Alan Zweibel hosts this month’s Music Education Blog Carnival, a compilation of blog posts related to music education that appears at a different music education bloggers website each month during the school year. Thanks to Alan for compiling this outstanding resource and for including me in this month’s edition:
Link to the May 2010 Music Education Blog Carnival
Here are a handfull of the 32 audio interviews of CEOs and business leaders that I conducted to compile the book Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music
by Craig M. Cortello
(The following article is 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.)
These are alarming times for the plight of music education funding. Economic downturns are an immediate sign of crisis for those programs that have perennially been at or near the education budgetary chopping block. Non-profit organizations that try to fill that resource gap often rely on the benevolence of those impacted by an ailing economy. Perhaps a new understanding of the transcendent lessons of a music education can lead to a reshuffling of education priorities.
Consider a conversation that I had a couple of years ago with Ellis Marsalis, Jr., modern jazz pioneer, music educator, and the father of the first family of jazz in New Orleans and beyond. “To me there’s nothing wrong with somebody who has played a musical instrument and is not going to do it for a living becoming the CEO of a major corporation, and there’s a ton of that,” said Marsalis. “I met a guy at Merrill Lynch who’s a clarinet player. One of the best pianists we had, a young lady at NOCCA when I was teaching there – She’s a banker in New Jersey” (NOCCA refers to the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, an advanced program for young prodigies of music and the arts for high school-aged youths in New Orleans).
Ellis Marsalis, Jr. understood that regardless of whether the ultimate vocation of the students that came under his tutelage (including his children) turned out to be trumpet, saxophone, trombone, percussion, or banking and financial services, music education could comprise an integral component of the foundation for their success. As he explained, it’s only one element, but an important one in a well-rounded education that prepares a student for a diversified world and uncertain times.
Researching the Business Correlation of Music Education
For a period of 18 months I discussed this subject with 32 CEO’s and business leaders from around the country (and a few from beyond). The task was to identify successful people from a cross-section of business who were influenced by music education as a child or adolescent and who view that experience as a defining one in preparing them for success in their business endeavors. I asked them to reflect and to articulate the lessons learned, attributes developed, and insights gained from their music experience that were highly correlative to success in the business world, “FROM THE BAND ROOM TO THE BOARDROOM,” so to speak. Here are the nine common lessons articulated by the research participants.
1. Confidence and Self-Esteem (Stepping Up to the Mic)
One of the most common benefits of music expressed by our research subjects was the development of confidence and self-esteem. Consistently, I heard our contributors speak of the positive effect that performing in front of an audience, mastering a new musical piece, or simply connecting with other musicians in an ensemble had on building their ability to believe in themselves and perform under pressure.
“Courage is realizing your fear and going ahead and doing what you should do. So for me, realizing that I had stage fright, the confidence builder was that I did it. I was supposed to get up and do a solo, and I actually finished. That built the confidence. Something that I was terrified to do, I could prepare to do it and do it well, despite being afraid.
“As a surgeon there are lots of times when you make your incision, and it’s a lot more challenging than you thought it would be…That experience helped me in terms of training me that when you get a little nervous, to use that energy to perfect your performance rather than fall apart.”
H. Steven Sims, M.D. Director, Chicago Institute for Voice Care
Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center
Vocalist, Pianist, Trombonist, & Bassoonist
2. Collaboration and Teamwork (I’m in the Band)
There’s a certain give and take that comes from playing in a band where you have to assess the strengths, weaknesses, and personalities of the members of the team. Fitting the complex pieces of that puzzle in a way that makes the music come together is quite an art. Those skills translate well to business endeavors or projects that involve teamwork and collaboration.
“In five minutes, I’m going to walk into a room to talk about a multi-million dollar RFP (Request for Proposal). I’m going to go in there with an idea or two or three or four, and I’m going to sit down with other senior people in the firm. As if we were a jazz combo, we’re going to just start riffing off of one another, and we’re going to find a rhythm – a creative, strategic rhythm. And then we’re going to come out with some really good ideas.
