Discussion/Session Reports

Discussion/Session Reports

NETMCDO 2009 Discussion Notes and Session Reports

  1. Crossing Boundaries: “World Café”Brainstorm
  2. Expanding Career Options by Rineke Smilde
    NETMCDO 2009 "Open Space" Session Reports
  3. Increasing Faculty “Buy-In”
  4. Selling Music Online
  5. Using Outside Professionals (including alumni) as a Resource
  6. Creating more performance opportunities for our students
  7. Channeling the Pursuit of Excellence
  8. Redefining The Music Businesss In The 21st Century
Crossing Boundaries: Brainstorm
  • Interdisciplinary Boundary: how do you get students to socialize and learn apart from faculty and students
  • They are grouped with pertaining to medium/craft
  • Holistic approaches to boundary crossing
  • Boundaries
  • Genre
  • Institutional-between career staff and teaching faculty, and between staff and students (ages)
  • Disciplinary
  • Audience/Performer
  • Reproduction/ Originality
  • Isn’t Art about crossing boundaries?
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Thinking outside the box: Interdisciplinary: e.g. Arts and Science- think back to Newton
  • Thinking globally (holistically) acting locally (within your subject discipline)
  • Crossing Boundaries allows for more boundaries to be crossed
  • Define Success for yourself! (right now)
  • Private/Professional boundary in regards to technology
  • Audience and performer constantly contributing to innovation
  • School environment keeps us safe from real world community
  • Lack of allowing one to fail keeps students inside the box
  • Lead to a holistic approach in educating students beyond the performance-address the whole self of student


  • Boundaries good or bad depending on perspective
  • Some students comfortable within boundary- can be self-sabotaging
  • Arts by their nature defy boundaries
  • Boundaries ok if flexible
  • Who decides when it’s ok to change boundary?
  • Fear of rejection makes boundaries comfortable
  • Crossing boundary between performers and audience
  • Boundaries for staff
  • Faculty, scheduling, student communication
  • Good vs. Bad Boundaries: Can be both
  • Sometimes can be safe
  • Boundaries for students: Social networking, media overload, parental dreams
  • Boundary = Filter
  • Semi-permeable membrane
  • Audience vs. Performer
  • High Art Concert Platform vs. Community Engagement
  • Curricular Boundaries
  • Boundary = protection/ safe bubble
  • Expanding boundaries vs. Crossing boundaries
  • Undergrads are developmentally seeking to “fit in” so create their own boundaries (packs)
  • Traditional training/ new musical expressions

Boundaries as Positive:

  • Direction/Focus
  • Security
  • Framework
  • Shared experience/language
  • Discipline
  • Rules and Principles
  • Protocol/ Etiquette

Boundaries as Negative:

  • Create mindset
  • Narrowing
  • Creates fear of failure
  • Rules/expectations
  • Limitations
Expanding Career Options by Rineke Smilde

1. Changes in Europe: the portfolio career

The musical landscape in Europe shows a complex picture. Societal change leads to change in the careers of artists. We see an increasing number of unstable jobs in the music profession. It no longer offers many opportunities for full-time, long-term contract work, but is often more project-based, calling on musicians to contribute on a sporadic basis or for specific activities. Many graduates employ themselves as freelance artists.

Rarely employed in one job for life, the musician is increasingly an entrepreneur having a portfolio career, comprising simultaneous or successive, brief or part-time periods of employment in different areas of the music profession. Having a portfolio career does not mean that a musician is not employable; rather this reality reflects societal change and also creates, sometimes exciting, challenges. Exact figures of musicians holding a portfolio career are not known. We may assume that the increase of portfolio careers is substantial through contacts held with alumni and alumni research carried out by a number of European conservatories.

Holding a portfolio career with overlapping activities in the broad professional practice requires the musician to have many roles at the same time. A British research project on the work, education and training of present day professional musicians in the UK was carried out in 2002 and addressed their changing career patterns. The areas of engagement of musicians were looked at, and more than 50 multi-related roles or skills were identified. These were divided into related areas, and from there four central roles were defined; those of composer, performer, leader and teacher. These roles are overlapping and relevant to all genres of music. This approach is certainly applicable to the whole European situation.

