What Makes You A Musician?

There is a question commonly asked amongst people in the Armenian diaspora:

What makes someone Armenian?

You see, just over 100 years ago, and throughout history (and into this week, sadly) Armenians have been displaced from their homeland and have spread out all over the world.  Large portions of Turkey and Azerbaijan were formally part of the country of Armenia.

My grandparents, for instance, were from a village in central Turkey. My ancestors never set foot in what is modern day Armenia.

And yet, we are decidedly Armenian.

And so the conversations would go: is it the language? the food? the music? the stories?

D) all of the above.

 

It’s our identity.

 

 

Now, you’ll find large populations of Armenians in any city.  In fact, even here in on this tiny little island in the middle of nowhere, there are 5 of us–we get together for breakfast every other Monday. One is from Canada, one from Yerevan, one from Istanbul, one from Beirut, and I’m from Chicago, and yet, with our shared identity, we are like family.

Amongst my music friends, I am watching a painfully dull ache creep into their social media posts and into our conversations. last spring was a shock. Musicians acted quickly and brilliantly to figure out zoom, online teaching, and the beautiful world of external microphones. Stimulus checks and unemployment benefits came through to save the day when expected performances and tours disappeared overnight.

 

 

Then it was summer. Work is always slow in the summer, and there were so many important issues to focus on. Racial Equality, Justice Reforms, THE ELECTION, carried our attention, our energy, and gave us all a sense of purpose each day.

But now the election is over and our online teaching studios are groovin’ along. The protests have died down, and we are making our way through a stack of books on our nightstands. We are smack dab in the middle of what everyone was warning us about: “The New Normal.”

The COVID cases keep rising, and although there seems to be a vaccine on the horizon, live concerts are not. A few projects here and there, sure, but not enough to cover expenses.  8 months in–any savings people had are pretty much eaten away, and it’s clear that more than a band-aid is needed here.

For some, it’s not the money that is the concern.  For some, it’s the fact that they are growing bored of practicing just for themselves. They are in search of a new purpose.

 

If a musician practices Bach in a living room but no one is there to hear it (or pay them for it), are they still a professional musician?

 

 

 

Some musicians are starting to think about a plan B.  Some of those plans involve expanding work that they already do and putting it all online (like teaching, and giving workshops).  Some of those plans involve doing something completely outside of playing their instrument, but gearing it towards musicians.  I have a client who is working as a fitness and nutrition coach FOR MUSICIANS and deals with energy optimization, instrument specific strength exercises, and even has some kick-ass recipes for amazing practice break snacks (*coaching perks)

Some, like me, are doing a combination.  I have my Bridge Online Cello Studio and the Virtual Summer Cello Festival, and I also work with musicians as a business coach.

Does one make me a musician and the other not?

Am I a cellist if I am teaching cello, but not if I am coaching a musician on the ins and outs of setting up their LLC?

 

After all, I speak the language, I eat the food (10pm dinner of red wine and popcorn, anyone?) I listen to the music.  I have ALL OF THE STORIES. and most importantly:

 

It’s my identity.

 

As much as I am an Armenian, no matter where I was born, or where I live now, I will forever be a cellist, whether I am on stage performing, or backstage supporting.

 

What makes you a musician?

What might allow you to thrive these days?

Are they mutually exclusive?

 

 

 

This Was the Moment That Changed Everything For Me.

April 2020 was a strange month for me. (I know, I know, but hear me out)

 

In January, I had started working with my business coach, Jennifer Rosenfeld, in her group program.  It had a hefty price tag–hefty enough to give one pause–but I went into it determined to make that money back (and then some!)

 

Even pre-pandemic, I had ideas about growing my online teaching work and although I wasn’t completely sure HOW I was going to do it, I was inspired by the group of like-minded musicians I was surrounded with in my new group.

 

I knew a couple of people who had worked with Jennifer in the previous round of her program, and one of the biggest highlights for them was when they all flew to LA to have a 3-day, in-person, live intensive.  They all stayed at a nice hotel, shared meals, had epic brainstorming sessions, learned A TON, and made new connections that have served them well. They couldn’t stop talking about it.

 

I was looking forward to our version of the live intensive, which was going to be held in Philadelphia in mid-April.  I cleared the week in my calendar and booked the hotel. We were all SO EXCITED to hang out together.

 

 

Instead, the world shut down.

 

Philadelphia was canceled.

 

I was heartbroken.

 

But then….Jennifer announced that while our private in-person mastermind session wouldn’t be able to happen, she was going to host a 3-day “Live-intensive” online, and she was going to open it up to others as well.

 

I was skeptical. 

 

I was disappointed. 

 

It would no longer be “just for us” 

 

 

It was incredible. There were over 50 of us there, and the energy of that group was astounding.  50+ classical musicians. Some were using this event to polish up their offers and tweak their projects, and others were brand new to the idea of taking charge of their careers and working on a project of any kind. But I’ll tell you, there were 50+ completely different ideas about what their dream projects were.

 

Isn’t that amazing? We really do all have our own different take on things.  Our unique voice.

 

We were able to choose between different sessions in the various breakout rooms (talking about things like social media, growing an email list, finding your ideal students, having enrollment conversations, and building a great website) Network with and meet new people, catch up with old friends, and share our struggles, our ideas and get amazing feedback from Jennifer and the other superstar guests that she brought in.

 

Jennifer even asked me to lead one of the sessions, and I think that was the key moment when I realized just how much I love doing this work.

 

And I never looked back. 

 

Since then, I have launched an international festival, a 9-month cello program, a group coaching program of my own, and have taken on several 1:1 clients to help them create projects of their own.

 

So, when Jennifer announced that she was going to be hosting a 2nd Virtual Live Intensive this November, and asked me to join her in leading some more sessions, I jumped at the chance.