“I don’t want to belabor the parallel, but when you have people who speak the same language, musical language or intellectual language, people who have similar skill sets and traits and talents, and you bring them together with a common purpose, good things often happen.”
(Global Independent Public Relations Firm)
Guitarist, Music Critic
3. Leadership (Conducting Your Symphony of Employees)
The application of the competencies of teamwork and collaboration takes on new meaning from the perspective of a leader. A conductor must understand the strengths of all of the musicians, understanding how their skills fit into the big picture of the orchestra. That conductor must then communicate a compelling vision, motivating the players to either step into the spotlight or to subjugate their own needs for the benefit of the whole, depending upon the circumstance.
“Naturally, every singer has all the skills to be an entrepreneur. When you’re an entrepreneur, you see a niche and an opportunity in everything. Once you learn to channel energy and direct power when you’re in front of people and you’re singing, it’s something you never forget. You can’t be a singer unless you are a leader.”
Founder/CEO Sittercity.com (America’s Leading Online Caregiver Matching Service)
4. Salesmanship and Branding (Give the Fans What They Want)
Musicians and bands have to put together songs, performances, or identities that their fans (or potential fans) will find compelling. While greater musical proficiency will improve your chances of success, it’s no guarantee. Repeatedly, participants spoke of how that constant campaign of engaging their fans and packaging their music in a way that creates loyalty served them well in business.
“To this day, it [music] is the driving sense of self that I have. I still think of myself as a musician with a day job, not a Silicon Valley marketing executive. Being successful is not about being the best musician. There’s somebody singing in a bar that’s a better piano player than Billy Joel or Elton John.
“You learn that and apply that to business as well. You can have the absolute best technology or the best product or service, but it comes down to brand awareness and getting noticed in the marketplace.”
Vice-President of Marketing, Mozes, Inc.,
(Mobile marketing technology company)
Keyboard Player, Songwriter
5. Creativity & Innovation (Improvising From the Charts)
Unless we think of creativity as a muscle that gets stronger with exercise or withers with inactivity, we’ll never reach our creative potential. People involved in music come to the workplace with toned and fit creativity muscles.
“One of the things that musicians and artists tend to do is explore other people’s art and other people’s way of doing things. I think we’re looking for inspiration. I think we look at a level that non-musicians don’t.
“Most non-musicians more easily stay in their rut. Musicians tend to find ways out of the rut, because that’s what gives us joy – learning the new thing.”
CEO & Founder, Burrus Research, Technology Forecaster, Best-Selling Author of Technotrends
6. Risk Acceptance (Let’s Just “Jam”)
Before one can get to a place where creativity and innovation are possible, learning to trust the process that discards familiar, safe systems is a prerequisite. We must walk out on that musical limb and have “jam” sessions. We’ll just see what happens and assess the results afterwards. Musicians understand that the greatest innovations often come when you leave the harbor of predictable outcomes and sail into the sea of uncertainty.
“The insurance business is purely risk taking…You go in knowing there are going to be risks involved. Any time you play music, there are risks involved. You can have equipment failure. You can have rain. Somebody can get sick. Guitar strings break.
“Then there’s the personal risk. There are going to be better people in the audience, and I’m going to be nervous. I’m going to forget my part. Or I’ve got to sing this really high part, and I hope that I can hit that note this late in the evening. There’s a whole range of risk that you take in a band that’s highly correlative to business.”
Vice-President of Marketing, Underwriting, and Claims
Clements International (Leading Insurer of Expatriate Markets)
7. Discipline and Fundamentals (Learning the “Scales” of Your Profession)
The discipline that musicians must possess to develop their craft to the point that they are even ready to share their talents on any significant level is often underappreciated. How many times had Joe Pass played a scale on the guitar, put chords and bass lines together in interesting combinations, or simply run through fingering techniques to stay sharp and limber? I don’t know the answer, but when I hear
his recordings, contemplating those questions is mind-boggling.
