Category Archives: Books News

A Different Take on Fergie’s NBA All-Star National Anthem Performance

beauty-trends-blogs-daily-beauty-reporter-2015-01-15-fergie-allure-february-2015-cover“…It’s better to be in the arena, getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot.” ~ Steven Pressfield author from The War of Art.

So it’s safe to say that Fergie took a few kicks to the ribs after her recent NBA All-Star Game national anthem performance, mostly via social media. But at least she’s in the arena…not in the stands where the social media vultures live. In the aforementioned book The War of Art, Pressfield goes on to say:

“A professional schools herself to stand apart from her performance, even as she gives herself to it heart and soul…The professional loves her work. She is invested in it wholeheartedly. But she does not forget that the work is not her. Her artistic self contains many works and many performances. Already the next is percolating inside her. The next one will be better, and the one after that better still…

The professional self-validates. She is tough-minded. In the face of indifference or adulation, she assesses her stuff coldly and objectively. Where it fell short, she’ll improve it. Where it triumphed, she’ll make it better still. She’ll work harder. She’ll be back tomorrow.”

There’s a saying that it’s better for an artist to “step over the line” from time to time than to always play it safe…and live life never knowing where that line is. Artists are by the nature of their work risk takers. It’s one of the 9 lessons of music education that translate into success that I’ve articulated in my book Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music – Lesson #6 – Risk Acceptance (Let’s Just “Jam”).

While I found Fergie’s performance unusual, I’m struck by that fact that 99% of the critics tearing her to shreds are people sitting on their couches, staring into their smartphones, and avoiding pursuing whatever endeavor is near and dear to their hearts out of laziness, insecurity, or fear of rejection.

I’m guessing Fergie will be “back in the arena” tomorrow so to speak, honing her craft and working on her next musical or other creative project. You can sit on the sidelines or in the parking lot waiting for the next artist to slip up so that you can throw daggers, or you can get to work and join her.




This Time Shall Pass: Learning to Play a Musical Instrument

Woman-Violin-Clipart-1According to independent survey results cited by NAMM, the trade association for music retailers, over 80% of individuals who never learn to play a musical instrument regret that they didn’t take the time to do so. When I attend home shows and people pass our booth, we often encourage those intrigued by the pianos to consider lessons. Our adult beginner classes are so enjoyable that participants never want to leave.

The number 1 response? “It’s too late for me to start now.”

What a shame.

When I set out to publish my book “Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music” several years ago, it seemed like a daunting task. Conducting and transcribing dozens of lengthy interviews, condensing them into readable segments, writing, re-writing, re-writing, re-writing…

Then someone gave me some great advice that I’ll never forget:

“The time will pass anyway. You might as well get started. You will either look back in 2-3 years and say ‘I did it,’ or you’ll be saying ‘I wish I had.”

It’s that simple.

Artists, Relevance, and Dan Pink’s “What’s Your Sentence”

As a musician, I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that long after we perish the earth, someone somewhere could be listening to and inspired or moved by the work we’ve left behind. I suppose that’s one of the motivating forces behind most artists’ work – the need to have an impact, to be relevant, and to be remembered – to have a legacy in our life’s work.

But can you define your legacy? That’s was author/speaker Dan Pink (author of A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule to Future) is asking people to do. At his website, he has posted videos from all over the world of people articulating their sentence – The exercise asks you to distill your life — what it’s about, why you’re here — into a single sentence.

Everyone has many aspects of their life and many stages. I can’t think of anything more important than my 16 year marriage and my 13 year-old son. But with respect to the work I do here in this forum:

“He uniquely articulated the benefits of music education and changed hearts and minds in the process.”

Why do you choose to be an artist?…and What’s Your Sentence?

Free E-Book: Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music

Free E-book!

My book Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music is now available for viewing or download at Google Docs (.pdf file). Please spread the word to music students, educators, and music education/arts advocates.

The reality for music students is that they will either pursue music/music education as a profession (in which case they will have the need to articulate the importance of music education) or they will enter the workforce outside of music (in which case they will have to articulate to a prospective employer the benefits of music education that are universally applicable in the workplace).

This compilation of interviews with 32 CEOs and business leaders who played music as a child or adolescent is a great resource in either of those efforts.

Note: All materials available for reprint with author acknowledgment and website reference (

Link to E-book Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music at Google Docs (view or download)

Link to purchase hard copy of Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music at

(Executive Summary: FROM THE BAND ROOM TO THE BOARDROOM…The 9 Common Lessons of Music Education That Translate into Success)

Music Education Advocacy Quick Links

I’ve posted these before, but for quick reference:

“Why Music Education Continues to Lose the Funding Battle” (and why sports programs win)

“FROM THE BAND ROOM TO THE BOARDROOM…The 9 Common Lessons of Music Education That Translate into Success”

“CEOs and Business Leaders Interviewed on the importance of music education”

Link to Free E-book Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music at Google Docs (view or download)

Link to purchase hard copy of Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music at

Arts for Healing Celebrates 10 Years!

One of the 32 people profiled in my book Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music was Karen Nisenson, founder of Arts for Healing, a creative arts therapy center that treats people with developmental disabilities ranging from down syndrome, autism, and Alzheimer’s through the application of music and arts therapy.

The non-profit recently celebrated their 10th anniversary. Karen raised 5 children as a single mother and somehow still managed to start this wonderful organization in New Canaan, CT. Congratulations to Karen and her staff for their success!

Music & the Creativity Lens

Family Practice Attorney Sands McKinley

Music and the arts are powerful means of cultivating your creative abilities. But it’s important to understand that those abilities can transcend the arts, even in endeavors considered “left-brain” dominant or activities using the “logic” part of the brain. It is said that Albert Einstein played violin when contemplating complex physics concepts, and often had (physics) breakthroughs during those (music) sessions.