It is clear that musicians today must take up various interrelated roles, like those of a(n):

  • innovator (explorer, creator and risk taker);
  • identifier (of missing skills, and of means to refresh them);
  • partner/co-operator (within formal partnerships);
  • reflective practitioner (engaged in research and evaluative processes; able to contextualize experiences);
  • collaborator (dialoguing with professional arts practitioners, students, teachers etc.);
  • connector, in relation to conceptual frameworks a musician deals with;
  • entrepreneur; job creator.

To fulfill a particular role, the composer may be a songwriter, orchestrator of arranger, while displaying the qualities of visionary, innovator, risk-taker or explorer. A performer may sing or play an instrument, and his role may require elements of being a composer through improvisation or leadership as an ensemble or bandleader.

All in all, musicians need to respond to a changing musical landscape and to the many challenges and opportunities within different cultural contexts.

2. How conservatories respond – international opportunities

How successful are European conservatories in preparing their students for a future professional life, which is so complex and multi-dimensional? How responsive are they?

In 2001 the AEC carried out a research project which encompassed amongst many other things looking into the needs of recent graduates of European conservatories. It showed that graduates encounter a variety of problems, nearly all of which related to finding (or generating) work. Former students mentioned the fact that they had not gained enough experience in the professional world before graduation. The top skills that they had missed during training at the conservatoire were health-related skills, improvisation and participation in larger ensembles. The top skills that, according to them, should be offered after graduation were further instrumental skills, marketing and further teaching skills, skills in management and for leading cross-arts workshops. The main thrust in the response was a strong need for life skills.

We also looked what provision for continuing education existed, and whether there was a match between needs of graduates and this provision. The outcomes were striking: the highest priority in needs felt by the students, namely life skills, was the lowest priority of the conservatories. It showed that low value was given by the schools to the opinion of former students whereas they gave priority to their own perception of their former students’ needs. New, smaller-scale research in 2007 showed that still graduates (and their employers!) feel that they need better teaching skills, skills of improvisation and entrepreneurial skills.

International mobility and the Bologna process:

There is improvement of professional opportunities for graduating students through the increasing possibility for mobility of students and teachers in European conservatories.

Music students can spend a period ranging from a minimum of 3 months to a maximum of one year at another European conservatoire, where the home institution and the host institution make a ‘learning agreement’ including the credits which will be earned. This means that students can, without risking delays in their studies, spend a period abroad. These exchanges are financially supported by the European Erasmus programme for student and teacher exchanges.

The international mobility of music students is made easier through an important educational reform that is taking place in European Higher Education, which is the Bologna Process, currently worked out by 45 countries. The aim is to create more transparency in European systems of higher education in order to ease the mobility of students and to make sure that diplomas are recognized in all countries, which is of course of major importance for musicians’ future employability. One of the results of the Bologna process is the establishment of a Europe-wide bachelor-master system and a joint use of European credits. The implementation of the Bologna process can open a lot of opportunities, while responding to the fact that the music profession is increasingly international.

3. How to expand career options? We must start in the schools. Change is required!

Dealing with change, requires among many other things a reflective and reflexive attitude of learners and new learning environments in the music schools. Lifelong learning becomes imperative. It has to be organically connected and interwoven at all levels of the school. Let us explore the impact of that a bit more.

A dynamic synergy between the conservatory and the outside world is clearly needed. Often conservatories still act in an isolated way, but could instead be part of a wider network of professional training and development, challenged to build up a more informed perspective which impinges upon developments in the profession, including e.g. cross-arts, music technology and the cross-cultural and cross-sectoral world. Maintaining a strong relationship with the professional field and an effective network of relevant partners is fundamental. The conservatory needs to constantly fine tune and adjust itself to the needs of the profession, and vice versa. This requires a reorientation by the school, where a shift in culture has to be accompanied by a reappraisal of what actually counts in today’s world. Portfolio careers are the result of the big changes in the music profession and should not remain on the periphery of the schools, but instead become part of core business. Teaching and learning in the conservatory should encompass creating space for musicians’ own self-identity in a learning culture where students experience self-worth, excitement and challenge. Therefore transitions are required in which conservatories become real ‘holistic learning laboratories’ which are supported by a learning culture in a lifelong and life-wide context.

