Angela Beeching
Center for Music Entrepreneurship
Manhattan School of Music
Posted 11.21.2011

Most of the field knows you as the author of Beyond Talent, which has become the standard text for emerging professional musicians and your groundbreaking work at NEC as the Director of their Career Services Center. How is your new position directing the Manhattan School of Music's Center for Music Entrepreneurship (CME) different from directing a career services center?

The new gig is terrific—a grand adventure. The primary focus is on students’ entrepreneurial initiatives and helping students become the CEOs of their own futures. At MSM I’m part of a dream team: my CME colleague is Casey Molino Dunn, an alumn of Eastman and their Arts Leadership program, and the former career center coordinator there. In addition to performing, he went on to work as a NYC publicist and to work at Juilliard in student services. We also partner frequently with veteran career guru John Blanchard in MSM’s Alumni Affairs. Together with the students, faculty, and staff we get to chart the next phase of the CME.

Of course, I had a wonderful tenure at NEC and was able to accomplish a lot, but here at MSM we’re in that dynamic entrepreneurial startup phase with new courses and programming: it’s exhilarating. But what I especially appreciate about MSM is the culture: the direct positive attitude of students, faculty, staff, and alumni—it’s that “bring it on,” best of NYC sensibility. And the conversations range from business models and plans for startups, to strategies for doctoral candidates on the job market, Kickstarter campaigns, and online teaching ventures.

Can you give the readers a brief history of the CME?

Entrepreneurship has been an important issue for President Robert Sirota from the start of his leadership at MSM. After much planning with key constituents, the center was launched in the fall of 2010 with Ed Klorman as director. An excellent violist/entrepreneur and theorist, Ed is now teaching Music Theory full time at Juilliard. In its first year, the basics of the CME were put in place: the “Practical Foundations” course and the workshop series “Setting the Stage,” and both focus on developing the entrepreneurial skills needed in today’s changing musical landscape. Last year, the Career Development Office (then headed by Ar Adler) co-existed with the CME, but were essentially separate functions. The challenge was how to bring everything together.

Over this past summer, with a restructuring, the CME was expanded to include the former Career Development services and enhance the entrepreneurial programming. It’s a lot to take on but thanks to our exceptional team of four terrific CME Graduate Fellows, we’re making real headway.

What are the present CME curricular, co-curricular and non-curricular offerings?

The curricular offerings include the restructured course,
Practical Foundations: Entrepreneurial Leadership Skills, which is required of all undergrads, and new this spring is a graduate elective class, the Advanced Practicum in Music Entrepreneurship, designed for students with creative ventures ready to implement. Students can also gain practical work experience through flexible internships, choosing among the wealth of opportunities in NYC. And then there are the free-standing Setting the Stage entrepreneurship workshop events, which offer both hands-on skill development and conceptual approaches to creating success. Students are required to attend five of these by the time they graduate. We also offer individual advising, mentoring and networking with an extensive group of prestigious alumni and other professionals. Finally, we provide a musician and teacher referral service and online resources to help identify and create opportunities.

Are there plans for future programming?

We’re looking at additional ways to streamline offerings and resources online. And we are working to partner with specific departments to offer programming embedded in existing curriculum and schedules, to make it easier for students to connect “e-ideas” to the rest of their degree programs and to their real world experience.

In your opinion, what are the three most important qualities a center such as the CME must provide for emerging music entrepreneurs?

Hard to narrow it to three, but I’d say:

A. Inspiration: a sense of possibility and a mindset driven by exploration and initiative, role models, and case studies
B. Support: advising, connections to key mentors, and to information resources
C. Direction: the critical feedback needed for skill building and effective action planning/implementation

How does the CME fold into the educational experience of MSM students? Is this an integrated experience for students or something that is separate from their degree plan?

We’re looking to make it as integrated as possible—fitting the CME programming and services to the culture of the institution.

In the end, it’s all about attitude. When students are energized about ideas and possibilities, leadership and entrepreneurial skills organically develop! We’re all about encouraging a mindset of “can do” initiative and this is really fanning the flames of the students’ and school’s culture.

MSM has had an established culture with a whole set of faculty who are regularly meeting with students to help with entrepreneur- and career-related projects, and master class sessions that focus on this. The CME helps support, encourage, and build on this.

How has the MSM faculty responded to the CME?

The MSM faculty have been great—very welcoming and enthusiastic. And many faculty and staff have contributed ideas, time, and presentations to CME, as they are terrific artist entrepreneur role models!

How have MSM students responded to the CME?

So far, so good! The MSM students are very ambitious, positive, and direct—it’s in the DNA of MSM: the culture of the place. The CME is hopping—students drop by for gigs, for help with promotional materials, and to get help with fundraising or grant writing—it’s a range of issues and it’s great to have the CME Fellows there to offer peer advising and brainstorming! We’ve also made presentations as part of orientation and in a number of classes and studios.

What advice would give to academic decision makers about establishing an entrepreneurship effort at their institution?

Give students, staff, and faculty the time and thinking space to explore new ways of presenting entrepreneurial ideas and projects. The curriculum is often so packed and time is so short, it can be impossible to make room for the development of such programs unless there’s release time, a budget, and a spotlight on the area. Setting aside retreat time to brainstorm can be a great first investment!

Lastly, are there plans to follow up Beyond Talent ? 

Not yet . . . in addition to all that is cooking at MSM I’ve been keeping busy with my consulting practice (and commuting back to Boston for part of each week)–but who knows—maybe in a few years!

You can contact Angela at: abeeching@msmnyc.edu