 

This year’s version promises to be even bigger and even better.  With more superstar guests and more enlightening sessions.

 

If you are interested in growing the business side of your music career; whether you have a set project in mind or are looking for that key to open up a world of opportunities, I cannot recommend this experience highly enough.

 

And especially if you are curious or intrigued by this growing world of musician’s business coaching, this is a super-affordable entry point.

 

The Early Bird price is $397 (until November 10th) and then it goes up to the regular price of $497 (which is still a ridiculously low price for what you’re going to get out of it).

 

You can sign up using THIS LINK, and I’ll put your name in to a drawing for a free half-day 1:1 strategy intensive with me (a $750 Value!)

 

*Jennifer has generously offered me an affiliate link for her event, which means that she is giving me a percentage of any registration fees that come in through me. Obviously, I’d still be recommending this event to everyone I know even without the affiliate benefit, but just wanted to be completely transparent with you all!

So, the big burning question: DID I end up earning back the hefty price tag of my first group coaching program?

 

I did. In fact, I sort of chuckle at the fact that I was ever worried about it.  Because it’s not uncommon for me to earn that much in a single week these days.  Life looks completely different now.

 

Come and join us on November 18-20th and see what might be possible for you. I promise you won’t regret it.

 

 

In the meantime, join us in the TFTL Facebook Group.  I go live there each and every Thursday at noon EST.

 

And if you’re interested in talking about some ideas you have about growing or restructuring your teaching studio, starting a festival, or creating new and interesting performance opportunities, or just about what might be possible for you in this current landscape, you can book a free 30-minute Discovery Call with me by clicking THIS link.

 

See you soon!

 

Kate

An Antidote to Election-Week Anxiety

 

 

Anyone here got the election on their mind? Yeah, me too. After an exhausting 6 years, we can finally see the end in sight for one of the world’s worst leaders. People all over the world are watching what will happen in this 2020 US Presidential Election.

 

And given that it’s 2020 and Sean Connery just died, there is this overwhelming feeling hanging over us like a stinky wet blanket that ANY HORRIBLE THING CAN HAPPEN NOW. 

 

Seriously, friends– A Pandemic, Massive Fires, Weekly Hurricanes, Earthquakes, Murder hornets, Chadwick Boseman, and now Sean Connery? Clearly, nothing is off the table.

 

But you know what’s worse than doomscrolling the news? Reading the heart-wrenching posts written by friends and colleagues.

 

There is no question that anxiety is at an all-time high (According to Axios, it was affecting over a third of adults in the US this past July), and it’s a mix of lock-down fever, unemployment, missing loved ones, racial injustice, climate crisis, and, well, that pesky threat of murderous hornets, but the thing everyone seems most focused on right now is this election.

 

 

What I find most frustrating about an election, is that there is no amount of time and effort that I can put in that will give me any control over the outcome.

 

I mean, I can control whether or not I vote, how many calls I make, postcards I write, donations I make, signs I put up in my front yard, but I cannot actively CONTROL how the people of Wisconsin will vote. And I cannot actively control how Trump will react if he loses, or worse– if he (gulp) wins.

 

So, what, I just continue to bathe in this sea of bad feelings?

 

Have we met?

 

I’m sorry, but I just don’t have time for that.

 

And yes, I realize that I write that from my lovely 3-bedroom house in Bermuda overlooking the water, waist-deep in my privilege, but guess what? Mindset shifts are free. And what got me here in the first place was a lot of hard work, and deciding that I was done worrying about the actions and thoughts of other people and waiting for them to “decide” to do something in my favor.

 

I decided that if the only thing I had any control over was my own thoughts and actions, well, then I’d best start dealing with those things with a clear purpose.

 

You want to know what got me through the lockdown this past spring and summer? The online cello festival I was putting together. It gave me somewhere to direct my pent-up energy, and, because I had put everything on the line for it, I was laser-focused on the everyday details of it.

 

 

And similarly, my Bridge Online Cello Studio and working with my coaching clients is what is getting me through this election. They give me a sense of purpose. Because no matter WHAT the outcome of this election, my students will still be working towards their auditions, and my clients have their own amazing projects that will launch soon.

 

I can’t control whether the world will be a better or a worse place, or when the COVID-19 virus will get contained, or when schools and concert halls will reopen, but I can control how I show up in this world.

 

And that, right there, is a huge anxiety melter.

 

What can you focus on, starting today, that can give you a positive purpose in life? Something that no election result can take away.

 

Imagine, an entire world of musicians who take their control back and start going after things they believe in, projects that bring them joy and fulfillment and a deep sense of purpose. And imagine if those projects also bring them some additional income.

 

And imagine if some of that money gets donated to causes and campaigns they believe in.  Because Marches and Protests are good and necessary and important, but money is what really gets ‘em to the table.

 

 

Imagine that.

 

Last week I wrote about ideas, and how they sometimes come to you in a flash.  So many of you wrote to me about ideas that you either missed out on, or are super proud of, or are still thinking about saying yes to.

 

So please, If you are struggling, feeling like things are spinning out of control around you, turn off the news, maybe even stop listening to NPR 24/7, and consider taking a moment to get quiet, think about what you would do if you could make it a success, and just dive in. The important developments of the world will get to your mental inbox when they need to.

 

Give yourself something positive to focus on, claim as your own, nurture, and create something good that makes the world a better place.

 

No Matter What Happens.

 

P.S. If you’re looking for something positive to do on Election Day, Mike Block has set up an amazing initiative to get musicians out playing at the polls. It’s called Play For The Vote. Get a few friends together and play some socially-distanced quartets for people waiting in line at the polls.  Talk about positivity and purpose!

P.S.S. There’s a Tales From The Lane Facebook Group!  Come and join us over there for some live (and lively) conversations about navigating the world of professional music-making. Click here to check it out! 