This requires flexible curricula, with ample space for experiential learning, individualized learning pathways, a continuous exploration of new technologies, study of unexplored areas and a reappraisal of existing knowledge. This curriculum values both tradition and change and is reflective of the outside world. Such a curriculum includes the development of one’s portfolio, context-related assessment and peer learning.

As implementing change that leads to an open and learning culture has to take place at both an institutional level and individual level, this is highly dependent on teachers’ competences and mind-set. Without the good examples of their teachers, students are not likely to be motivated to become lifelong learners. Balancing between tradition and change in the curricula need not mean that schools have to abandon master-apprentice schemes, but the ‘master’ should invite, encourage curiosity, discovery, and the ability to question. Teachers are encouraged to become ‘enablers’ rather than transmitters of knowledge. They need to be knowledgeable for life skills. Moreover teachers must also be able to take on a mentoring role. This includes qualities like having credibility and experience; being empathic and asking the appropriate questions.

Mentoring students is very important in this context; a mentor can be a key person for the student, connecting the external world with the internal world of the conservatory through a reflective dialogue with students, helping them with a relevant personal and professional development. Self-management of students should be encouraged and questions of identity should be addressed.

Last but not least it is clear that a strong alumni programme is important for provision of continuous information about the relevance of the curricula and changing needs in the profession to which students and alumni will need to respond and adapt.

NETMCDO 2009 "Open Space" Session Reports
Session: Increasing Faculty “Buy-In”

Convener: Peggy Bruns and Jan Bottomer
Participants: Claire Hamm, Courtney Blackwell, Alana Jardis, Kim Haack, Laura Keegan, Glen Carruthers, Rosie Perkins

Why is it so difficult to get faculty buy-in?

  • lack of knowledge about career development
  • changing world, changing times, the concept of “a job” is an outdated one for many students, but faculty have exactly that
  • time commitments, an already packed curriculum
  • professors may not see career development as part of their job
  • primary instrument teachers are often ill-equipped to help students with career questions

*faculty buy-in will always be variable…that’s just the nature of the beast, you will likely not be able to convince everyone!*


  • conduct one on one meetings with key faculty
    • “15 minute” meetings
    • Ask for their advice/suggestions
    • Ask who they recommend you speak to next
  • do the networking we recommend students do ourselves!
    • Invest the time in building relationships, following up
    • Send thank you notes, notes of congratulations re: performances etc.
    • Attend performances by faculty, advertise their events in your newsletter/site, help with their promotion
  • enlist faculty help to find panelists/speakers
  • get “satisfied student customers” to spread the news
  • include faculty members on the mailing lists of e-bulletins/newsletters you send to students
Session: Selling Music Online

Convener: John Blanchard
Participants: Hank Bordowitz, Bill Nerenberg, Dale Wilson, Liam Abramson, Andrea Davison, Mary Loiselle, Elisa Seeherman, and Jan Bottomer


  • Copyright issues (securing rights to perform, record, or own
  • Physical product (CDs/DVDs)
  • Selling MP3s online thru a distributor
    • I-Tunes, Rhapsody, AOLMusic, SONY’s CONNECT, MusicNet, and others: Require a contract and files that conform to specifics
    • Aggregators: Companies like CD Baby, MUSICJUSTMUSIC (, and The Orchard ( assist musicians with selling their MP3s online thru one or more distributors (see 3a) without the need of contracting with each
  • Live streaming online of performance and “instant” access for download and/or purchase
  • Future
    • Selling audio files that are meant to be used by other musicians and artists: is one such site
    • A moving away from “art” as a concrete or finished “product” – but rather a fluid set of components that people share, use, and add to.
    • Some kind of physical medium (CDs?) might continue to be popular in addition to virtual (digital, online)YouTube Symphony project (
      ); established by YouTube to inject more culture into their brand
Session: Using Outside Professionals (including alumni) as a Resource

