Heather Powell Case Study

Freelance violinist Heather Powell recently moved to Los Angeles from San Francisco after working with the San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Ballet. Currently, her work includes playing with the Los Angeles Opera, ballet companies, and recording for soundtracks for motion pictures and T.V. shows. But even with a high degree of success, she still feels like her career is a work-in-progress. 

“I keep figuring out my professional landscape. It keeps changing month to month since I am a freelancer. I’m figuring out what I most enjoy doing so I can devote my time there. There’s a lot of different pieces to the puzzle of my professional life,” Heather shared. 

Like many successful freelance musicians, Heather was consistently growing and putting the pieces together to form her career, but because of the need to be seeking new work, her personal passion projects seemed to always get set aside for “later.”

The Dream That Felt Out of Reach

For about five years, Heather had an idea for a project that would bring together musicians and dancers in a unique way. She loved the idea of closing the distance between dancers on stage and the musicians in the pit orchestra, but the task of putting together a project like this seemed daunting. 

Heather said, “I was overwhelmed by the grandeur of the idea. I didn’t really know how I would make it all happen.”

It felt like there just wasn’t room for a big project among all her other work, let alone one that seemed like a dream. What Heather realized, though, was that she didn’t have to make this dream happen alone.

Taking the Leap: Joining Idea to Impact

Heather was already familiar with iCadenza and knew the team. She loved working with the iCadenza coaches and knew she needed support to build the kind of project she had in mind. 

When considering the Idea to Impact group, Heather asked herself, “Could I give enough to this and could I follow through with the commitment? Like anything that’s worth it, it’s a lot of time, energy, and resources. My concern was with everything going on in my life, could I give enough to get what I wanted out of the experience?” 

To help her reach her goal, the iCadenza team introduced Heather to the Idea to Impact program: A six-month, group coaching program where she would learn all the skills she would need to make her project a reality alongside other musicians, artists, and creatives looking to launch their big break projects. With Idea to Impact, not only would Heather get the support of the iCadenza team, she would be learning, growing, and taking action side-by-side with an inspiring group of peers.

She decided to take the leap, commit to the group program, and work towards the goal of the project idea that had been on her mind for years.  

Heather’s Challenges 

Every big project has its big challenges, and Heather had a couple obstacles between her and her dream project. 

Challenge #1: Finding a collaborator.  Heather loved working with dancers. She admired their work and had an affinity for dance since she was young. BUT, playing down in the pit, she felt separated from dancers and didn’t have opportunities to meet them in the course of her regular work.   

Challenge #2: Putting together an ambitious project for the first time. “It felt like such a big undertaking and I didn’t know how I would pull all the pieces together. It felt impossible and unrealistic,” Heather shared. 

Challenge #3: Finding the time to launch an ambitious project. As a busy freelancer, Heather’s time is extremely limited. She felt passionate about the project, but how would she find the time? 

Finding the Right Collaborator 

With the support from the coaches and fellow participants in Idea to Impact, Heather started the process of looking for a dance collaborator. 

Cold Emails. She started out with cold emails. Heather reached out to a few people and didn’t get responses, or simply received polite responses explaining that it wasn’t the right time. “I was struggling trying to identify who this person was going to be,” Heather explained. 

Research. She started doing research into dancers and choreographers and came across an interview with an artist that inspired her, choreographer Danielle Rowe. Heather found “she had a perspective that was very generous and very collaborative, and very open. I thought, I would love to be able to just have a conversation with her about this project that she worked on.”

BUT she couldn’t find her email address anywhere online!

Mutual Contacts. She didn’t give up, though. She found a mutual contact through Facebook and asked for an introduction, which he was happy to give. Heather connected with the choreographer through email and set-up up a call. 

First Call. On the first call, Heather got to know her potential collaborator and learned about projects she’d done in the past. Heather then had the opportunity to share some general ideas she had about her project.

Follow-up. When she traveled to San Francisco, Heather setup an in-person meeting to follow-up. Then, she made the pitch. 