And….don’t forget…

Doors are closed for the current run of my 10-week group coaching experience, The Profit Pivot,  but the next round will be starting up in January, and an amazing group of professional musicians just like yourself is going to take their “out-of-the-box” ideas and turn them into profit-growing realities. Book a call with me today to see what that could look like for you and to grab one of the limited spots. 

If you’re just at the beginning of all of this, and you’re not sure what you should be doing, but you know you need to start doing something different?  I’d be more than happy to talk with you about it.  Anyone can book a 30-minute “Discovery Call” with me here

The Magic of New Ideas

 

Think of three BIG IDEAS that have occurred to you in your lifetime.

Do you remember what it felt like?

I can recall 3 of mine:

Specifically, 1 idea I had when I was 11 to start a summer camp in my backyard.  A 2nd one was when I was 30 and I had a peculiar and very specific idea of how to grow a scrappy school string ensemble into a really good full orchestra. And the 3rd, on March 15th 2020, when I had this strange idea about starting a virtual summer festival for cellists.

I remember the ideas very clearly, and I remember executing the ideas and finding success in them.

But I don’t remember HOW I had the ideas.  They just appeared.  Perhaps there is a deeply scientific reason involving the coming together of various bits of information all at once, etc. etc. but that’s certainly not how it felt to me.

 

It felt more like Liz Gilbert’s theory of ideas in her book, Big Magic:

 

“The hairs on the back of my neck stood up for an instant, and I felt a little sick, a little dizzy.  I felt like I was falling in love, or had just heard alarming news, or was looking over a precipice at something beautiful and mesmerizing, but dangerous.

 I’d experienced these symptoms before, so I knew immediately what was going on.  Such an intense emotional and physiological reaction doesn’t strike me often, but it happens enough… that I believe I can confidently call it by its name: inspiration.  This is what it feels like when an idea comes to you.”

 

And, as Gilbert goes on to explain, each time one of those ideas came to me, it asked me a simple question: “Do you want to work with me?” and I had two options.

 

Plenty of ideas have come to “visit” me, for whatever reason, I would say no thank you, and I’d be off the hook, but these three particular times, I said yes.

And before I knew it, I was going door to door handing out homemade flyers about my camp, or I was digging into admissions files, or I was hiring faculty to teach at my yet-unannounced festival.

THEY WERE HAPPENING.

 

There is, however, one thing that all three situations had in common.  Just before the BIG IDEA came to me, I was in a place of emptiness. Not emotionally, but in terms of how I was spending my day.  When I was 11, at the beginning of my summer break, there was no social media, no video games to play. So if I had nothing to do and I had already practiced, I would just be sitting in my room, my imagination my only companion. And this past March, with my last live performance just behind me and nothing on the horizon, my mind was a clear and empty slate.

 

And then, poof.

 

I joke that my first thought upon reflecting on my canceled west coast recital tour was “oh, good, some much-needed time off” and my 2nd thought was “or, I could create and run a major international festival and launch it in 4 weeks”

When we are stressed, busy, and generally distracted (by Netflix, social media, whatever your own particular time-sucking vice is) it’s hard to notice the ideas that are coming to us. They often appear as a faint voice, and if there is too much noise going on in your head, you won’t hear it.

 

 

So step 1 is: Create Some Space.

 

  • Walking is good (without the podcast or audiobook. Just walk in silence)
  • Meditation. It doesn’t need to be anything fancy, just sit there with your eyes shut, not trying to fall asleep.
  • Coloring/drawing
  • Gardening
  • Folding laundry (without music or the news on in the background)
  • Taking a shower (when you’re not in the kind of hurry that causes you to nick yourself with the razor or get shampoo in your eyes.)

 

Step 2: Weigh Your Options

 

You really only have 2 ways to respond once an idea comes to you.  Yes, or No. To figure out which one it’s going to be,  ask yourself the following:

  • If successfully executed, will this idea improve my life?
  • Will it improve the lives of others?
  • How much will it cost me in terms of time or money?
  • Do I have most of the necessary skills to pull this off?
  • If I say no, and I later see someone else doing the same thing, how will I feel?

 

Step 3: Nope, No way.

If the answer is no, then you’re the hook completely. Just don’t start kicking yourself if and when you see someone else taking on the same thing.

Step 4: Yeah, Baby! 

If the answer is yes, then be prepared for the following emotions

  • Giddiness
  • Glee
  • Excitement
  • Panic
  • Terror
  • Fear
  • Concern

 

Step 5: Be prepared to battle with the following thoughts:

 

  • If it was such a great idea, someone else would have done it by now
  • If it’s such a great idea, a million people WILL be doing it and I’ll have too much competition
  • I’m not good enough
  • I’m not smart enough
  • I don’t have time
  • People will think I’m crazy
  • People will think I’m being ridiculous

 

Step 6: Find someone who will support you.

 

When I was 11, it was my group of stuffed animals that kept me company and were my sounding board for all important things, also, my next-door neighbor, Mrs. K for telling me she thought it was a good idea.

When I was 30, it was my two bosses.  The head of the music department who said “I believe in you, you have my full support” and the headmaster, who said “well, I think you’re crazy for thinking you can pull this off, but it would be great if you could, so you have my full support”

And this past March, it was my business coach, and the other members of my group coaching program, all of whom supported me through all of the emotions of creating a huge new initiative in the ever-changing landscape of the early days of COVID-19.

 

Step 7: Look at the worst-case scenario.

 

If it fails and completely blows up in your face? “They” will forgive you. You will forgive yourself.  You will recover. Everyone and Everything will move on. It will be totally fine.

 

Step 8: Focus on the best-case scenario.

 

See it in your mind, write about it, and work with that result in mind.  It will keep you going when you’re questioning your sanity.

 

 

You know that feeling of restlessness you get sometimes?

