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 recently completed week nine of the Virtual Visionaries series.
The guests for this week were Katherine Banks and Bill Kalinkos. A Midwest based actor and educator, Banks recently reprised her role as Joanne in Mindhunter (Netflix). She has also appeared in the Jeff Award winning Men Should Weep with Griffin Theatre and in the sold-out production of She Kills Monsters at the Steppenwolf Garage. In addition to her performing work, Banks teaches at Greenhills Middle School in Ann Arbor and works as a freelance corporate spokesperson and communication trainer. Clarinetist Bill Kalinkos currently performs in such groups as Alarm Will Sound, Ensemble Signal, Deviant Septet, Eco Ensemble, and Splinter Reeds. Kalinkos is principal clarinetist of the Oakland Symphony, a member of both IRIS Orchestra and the New Hampshire Music Festival Orchestra, and he has performed with The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Cleveland Orchestra, and the Kansas City Symphony. As an educator, he has served on the faculties of the University of Missouri and the University of California at Santa Cruz and Berkeley. He can be heard on the Cantaloupe, Nonesuch, Euroarts, Naxos, Mode, Orange Mountain, Albany Records, Deutsche Gramophon, and Harmonia Mundi labels.
The topic for this week was Portfolio Careers. The blog and Zoom session were particularly relevant as our long-standing arts ecosystem is currently experiencing incredible, volatility, uncertainty, and change. A powerful takeaway from the video session was the concept of broadening our sense of identity: striving to be a whole human being or complete artist instead of siloing or limiting ourselves to being “just a clarinetist” or “just an artist.” In her blog post, Ms. Banks advocated for embracing a holistic approach to building one’s career:
…but I also think that the all in or bust model is outdated and ultimately does not help a young person fully expand into their unique self. It denies [one’s] . . . identity as an entrepreneur, as a family member, and as a complex artist with multiple channels available for expression. All in or bust sets you up for a single path towards success, but that path does not work for every person, and as we’ve seen in the last few months the path can quickly disappear.
Banks shared her experiences building a portfolio career—she is an actor, middle-school teacher, corporate spokesperson, and communication trainer. She shared her own perspective on evolving from having a single career goal to diversifying her work: “Don’t quit, but do re-define what it is that you were thinking about quitting in the first place. Broaden your identity from actor to artist, then figure out how you (unique and glorious YOU) can be that.” She encourages her students to “Find a web of interconnected ways that work that help you explore your changing lines of artistic inquiry.” Both Banks and Kalinkos spoke to the idea of understanding and developing our fundamental skill set and then applying those skills to a variety of settings both within and beyond the arts ecosystem.
Our exploration of portfolio careers raised the question of how one balances breadth vs. depth in their work and the perceived risk of lowering quality by diversifying our work. During the Zoom session, both guests spoke about being willing to ‘go deep’ in the moment with whatever is in front of you. They broke down the notion that depth isn’t possible in a portfolio career, highlighting the importance of being totally present in whatever work you are doing. While this was framed through an exploration of building a portfolio career advice proved timely when the uncertainty of the future can make it difficult to live and work in the present. This concept ties perfectly into perspective that Mr. Kalinkos offered about how he is navigating the current crisis:
What am I going to do now? In actuality, that question has always occupied my mind; it has shaped the career which has shaped my life. So I will continue to do what I have always tried to do: see what the future has in store for us, adapt as needed, and move forward with lots of help from my friends.
UP NEXT: Virtual Visionaries: Engaging Communities
Blog Post: Monday, August 3
Virtual Session: Thursday, August 6 from 5:00-6:00PM EDT
PRJC Summary: Saturday, August 8 at 10AM EDT
Zoom Link for the Virtual Session: http://myumi.ch/WwO37
Two artists with deep community engagement practices share ways to interface with communities around them in genuine, beneficial, and healing ways. The conversation will also address practical tips for how to begin fostering this type of work in your own communities. Pianist, scholar, and educator, Dr. Leah Claiborne, promotes diversity in the arts by championing piano music by Black composers in her performances, research, and teaching. Dr. Claiborne is the coordinator of Keyboard Studies at the University of the District of Columbia. Sydnie L. Mosley is an award winning artist-activist and educator who is interested in creative work that is both artistically sound and socially aware. She produces experiential dance works with her collective SLMDances. Through their choreographic work, the collective works in communities to organize for gender and racial justice.
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