“I can’t even imagine what I would have done with my time during those years if I hadn’t had marching band and drum and bugle corps. I really felt like I had no direction otherwise. What it gave to me was something to focus on, something to commit to, and it really pushed me to grow in ways I would have never been able to grow.
“It teaches you to be accountable to something other than yourself. It teaches you to commit. It’s a great character builder.”
Professional Organizer, Speaker, Author
Drummer & Percussionist
8. Individuality (Make Your Own Kind of Music)
Any form of expression, especially music, is an exercise in self-discovery. Determining what makes you unique is perhaps the most important aspect of personal development. Music and the arts help people find their unique “voice” in life rather than just going through the motions. There is perhaps no greater gift we can give our children than those tools of introspection.
Also, in a global business world where access to information, technology, and resources is getting easier, differentiation is essential.
“Listening to, performing, discovering, feeling, and expressing music is almost like nature itself unfolding inside of you. To deny people that world of discovery seems to be bordering on criminal.”
S. Neil Vineberg, President, Vineberg Communications,
Guitarist (recording and performing credits
include Whitney Houston, Carlos Santana,
& Narada Michael Walden)
9. Passion (Play it With Feeling)
Hand in hand with finding your unique talents is the discovery of your passions. We have too many people on the planet who are square pegs trying to fit into round holes. They have jobs and no purpose, a living but not a life, and they are avoiding the pursuits that they are uniquely qualified to offer to the world due to fear or complacency.
Yet nothing great was ever achieved without passion.
“When it comes to success in business, the first place that people fall down and fail is by refusing to own up to their actual dream. Rock bands teach us that the actual dream is to be world-famous. To play huge arenas and change people’s lives.
“When people come to business, I wish more of them would say that. Your goal is to change the face of the world through what you do. If more people came to the table like 16 year-old rock musicians, they would find a lot more success and a lot more happiness in the success they find.”
Mark Truman, Executive Director & Founder,
College entrance consulting, tutoring, and test preparation
About the Author
Craig Cortello is a contributing music writer to Where Y’at magazine and AllAboutJazz.com, having had the pleasure of interviewing such New Orleans music icons as Pete Fountain, Ellis Marsalis, Jr., Marva Wright, and Henry Butler. He is also a 30 year veteran of the guitar, a self-taught pianist, and a composer.
In business, Craig most recently served as National Sales Manager of a successful environmental consulting firm with 28 offices in the U.S. and China. He is a board member of the National Speakers Association New Orleans chapter and of the Metairie Sunrise Rotary Club. 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 ccortello@LDV-Enterprises.com or visit www.BusinessMusician.com.
To listen to excerpts from the audio interviews with these CEOs and business leaders discussing the correlation between music education and success, click here.
The well-intended implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act has resulted in increased emphasis on standardized testing in our schools and fewer resources available for subjects other than reading and math (including music and the arts). The Aspen Institute’s Commission on No Child Left Behind is holding a hearing in New Orleans today to discuss education standards, data, reform. etc.
My comments submitted for the record are noted below. You can provide written comments for the public record via e-mail. Click here for more info.
April 5, 2010
The Aspen Institute’s Commission on No Child Left Behind
Lavin Bernick Center, Kendall Cram Room (#213)
New Orleans, LA
April 5th, 2010
1:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. CST
Working Together for Student Success: Accountability, Data, and High Standards
COMMENTOR NAME: Craig M. Cortello
AFFILIATION: Music Education Advocacy author and speaker. Author of Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music (La Dolce Vita Publishing, 2009). A 20 year veteran of engineering, consulting, and manufacturing industries and a 30 year guitarist/pianist/songwriter. Contributing music writer to Where Y’at magazine in New Orleans and AllAboutJazz.com. Business articles have appeared in Convention Forum, Industrial Engineer, and Executive IdeaLink magazines.