 

When you start pacing around the house aimlessly, wondering what’s next? And why you can’t figure it out?  When it feels like your whole life is an ill-fitting piece of clothing?

 

That’s usually the first sign.

 

So go ahead and create some space for yourself.  Some silence. And revel in that silence.

 

It’ll come. 

You can’t force it.

But it’ll come. I promise. 

 

And I can’t wait to see what happens when you say yes to it.

 

Pssst…There’s a Tales From The Lane Facebook Group!  Come and join us over there for some live (and lively) conversations about navigating the world of professional music-making. Click here to check it out! 

And….

Doors are closed for the current run of my 10-week group coaching experience, The Profit Pivot,  but the next round will be starting up in January, and an amazing group of professional musicians just like yourself is going to take their “out-of-the-box” ideas and turn them into profit-growing realities. Book a call with me today to see what that could look like for you and to grab one of the limited spots. 

If you’re just at the beginning of all of this, and you’re not sure what you should be doing, but you know you need to start doing something different?  I’d be more than happy to talk with you about it.  Anyone can book a 30-minute “Discovery Call” with me here

The One Question I Always Get Asked

And Why the Answer Makes Me Uncomfortable. 

 

It’s usually the 3rd or 4th question in a post-concert Q&A session.  The first ones are always about how I chose my program, which of the pieces was my favorite, if I worked closely with the composers of the newer pieces, etc.

But then it comes. Like clockwork.

 

“Why did you choose the cello?”

 

Honestly, I tell this story a lot and it gets some laughs, for sure. The truth? My mom had made a new friend through her babysitting co-op, and this friend was very into the Suzuki Method. Her daughter, Carla, was my age, my BFF, and played the violin and the piano.  Her son, Blake,  was a few years older and my brother’s BFF.  Blake played the cello.

So one day we went over to their house and the kids played their instruments for me and I was supposed to decide which one I liked the sound of the best.

 

That’s not exactly what I did.

 

 

You see, I thought very highly of Blake. In fact, I was deeply in love with him, and I knew how these things worked. If we were ever going to get married, I’d have to play the cello too. Right? Because you have to match.

I was 4 and a half.  Looking back, I think my logic was pretty astounding.

So the answer, truthfully? I had a crush on an 8-year-old boy who played the cello, so that’s the instrument I picked.

I know….it’s totally adorable, and it all worked out. Well, not in the “And they lived happily ever after” kind of way, but in that I seemed to like cello enough to make a career out of it. (God, can you imagine if he had played the flute? or the trombone? My life would be completely different!)

So why does it make me uncomfortable?

 

Because I have sacrificed so much to be a cellist.

 

All of those hours practicing, fighting with my mother, crying on my way to lessons and group classes, stress from competitions won and lost, college auditions, more stress, more practicing.  The countless weekends that were spent working instead of out with friends. The weddings I had to miss because I had a concert, the Sunday morning brunches that I could never take part in because I had a Sunday morning teaching job.

 

And I sometimes wonder why no one ever told me to RUN.

 

 

And then I think of the incredible friendships I have formed, the gorgeous places I have traveled to for concerts and tours, that indescribable feeling of being in the middle of an orchestra playing a Sibelius Symphony, or the heightened emotional state you experience while performing the Mozart Requiem or St. Matthew’s Passion,

 

and I can’t believe how fortunate I have been.  

 

 

Most people make their career decisions when they are adults. We musicians tend to make them when we are 5 years old. The instrument we choose can often be random or, like me, made from less than ideal criteria, and so I think it’s important to realize that we are not “STUCK” with these decisions we made way back when.

And that if something doesn’t feel quite right, or if the burden and frustration of the sacrifices start to outweigh the sense of gratitude and luck in “Making It” in the arts, you should figure out a way to realign things for yourself.

For me? That looked like giving up a job that needed me every Sunday and starting my own program that I could schedule any time I wanted. It meant less gig-freelancing and more recitals and chamber music, where I could have a say in the rehearsal schedules, the concert dates, and the repertoire.

 

 

I know others for whom the opposite was true.  After years of being soloists, they realized they weren’t happy having to be on the road all the time, making every single decision, and they moved into an orchestra job, where they could settle in one place, have a family, and a reliable schedule.

 

Because while our initial choices might have been completely random, what we choose to do with our own, personal relationship with our instrument and our careers should not be.

 

What about you? Are the things you are doing in your career done with purpose and intention? Or are you just saying yes to whatever comes up next?

This Pandemic has wreaked havoc on the arts in so many ways, but you can also look for the hidden gifts. Not chasing from gig to gig every day, you actually have some time to think about what you want to be doing—right now.

 

What does that look like for you?

 

Evidence that I was once SUPER adorable.

 

Pssst…There’s a new Tales From The Lane Facebook Group!  Come and join us over there for some live (and lively) conversations about navigating the world of professional music-making. Click here to check it out!   I’ll see you there.

But What Will They Think?

The Classical Music world is a strange one, isn’t it? It’s full of magic and wonder and skill and talent. From a young age, as soon as we know that we are going to pursue this as our life’s calling, we surround ourselves with other musicians, just to stay as close as possible to all of this amazing magic.  

 

We date them, we share apartments with them. Our entire social networks are made up of them. We’ve all gone to the same festivals, colleges and conservatories, and as soon as we become friends with a new one on Facebook, we find that we already have 162 completely random friends in common.  

 

Not only do we share a commonality in our physical experiences (ah, yes….Aspen in the summer–the best!  Rochester, NY in the winter…the worst!) and in our social circles, we even share many of the same emotional ties. That devastatingly gorgeous trio in Rosenkavalier, the excitement of playing Shostakovich Symphony No. 5 for the first time (in Youth Orchestra, always). How the chimes in the 1812 Overture always make you cry (okay, fine, I know–that one’s just me.)  

