Posts in Letters to Students
Letter to my students: Kevin Spacey says "There is no prize out there" and other thoughts on finding work and finding your path.

Hi All,

Apropos of class discussions at Mannes and NEC this past week, here's a clip of actor Kevin Spacey giving advice to a younger actor on Inside the Actors Studio in 2000:

"There is no prize out there. The only prize is this one [points to self], and what you feel, and what you want to accomplish... I mean, to want and to be ambitious, and to want to be successful is not enough. That's just desire. To know what you want; to understand why you're doing it; to dedicate every breath in your body, to achieve... If you feel you have something to give, if you feel your particular talent is worth developing, is worth caring for, then there's nothing you can't achieve. You're going to grow up with your colleagues. You're going to watch them have success and watch them have failure, and you're going to watch how they deal with it. And they can be as much a teacher for you as anyone here, or anyone who's privileged enough to come here and speak to you."

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Letter to my students: Notes about composition and improvisation.

Hi All,

Thanks for an enjoyable and productive session Tuesday morning. This email is to remind you that you have a little assignment for next week's rehearsal: to make a sketch of an idea for a composition.

A few reminders:

  1. A sketch is just that --- some marks on paper that outline an idea. It is the seed of a composition; the start of a process. 
  2. An idea can come from anywhere. It can be anything. It does not have to first be musical notes. 
  3. Don't over-think this. Whatever you write will always and necessarily be only the outline of the music you will eventually make. It might help to think of there as being an elastic tension between the text (what is written) and the music (which will be sounded when we rehearse, develop and perform the music).
  4. Don't judge your ideas just as they're being born. Treat them with kindness and curiosity.

OK, that's the short version of this message. For more information, I invite you to read on…

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Parting Letter: Making a Life in Music

December 13, 2011

The conservatory is like an incubator for your music. Transitioning to the outside world can be scary and complicated. To complicate things further, not one of us has been handed the same deck of cards. But I know that each of you can survive as a musician. And I you can expect more than survival: you can set up a life that allows you to thrive as an artist. With that goal in mind, here are some essential tools.

1. Untangle money from music. While you’re in school, the relationship between music and money is suspended. When you get out, it can get complicated, fast. Without oversimplifying things, remember that money is simply a tool that allows you the time and materials to pursue your art to the fullest extent. Other than that, it has little to do with music itself.

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Parting Letter: Sunrise, Sunset

I wrote this letter with Eva Heinstein for the students in my section of The Entrepreneurial Musician course at New England Conservatory. Eva is the Program Manager of Entrepreneurial Musicianship, and our writing together is an organic outcome of our regular post-class conversations. The Entrepreneurial Musician is a survey of important professional skills and resources, but it’s also a space for students to consider what they want the fabric of their work and artistic life to be. In writing this letter, Eva and I tried capture some of the principles we hope students will take away as they continue their studies and begin to lay the foundation for a life in music.

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