RE: Music Education & No Child Left Behind
From the perspective of the arts community, No Child Left Behind was seen as a significant victory, in the sense that it recognized “Arts” as a core academic subject. As is often the case, there seems to be a disconnect between what has been written into law and what is in fact reality.
According to a series of reports by the Center on Education Policy that tracks the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act (which became law in 2002) entitled From the Capital to the Classroom, 62 percent of elementary school districts reported increasing time for English and/or math since the 2001-02 school year by an average increase of 42 percent. At the same time, 44 percent of elementary school districts reported cutting time from one or more other subjects including science, social studies, art and music, physical education, lunch, and recess by an average of about 30 minutes per day.
“What gets tested gets taught,” said Jack Jennings, CEP’s president and CEO. “Because so much is riding on reading and math, included on state tests, many schools have cut back time on other important areas, which means that some students are not receiving a broad curriculum.”
The report also notes that these changes are more prevalent in districts that are home to struggling schools. One recommendation from the report is to “include measures of knowledge and skills in art and music as one of the multiple measures used for NCLB accountability.”
Over a period of 2 years, I conducted interviews with 32 CEOs and business leaders who played music as a child or adolescent and view that experience as a defining one in preparing them for success. The compilation of those interviews and profiles became the primary content of my book entitled Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music, published in September of 2009, a copy of which I have submitted for the record.
One of the questions that I asked of all of the research participants was this, “Based on your experience with music, if a school principal or administrator came to you and asked for 2 or 3 talking points that would be compelling in justifying funding to keep a music education program intact, what would you say.”
Consistently, the answer to that question was some variation of the following:
“Music kept me engaged in the school experience where I might have become disenchanted with the experience otherwise.”
“I kept up with my studies to fulfill an obligation so that I could play in the marching band.”
“I didn’t feel part of the mainstream, but music became my identity.”
“I knew I had talent, but I don’t respond well to traditional assessment methods. Music validated that belief for me.”
And therein lies the irony. In short, music education IS a no child left behind program. It keeps children that don’t necessarily shine according to traditional metrics of student performance involved in school.
Sometimes tutoring and remedial course offerings are not enough to keep children on the bus. We need to find a motivating reason for them to want to come along for the ride.
It does seem to me that the very well-intended accountability motives that have driven the demand for standardized testing have led us to a more narrow approach to education. These changes come in an era when the workforce is demanding more well-rounded, diversified individuals possessing artistic sensitivities, as expressed very articulately by authors such as Daniel Pink, Sir Ken Robinson, Ned Herrmann, and John Kao.
Creativity is just one of 9 common lessons that we identified from music education that translate into business success, FROM THE BAND ROOM TO THE BOARDROOM so to speak. One common theme in most all research on the topic of creativity is the concept that creativity is like a muscle. The capacity for creative thought will either strengthen with use or wither with inactivity. We must engage in creative activities in order to develop that capacity.
My concern – Where will our children have the opportunity to strengthen their “creativity muscles” without music and arts education in our schools?
In closing, I would like to simply say that until we recognize that music and the arts are as essential as reading and math in preparing our students for the 21st century workplace, any perceived improvements through the implementation of accountability measures are hollow victories. Our ability to meet performance metrics is meaningless if those metrics are not a true measure of the needs of our students.
James Carlini is an international business infrastructure and technology consultant and a former distinguished teaching award recipient at Northwestern University’s School of Continuing Education. He advocates a movement away from the 3 R’s of education that were appropriate for the industrial age toward what he refers to as the F-A-C-T approach toward education – that is, a focus on Flexibility, Adaptability, Creativity, and Technology as the necessary cornerstones of a post-information age education. And music and the arts should play an integral role in that migration.
I ask you to reverse this disturbing trend of diminishing resources for music and the arts.