We eat at the same establishments, shop in the same stores, bitch about the same conductors, and everyone walks around with an instrument on their back.  

Photo by Mat Reding for Unsplash

  There’s a certain comfort in that familiarity.  And as foreign and awkward as it can feel to be at a social gathering full of non-musicians who won’t stop asking inane questions like: So, how many instruments can you play? Oh? Only the 1? Because their uncle Jimmy played, like, 6.  It can feel like a homecoming to be in a room full of musicians-even if you’ve never met them.  

They’re your people. 

 

And so, when those little glimpses of an inspired idea land on your shoulders, an idea that lights you up so bright, you can’t sleep for the excitement, you’ll probably be tempted to tell that inspired idea to take a hike and go bother someone else. I mean, it’s ridiculous to think you could even ATTEMPT such a thing. It’s too ballsy. It’s just not done.  WHAT WOULD THEY THINK OF YOU?  

The idea of disrupting that bubble of camaraderie is terrifying.  

 

I know, because I did it. Instead of telling my ideas to take a hike, I invited them in for a cocktail. In fact, I’m starting to make a career out of it. And I’ve learned a few things that I’d love to share with you.  

 

 

1. Most musicians have had a few brilliant ideas, they just didn’t act on them.

  If you can get to the point where you are actually going to come out in the open and announce your idea to the world, you will hear from a lot of people who want to tell you all about the great ideas THEY’VE had over the years, that they didn’t do for whatever reason: usually involving one of the following:

• Lack of money

• Young kids at home

• They were way too busy. 

 

These stories will be told with a mixture of warning and regret.  Warning: “I felt it would be too risky, and you should feel that way too otherwise you’ll be proving me wrong” and Regret: “It would have been totally amazing though.” Also, they would’ve made more money, their kids grew up regardless, and they’re still too busy-just not from doing their cool idea.    

 

 

2. There will be Naysayers. But not for the reasons you might think.

 

When I first started talking about my idea for the Virtual Summer Cello Festival with the peers in my coaching group, they were 100% onboard and supportive, after all, it was a group of people who were interested in doing out-of-the-box projects–that’s why we were there in the first place.

 

But when I told my inner-circle of musician friends? Crickets. Literally.  I put it in the our text thread and……nothing….from any of them.   When I asked them individually? Each one of them had a very important reason why it wouldn’t work. Zoom wasn’t reliable enough. People don’t like teaching online. People just can’t afford to send their kids to summer festivals this year. The Conservatories would likely be doing it themselves and I wouldn’t be able to compete with them.  

 

Was I hurt? Deeply. Did I listen to them? Nope. Were they wrong? Yes, of course they were. About all of it. But here is the thing: my friends are not assholes, and it’s not that they didn’t think highly enough of me or my  abilities. They just didn’t want me get hurt if it didn’t work. Once it was all shaping up, they were more supportive, but I had to learn to trust that their hesitations were more about them “looking out for me” than about them not believing in me.  

 

 

3. Nobody really cares.

  When I was in middle school my friends and I would hit up Cenntennial Rink for Friday Night Skating (it was NOT as lame as it sounds, people. There was a COUPLES SKATE at the end of the night! High Stakes!) But anyway, I would be primping in front of the mirror at home trying to look as pretty/cool/not-dorky as possible, and my father would come by the door and say “why are you bothering? No one is looking at you anyway.”  

 

Sounds harsh, I know, but as an adult, I get what he was saying.  Everyone at that rink was so wrapped up in how THEY were looking, acting, being flirted with (or not) that none of us had time to notice the specifics of anyone else. 

     

Same thing here.  That bubble of camaraderie? It’s full of a bunch of classical musicians who are only concerned with whether anyone noticed that they played that run slightly out of tune, or if the conductor was smiling at them or smirking.

 

In other words, they really aren’t terribly concerned with what you choose to do with your life. 

 

  And in fact, if experience has taught me anything, they will probably think it’s pretty great. They will probably tell other people about the cool thing you did, and they just might ask you if you can help them do it too.

 

  The Classical Music World IS a small, homogenized group of people who have, for the most part, had very similar experiences, but if we can build on that familiarity and the bubble of camaraderie and lean into the fact that we are also just as diverse, and full of talent, skill and creativity, there will be a lot more people starting new and interesting projects. Launching festivals, writing new works, creating new initiatives that we cannot even begin to imagine.

   

 

So please don’t be afraid. Let those little flickers of a new idea take root, smile at the warnings and the stories of regret, thank your naysayers for caring about you so much, and trust that they will all be there cheering you on in the end.

Especially me, I’ll be the one with the pom-poms cheering the loudest. Because that idea of yours?  It’s going to make our strange little world even more magical.  

 

Pssst…There’s a new Tales From The Lane Facebook Group!  Come and join us over there for some live (and lively) conversations about navigating the world of professional music-making. Click here to check it out!   

And….  

Doors are open for my 10-week group coaching experience, The Profit Pivot! From October 6 – December 17, an amazing group of professional musicians just like yourself are going to take their “out-of-the-box” ideas and turn them into profit-growing realities. Book a call with me today to see what that could look like for you and to grab one of the limited spots. 

The September Reset

It’s Labor Day!

Hard to believe we have been through 6 months of COVID-19. Take a deep breath, and pat yourself on the back. You have been a total rockstar. Adjusting and adapting to a new work-life, new home-life, dealing with lockdowns, canceled vacations, heartbreak, supporting others, protesting injustice, reading the news (ughh).  We should all get an award just for making it to today.

But since we’re here, let’s take stock and maybe think about what’s next for us.

My friend T and I have started a new habit of meeting up in the early morning a few days a week to go for a long beach walk, followed by a swim in the sea. The other day we were at Elbow beach, one of my favorites, and the easy surf was so inviting. We were bobbing along in the calm water talking about how lucky we are to live here, and how perfect the water was, and then the surf started to come up a bit.

