Over the past four (okay….5…ish) weeks, we have been talking about the Five People that you need to surround yourself with in order to be successful at a new project.  Whether that project is a new diet or fitness regime, a practicing challenge, or a new business venture. And as I am deep into planning this summer’s Virtual Summer Cello Festival, I realize this carries into how to ensure a successful summer program as well.


This team-gathering exercise is my #1 success hack that I can offer you all.


So far, we have met:

The Proof: The person we can look to as proof that this endeavor IS, in fact, possible.  Whether that person has done exactly the thing we want to do (the busy professional musician with a 50-hour a week studio and 3 kids who managed to complete a 100-day practice challenge or a colleague who made a small pivot in their career and made 6-figures in six months.)

The Peer: The person who is walking the walk right along-side us.  When you have a big win, they cheer with you.  When you’re tired and want to give up, they say “I know, me too!” and in solidarity, you both choose to keep going anyway.

The Pillar: Your source of strength and support.  They likely have nothing to do with your venture, but they are there for you—ready with a hug, ready to answer the phone, and ready to say “You’re great no matter what” and  a “how ‘bout I watch the kids so you can practice/go for a long run/have some peace and quiet to work.”

The Professor: From the author of a book to a podcaster you love to a literal teacher, trainer,  or coach. this is the person who is inspiring you to see what is possible for you and is providing information that will get you there. You wouldn’t learn an instrument on your own, why would you learn anything else alone?


And that brings us to #5: The Prodder.



The Prodder is the person in our lives who nudges us (physically or mentally) to GET IT DONE. The person who will say “have you done your practicing yet today?” “ I’m pretty sure that cookie is not allowed” or “Did you send those emails this week?”  This person must be self-selected, otherwise, they are just called “The Nag”.

While being surrounded by a strong peer group can help to make you feel accountable, and you might want to look good for your coach or teacher by always doing what they have suggested, I would strongly suggest asking just ONE person to be your prodder.

For me?  I chose someone from my coaching program. My prodder and I talk most Fridays and tell each other what we are committing to as our next steps.  We’ve created a spreadsheet to write down our intended tasks, and check in on each other through Voxer throughout the week.

Some of the prodding is an encouraging “You can do it, Kate! It’s going to be great!” and some of it is just not wanting to tell her I didn’t do it, so I buck up and do the thing.



Is there overlap in these 5 people? Sure, Sometimes.

The more successes my peers rack up, the more they become my proof.

At times, my peers will prod me into action.

My professor (coach) has at times shown that she is also a peer as she works through similar issues (which is amazing, btw, to follow along in real-time as she tackles a problem I am facing) And at times she has also prodded me (like when I almost backed out of doing my festival last year)

And my assigned prodder is also a peer, and sometimes we both have days where we look at each other and say “this all feels hard today.”


But although sometimes the lines get blurry, the fact that I can state with full clarity who fulfills which role in my life has made all the difference.

When I start to have moments of doubt that I can really do anything to change the world of classical music, I look to my proof. People like Aubrey Bergauer and Gabriela Lena Frank are doing it every day.

When I want to commiserate or share a win without feeling like I’m bragging, I have the peers in my mastermind group. They make a pretty amazing cheering squad.

When I need support, which in my case usually means I need someone to pick up groceries AND  cook dinner, AND do the dishes afterward, I have my incredible husband, Paul.

When I need to learn how to do something, want help shaping a new idea, or want guidance into what my next steps could/should be, I have my coach, Jennifer.

And my most amazing Prodder/Accountability buddy? My dear friend and fellow change-maker Renee-Paule.


What is interesting about all of these people is that I felt a strong connection to them immediately.


There was something about each and every one of them. From reading an article about them in an in-flight magazine (Aubrey) to seeing them across the table at a conference (Paul) to listening to a new podcast (Renee-Paule)  I had similar feelings of “This person is going to be an important and positive force in my life. Somehow.  And without force, without strategy or manipulation (okay, my husband might disagree about that in his case ;-), it’s all sort of worked out that way.


So now I want to know. Who’s on your team? Who’s missing? What people have given you that jolt of recognition when you first came across them?



I’m so grateful to everyone who has supported me along the way, and I’m sure there will be many more to come.

As musicians, we tend to grow up believing it is ALL on us. Whether or not we have the drive and ambition to get our butts into the practice room, whether or not we have the talent and skills necessary to “make it” and whether or not we have the right personality to get into the “right” circles. We are taught that it is on us alone, as individuals.

But really, it’s about the team. Always has been, always will be. And whether you are a student, a teacher, an amateur, or a professional, once you figure this out and get your team in place, there is no limit to what you can accomplish.

I wish I had known this a few decades ago. It would have made everything easier, less lonely, and I have no doubt I would have had better results in my pursuits, but I’ve learned it now. I’ve lived it a few times over, and I’m so happy to be able to share it with you now.

Happy Team-Building!






P.S. We’re carrying the conversation over to the Tales From The Lane Facebook Group. If you’re looking for some like-minded folks, come and hang out with us over there! Click this link to join.


P. S.S. The Winter Session of my 10-week coaching program, The Profit Pivot is starting NEXT WEEK.  We only have a couple of spots left, but I’d love to talk to you if you think it’s just the thing.  It’s like one-stop shopping for proof, peers, professors, and prodders! If you’re looking to do something new with your career, like start a summer program, concert, or chamber music series, or expand your online studio, we should talk! You can book a free 30-minute Discovery Call with me here, and we’ll sit and chat about your ideas.


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