LA DOLCE VITA ENTERPRISES, LLC
Craig M. Cortello
The “Business Musician”
P.O. Box 746
Metairie, LA 70004-0746
Cell: (504) 481-6105
Do you believe in art for art’s sake? Me too. Music and the arts help us connect as humans and share common emotions. They can be a conduit for social change. They inspire us to see the best in ourselves, and achieve our own potential. No argument here.
Here’s the problem – those who are tasked with prioritizing education funding believe in art for art’s sake as well – they just don’t always believe it’s a function that the education system should be subsidizing, at least when push comes to shove in difficult economic times.
We should be able to justify arts on their own merits – in an ideal world. Here on the planet earth, it’s not working. Essentially, legislators and administrators believe that when forced to choose between worthwhile priorities, the most essential function of education is to prepare students for their careers. Art for art’s sake is an argument that essentially frames the music education funding discussion in this way for legislators and administrators – Do I fund programs that are necessary or those that are a luxury in the context of preparing students for the “real world?” Math and reading are seen as essential in any vocation, music only for the aspiring musician.
We need to reframe the terms of the debate.
Certainly programs will always exist that will nurture those identified as musical prodigies and develop their talents in the pursuit of music as a career. That’s not my greatest concern. The value of music education is in exposing all students to the arts and providing them with a vehicle for developing creative, diverse, and broad-minded individuals more ready for a changing world and changing workplace in any field.
For someone who has written a book entitled Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music that chronicled the stories of 32 CEOs and business leaders articulating the 9 common lessons of music education that translated into success in business, I might be seen as a shameless self-promoter for sharing this message. Understood.
The truth is that the futility of music education advocacy is the reason that I left corporate America to write the book. It’s why I have toured the nation over the last 6 months speaking to early morning television shows, radio stations, civic associations, music teachers and students, AARP chapters, bloggers, podcasters, and just about anyone who would listen. Until we start articulating that music and the arts are essential these days in preparing students for all vocations, current trends will continue. To borrow a tired phrase, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result,” or words to that effect.
Let’s take sports by comparison. There are scores of current and retired professional athletes feeding Corporate America with analogies between sports and business success at conventions, banquets, and sales training events. And a sports obsessed nation of pro athlete wannabees in business suits eat it up every day.
Answer this question – How is athletic program funding doing compared to music education funding these days?
Don’t get me wrong – I believe in sports as a learning experience and the transcendent lessons of the playground as well. My own son has grown tremendously in terms of his self-confidence by disciplining himself to learn the skill of hitting and catching a baseball, and I’m proud to have played a role in that experience.
But children can achieve the same result by learning scales, playing in a band, or improvising a solo.
One of my great concerns in speaking to music education associations is their resignation to the reality that music will always be first on the funding chopping block. It’s my hope that a new generation of music education students and future educators will re-energize the debate. HERE’S THE GOOD NEWS: They enter their careers armed with the reality that the sensitivities and skillsets of the artist are increasingly in demand in the workplace, even in traditionally “left-brain” industries and careers (well articulated by such author/speakers as Daniel Pink, John Kao, and Sir Ken Robinson).
But it won’t happen without passion. There’s always another priority, and generally one that’s worthwhile, that will compete for music and arts education funding if you don’t speak up and let your voice be heard.
Get involved, get others involved, and express your concerns – or live with the consequences.
(Craig Cortello is the author of Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music. He is a speaker/trainer who articulates the universal lessons of music education and uses music to facilitate adult learning in corporate environments. For more info, visit Craig’s website)
Making Music magazine is featuring my book Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music in their March/April issue. They profiled 3 of the 32 professionals that I interviewed in the book: Ms. Genevieve Thiers (CEO of Sittercity.com), Dr. H. Steven Sims, M.D., and Jimmy Palmer (attorney and former Regional Administrator of EPA Region 4).
Excerpt from my book Everything We Needed to Know About Business We Learned Playing Music featured in Families Online Magazine:
Brief excerpts from the interviews that I compiled researching my new book. You’ll get a sense of the joy that I experienced discussing the power of playing music with these amazing CEOs and business leaders/musicians!