Just enough to be fun. Jumping the little waves, still talking about kids and school and life.  And then, the surf came up a bit more.  Jumping the little waves became body surfing—definitely still fun.  And still just hanging out in the same place, chatting as we came back up for air.

But then, in seconds, the waves were suddenly HUGE, and knocking us over, tumbling us under in a way that was more scary than fun.

 

As we made it back onto the beach and started walking to our towels, they were gone. Weird!  We had left them right up on the rocks where we got in, and there was no one else on the beach that morning.  We looked up and down the beach, and saw them, Waaaaaay off in the distance.

 

We had drifted.

 

To us, it seemed we had been in the same place.  After all, we had been standing the entire time we were in the water–laughing, enjoying the morning, happy as could be.  And it turns out, the waves hadn’t “come up”.  We had just drifted into the bigger waves.  Back where our towels were, it was still as calm as could be.

 

Funny how that happens, isn’t it?

 

It used to happen to me in my career too.  I was happily bobbing from concert to concert.  One season to the next, students progressing, all happy as could be, until, BAM!  I realized one day I wasn’t where I thought I would be.  I had drifted unknowingly into a place I hadn’t meant to be.

 

Has that ever happened to you?  I’m going to guess it has. I think it happens to everyone.

 

I’m all for “going with the flow” and “seeing where life takes you” and all, but I also like to be aware of when I’m doing that.  So I started to incorporate a few habits and routines into my life that would help keep me on track, or at least allow me to pivot and twist and turn on purpose.

Here are a few that I do each and every September.  Perhaps some of these will be helpful to you, or maybe it will inspire you to come up with your own list.

 

1. I Make All of My Medical Appointments.

Doctor, Dentist, Optometrist, whatever needs doing, I do it in September.  That way I always know when I last saw such and such, or when I last had my cholesterol checked, or my eyes, etc. etc.  As a musician who travels a lot, it’s easy to lose track.

2. I make a list of my top 12 priorities.

You know, family, friends, marriage, performing, teaching, home, health, finances etc. etc. I make a list of them at the beginning of each month in my planner and make sure I spend 10 minutes a day on each one.  There will be days I don’t get to something, but it’s easier to see when something has been neglected for too many days, and I can get back to it.

3. Pick 3 New Things to Learn or Improve 

This one is really fun for me. Each year I choose 3 things that I want to improve at,  learn about, or do.  And I commit to spending 20 minutes a day (yep-that’s it!) to each thing. It’s a total of an hour, and it’s really easy to find 20 minutes here and there throughout your day.

I choose things that don’t necessarily have a deadline so that I never feel pressured to do more than 20 minutes (though, obviously I could if I wanted to) For instance, if I ever decided to train for a marathon (spoiler alert: that will NEVER happen!) I wouldn’t add it to this list, because 20 minutes aint’ gonna cut it.

This year’s 3?

  • Learning two new-to-me concertos. Khachaturian and Walton. 20 minutes can cover a phrase or 2.
  • Figuring out some systems that work for me regarding financial planning/investing/general banking for my business. 20 minutes can be going over my accounts, sorting and uploading receipts, calling my accountant, or doing some research.
  • Gardening. I want to up the game on my gardens this year. 20 minutes could be planting seeds, fertilizing, dead-heading, pruning, harvesting, or planning, or even just browsing the plants at the nursery.

 

What about you?  Have you ever found that you let a few too many years just roll into the next until you no longer recognized where you were?

 

What are some things you do each September to hit the Reset Button?

 

 

Are you going to try some of these?  Let me know! I’d love to hear how they work for you.

There’s a new Tales From The Lane Facebook Group!  Come and join us over there for some live (and lively) conversations about navigating the world of professional music-making. Click here to check it out! 

And….

Doors have just opened for my 10-week group coaching experience, The Profit Pivot! From October 6 – December 17, an amazing group of professional musicians just like yourself are going to take their “out-of-the-box” ideas and turn them into profit-growing realities. Book a call with me today to see what that could look like for you and to grab one of the limited spots. 

I more than doubled my teaching rate and THIS is what the parents had to say about it.

Like many of you, I’m not only a performer, but I teach as well. I love teaching and consider it one of my major callings in life, and it was also the steadiest and most reliable form of income I had.

Up until recently, I structured my lesson rates the following way:

You could choose between a 45-minute lesson and a 60-minute lesson.  You paid me for that time. Whether you paid for a year’s worth of lessons in September (no one did) or you sent a PayPal or Venmo to me after each lesson (most did). It was just that. I taught you for an hour, and you paid me for an hour.

Of course, I was dedicated, looked out for you, provided you with information about opportunities, but that was all considered gravy, and it was all, technically, free.

I could only earn as much money as I had hours available to teach x my rate, which, obviously, had to relate somewhat to what other teachers of similar experience and qualifications charged. So if I needed more money, I had to take on more students.

 

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At some points, I had so many students that I didn’t have time to enjoy the performance side of my life-I barely had enough time to practice and would show up to rehearsals feeling like I was less than 100% prepared.  It SUCKED.

So, that wasn’t working for me, and when I really stopped to think about it, it REALLY wasn’t working for my students.

Don’t get me wrong, I have always been lucky to teach a great group of talented, motivated, and hard-working students. But I had to cram in all of my hours with other students/gigs/concerts not to mention practicing, and there wasn’t anything left over besides their lesson and some free advice here and there.

I spent some time thinking about what a talented high school cellist REALLY needed in terms of their music education and taking it to a level that would allow them to succeed in college.

There were a lot of things that we weren’t able to accomplish in 45-60 minutes, and I wasn’t interested in supplying them with an a la carte menu of services that they could buy from me in order to reserve the time in my schedule.  I certainly didn’t mind if they called me up with a question, but I was bound to be unavailable to even take their call.

