Can You Plan to be Remarkable?

By: Edna Landau

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In the past few weeks, I was pleased to be invited twice to speak to students at the Juilliard School. My first visit was to performance psychologist Dr. Noa Kageyama’s Performance Enhancement class and the second was to Assistant Dean Dr. Barli Nugent’s Career Development Seminar. In both instances, I was extremely impressed by the creative approaches taken by the teachers in hopes of stimulating and inspiring their students to listen to their inner voice and to begin to identify concrete steps that they could take towards their personal goals. Dr. Kageyama had given an assignment to his class to read bestselling author and marketing expert Seth Godin’s book Purple Cow. The subtitle of the book is: “Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable”. (It is based on the premise that a purple cow in the middle of a herd of Holsteins would be truly remarkable and never go unnoticed.) Inspired by an actual visit to the class by Seth Godin, the students had been thinking about how to apply his advice about standing out by being remarkable in their young lives and very early careers. They were leery of embarking on projects motivated simply by a desire to be different or to stand out from the crowd, for fear that their efforts would not be genuine and their projects would appear “gimmicky”. Fortunately, I was able to share with them examples from my own experience in artist management, such as violinist Hilary Hahn’s pioneering efforts, while still a teenager, in getting to know and expand her audience through her great dedication to her online journal and to post-concert record and program signings that often kept her at the hall well over an hour following the actual concert. (Such signings were not the norm in those days.)There was one year during which she communicated regularly with a third-grade class in Skaneateles, New York, for whom she had performed a residency activity. They were doing a social studies project that involved asking everyone they knew to send them postcards. When a card would arrive, the students would learn about the city it came from. Hilary saw a way to help and ended up sending 23 postcards from 20 different cities that she played in during the remainder of that season. She was passionate about these activities and they contributed to her being viewed as a remarkable person, in addition to being an extraordinary artist. The students and I also discussed groundbreaking projects that have already been undertaken by fellow students while still at Juilliard, such as Music Feeds Us and Chamber Music by the Bay (featured in my earlier column about the ACHT studio at Juilliard), and even by a student of Dr. Kageyama’s in that very class, violist Kim Mai Nguyen. An avid believer in arts education, Kim Mai has visited Guatemala to teach and perform with the children of the El Sistema Orchestra there and participated in the Afghanistan Winter Music Academy in Kabul, working with students of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music. It quickly became apparent that there are many ways for not only businesses, but also individuals, to become “purple cows” and that some of the necessary ingredients are courage, ingenuity, determination, passion, good taste and perseverance – all perfectly attainable by young, highly gifted musicians with their whole lives ahead of them.

My preparation for Dr. Nugent’s class was based on the awareness that her students had recently been asked to compose a bio for themselves in the year 2053 and to identify five steps they were prepared to take at this time towards making it a reality. What a stunning idea! As I did the math and thought back to where I was forty years ago, I was fascinated to discover that 1973 was a major turning point in my career. I was completing my master’s degree in musicology at the City University of New York and also my fifth year of teaching at the High School of Music and Art. While I very much enjoyed teaching, I was beginning to think that I should change my professional focus and find a job that would bring me closer to performing artists. Could I have then written a bio predicting that during the next forty years I would discover the exciting and rewarding world of artist management and be privileged to become managing director of the world’s biggest international agency? Absolutely not! However, as I look back and reflect on how things developed, I see that that certain key decisions and approaches to my professional growth (some of them equivalent to the first steps Dr. Nugent coaxed her class to ponder) propelled me successfully to the next level. I think they may have some resonance with those who are just starting out in their careers:

1)      Fight to realize your passion. My first job in artist management was as Assistant to the Director of Young Concert Artists. They wanted a full-time person. I convinced them to let me work part-time so that I could be home a bit more with my one-year-old son.

2)      Learn everything you can wherever you are. I convinced the director, Susan Wadsworth, to let me attend the annual international auditions and the annual trade conference in New York, even though my job was purely clerical. This taught me about the industry as a whole and ignited my passion for booking concerts and helping artists develop their careers.

3)      When you’re ready for a change, take the plunge and associate with the best. Since there was no opportunity for me to book concerts at YCA, I joined forces with Charles Hamlen, who I met at a trade conference. He took me into his six-month-old management and with our mutual ideals and much hard work, we began to secure engagements for a roster of relatively unknown artists and to build a favorable reputation for ourselves as Hamlen/Landau Management.

4)      Don’t be afraid to ask for help. When you need to capitalize your business or embark on a new project, all you need is to believe completely in what you are trying to accomplish, think of everyone you know who might help, and put a compelling and accurate financial proposal together. People want to be part of a growing success story. These realizations kept Hamlen/Landau Management going during some very challenging financial times.

5)      Always keep an open mind. Charles Hamlen and I never really knew why the sports conglomerate IMG, whose clients in those days included Martina Navratilova and Arnold Palmer, would want to acquire a very small artist management firm with substantial debt and an insignificant profit margin. Thankfully, we never dwelt on that. We saw a chance to pay back all of our investors, grow our business, and to learn from experts in client management (albeit in sports) on an international scale. When Itzhak Perlman became our client in 1986, we knew we had made the right decision.

Charles and I never really knew where our initial adventures were leading us and we didn’t set out to be “purple cows”, but we did spend a lot of time thinking about how we could distinguish ourselves in a field of super agents and still remain faithful to our goals, standards and ethics. Even if the Juilliard students achieve only 25% of what they project in their 2053 bios, their teacher is inspiring them to be confident to dream in tune with who they are today, and that is the most important contribution she can make on the eve of their graduation and entry into the professional world.

To ask a question, please write Ask Edna.

© Edna Landau 2013



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