The sound of innovation
Most of those filling the seats in the Levinsalen auditorium on Thursday 25 January had travelled far to be there on that day. This was the first ever seminar organised by the European Creative Futures (ECF) network aimed at teachers and professionals. Over the course of two days delegates from Norway, Ireland, Finland, England, the Netherlands and elsewhere would be exchanging and discussing experiences under the banner “Education for Music Entrepreneurship”.
Since 2010 the European Erasmus network ECF has been working to highlight the importance of entrepreneurship and relationship-building across disciplines and geographical boundaries in higher education. As well as the NMH, ECF is made up of Cork Institute of Technology (CIT), Lahti University of Applied Sciences (LUAS), Southampton Solent University (SSU) and the HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht (HU).
Every year the network invites students from all of the institutions to participate in an extensive programme dedicated to innovation and entrepreneurship. The European Creative Futures Intensive Project (ECF IP) was held at the NMH in the period 26 January–4 February. But as an expectant seminar administrator Andreas Sønning explained ahead of the teachers’ seminar, it is important that educators, too, talk about these topics – this time in a music perspective.
“We need to sow some seeds in these organisations with their 200-year-long teaching traditions founded on the master/apprentice relationship to demonstrate that we can educate individualists at a high artistic level while at the same time helping them with team-building and giving them a broader perspective on the opportunities available to them. To achieve this, we must start with the teaching staff in higher music education and the other performing arts.”
Entrepreneurship – a different form of learning
At 9 am NMH Principal Peter Tornquist opened the seminar by welcoming the delegates before Breda Kenny, Head of Management and Enterprise at CIT, spoke enthusiastically about the importance of applying methodology to the teaching of entrepreneurship. She cited EU guidelines and frameworks which identify entrepreneurship as a key skill but added that simply putting the subject on the timetable is not enough.
We also have to be able to measure the effects.
“We know that ECF works, but must continue to look at why and provide evidence.”
Pointing to research, Kenny argued how, in the long term, entrepreneurship in education will help create jobs, boost the economy, increase creativity and prepare the students for a future labour market where the jobs we know today maybe no longer exist. As a teacher, you must also give the students room to develop their own ideas, she stressed.
“I don't teach, I facilitate. You have to let go, look at the expertise within the group and allow them to learn. It’s a different approach to teaching.”
Music and finances
Roderick Udo is a lecturer and researcher at the HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht, creative director of the Appelpop festival in the Netherlands and an artist and events manager for BiGiAM Music Promotion & Management in England. With an academic and professional background in economics and finance, Udo has researched how practices from the world of finance can be transferred and used to build sustainable careers for musicians.
Their inherent creativity gives musicians an above average potential for succeeding as entrepreneurs, according to Udo, who used his address to highlight the need to prepare students for a life after their studies at an early stage of their education.
“Entrepreneurship is not only about how to write a business plan but also about networks and co-operation across different disciplines. Financing is not about how to pay your bills but about sustainable partnerships with investors which generate enthusiasm and where both parties benefit.”
Value every step of the way
The only speaker not part of the ECF network was the American Gerald Klickstein. He is the founder and a former director of the Music Entrepreneurship & Career Center at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore. Students are often taught music performance without learning how to design, organise and present effective and enriching performances, Klickstein claimed. He stressed the need to create an audience and a language and, in addition to the artistic aspect, to incorporate practical factors such as sufficient parking and fast service in the bar.
“We are working with the students to create performances of value. The experience has to match the expectations and maybe even exceed them in a positive way,” Klickstein concluded before inviting questions from the audience.
NMH postdoc and cellist Tanja Orning was quick to respond: “As a musician, how do I find a good balance between the audience’s expectations and artistic risk?”
“Be bold, but do it in a way that gives you allies,” Klickstein advised.
More than music
After a morning dedicated to text-heavy PowerPoint presentations there was some much needed light relief as the topic of the day was allowed to resonate throughout the room. Andreas Ljones had been invited to the seminar as an example of good musical entrepreneurship. He began his pitch by demonstrating the very thing he has built his livelihood on. With his Hardanger fiddle in hand, he put on a little show for the delegates in which he performed while doing somersaults down the aisle to great applause.
Ljones was the first person to graduate from the diploma course at the NMH with the Hardanger fiddle as his principal instrument. He has since spent several years working as a performer, composer, producer and concept developer specialising in folk music and dance. He has numerous stage productions with the Frikar dance company under his belt, he has toured the world with artists such as Alexander Rybak, and recently he set up the production company Vicomte.
Ljones spoke about how much of his job is about continuously looking for new ways of making a living from music to suit his personal circumstances.
“Is there anything you wouldn’t have learnt if you hadn't studied music here?” came a question from the auditorium.
“Performing alongside others. I think I learned more from my peers than from my professors.”
Again, from the auditorium: “Is there something you didn’t learn while studying here that you wish you had?”
