Yesterday, the good folks at NewMusicBox (the web magazine of the American Music Center) published a rather massive article of mine called “Composing a Life, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Dollar.” It’s my plea to composers and the new music community (which is the world I come from) to get more actively involved in the conversations that affect the lives and careers of all artists. Along the way, I go into greater depth on the Pro-Am Revolution, turn a critical eye toward graduate music education, and consider the diversity problem in classical music’s shrinking audiences, sprinkling statistical nuggets and research findings throughout.

Here’s an excerpt:

What changed me the most [at business school] was the exposure to an endless panoply of other areas of human life beyond contemporary classical music. Sure, I learned about assets and liabilities and how to read a cash flow statement, but I also learned about the auction for 3G wireless ranges, competition between Target and Wal-Mart, why Turkey is an emerging power player in the Middle East, and how colleges and foundations manage their endowments. […]

In the course of this sudden immersion into what the rest of the world thinks about and does on a daily basis, I came to realize that my former existence had been focused like a laser on about 0.00001% of everything that matters. It was like the veil had been lifted on my life: the choices I faced when I voted in an election or needed to buy produce or searched for an apartment to rent or, yes, chose a graduate school had all been determined by somebody, or more often a collection of somebodies acting in somewhat predictable ways. It became clear to me that I was never going to have control over my own destiny unless I had the capacity to see and understand the external forces that were influencing my circumstances. And if that’s true for me, it’s true for you, too. So here are a couple of vignettes from my own journey into the belly of the capitalist beast, which I offer in the hopes of connecting my experiences (and perhaps some of yours) to the bigger picture. After all, we are just variations on a theme.

Read the rest over at NewMusicBox.

  • Great article, a must-read for all music majors. Congratulations on pursuing your graduate education outside music.

  • George Lam

    Thanks Ian for the article – it’s a terrific, fresh take on the situation at hand, and a much needed POV on newmusicbox.

  • This is an excellent post. I look forward to digesting the whole article soon. As a trained composer with several years of entrepreneurial business experience (in the investment industry), I feel that this perspective is very important. In fact, it’s a goal of mine – as you’ve started to do with this article – to help share some of my experience as a person with a foot in both worlds with young musicians in training. I’m glad I found your site and I look forward to discussing this topic more.

    Grant Charles Chaput