Even though she wasn’t entirely sure about all of the details of her project yet, Heather asked Danielle if she’d like to be involved. “She was so receptive and grateful to be asked, which was also felt really nice.” 

Opportunity Comes Knocking. A few months later, this same choreographer wrote to Heather to let her know about an opportunity to create a performance for a dance company in Los Angeles and a collaboration was formed. They could use this as a springboard for their project, but before they could get started, they realized they would have to raise enough money to make the project happen, and in a relatively short period of time.

Finding the Funding

Ack! Raising money is many musicians’ biggest fear! 

Heather shared her fears: “That was scary because I’ve never raised money for anything. We would need what felt like a lot of money in a short amount of time. I felt nervous both about putting it out there and can we actually raise this money? If we don’t, then what? I had a lot of questions about the best way to go about it.”

Heather didn’t have to figure this all out on her own. This is where the support and guidance of the iCadenza team and the Idea to Impact community came to her aid. 

With this support, she and her team developed a plan:  

  • A calendar of social media posting and personal emails for the campaign 
  • Developing thoughtful and creative prizes for the donors 
  • Soliciting volunteers, coming to the show, and sharing the campaign along with soliciting financial support 
  • Reaching out to each collaborators networks for support  

Fundraising Success! 

Heather took her plan and put it into action.

She and her team started executing their fundraising plan, posting on social media and sending emails to their lists of contacts. It didn’t take long to see results. They reached their fundraising goal in less than three weeks

Heather faced her fear of fundraising and found more support than she could have imagined. 

By confronting her “fear about being judged or being rejected or not being able to raise the money,” Heather was able to step into action. In less than three weeks, the team was able to raise even more than they thought they needed.. “That was a really powerful experience. There was a surge of support. It was really cool.” 

With the successful fundraising campaign achieved, Heather and her collaborators could go on to produce their vision – a multimedia music, dance, and visual arts project on the theme of maternity called “Before You Had a Name,” in Los Angeles in the spring of 2019. The project included live performances and a cinematographer and her crew made a film inspired by the performance piece. The film has now been accepted to several festivals and will premiere at the San Francisco International Dance Film Festival.

Going Forward with New Confidence 

By finding the support she needed, Heather was able to step into action to bring to life a project that seemed like only a dream a short while before. Heather shared her new found confidence after fundraising and producing this project on a tight timeline, “The fact that I did something that was pretty big, all the pieces came together, and it wasn’t easy, but it happened. I think it happened at a very high level. To be able to know – I did that. I feel really good.”

How You Can Achieve the Same Success

Heather learned these valuable lessons on the way…

#1 Find a community of supporters 

Heather’s first step toward achieving her goal was to join the iCadenza Idea to Impact group program. This gave her access to expert coaches and a community of like-minded artists who were all working toward a milestone project of their own. 

“It’s a really nice platform, to both feel a sense of community and support, and to learn new things. I love that group. I love the coaches. It helped me have the confidence and the support to feel like I could go for it.” 

#2 Find collaborators  

“You never know who you’re going to meet and where you’re going to meet people or who they’re going to become in your  life. I think being open to that and then knowing that it’s okay to trust. It might not work but it can work out and knowing that is pretty cool. Yeah, you can handle it.”

#3 Ask for help 

“I learned by being on the receiving side rather than the giving side. People get pleasure and satisfaction out of being able to support something that they feel inspired by or because they care about you and know you’re inspired by this project. That feeds the people who are the supporters. It’s not like you’re depleting them by asking. I knew that being on the gifting side but it was a shift in perspective. It’s powerful. It feels good to know that.” 

#4 Build your community 

Heather created a community through her project. Through the fundraising process, she reached out to and expanded her network and combined networks with her collaborators. A whole community formed around this support. Now they have a core audience that will support future projects. “They’re part of our community now.” 

#5 Believe in your power to create something amazing 

“I can create something that is not out there already. It’s a belief in doing something a little bit differently and knowing that I can figure out how to make it happen. Trusting that I can do that is a big change.”

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