Being an Entrepreneurial Musician

Entrepreneurialism is the willingness to take risks in order to pursue a completely novel idea or a fresh spin on an idea that came before

One can build on another’s efforts and still be considered an entrepreneur provided the element of risk-versus-reward is present, that ‘special sauce’ which drives all entrepreneurs to dare to pursue greatness. 

With my partner, a fellow musician, I seek to combine three goals into one cohesive whole: performing chamber music, teaching viola and violin, and coaching creativity.

My immediate focus is building a music ecosystem. I define a healthy music ecosystem as a place where five essential pillars of music-making exist, but the result of that ecosystem is that professional classical musicians within it not only survive but thrive. 

That I am contributing to the music ecosystem in western Massachusetts against the backdrop of moving across the country to a new region, state, and town and buying a new-old home is a happy coincidence. Fresh analogies are everywhere: breathing new life into a beautiful yet time-worn old house, getting to know our small town and neighbors, and volunteering to help our local community have parallels in reinvigorating and changing the art form that my partner and I believe in. 

The argument: classical music, and art, are worth your time and interest

Mikayla, my partner and collaborator, is a dedicated amateur violist who, as our running joke goes, ‘runs a digital marketing company on the side.’ We are part of a movement of artists, professional and amateur, seeking to re-introduce classical music to a wider audience who mistakenly believe it is inaccessible. 

We are making an argument for its role in daily life everywhere because it faces changing times. 

Orchestras, opera houses, and ballet companies are struggling, either paying highly-trained professional musicians too much or too little on a budget that rarely lands in the black. Too much where the cost of living would allow a distinguished orchestra to ask its musicians to do more for their salaries than simply play, and too little for the plethora of excellent musicians scraping-by in order to dedicate their energies to the great cause of playing classical music. 

While some have joined the movement of re-imagining great art for more people, many are stuck in older assumptions that do not rely on welcoming audiences through building close ties with communities.

The mission: inspiring creativity through expression

What is relevance for the modern classical musician and his art form? In a word, community.

What is hope for him or her in a changing world? In another word, entrepreneurialism.

How will we get there? The answer surely lies in creativity.

When these ideas meet in the capable hands of an excellent and expressive musician, everyone wins, from his audience to our larger world.

The strategy: moving to Conway   

Conway is where our experiment begins. If not a place like this, then where should classical music live and breathe? 

A small town in the foothills of the Berkshire mountains, Conway, Massachusetts is centered around a main street anchored by a stately marble library, a cheerful tavern, and a town hall bookending sixteen postcard-worthy houses. We are five doors down from the Field Memorial Library in a Greek Revival manse in need of a paint job. A general store, post office, old church, highly-regarded primary school, historic covered bridge, and the last remaining mill of a once-teeming industry of dozens of factories hugging a swift, boulder-strewn river complete the town’s profile, along with many homes scattered throughout the nearby hollows and hills. 

People here wave hello and stop to chat at every opportunity, offering vegetables and herbs freely from their backyard gardens. It’s a place where, if folks do not grasp what you are saying or even agree, they will pause to consider it – the beauty and abundance of the surroundings promote clarity and collegiality. 

The conversation: what is creativity?

Perhaps our greatest goal, beyond our striving to be entrepreneurs and connecting our community with classical music, is advancing the conversation of creative thought. 

What is creative thinking and taking a creative approach to problem solving – and living? In our view, it is relating the practice of art to the appreciation of art and vice versa. Doing art, whether playing, dancing, singing, painting, or writing, leads to greater appreciation, and greater appreciation of art leads to interest in doing it. 

Classical music offers a great framework for honing one’s intelligence for thoughtful work. Its quality and meaning have been proven over centuries, playing it requires diligence and maintenance over years of practice, and its practical methods – how it is written and performed – improve over time. 

Most basically, classical music rewards listening with great insight, so that appreciators gain from listening almost as much as musicians do from playing. 

The process of performing and understanding music by J.S. Bach may seem esoteric and elitist at first blush, but is actually grounded in relatability and humanity. Playing or listening to Bach yields insights into a great mind’s patterns of logic, discipline, and complex expression but is also fun – the guy wrote gorgeous melodies with imaginative variations for myriad combinations of instruments, for both his weekly Sunday church gig as an organist and choir director and also for his more worldly employment working for a prince. 

When we dig into a cello suite, we start with a frame of music theory based upon mathematics on paper and end with an emotional live performance from memory by a musician who has devoted hundreds of hours to training his body and his mind to work together to say something about our common human condition. 

In-between, we learn about why Bach’s ideas are still around after 300 years when many other worthy composers are little-known or forgotten by history. 

The creative practice: dedication enables expression

Our goal in building our music ecosystem in western Massachusetts is to show how classical music is relatable and enjoyable, even if it is sophisticated and difficult to play well. 

There’s a mistaken impression out there that we don’t have time for art, or that it’s too esoteric or abstract. But while we tend to make time for things that matter and we can become better people by embracing things that make us better, we’re unlikely to do what’s good for us if it’s not relatable, or enjoyable.

The great J.S. Bach, like other innovative minds, grasped that his innovation only happened within the frame of his craft, honed diligently over time. When you have ability and familiarity with a given discipline, the frame stretches to re-posit old ideas in subtle new ways. If the discipline is expansive enough, its form allows us to interpret different modes of thought or expression, separating or interweaving seemingly disparate thoughts into a compelling whole.

Great art becomes not just a vehicle for deeply creative expression but a meeting place for ideas. Therefore, how could we not want creative expression for ourselves, even into adulthood – how could doing and appreciating art not be for everybody? 

It will take creativity and entrepreneurialism on behalf of our community to impart our message, but we’ll get there!

You’ve made it this far so I want to hear your thoughts – what’s your take-away? Do you think entrepreneurialism is necessary in music?

Drop me a note at

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