In this excerpt from my book Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music, family practice attorney Sands McKinley discussed how his musical background and songwriting helped him approach the practice of law and everything else in his life through a “creative” lens.

“It’s part of the filter of the lens that you see the whole world through,” he hypothesized. “So when you’re seeing everything with an eye toward creativity, an eye toward innovation, and an eye toward creating something out of nothing, that’s a far more relevant and practical reason to want to have music and art instruction in schools than trying to make people better in math.”

Sands also pointed to the aspect of the discipline required for music education and the correlation with business. As we’ve discussed previously, those who have the discipline to work at their craft are generally more creative than their counterparts who idly wait for inspiration to strike like lightning.

“The discipline and focus that you need to master an instrument – I definitely brought that to the practice of law as well as to the creation of the firm,” he said.

Golden Periods: Music as an Agent for Social Change

(The following article features an excerpt from Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music, printed with permission from the author. The book is a compilation of 32 profiles of CEOs and business professionals who played music as a child or adolescent and view that experience as a defining one in preparing them for success in their business endeavors).

Pop Music and music in general are often a conduit for social change. For many adolescents, music expands their awareness and interest in social issues in a very tangible way. It expresses the concerns and angst of their generation.

Michael Guillot is a partner at Gadd-Guillot, a consulting firm assisting non-profit organizations and board members. He is also the former Vice-President of Patron Services at the North Carolina Symphony and a member of an outstanding vocal ensemble during his high school years, the latter an experience that shaped his understanding of the pursuit of excellence.

In this excerpt, Michael discusses the unique role that music played as a conduit for social change during his adolescent years:

“Art reflects life,” said Michael. “It was expressing that era of heightened change, of personal discontent, of grappling with core issues, of looking around you and not making a connection between what you saw and what you felt. Some of that had to do with justice issues, of race. Some of it had to do with equity issues – how come so and so has this and other people don’t? We claim to be the land of opportunity. Part of what we were striving for to identify in those days was how equitable was that opportunity.

“And of course, we were pressed on by a war,” he added. “That war for me and many other Americans was not just an abstract exercise. We knew people who had lost their lives in that war and their families who had been affected. And of course I was at the age where I was eligible for the draft, so it was not an academic exercise.

“So to find any art form, but particularly one as accessible and as present as popular music to begin to tussle with those issues [was important]. At the same time you had the Beatles; Bob Dylan; Peter, Paul, and Mary; and Pete Seeger. You had the emergence of folk music becoming protest music, and popular music sort of echoing those themes. So Rock and Roll goes from just a mere expression of youthfulness to an expression of serious political and sociological issues,” he observed. “It was a profound time. Many researchers call these periods golden periods, where a convergence of things happens. You look at Athens, you look at Rome, you look at the Renaissance, periods where art and civic and commerce and all these things come together. The 60s and all that it meant represented that time in the world. The first time the world had to stop and look at itself since WWII, and not necessarily liking what it found. You had a lot of art trying to tussle with that.”

For additional information regarding this article and the book Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music, including speaking engagement requests, contact or visit

To listen to excerpts from the audio interviews with these CEOs and business leaders discussing the correlation between music education and success, click here.

Music Education Budget Consideration: Keeping Students Engaged, Motivated, & Present

In a previous post, we featured a video interview of Roger H. Brown, President of Berklee School of Music in which he articulated why music education belongs in public schools. He stressed that the most important element of effective learning is a motivated student:

“If you care about people doing well academically, being prepared for careers, and having a successful life, the number one thing that you need to do is find something that gives them energy, that lights them up, that makes them feel animated. A sullen student sitting in a classroom being drilled on Algebra isn’t going to happen.”

Brown stresses that music is often the conduit that opens the student up to the concept of learning.

In my research for the book Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music, Bob Massie, CEO of Marketing Informatics echoed those sentiments when reflecting on his own academic experience:

“Music just completely filled my life,” he stated. “That was life in the small town. I did school just because that’s what you were expected to do, but I did it only as an obligation. Every waking moment I wanted to be involved in music someplace.”

It would seem that the “student motivation/effectiveness of learning” argument alone, as expressed by Brown, would justify funding of music education programs. Massie’s sentiments take it a step further – consider that in many cases, we might lose students altogether if we don’t provide the programs that energize them about participating in school at all.

It is worth noting that Massie’s company has been recognized in Inc. magazine as one of the 500 Fastest Growing Private Companies on several occasions and has been recognized for outstanding achievement by the Harvard School of Business, The Kelley School of Business, and the Indianapolis Business Journal.


Salesmanship: Sheryl Crow & The Universal Lessons of Music

In my research for the book Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music, Genevieve Thiers, CEO and founder of and opera singer discussed one of the lessons of her music experience that served her very well in starting her company – the concept that the process of auditioning helped her develop a thick skin and a fearlessness that was invaluable in establishing her start-up business.

This theme was consistent enough in our research that we identified salesmanship and branding as one of the 9 Common Lessons of Music that Translate into Success.

Pop/Rock recording artist Sheryl Crow echoes those sentiments in this excerpt from an interview at the Academy of Achievement:

“My mother says I have a lot of “chutzpah.” I did. You know, I was really naive about my career. I just figured if I kept working hard, and if I just seized moments, that things would happen, and that is really the way it worked. I was doing a recording session for a jingle, I believe, and I overheard some singers talking about an audition that was closed, supposed to be on recommendation, and I found out where it was and I went, and that’s how I got it.”

Read the Sheryl Crow interview transcript, or watch video or audio excerpts at the Academy of Achievement website

Listen to Genevieve’s thoughts on Music Education & Success