Convener: John Blanchard
Participants: Rineke Smilde, Angela Beeching, Liam Abramson, Kitty Knight, Dale Wilson, Chris Marshall, Dorothy Wyandt, Kathy Covert, Katy Hemingway


  • Connections with alumni are crucial. We benefit from their involvement with students. Generally alumni are pleased to participate in career counseling, career development, career mentoring. Maintaining relationships with alumni gives them a sense of value and allows for ongoing opportunities to tap their expertise.
  • Work with Development Office to find alumni who want to be involved
  • Don’t count out non-music alumni; business professionals can bring their expertise to music students
  • Pair outside professional with faculty and/or ask faculty for suggestions
  • Bring back alumni who have worked through difficult times; caution against “big names” who’s success is only “by chance”
  • Find ways to assess quality of guest
    • Don’t feel like you must commit; have several options (informal to formal panel discussions); start with a phone interview or coffee; caution to book a single speaker for workshop without having “seen them in action”; ask them what they think of the School or what they got out of their education
    • Caution speakers against “speaking down” to students; assume that there are accomplished and experienced students in room; involve them in the discussion and have them tell their experiences as well
  • Questions/concerns arose regarding getting an audience for panel discussions; ideas included finding a set audience – a teachers class or studio to “guarantee” attendance; also use of student emails and student life events
    • Suggested that you make sure that students take ownership or it won’t work. They must share responsibility and leadership.
  • Use multi media presentations to give dimension to panel events.
  • Ideas for popular panel topics:
    • Fundraising (from individual donors and grant- proposal- writing)
    • Recent Grads
    • Teaching on College Level
  • Have students do an interview of an alum; use info for publications/website
  • Try Open Space Technology in bringing students and alumni together
  • Mentoring programs were discussed
    • “Alumni Huddle” / “Success Team”
    • The idea of multi-point mentoring was explored. Teacher, department head, alumni, and faculty from other departments could provide diverse resource for students keen to learn.
    • Rineke explained a trial degree program among 5 conservatoires that is experiential and has a mentoring component (a mentor in the host institution, one outside, and one in the sister institution)
    • Training mentors and organizing peer learning groups allow for alumni involvement as well.
Session: Creating more performance opportunities for our students

Convener: Edna Landau
Participants: Rebecca Chappell, Glen Carruthers, Dale Wilson, Russell Scarbrough, Justin Kolb, Angela Beeching, Catherine Fitterman, Dorothy Wyandt, Bill Nerenberg, Kelland Thomas, Joe Mount, Janet Rarick, Jan Bottomer

Discussion & recommendations outline:

The most obvious source is a school’s gig service. Eastman solicits opportunities via their website. Students negotiate their own contracts with assistance from Career Services. Peabody gets about 400 calls a year. Their affiliation with Johns Hopkins is very helpful.

Joe Mount (Univ. of N. Carolina School of the Arts) manages a concert series around the state at community colleges, hospitals, retirement communities, etc. These institutions have budgets to support performances. Joe pitches students to them at reasonable fees. Students then prepare their own bios and concert materials. Joe coaches them in public speaking.

Edna felt that traditional concert presenters should be convinced to take students in a smaller venue and possibly for a “bonus concert”. We need to remind and excite them about the joy of discovery. Bill mentioned that Shriver Hall (1100 seats) successfully undertook concert presentations at the Baltimore Museum of Art (300 seats). Also, a downtown Baltimore record store built a stage upstairs and presents concerts (150 events a year, seating 70 people). Students make their own financial deals.

Catherine suggested that faculty should organize series and coach the students. She tells her students that they must get at least 10 people to come to their concert, or else they will fail her course. She has an affiliation with five or six local Starbucks stores who have been presenting jazz. She feels that businesses eager to establish a competitive edge are likely to want to offer performance opportunities. She encourages students to form teams to take on different functions. She feels it’s unimportant whether the artist is paid or not. Kelland tries to “train” people to pay.

Rebecca mentioned that churches and synagogues are great to approach because they have budgets. She also pointed out that there are significant opportunities to play in small communities to packed houses. Many counties have grants for live music, presenting free concerts but paying the musicians.