“I discovered that what I didn’t learn at the academy I would have to learn somewhere else. It felt natural to me to seek knowledge from everywhere. But I do think that perhaps the students need a broader base, it has to be about more than just music. At the same time, if they don’t possess the basic skills, I don’t believe they’ll be able to achieve other things.” Don't take too broad-based an approach, was Ljones’ advice, pointing out that entrepreneurship is about trying and failing.
“I try and fail, try and fail. You’re not an entrepreneur if you don’t. Failing is a criterion for success in a way.”
A “broader definition”
“Many people have a stereotypical image of entrepreneurs as men in suits working in an office,” Kenny says during a coffee break.
“I think we need to adopt a broader definition of entrepreneurship that incorporates not just entrepreneurs but also those who are entrepreneurial – those who are resourceful in their respective fields, who have initiative and ideas, and who act on their ideas.”
As well as heading up CIT’s Management & Enterprise department, Kenny also fronts the Campus Enterprise & Entrepreneurship Network and serves on the board of the European Council for Small Business and Entrepreneurship. She has researched different types of entrepreneurs and says the most successful primarily see themselves as engineers or other kinds of professionals. Their identity lies in what they are passionate about, something that many musicians should be able to relate to. Over the course of the day many of the speakers mentioned how musicians have a tendency to back off when entrepreneurship is mentioned in an artistic context. This is all down to language, according to Kenny.
“Sometimes it’s not referred to as entrepreneurship but creativity. Students might sign up for a class on creativity but not for one about start-ups and business, even though you might learn about the same things in both classes. It’s about communication – about labels and language. Sometimes the communication is conducted in a way that alienates the audience you want to reach,” Kenny explains.
Strength in collaboration
The first evening of the teachers’ seminar concluded with a concert in the Levinsalen auditorium involving many of the participating ECF IP students. Among them was the pianist Dragoș Cantea, who is studying for a master’s in piano performance at the NMH while also pursuing a PhD in his home country Romania. By virtue of his role as a lecturer in Romania he participated in both the teachers’ seminar and the intensive student programme. Speaking after both events had concluded, he describes this year’s ECF programme as an eye-opener.
“One important general piece of learning that I take away from it is not to focus just on my professional skills but on the transferable skills as well – leadership, finance, public speaking, skills I've picked up in different settings or from friends and family.”
Cantea cites “clusters” as a key concept from the ECF programme: the importance of challenging other creative sectors in order to realise your own creative ideas.
“Whether it's graphic design, marketing, financial administration or singing, I believe that cross-disciplinary teams can be the answer to the curse that has plagued classical musicians for so long: having to work alone.”
An evaluation of this year’s ECF IP has found that the participating students were positive about the intensive programme, which saw them address everything from identifying creative markets in Europe to crowdfunding and self-promotion through a series of lectures, expert meetings and group work.
“This is the ninth year that we’re doing ECF IP. We find that the team of teachers is in itself a good example of the significance of cross-disciplinary supplementary support,” says seminar administrator Andreas Sønning after the ECF seminars, which have been jointly developed by ECF, the NMH and the Centre of Excellence in Music Performance Education (CEMPE).
He has been working to create arts programmes for the Norwegian authorities and businesses at home and abroad since the 1990s. As an academic, performer and artistic director/producer, he has seen cultural entrepreneurship from several perspectives, and he was himself part of the seminar programme in which he examined concert staging as a tool for entrepreneurship. He describes the discussions in the wake of the seminar as confirmation that the artistic content on a performance education course should be more specific in preparing the students for the profession, including concept development, programming and stage presence.
“While other study programmes manage to combine training for, in and through innovation and entrepreneurship – i.e. by including a practical element – the practical aspect remains a challenge when educating performing and creative musicians,” Sønning claims.
“To maintain a high artistic standard, we need to focus on the artistic aspect, of course. There is a fear that standards will be compromised by having to share focus with supporting subjects that aim to prepare the students for the profession in terms of non-artistic skills. This fear is exaggerated, because grown-up professionals can and must combine professional development while also seeing their skills in the context of wider society. This should motivate and govern both content and methodology. The practical element is often incorporated in the form of competitions and assignments relating to innovation and entrepreneurship. This could be transferred to music education, too.”
“Entrepreneurship is included in the NMH's compulsory subjects to an extent, but it primarily features in optional subjects,” Sønning says.
“Junior Achievement Worldwide in Europe and its Norwegian affiliate Ungt Entreprenørskap offer partnerships with higher education institutions with a view to creating practice placements and student enterprises. Such partnerships were mentioned as a potential solution during the discussions. Students have to find partners and clients outside the traditional arts venues as well.”
This view backs Kenny’s vision for the outcome of the ECF seminar on musical entrepreneurship in education.
“The first step is to make people aware of the tools and frameworks that already exist. We don’t need to start from scratch. There are frameworks and models in other disciplines that can be adopted in music education. We need to identify those that are relevant, use the resources and networks, and engage the students.”