 

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I also couldn’t afford to just give away all of my time.  As musicians, we don’t sell a product, we sell time.  As performers, we sell an experience. and as teachers, we sell our experience (and knowledge, wisdom, and communication skills) aka. TIME.

 

So I dreamed up a different way.

 

What if I created a space where I had just enough students for them to feel like they were a part of a real community (especially these contact-free days) but not so many that I was teaching all hours of the day, night, and weekends. A space that had space.

 

Space to delve into their repertoire in real ways—taking our time to explore the nuances, thinking processes, and broader worlds of sounds and color.

 

Space where they were getting whatever non-teaching support they needed– be it for auditions, competitions, college counseling, career advice, or practice help.

 

What if I could create a space where they could lean on each other and find support and inspiration from their peers as well as their teachers. What if I could even give their parents the full support that they might need in all of this as well?  What would that be worth?

 

The answer? A lot, apparently.

 

And as one money-savvy (but by no means uber-wealthy) parent said to me the other day:

“Kate, one thing I am most excited for [my child] to learn from you is fiscal responsibility and entrepreneurship. You have found a way to give each student incredible value for their money while ensuring that you are bringing in revenue that allows you to do quite well. We’re paying LESS per hour than we were before, plus we’re getting MORE of you, and yet you’re making quite a bit MORE per hour.  Everybody wins. It’s genius.”

And when they said that to me, I laughed.  Because another parent had said a remarkably similar thing to me just the day before.

 

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When musicians sell their souls for their art, leaning in hard to that old Starving Artist Mentality, they are telling students and families that there is no monetary Return On Investment here.

Their children might be better humans because of music, but they’ll be broke humans too. That’s what we are telling them; That’s the message we’re collectively sending them. It’s up to us, really, as role models, to show that there is another way.

Want to know the secret?

I’ll be talking about it in our private Facebook group (which is just a giant party full of awesome and amazing musicians), and you should join us there and be a part of that conversation. Here’s the link.

And if you are interested in figuring out how you can scale your offerings to create more revenue in exchange for fewer hours? Or how to create some additional revenue streams this year-of-very-few-concerts?  I’m doing a FREE 3-day training for professional musicians next week (Tue, 9/1-Th 9/3 11-12 EST)

It’s called “From Panic to Profit” Because Alliteration is Awesome (See what I did there?) It’ll happen over in that same Facebook group, so click this link to sign up for the training and join the group all in one fell swoop.

The Great Reframing: or, why I am suddenly grateful that all of my concerts this year have been canceled due to COVID-19.

 

One of the teaching jobs I had, while I was a freelancing cellist, was at a private school. I conducted the orchestra and string ensembles, ran the chamber music program, and taught cello lessons.

After a few years of my poking my nose in the Admissions office trying to see if there were any talented young musicians applying, they finally just invited me to stay–they gave me an office, a title, and I was sent in to see the boss and renegotiate my contract. He wanted to give me 75% of a full-time contract. I wanted 80%. 80% would give me full-time benefits, which in this school’s case, were extremely generous. I thought he would freak out about that steep financial boost, but instead, he came at me with:

“But that would put you on the Sabbatical list, and that is a HUGE deal”.

I almost laughed out loud.  First of all, I knew the truth of that sabbatical list: The school had grown immensely over the last couple of decades, but the number of sabbaticals they gave out each year had not.

I countered with: “Please, with all due respect, I’ll be long dead before my name ever comes up on that list”.

But really, what I was thinking was: “Silly Rabbit! Musicians don’t TAKE sabbaticals!”  I mean, am I just supposed to not practice or play concerts for a year and…what… travel? Learn how to make pottery? Go fishing?

But it got me thinking….

 

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Wouldn’t that be nice? Most people get to take some time off now and again, and often, when they switch jobs, they are doing something wildly different anyway.  they get that chance to refresh their ideas and re-negotiate the terms of their life. I started to feel a little bit jealous of anyone who had that luxury.

 

And then it happened.

 

I was chatting with a colleague of mine during a rehearsal break last year (long before the world was tanked by a virus) and she told me of her and her husband’s plan to take a year’s sabbatical from their work, and spend that time living closer to their families.  They had been saving for a while and were excited to have some downtime to recharge, reconnect, and let their creative juices flow to see what new projects they were inspired to take on.

 

How bold!  How enlightened!  I loved how they weren’t at all concerned with how they would be received upon their return and were doing something FOR THEMSELVES, and not for this weird covenant freelancers seem to think they’ve all agreed to: “I will be available to play anything at any time, anywhere, as long as you promise to call me for the next gig too”.

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And so I have decided that there has never been a better time to follow suit. While I join the world in mourning the temporary loss of live concerts and I truly feel for the millions of people in the art world about to lose their unemployment checks, with no end in sight for said unemployment,  I’m taking full advantage of the fact that I have a fairly empty calendar anyway, and I’m toying with the idea of keeping it empty (of concerts) on purpose for this entire upcoming concert season.

The idea of not feeling stressed out about what I’m NOT doing, wondering just how motivated I’m supposed to be to practice, and feeling guilty for not live-streaming a different solo cello recital program from my living room every freaking week, fills me with immense amounts of joy and feelings of absolute freedom.

I have other skills that I can employ to keep money coming in. Hell, I single-handedly conceived of and ran a 7-week virtual international cello festival that I put together in 2.5 months’ time.  If I can figure that shit out, I’m pretty confident I can figure pretty much anything out.

I also teach, and I write, and I coach. And honestly? I’m kind of excited to see what it feels like to ONLY do those things for a little while, and let the playing happen as it wants to.

 

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I might even let my fingernails grow past the flesh. (GASP!)

 

And so, the great reframing goes like this:

 

Option A: OMG, this is horrible. Completely unfair. All of my work has vanished. I’m barely existing on my unemployment checks, eating can after can of tomato soup until I can get back on stage because I AM MY ART!