Dorothy sends out a card: “Hire a Northwestern musician”. She sends it to caterers, wedding planners, hotels, women’s clubs, etc. She has also found that libraries and galleries in the suburbs have money for concerts.

Justin mentioned that home schooling communities represent opportunities for concerts. He also mentioned that NY State Arts & Education will reimburse fees via NYFA or NYSCA.

Angela expressed concern that we help our students program appropriately for varied audiences.

At this point, the discussion turned more toward entrepreneurship. It was agreed that there is much opportunity for all of us in Career Services to help entrepreneurial students realize their dreams. Kelland helped a student become a booking agent for alternative underground bands and assisted with marketing ideas. He also recommended a book by Hal Galper on booking your own gigs. He encourages his students to identify case studies of careers that inspire them. Janet helped a student start a music school by focusing on her unique and valuable ideas and sending her for advice regarding curriculum and formulating a business plan. Jan brought industry experts to school for a “Music Café” in an informal environment where students could ask questions. Rebecca encouraged a voice student not to abandon her vocal studies, despite her interest in business. She introduced her to the African Children’s Choir and now the former student is International Operations Director of the Choir, traveling with them throughout the world. At Anderson College, where Rebecca teaches, the outlook is that each student’s career begins the minute they step on campus. They offer the students small business loans to get their own businesses up and running before they graduate. Students generally find their own opportunities to perform – in church choirs, at coffee houses and clubs. If we help our students identify their passions, they will often come up with causes for which they want to perform and this, in turn, can lead to publicity that might help to “put them on the map”.

Name of Session: Channeling the Pursuit of Excellence

Convener: Kitty Knight
Participants: Mary Loiselle, Georgia McBride, Kim Wallace, Glen Carruthers, Holly Marland, Chris Marshall, Janet Rarick, Russell Scarborough, Angela Beeching

EXCELLENCE (Our discussion was not so thoroughly peppered with false dichotomies but it was fun to depict it this way!) (Like a Bullet: The ADD version)

What we (career wonks) want VS what they (students, faculty?) want
broad, shallow focus on possibilities narrow, deep artistic pursuit of excellence

notes vs spirit in musical excellence (an old song: blah, blah VS blah, blah, blah)

perfect vs good (aka How good is good enough?)

sports vs music (How come they can play like pigs and still win?)

jack vs mastery (I know Jack! vs10K hours.’)

Katherine vs Kim (realism meets artistic sensitivity *see note)

Picasso vs Cezanne (aka conceptual vs experiential)

Subject was?

*Moment of passionate engagement (why Angela loves the fights?)

Conclusion: I needed to articulate my question better- maybe next time!
(Note to self: artistic excellence : musical endeavor :: pilot light : stove)

Books: Musical Excellence by Aaron Williaman
Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

P.S. I’m happy to share my prodigiously wordy and excessively detailed version, if you’d like! Just email me at and I’ll send it along.


Convener: Bill Nerenberg
Participants: Georgia McBride, Hank Bordowitz, Rebecca Chappell, Kim Wallace, Russell Scarbrough, Holly Marland, Kip Cranna, Kim Haack, Andrea Davison, Joe Mount, Courtney Blackwell.

Discussion & recommendations outline:

The Music Business of the 21st Century is marked by the following qualities:

  • Massive changes in the recording industry – not disappearing, but morphing. These statistics: 2008 – 67,000 CD’s released, 1995 – 26,000 CD’s released - a huge percentage of 2008 total by individuals and small companies.
  • Music to be measured by new “uses” and not just by “sales”
  • The societal role of live participatory music has changed.
  • Audience participation in music creation and production as a gateway to greater understanding and appreciation
  • A broadened definition of the Music Business – anytime money changes hands, especially with respect to new technologies…..
  • Evolution vs. growth? Evolution, decidedly! The business is seen as a circle and not a spectrum. Each kind of music occupies a variably-sized segment of the circle
  • “Commercial” music – more mass access
  • Entrepreneurialism? A vital part of the business, with musical abilities not necessarily needed.
  • Diversity required of most musicians as a survival tool.
  • Constant change – Always!!!
  • Creativity does not insure success.
  • Greater importance of competent and timely marketing