A week ago I had the privilege of attending the seanwes conference in downtown Austin. The seanwes team is one I have been following for years. And the reason I keep coming back to their content on branding, relationship marketing, and goal setting is because it is consistently valuable information.
The Butler School of Music at the University of Texas has done a commendable job showing students that there is an alternative path to the music industry that doesn’t involve record labels, a top five orchestra seat, or a professorship. They brought in Fifth House Ensemble, Dana Fonteneau, Vijay Goupta, Eighth Blackbird and others to open our minds to the range of possibilities our careers offer. These speakers encouraged me to think intentionally about the path I was on, but didn’t give me the resources to build and grow my own sustainable business.
That is why I sought out the valuable expertise of the seanwes team. With experience growing businesses in hand lettering, icon design, podcast editing, videography and writing they are able to speak with clarity on how one can earn a living pursuing a creative passion.
I listen weekly to the podcasts that seanwes puts out, and after doing so for years felt like I knew the team like good friends. They were are part of the rhythm of my life. They were the source of many of the theses that have shaped my business today. But they had no idea who I was. I was an active listener in the sense that I put their ideas into practice in my life, but I didn’t actively engage or reach out.
This all changed after attending the seanwes conference 2016. It was hosted in Austin, so I really had no excuse to miss it.
I went to the conference because, though I knew the speakers would be incredible and the experience would be one of quality, I wanted most to put a face to the names I already knew so well. I wanted to shake hands with Sean and Ben and thank them for the way they have helped me influenced my life. I wanted to get myself around people who are hustling like I am. I wanted to understand others, I wanted them to understand me. I wanted to get even more inspired to grow.
The conference surpassed my expectations.
The people I met at the seanwes conference are the people I want to be around. Every conversation I had was significant. Every person I met was one I was able to spend weeks getting to know. I felt, in many ways, like I was amongst my tribe of people. I joked with my girlfriend that I’ve never been in the same room with so many INTJs in my life. Every one was working intentionally to think bigger about the meaning of their work.
The theme of the conference, think bigger, is one I’m still actively engaging with daily. I spend time wondering if my dreams are significant enough, if my vision is expansive enough, and if I’m being brave enough to acknowledge that I (and everyone else) is powerful beyond measure.
Sean McCabe’s talk, the last of the conference, challenged all attendees to think big. Instead of just developing a product, a service or a teaching sequence we need to redefine what it means to work in our industries.
What does it mean to redefine music education as it is now? What is changing? What should be changed?
These questions are ones that I’m actively pondering, but a few ideas come to mind that I plan to elaborate on in future posts.
First, how to reframe music education as a necessary investment and not a luxury. As Dr. Duke put it in class the other day, music is a matter of quality of life. Every student deserves, needs, quality music education in their life. I passionately believe that every person that I teach will become a more capable human, get in touch with their humanity, and lead a better life. The challenge is in communicating that value to those who I want to help.
Second, the internet is changing the way we interact. As Sean has proven, artists who use their hands to produce incredible work are finding vast audiences through the internet. By using the internet as an unprecedented tool for documenting what we do there is now the possibility for students to find teachers with expertise with principles that align with their own ambitions. Furthermore, the internet offers a medium for community building. Teachers can surround themselves by other amazing teachers and learn from each other as they haven’t had the opportunity before. And despite all of these promising opportunities, I can’t help but be concerned about the way internet culture also shapes our attention spans, consumption, and psyche. In some ways I wonder if violin lessons can be a counter cultural opportunity to protect mindfulness and build skills that will be so necessary in a rapidly changing world. I don’t know how the internet will change our perceptions of proximity, time, and knowledge, but I will stay very aware of how other industries are reacting to its potential.
And this leads to my third wondering, what is the future of music anyway? I have no idea, but do know that it has been a part of the human condition for as long as we have been humans. I think music is here to stay.
All of these questions bring me to thoughts of my work in this moment. What do I think is normal? What is the baseline of expertise in my field? How good do I need to be? How much good can I offer?
These thoughts are swirling in my head. I don’t have answers, not yet. But I am indebted to the seanwes conferences for providing me the head space, the inspiration, and the radical ideas from which I can build forward and reverse engineer the trajectory of my life.