Option B: OMG, this could be a great opportunity for me.  I needed a break, and I’ve been wishing I had more time to dig into some new repertoire and dream up some new projects. I can use the skills I have to create some revenue while I take this time and use it to my advantage.  Instead of waking up every morning counting how many days it’s been since I’ve played a concert, I’ll wake up knowing I have the whole day ahead of me to work on new projects and ideas and see how else I can earn an income. What a gift!

Now, full discloser/disclaimer, I realize that I write this from my VERY privileged circumstances. My husband still has his job teaching HS Physics, and we don’t have young kids at home who require homeschooling or general entertainment/keeping alive. I also don’t have any student loans or credit card debt hanging around me like a noose.  If I didn’t earn a single cent in this coming year, it would be a struggle, but we would survive.

But if the circumstances were different?  If I was single, or if my husband HAD lost his job? Or if we DID have kids?  Of if we DID have debts weighing us down? All the more reason to buckle down and reframe this into something less dire, act accordingly, and get some money coming in. FAST.

At the risk of sounding unsympathetic, crying into the half a glass of sauvignon blanc you’ve rationed yourself isn’t going to do a damned thing to help put you back on stage any time soon.

We can complain and write long posts on FB about how sad and unfair it is to us, begging other people to give us their hard-earned money so that we can buy groceries and wait, or we can reframe this situation, and try to turn it into something positive. And as unpopular as it might make me amongst some of my colleagues,

I choose the latter.  For myself, and for the future of my career.  Wanna go fishing with me?

Permission Granted

Not that you need it, but you seem to be asking for it anyway.

I see you, my friend. You’re an incredible musician. Thoughtful, dedicated. You went to the right schools and survived the years of practicing 6-8 hours a day in order to be as good as you are. You were the star student in your teacher’s studio, and then became a darling of the classical music world. You won competitions, auditions, everyone wanted to play chamber music with you. You were always kind, always prepared, and hell-you even played in tune!

And you were so happy. Your career was in full swing, doing exactly that thing that makes your heart sing. Traveling, performing, meeting new people. And between the concert fees and the masterclasses and the teaching you did here and there, you were making a decent income.

I mean, not an “I’m about to buy a summer house on the Cape” kind of income, but hey, you haven’t had to eat instant ramen for dinner in years! (I mean let’s be honest, you buy it sometimes because nostalgia. Instant ramen being the Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese of conservatory students the world over!)

 

But now….

 

Yeah. This sucks, right?  All of your concerts are canceled, and orchestras are folding.  The ones that are standing? Not going to have much of a budget for soloists any time soon.  And chamber music festivals? The donors are too busy refreshing the tab on their IRA’s to write checks for Brahms Piano Trios right now.

Maybe you were actually one of the more motivated ones, kept practicing, and decided to do some free live-streamed concerts. You know, because LIVE MUSIC IS IMPORTANT, PEOPLE! And because it felt horrible to not perform for people. But what really felt horrible was doing all of that work, researching the tech, figuring it all out, practicing, promoting it, and then seeing your still empty bank account.

It was fun for maybe the first couple of times, and perhaps you even have a few dedicated Patreon Patrons, but those bucks aren’t going to pay the bills. Unemployment isn’t going to continue much longer, and everyone you know is talking about a plan B.

It’s downright depressing. All those years of hard work, and now you have no choice but to go and get a real estate license? (Actually, I have a lot of musician/artist friends who moonlight (sunlight?) as realtors, and they LOVE it, but that’s for another post.)

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I get it.  Your entire identity is built around being a performing musician, and you’re not going down without a fight. The idea of giving up and going into a different career is just too much to bear.

At the same time, though, it would be nice to not wake up in the middle of the night EVERY night worried about how you’re going to make ends meet.

 

So, here’s that permission slip that you don’t need but seem to be asking for anyway…

 

You have my permission (and the world’s permission, for that matter) to figure out a way to make money come your way while you are not performing.  AND I give you permission to retain the identity of “PERFORMER” while figuring out some other ways to bring in said money even if you are not PERFORMING.  This can be temporary.

No one will think less of you.  Take it from me, they will call you a lot of things, but none of them are mean.  Some of them are quite nice, actually! “Entrepreneurial”, “Forward-thinking”, ” Business-minded” and my favorite: “Smart”.

Because it is smart to take care of yourself.  It’s smart to make sure that you can keep living in your home, that you can put food on the table, and that you can continue to save for your retirement–even during a pandemic.

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What is not smart is allowing your talented-self to crumble into oblivion because you are afraid of being seen as “not having enough concerts and being forced to make money another way.”  Guess what…no one is ever thinking about anyone long enough to have that thought, and even if they had loads of time to obsess over your life? They’re still not thinking that.

So, whatever it is…I’m sure you’ve got secret superpowers.  Just think back to those first-day-of-festival orientations when you had to tell everyone what your non-musical talent was.  I hear that guy with the Rubik’s Cube is Killin’ it!

I mean, look, it doesn’t have to be forever. It could just tide you over until the concerts come back.  It could also be really fun and satisfying and turn into something that you want to continue doing. Who knows…

It could buy you that house on the Cape.

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Do it!  Permission granted.

Kate

P.S. If you’re thinking “Gee, Kate, I’d LOVE to have some monies coming my way right now, but I have NO IDEA what to do, or where to start because the only thing I know how to do is play my instrument” let’s hop on a quick call and I’ll help you brainstorm a bit. We’ll have a coffee, we’ll chat, it’ll be fun. You can pick a time right here.

P.P.S You might also want to check out my “Build Your Best Life Blueprint”.  It’s a (very pretty, I think!) PDF that will help you unearth those super-secret superpowers that have been hidden since the first day of Aspen ‘96.