The University of Michigan EXCEL Lab, in collaboration with the Eastman School of Music’s Institute for Music Leadership and a cohort of seven co-sponsors launched an exciting and relevant new program, Virtual Visionaries, on May 25th.
The guest for week one was Tara Faircloth. A nationally recognized stage director, Ms. Faircloth has worked with organizations including Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, Central City Opera, Atlanta Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, Utah Opera, Arizona Opera, and Tulsa Opera. In addition to her work as a stage director, she has presented around the nation on personal finance for independent artists, performers, and freelancers. Her session, Budget 101: What They Didn’t Teach You in Music School, served as inspiration for this week’s Virtual Visionaries content.
In her blog post, Faircloth highlighted the opportunities (responsibilities) that come with being an artist in the twenty-first century:
In addition to all the many, many important artistic skills one must acquire to even start this “company,” the positions of marketing and publicity manager, head of human resources, head of finances, research librarian, director of communications, website developer, digital content manager, and IT guy, not to mention travel agent, administrative assistant, and barista are all going to be filled (at least in the early days) by one person… you, the artist.
While the list can seem overwhelming even for the most-experienced freelance-artist, what was particularly compelling was Faircloth’s contextualization for investing in these ancillary roles: “Don’t let your beautiful work go to waste.” The question of how to most effectively leverage our creative talents in a compelling manner supports the need to invest in the wide range of responsibilities outlined by Faircloth. She likens one’s skill development to that of musical composition: “How do you write a symphony? One note at a time. . . start where you are, and, much like making exciting music, be willing to make a few (well-informed) mistakes at the beginning.” The overarching lessons from Faircloth: start small, embrace reality, be diligent, and seek out mentors.
One area that Faircloth has particular acumen is personal finance for artists—this was the topic of her virtual session on Thursday, May 28th. The session, Budget 101: What They Didn’t Teach You in Music School provided a simple and practical approach to financial management when income is inconsistent and fluctuates. Faircloth’s contextualization of the session, “it will help you find peace of mind with a solid system for managing a freelance income lifestyle,” was a wonderful reminder of how sound personal financial-management has the potential to enhance our creativity and the compelling nature of our artistry. Her three-part plan, Part One: The Master Budget, Part Two: The Simple Genius Plan, and Part Three: Future Income Breakdown is concise, flexible, and scalable. Further, many of the concepts—creating a monthly budget and ‘making deposits’—could be applied to other aspects of our lives: how we allocate our practice time, how we plan for future marketing initiatives, etc. Faircloth was humble and sincere in her presentation, contextualizing the data presented through her own lived experiences. While personal finance should always be a focus of artists, Ms. Faircloth’s presentation was particularly timely given the challenges our profession currently face.
UP NEXT: Virtual Visionaries: Forging New Paths
Blog Post: Monday, June 1
Virtual Session: Wednesday, June 3, from 2-3pm
PRJC Summary: Saturday, June 6 at 10am
Zoom Link for the Virtual Session: http://myumi.ch/pdz2v
This conversational session features two versatile, dynamic figures from the NYC music scene, exploring their enterprising careers, the changes they are seeing in the field, and advice for young artists on the cusp of transitioning into professional life. Ryan Muncy is a long-time member of International Contemporary Ensemble, where he also serves as Grants Director and Co-Director of their OpenICE initiative. Tanya Kalmanovitch is a Canadian violist, ethnomusicologist, and author, notably named to the 2018 Grist 50 Fixers, diverse innovators with bold solutions to humanity’s biggest challenges.
Virtual Visionaries is a 10-week series in partnership between UM’s EXCEL program, Eastman’s Institute for Music Leadership, and seven other national partners. Starting the week of May 25 through early August, this series brings together professionals across the performing arts for weekly virtual discussions on Zoom. We’ve selected a diverse group of leaders at various stages of their careers to engage in open conversations about topics ranging from personal finance issues, to developing identity-driven work, along with a variety of entrepreneurial approaches relevant to young arts professionals. Each week our guest speakers will also author a blog post, providing a sneak peek of the virtual sessions and providing a basis for our virtual discussion.
The series co-sponsors include:
Eastman School of Music’s Institute for Music Leadership
Manhattan School of Music’s Center for Music Entrepreneurship
Michigan State University’s Running Start Program
New England Conservatory’s Entrepreneurial Musicianship Department
Roosevelt University’s Center for Arts Leadership, Chicago College of Performing Arts
University of Colorado-Boulder’s Entrepreneurship Center for Music
University of North Texas’ Music Business and Entrepreneurship Program
Wayne State University’s Music Business Program