Do the Hustle: 4 Ways Schools Prepare Entrepreneurs

Katherine Drago

Katherine Drago is the Assistant Dean of Admission & Student Services at Longy School of Music of Bard College.

The profile of the 21st century musician is on everyone’s mind as evidenced by the re-tooling of music school tag lines across the country. In a time when learning outcomes and job placement are in the spotlight, music schools have given entrepreneurship a front row seat. Musicians have always been hustlers, so the idea of entrepreneurship isn’t new to our industry. The question is, how are music schools and conservatories making it a part of the experience.

Don’t get me wrong. Music students should have the ability to spend 6 hours a day practicing the sonata they have always dreamed of performing. However, institutions need to help their students understand that having a meaningful life in music involves a potpourri of skills.

So, what is the right curricular toolbox to facilitate creative entrepreneurship? The key is finding a program that emphasizes innovation and entrepreneurship at every turn.4_Longy_ElSistemaSummerAcademy2016_MBS_-_D3S6195

The Musician’s Curricular Keys to Success

Musicianship – The essential skills of musical and artistic excellence should continue to form the heart of the curriculum. But, how has this been taken further so that you, the student, can discover and hone your artistic identity?

  1. Partners – Does the institution partner with professional organizations? How are current students engaging in these partnerships? There is no better way to round out the entrepreneurial education of a musician than by letting them experience a professional environment.
  2. Community Engagement – 21st century musicians have a responsibility to be advocates for the art. It is important that students understand how much of an impact they can make. Does the institution offer teaching artist opportunities? Are there partnerships with community youth organizations, El Sistema nucleos, and/or local public and private school music teachers?
  3. Interdepartmental Courses & Project Based Learning – How will you work with students in other departments? Are there courses that push the boundaries of traditional performance? What hands-on learning opportunities are offered?

When looking for a curriculum that addresses the changing musical landscape, these are some of the essential things that prospective students should look for.

Spotlight: Longy School of Music of Bard College

A prime example of this type of creative curriculum can be found at Longy School of Music of Bard College. Longy has long been at the forefront of curricular innovation and entrepreneurship is woven throughout all of their programs.

From the Teaching Artist Program to the Portfolio Project, a class in which all students are required to build the practical assets they need as performers, Longy students are thinking outside the box about their careers and preparing themselves for the digital age of music and beyond.

This fall, Longy is launching Performance.Design.Production. These project-based courses will push students beyond the traditional proscenium model of artistic presentation. Students will explore innovative ways to perform music that are fresh, unique, and relevant to their audience. Then, in collaboration with their peers, students will bring the project to life.

  • Music & Politics, a history course with a large performance component
  • Begin Anywhere: Creative Chamber Music, a course focused on customized and unique collaborative creation
  • Franz Schubert’s Winterreise in a New Light, designed to enable 21st Century singers and pianists to explore, in depth, the dramatic and musical possibilities of this work

These courses are paired with Longy’s Internship Program, partnerships with Boston Camerata and Boston Opera Collaborative, the Side by Side Seminario series, and the Teaching Fellowship IMG_5829 copyprogram. These facets come together to provide our students with the diverse toolkit they need to succeed today and in the future.

Performance excellence alone is not enough. The 21st century artists must have the imagination, inventiveness, and enterprise to move music through the next 100 years.

Learn more at and visit their page on Acceptd here.