New School of Music course gives grad students journey inside business side of music industry 

Grad students to perform Thursday concert at Ellwood House

Photo of calculator and ledgerU.S. music schools are steeped in the tradition of helping students to maximize their artistry as musicians.

But there is another side to the music industry. The business side.

NIU is among the few schools in the country to offer students practical training in the dollars-and-cents aspect of music before they begin to earn a living off their talent. School of Music professor Faye Seeman’s MUSP 798 – “Launch Your Business” – teaches marketing, promotion, personal finances, accounting and more.

“At NIU, we are just getting started providing our students with entrepreneurship instruction in the music curriculum, so we are starting small,” said Paul Bauer, director of the NIU School of Music.

“Our graduate students have developed their musicianship to the highest levels and are the best-prepared of our students musically for their professional careers. They need this boost in entrepreneurship skills most urgently of all our students,” Bauer added. “These students will leave better-equipped than any previous NIU music majors in regard to awareness of the business side of an arts professional’s life – a bit of a jump start.

Young professional musicians in the MUSP 798 course will gather at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, to present a “Musicians’ Showcase Extravaganza” at the Ellwood House, 509 N. First St. in DeKalb.

Musical showcases will range from solo clarinet, soprano, solo viola, harp and a clarinet-viola trio to jazz trumpet and Afropop music from Africa. The event is free, and refreshments will be served after the performance.

Students in Seeman’s course created and distributed news releases and posters to promote the event.

Faye Seeman

Faye Seeman

Feedback from the students has been positive, Seeman said.

“I hope students are getting a good overview of what it takes to run a successfully business and how to prepare for that,” she said.

“Professor Seeman learned this information on her own building her successful portfolio career,” Bauer said. “She shares her experiences as a university teacher, private studio teacher, church music director, solo performer, chamber music performer, orchestral music performer, recording artist and other facets of her career.”

The final project requires students to package professional photography, website design and a public “pitch” of their personal music “product.”

“Students are saying this is the single most valuable class they have taken in their music studies – a profound statement,” Bauer added. “The course is not about developing their artistry but their business acumen.”

Despite the critical need for professional musicians to have financial wisdom, courses similar to MUSP 798 remain rare.

“A couple dozen schools of music out of 640 that are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music in the country that offer this sort of course; probably less than 5 percent,” Bauer said. “Forward-thinking schools of music are now offering support for students to develop an awareness of the essential business skills to build these portfolio careers.”

For more information about MUSP, call (815) 753-1551 or email music@niu.edu. For more information about the “Musicians’ Showcase Extravaganza,” call (847) 202-3236 or visit www.ellwoodhouse.org.

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