up a big part of my life as an artist. This is the second in a two part blog about my role in the cogs of classical music and how it is similar to many of my colleagues here in San Francisco and throughout the country.

As with many of my artistic colleagues, teaching is as much a part of our lives as breathing. It offers us a chance to pass on what we know to a new generation and help others realize their dreams as creators of art. Nothing is more fantastic that helping a student "get it" and seeing the realization in their faces when "they've done it." I consider myself a teaching artist - an individual that uses their art to create context for what they teach. So I, like many of my peers, really enjoy relating music to math, civics, history, the language arts, and science. I also think that art can be a particularly potent glue for bringing so many subjects, attitudes and opinions to the table at once. Expression helps foster common ground. I also feel passionately that my role as a teacher is to teach students how to be their own teachers with an emphasis on critique, aesthetics, history and performance technique.

Beyond my philosophies on teaching, I work with the Community School of Music and Arts in Mountain View, CA. It is a powerhouse of a community school with its own 12 million dollar building and over 100 faculty on staff. I teach roughly 7 hours a week throughout the year. My subjects include private instruction in horn, baritone, and composition and group classes in theory, composition, digital arts, and chamber music. (Not at all the same time every week mind you. It varies over the course of the year.) I also have a modest private studio in Mountain View near the QUADRE office. In addition to these two avenues, I am also fortunate to work with local band programs and adjudicate for the California Music Educators Association's festivals.

Probably the most rewarding thing about teaching is that it has helped me become a better artist. I learn a great deal from how my students see the world. And from a practical perspective, I've found it to be a very flexible source of income which helps when scheduling tours, recording projects, and the like.

In order to do the teaching, composing, and performing of an artist, one has to be organized. This is where that last part comes to play - managing. Some of my peers I'm sure would refer to this as administrative stuff. I think we need to call it like it is though, managing ones career. Most artists are on their own so they have to act as their own agents for their art. If one is lucky enough to find someone who is equally passionate about their art and willing to put in the work to help them succeed, that is wonderful. However, I think that when you're starting out or doing something eclectic, learning the ins and outs of managing is vital for success.

And when I say success I'm not just talking about dollars and cents although that is nice too. I'm taking about the self-doubt that creeps into the minds of almost all artists about whether they're doing the right thing. Receiving reactions for the efforts that are put forth is so vital for the soul if not the pocketbook. It also helps the artist continue to move along their chosen path. Now, notice I said reactions and recognition. Positive and negative feedback can both be equally effective for the artist. They both offer perspectives that can help shape the artist's body of work.

In a nutshell, I think successful managing follows some basic rules.

1. Seek out opportunities; don't wait for the phone to ring.
2. Always communicate with vendors, clients, & donors in a timely fashion.
3. Follow-up with everyone.
4. Be honest with yourself about what you can and can not do.
5. Create an organizational system that works for you.
6. Be consistent - spend time every day/week on your career.
7. Market yourself concisely and professionally: website, fliers, & phone messages.
8. Sell yourself for what you're worth. (You have a lifetime of experience that is worth a lot!)

No comments: