So much to learn

We certainly had the required office space in our garage but now we had to decide what to do inside! Jeff and I had many long talks about our new venture and what we needed to do first, second and third. Like any new entrepreneurial idea, we had to figure out how to pay for the venues, commissions, and musicians. Finding the money — task number one.

We knew from our careers thus far that arts organizations in the United States rely on becoming tax-exempt non-profit organizations. In other words, our business would be exempt from paying taxes because we would have status as a charity, not looking to make a profit — our activities would be recognized for the public benefit.

The Strength of Ideas

Many friends and colleagues have encouraged me to write more in detail about how ideas originate, develop, and are finally realized. In my book and previous blogs, I have discussed the building blocks of creativity, especially inspiration, education, and the skills to bring one’s ideas to fruition. This blog is the first installment of a new series that will demonstrate idea development through my experiences as musician, administrator, educator and cultural entrepreneur.

My last blog spoke about the seed of creative ideas — inspiration. Something must inspire us in order to have the urge to create. Early childhood exposure builds interest and ultimately the direction of our life.

Experience Counts – The Personal Touch

The message in my voicemail was short and to the point: “I am a volunteer with the Music Academy of the West and I would like to thank you for your donation to our CARS program. This will benefit our scholarship fund and I am happy to let you know that we reached our annual goal six months early! If you would like to hear more about our programs, please call me at the following number.”

I was particularly happy to experience the personalized acknowledgment of our gift as I am an alumnus of the Music Academy. This exciting music festival which occurs each summer with top faculty in an incredible setting draws young music students from around the world.

Experience Counts – Build Your Resources

As one gathers ideas to begin a new venture, many questions surface. What do you want to do? Is your idea unique? Where is the best location and when should we begin? Who can I ask to help? And, what resources are available?

Ah, “resources.” This often becomes a code word for “where’s the money?” Even if you are beginning with funds out of your own pocket, you need many resources to support your idea. And, I wish to stress, the idea MUST always come first. A quick route to mediocrity is finding money first and then deciding what you can afford. A strong idea will always generate the resources — and many people agree with me. Michael Kaiser, former president of the Kennedy Center, has made this central to his advice to struggling organizations:

Experience Counts – Jump In!

As I return after an extended stay in Vietnam as Artistic Advisor to the Hanoi New Music Ensemble, I have decided to embark on a series of blogs that I hope will be of use to the Ensemble and other entrepreneurial artists. Each new organization is unique, reflecting their art and reason for existence. However, starting any new venture requires new skills and advice.

Our best consultant in 35 years remains Trader Joe, Joseph Coulombe, who founded the highly successful Trader Joe Markets. We both live in Pasadena (next to Los Angeles) and have many mutual friends. A few years after founding Southwest Chamber Music with my husband, I invited Joe to our office to offer us advice.

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