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Wisdom from Canadian Brass

I recently had the distinct pleasure of hearing the world-renowned Canadian Brass, both in performance and in a masterclass about being a musical entrepreneur. An entrepreneur can be defined as anyone who takes on a risk by starting something new, often in a business sense.

Canadian Brass will celebrate 50 years as an organization next year and it’s safe to say no group has influenced the art of brass chamber music and blazed musical trails more than they have. In 1970, they were the epitome of “musical entrepreneurs” and they continue to be that even today.

Here is some of the wisdom they shared, along with a few comments of my own. Their ideas are especially useful for those just starting a career, but they’re good reminders for musicians of all ages.

  • We thought we could get to Carnegie Hall by playing children’s concerts. (And they did just that!)
  • How can we get them (kids) to cheer? (In other words, be musically excellent AND fun.)
  • Don’t blame the audience. It’s your responsibility to connect.
  • Be prepared for good luck!
  • Be open to opportunity because opportunity is always there. (This is simply a mindset, a way of thinking beyond perceived limitations and trying something new.)
  • Be in enough places, so that when the “right time” hits, you’re there.
  • Keep your eyes open, don’t turn anything down! (This is especially true for young musicians as most any experience is good experience. However, be wary of “opportunities” where it’s clear the promoter is trying to get young players to do something for free or severely undercutting the going rate for professional players.)
  • Never be jealous of genius, rub shoulders with it! (Read this one over again, as many times as necessary! If someone is successful, find out how they did it.)

In short, when making a career in music, the more opportunities you can create for yourself, the less you will need to depend on waiting for others to call you.