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Angela Myles Beeching | Beyond Talent Consulting
The Professional Musician's Roadmap
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Ever Bomb an Interview?

MONDAY BYTES — July 18, 2016

Ever bomb a job interview?

While most of us have done our fair share of ruthlessly critiquing our auditions and performances, we rarely apply the same scrutinizing to our interviews.

And unfortunately, without reflecting on what went right and what went wrong—and why—we can end up repeating the same interview mistakes again and again.

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My first college teaching job interview was unsuccessful (I didn’t get the job)—but in hindsight I’m so grateful for what I learned in doing it.

I was completing my doctorate in cello at the time and had made the short list for a cello teaching job in the midwest. As one of the 3 finalists, I was flown to the school and put up for 2 days of meetings, master class, a mini recital, chamber music performance, and teaching a music history class session. It was grueling. (These types of interviews always are, so pacing yourself is crucial.)

But the most important lesson I learned was to be prepared for the unexpected: every interview throws at least one curve ball.

For me, the unexpected thing was . . .

an inappropriate comment made by a search committee member at the end of the two days, while he was driving me back to the airport. It was something along the lines of, “When we first saw you with the cello case, you looked so small, we never imagined you’d have such a big sound.”

I’d like to assume the search committee member meant this as a compliment and not as a condescending sexist putdown. Although I caught a hint of the “you’re such a cute little munchkin” kind of sentiment.

FYI: I’m 5′ 4″ and not physically imposing. And (at least back then) looked younger than my years.

Although I didn’t like it, the comment was a helpful wake-up call to the reality that how I thought I was coming across was different from how others saw me (apparently as small, young, inexperienced).

While I couldn’t change my height, I realized I could do a lot more to convey a greater sense of confidence and ability — through how I dressed, spoke, and carried myself.

The experience made me realize that to succeed I couldn’t simply wing interviews, and that “being yourself” wasn’t helpful advice.

Truth is, even if you ask for feedback after the fact, an employer is never going to tell you outright what you specifically did to blow the interview.

Why? Because they don’t know you, don’t want to hurt your feelings, or risk litigation. You might get some clues from a kind employer but you’ll never get the complete unvarnished truth.

So the comment that faculty member made helped me. It prompted me for the first time to fully consider the impression I made on others. Because I didn’t want any future employer to underestimate me.

To prepare for subsequent interviews I read several books on how best to present myself in interview situations, and I asked mentors for advice.

I learned that in job interviews (and other professional situations) I needed to wear something that would help me look and feel professional and strong (blazers or jackets help). And I needed to make sure that my demeanor, conversation, and presentations likewise fully communicated my abilities.

With one of my DMA advisors, Richard Kramer, the Chair of the Music Department at Stony Brook University, I also did a mock interview.

For this, he met me at his office door (in full role play mode), and extended his hand, introducing himself. I shook his hand and he promptly told me that my handshake was terrible: it was wimpy.

Another tough but important lesson!

Fast forward: I did improve my interview skills and went on to win cello teaching jobs first in California and then in upstate New York. Years later I shifted my focus to career development and entrepreneurship and since then I’ve helped hundreds of musicians successfully prepare for interviews.

Typically we do mock interviews and I give clients honest, direct feedback and tips to more effectively convey their strengths. I also ask clients questions about their mindset and their preparation process:

What questions do you imagine you will be asked?

Which of these questions are you most worried about?

What 3 short anecdotes do you have that illustrate your distinct teaching skills and experience?

What questions are you planning to ask during the interview?

What qualities and core values do you want them to “get” about you?

What helps you to feel strong and centered?

Having an excellent cover letter and CV may get you considered and may get you the interview but they won’t get you the job. There’s the phone screening and the in-person interview (sometimes more than one, depending on the job). So, what are you doing to improve your interview skills?

For this week: Reflect on an interview that didn’t go well. What did you learn from it?

For more help, here are 2 more blog posts:
Interview Panic? Mock interviews analyzed
Where Fools Rush In? How practice can work to help you ace the real interview

Stay tuned: next week I’ll send my list of specific Interview Mistakes (and how to avoid them)!

As always, I welcome your comments and examples—would love to hear your interview stories and lessons learned!

And if you’d like help preparing for interviews or job applications, let’s talk! I’m easy to reach at angela@BeyondTalentConsulting.com

Specifics about coaching with me are HERE.

Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well

Musicians Lives Matter

MONDAY BYTES — July 11, 2016

In the wake of the violence over the past weeks, it may seem that what we do as musicians is irrelevant. That in times of strife, the people who matter—who make a difference—are not musicians.

In a world obsessed with material wealth, social media, and celebrity, and at a time when violence is becoming all too common, a life in the arts can seem strangely disconnected and unimportant.

Thinking about all this made what happened this past Saturday in my neighborhood of Boston all the more remarkable. It unexpectedly altered my understanding of how music operates through us and on us.

picPorchfestJamaicaPlain150711T_0334w

Gyovanni (Giovanni Houessou) sings at First Baptist Church, JP Porchfest 2015, photo: Greg Cook

Saturday was a cold and damp day in Boston, but that didn’t deter the organizers, performers, and fans from coming out for the third annual Jamaica Plain Porchfest a mini festival that happens in my favorite ‘small town’ section of Boston.

The concept is pretty basic: musicians perform on porches and neighbors, friends, and new comers stop by to sample performances while getting to know each other and their community.

The Porchfest idea originated in Ithaca, New York, in 2007, but there are now more than 50 similar events around the country, and in the greater Boston area the are four others beyond Jamaica Plain.

How it works
Similar to open studios, organizers put out a social media call for participants, and bands sign up online to play on their own porches or front yards.

