How I Stopped Following the Crowd & Built a Music Career I Love

Ten years ago, I was a stereotypical hard-working, driven, committed young musician. I practiced more than my peers, I did everything my teachers and mentors asked, and I earned accolades along the way.

All the way through a Doctor of Musical Arts degree, I energetically pursued my biggest goal: to earn a position as a viola professor at a major university.

I was incredibly fortunate to work with and learn from world-class performers, professors, and musician-entrepreneurs. Based on the feedback I received at every crucial step in my development, I was doing exactly what I needed to do to achieve my goal.

But it came at a price.

The Downside of Following the Crowd

I was blindly accepting the career path that my teachers, mentors, parents, and friends expected me to pursue. As a result, I unknowingly surrendered my right to pursue goals that aligned with my beliefs.

Instead of crafting a career for myself that I believed in and that would bring me joy, I simply did as I was advised.

Instead of crafting a career for myself that I believed in, I simply did as I was advised. Click To Tweet

I had become another stereotype: a highly-skilled musician who only knew how to fit into an academically-defined, old-school, tried-and-true career trajectory.

Like so many musicians of my generation, it was not until after I completed many years of higher education that I realized how desperately I needed to take back control of my career trajectory.

Finding a New Way

As I started to pursue my own definition of success, I discovered that I needed to develop an entirely new set of financial and business skills.

I worked my way through numerous self-study courses and online resources, I sought mentors who had experience building businesses within their artistic areas of expertise, and I slowly learned crucial skills that allowed me to work successfully in our constantly evolving arts industry.

Before long, I had developed several successful and sustainable businesses, including mindset coaching for musicians, performing as a soloist and chamber musician, and independent music teaching.

I was proud of all the skills I had learned on my own, but I could not help feeling that my path to this newfound knowledge could have been easier.

An Incomplete Arts Education System

According to a recent survey released by the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) at the Indiana University School of Education, 75% of the over 92,000 arts alumni surveyed have been self-employed at some point in their career.

Yet, according to the same SNAAP survey, only 34% of recently graduated alumni and 26% of all respondents developed entrepreneurial skills while in school.

Those arts alumni who did develop financial and business skills while in school enjoyed greater job satisfaction, were more confident in managing their finances, and were more likely to find a job within four months of graduating.

Unfortunately, most college students in the arts miss out on this crucial aspect of their education.

In addition to a general lack of fundamental financial and business education, many arts students are left ill-prepared to maintain a positive, innovative, creative outlook in the face of career challengesrejections, and disappointments.

Too often, we retreat to a place of safety because we never learned the mindset skills we need to push through mental barriers and achieve new career heights.

Only after years of trying to do everything myself did I discover how many of these mindset-related skills I could learn from my mentors and colleagues.

I ultimately learned that, in an arts environment that is constantly changing, each of us can benefit from developing excellent business skills while cultivating a supportive network of mentors.

With this realization, I shifted my career direction. I devoted myself to two central goals: helping artists build the broad networks they need to thrive, and providing resources for artists to hone the skills I had spent so much time and money learning on my own.

When I met Jennifer and Julia, co-founders of iCadenza and Cadenza Artists, I was thrilled to discover that their new project, Coro by iCadenza, aimed to solve many of the challenges that current arts professionals face.

The Wave of the Future

Our artistic environment is changing. But our educational and training systems remain stagnant and rigid. As a result, an entire generation of artists is joining the workforce without the skills they need to thrive.

An entire generation of artists is joining the workforce without the skills they need to thrive. Click To Tweet

Unfortunately, this does not only impact recent graduates. Artists of all ages and professional levels struggle to meet the demands of their multi-faceted careers, leading to such disillusionment that leaving the industry altogether looks more attractive every day.

It is time for us to face the challenges posed by our shifting industrial environment and meet them head-on. It is time for a new era of musical partnership and mutual support.

There are three things we need to realize this potential: access to modern and nimble educational resources, a network of supportive mentors, and a broad community of fellow musicians with whom we may collaborate.

Coro by iCadenza is the first online initiative to offer these elements for sustainable artistic success, including:

Innovative Education

Created in collaboration with music faculty and industry leaders from around the world, Coro’s continuously growing library of micro-courses offers musicians a much-needed resource to learn and hone the skills they need to craft successful careers.

Powerful Coaching and Mentorship

Coro features a unique model for coaching and mentorship that enables musicians from around the world to learn and grow through direct connection with industry leaders in music.

Vibrant Community

In Coro, each member joins the vast and diverse Coro community. Within this community, performers, entrepreneurs, music faculty, students, and everyone between interacts in a supportive environment centered around group learning and collaboration.

Coro offers artists the support, education, and guidance they need to craft successful careers, no matter what stage of their career they may be in. Our mission is to support performing artists so that our industry may continue to grow and thrive. I believe we are poised to achieve that mission.

We invite you to join our community and share what Coro has to offer with the next generation of emerging artists.

Dr. Travis Baird is a violist, entrepreneur, mindfulness teacher, and musician health specialist. He loves helping musicians build thriving careers as Coro by iCadenza Community Manager.

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