On the horn, off the horn

When someone suggested I start a blog, I though who would even read this. However, I believe that my story of day job to music is one that might be good to document. I am finding thinking about what to put in a blog a great way of organizing my thoughts. I am going to call my blog “On the horn, Off the horn” as I would like to talk about my approach to becoming better on the horn as well as what I am doing on the business side.

 

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On the horn

One challenge which I’ve always faced is the shear amount of material available to practice. I found old practice logs where I would plan out every minute of the day. While this approach has some benefits, I believe it’s a question of quantity vs quality. This week what I wanted to focus on was my dexterity, something that I’ve always admired about other players.

I decided that I would use Clarke’s Technical studies to improve my dexterity. Everyday I picked two keys to work on and went through all 10 studies in those keys (where applicable). I developed a spreadsheet to keep track of my progress. This spreadsheet lists all 190 exercises, the key of each exercise, the tempo I could play the exercises cleanly at (clean tempo), a target tempo based on the marking of the exercise, and I calculated a percentage, for example if the clean tempo is 50bpm and the target tempo is 100bpm, I am playing the exercise at 50%. As the next few weeks go on, I am interested in seeing how I progress and getting my clean tempo closer to the target tempo. Contact me if you’re interested in seeing this spreadsheet.

Klaus Anselm School Poster

Off the horn

The first order of business for me was, well, business. The past roughly 10 years I have spent working for a company where you have to have a business plan in place. I know how to create this and wanted to apply the past decade of learnings to my new music endeavor. A friend of mine sent over a great video pertaining to business. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F06ePJZEmK0 , https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CWD3KSaeVs). One take away from this video was the difference between working in an office and working as an individual in a home business, music in my case. I was always accountable to someone at the day job, to set targets or have targets set for me and needing to reach those targets. As an individual, I am only accountable to myself. This was one of the first challenges.

I was no longer needing to get up early enough to beat the dreadful Toronto traffic to commute from Ajax to Etobicoke. A little extra sleep, not needing to necessarily change, were great luxuries for the first few days of being freed from a demanding day job. However, I quickly realized that I need to get up early (a 2-year-old son makes sure that is done), and I need to get dressed. I do this to be in the right mindset.

I was lucky to have a friend help me develop a business plan. My friend Jeff had one benefit which I didn’t realize was a benefit at the time. He wasn’t a musician. He is a dedicated visual artist with a passion for business. One question he asks me was simple to answer at first, but rather hard to focus in on: “Who is your target client”. One answer I had was people that want to hire me for gigs. This is such a broad answer which took a bit of thinking to focus in on. The real question might be, what do I want to do with my passion for music? For me, I want to play trumpet in a diverse array of settings and I want to focus on private teaching. I love teaching one on one.

I addressed the latter by researching private music schools in Toronto. I made a spreadsheet to keep track of where these music schools are, when I contacted them, if there was a reply, when I did a follow up. My goal was to get a list of 50 music schools. Of course, the issue was timing as I was in December contacting music schools. However, the point here is to put some tangible targets down, come up with a plan, and following through. It’s important to me to measure success, which is why I wanted to go a step further and keep track of who got back to me and/or who I’m sending a follow up email to.

My immediate goals or targets and my strategy are:

Private teaching: I made a spreadsheet to keep track of where these music schools are, when I contacted them, if there was a reply, when I did a follow up. My goal was to get a list of 50 music schools. Of course, the issue was timing as I was in December contacting music schools. However, the point here is to put some tangible targets down, come up with a plan, and following through. It’s important to me to measure success, which is why I wanted to go a step further and keep track of who got back to me and/or who I’m sending a follow up email to. Other strategies included putting up Kijiji/craigslist ads, print and distribute flyers in my neighborhood. I have started to volunteer at a high school, given that my current resource that I have a lot of is time for the time being. I am also setting up my home studio, a discussion I will expand on in next week’s blog.

Church Gigs: As with the music school strategy, I am in the process of finding 50 churches in my neighbourhood and putting together a package to send out to them. This package will include a write up of my experience playing in churches over the past 10 years and a video of me playing at a church. This brings up a discovery I made this week. I ran into a posting by another trumpet player who also wanted to target wedding ceremonies. In this player’s posting, a youtube link was included with instructions to go to a specific minute mark in the video. When I did this, I discovered that the video was of this player in an orchestra. I found it odd that the target audience is wedding ceremonies and made me realize that a package that is meant for a specific client target needs to make sense. If I wanted to sell a car, I wouldn’t put advertisement in place picturing motorcycles. While the two are related, it doesn’t seem to attract the right clients.

Trio: I’ve always wanted to put together my own project, and while this isn’t an urgent goal, I have decided a target audience and am putting material together that makes sense for this target audience. More on this over the next couple of weeks.

Next week I will go into greater detail on setting up and organizing my music studio and will expand on my business plan.

Thank you for reading my blog and I look forward to having you join me next week.




3 comments on On the horn, off the horn

  1. Rick Flanagan

    Hey Klaus,

    Sounds like you’re taking a fabulous approach to things..I just wanted to mention an idea about teaching. I once was hired by the board to teach clarinet and saxophone to Grade 7 & 8 kids. The board hired many professional musicians to do this type of work, and the classes were voluntary, extra-curricular. I quickly discovered I wasn’t very good at this job, and even though the pay was splendid I resigned.

    Later I was contacted by a high school teacher who had a ‘special’ musician. A talented kid who wanted to get into a jazz studies program at college or university following high school. The teacher knew that spaces for these programs were very limited, auditions difficult, and that he couldn’t properly prepare the kid. Would I take him on privately?

    I did and we began work. As I had recently acquired my Grade 8 Conservatory on Sax and Grade 6 on Piano, age 38 and did it all in one year practicing my butt off and studying under an hard taskmaster, I believed in that program, thus I took the student through it also.

    Next I contacted several universities and colleges and learned what the audition requirements were for students to enter into the jazz programs, and then we began work in earnest.

    All of my students were highly motivated, like athletes seeking scholarships, and were willing to practice 2-4 hours a day. I knew that at college they’d have their instruments in their hands for 6 hours a day and talent alone wouldn’t carry the day. They needed discipline, stamina, and well built chops.

    I charged them a monthly rate for their studies, whether it was a 3 week, 4 week or 5 week month. A fee which was monthly, payable at the first session of the month; rent money acquired. Sessions were an hour long due to all they needed and these were advanced classes, well above those offered in a music school.

    Over the years I had a rewarding career teaching these advanced kids, and every single one of them got into a jazz program. It was practically a guarantee of mine to their parents, that if the student did the work, I’d get them in. If a student started slacking or lost interest, I fired him. Simple as that. I only wanted the best and hungriest.

    This is a small niche market you may be able to develop for yourself, working out of home and not having to split money with a school. BTW, I charged more than a school would have, but I was giving a special service.

    I’m happy to say that my kids are all professional musicians, and/or high school music teachers, enjoying good careers.


    1. KlausTrumpet

      Thank you for your great comment Rick. It’s nice to get some words of wisdom. I would love to contact you privately with some follow up questions.


  2. Jordan

    Nice piece, Klaus. I think there is a lot to be said for keeping careful records both for personal practice and for “business development”. I don’t get the impression that many people do this, but it can be really valuable. Helps to overcome a lot of the cognitive biases that make decision-making difficult.


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