The dilemma that the Jamaica Plain organizers found in earlier years was that the Facebook call for performers mainly attracted white male bands, so the performances didn’t represent the diversity of Jamaica Plain.

“Part of the issue was that musicians were being asked to provide their own porches,” according to a WBUR piece, “So the organizers invented a new system: people could sign up to be hosts, or they could sign up as performers, and Porchfest would mix and match.”

This opened the event up to many more diverse performers, and the organizers also expanded the diversity of offerings—adding poetry readings, story telling, and comedy.

picPorchfestJamaicaPlain150711W_0048w

Johnny Blazes and The Pretty Boys play at 17 Segel St., JP Porchfest 2015, photo: Greg Cook.

What it’s actually like
I walked down one side street and got to hear three different bands as I passed, with listeners on stoops or in lawn chairs, people meeting their neighbors, and enjoying the experience before moving on to their next stop.

The bands had signups for their mailing lists and some had lemonade, snacks, and giveaways. The organizers provided maps with schedules and descriptions. It was like a huge block party and scavenger hunt combined spread over 86 performance sites.

En route to hear some favorite folks (shout outs to the Voci Angelica Trio and to Brian Friedland and Co.—YAY!), I got a chance to discover other performers as well as parts of JP I hadn’t been to before. I also heard poetry accompanied by random traffic noise (keeping things real) and a comedian who had a solo bassist as an unexpected accompanist (the performances were on opposite sides of the street, so it made for a great John Cagian mix).

I heard inventive jazz, rock, bluegrass, world folk, poetry, story telling, and comedy — and everyone was out and about — the advance guesstimate on attendees was 10,000.

I saw kids mesmerized by performers, parents rocking babies, spontaneous dancing, and people treating each other well. We were all getting more human: being more neighborly.

Why it matters
After the shootings of the past week, it felt especially important to be outside with so many neighbors, feeling a part of a community and seeing people treating each other well. Because that’s what music does: it draws people together and allows them to be at their best, emotionally open and fully present.

It’s as though music is a kind of drug that gets us to stop racing around and pay attention to our own emotions and to all the life and lives around us.

Porchfest is music and performance at its most personal—on front porches and for audiences sitting and standing within arms reach.rad

As musicians, our work is about getting right up in each others’ emotional spaces. In doing so, we transform spaces, venues, and neighborhoods, making these safe and welcoming places to be with each other in community.

THAT is very important work.

To boost your work this week, check out The Function of Music video (4:11) a thought-provoking interview with Jad Abumrad, of Radio Lab, remixed into a kind of video collage. Good stuff.

This week: With many people feeling powerless in the wake of so much violence, take time to reflect on the value your work offers others, and how through your work you can affect change. See how this reflection affects your own actions and outlook this week.

As always, I love getting your comments and ideas: reach me at Angela@BeyondTalentConsulting.com

And if you want help clarifying your purpose and your professional path, let’s talk! Connect with me HERE.

Specifics about coaching with me are HERE.

Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well

Quitting Your Day Job?

MONDAY BYTE — Happy July 4th, 2016

It’s personal revelation time this week, and it’s fitting for an Independence Day celebration byte:

After 5 terrific years at Manhattan School of Music as Director of the Center for Music Entrepreneurship, I’m changing things up.

As many of you may know, I’ve been living a double life: teaching and consulting in New York and Boston each week. While I’ve loved working with the students, faculty, and staff at MSM and have enjoyed having a foot in both cities, it was time for me to follow my own advice and fully commit to my private consulting and writing projects.

Thursday June 30 was my final day at MSM and I’m pleased to report I’ve left the CME in the extremely capable hands of my colleague and friend Casey Molino Dunn as the CME Director. And I have taken with me many fond memories along with ideas and inspiration for future projects.

I’m also happy to now have time for more consulting work and to dive into long deferred writing and research projects. And I have room for two additional private coaching clients, so let me know if you’d like to connect and have a sample mini consultation. Reach me at angela@BeyondTalentConsulting.com.

Now, for anyone else who may be considering quitting their day job to pursue their own path, there are many factors to consider, from health insurance, to savings, lifestyle, spending habits, support system, and ability to promote yourself. I can attest, change is both exhilarating and fear inducing. That’s energy we can harness.

For me, this decision took time. Because the better the job and the more you like the work and colleagues, the more difficult it is to leave. I wish there were a magic bullet but the truth is big decisions, because they’re important, warrant careful consideration.

Once you’ve weighed the pros and cons, worked out all of the logistics, and have a workable financial plan, still you’re left with the ultimate question:

Are you ready to do this?

Ready for the uncertainty, ready to take full responsibility, ready for the emotional roller coaster?

The #1 factor it comes down to is fear of change.

Here are some of my favorite resources for dealing with this.

1. Three secrets to making your desired change (video 5:02 minutes) from last year’s First Tuesday workshop for Chamber Music America.

2. Article by Lisa Girard in Entrepreneur, “10 Questions to Ask Before Quitting Your Day Job.” Although the article is aimed at business people it applies to freelance musicians equally well.

3. Favorite quotes on dealing with fear:

“Nothing diminishes anxiety faster than action.” — Walter Anderson

“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” — Jim Rohn

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.” — Michael Jordan

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” — Mary Anne Radmacher

“Remembering you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.” — Steve Jobs

For this week: what’s a concrete example of a fear of change you experienced and were able to overcome? How did you do this?

What’s something you fear now that you could use the same intervention on?

As always, I love getting comments and feedback. I’d love to hear your experience of overcoming a fear of change as well as any stories you care to send about quitting a day job to angela@BeyondTalentConsulting.com.

If you’d like to get help moving past your own resistance to change, let’s set up a time to talk HERE.

Dream Big, Plan Smart, Live Well