How Jacobs School of Music folds entrepreneurship into their school culture
"Entrepreneurship is not just good ideas. It is about understanding, in a very creative way, the world that is changing rapidly around you. It is about coming up with solutions that have value and being able to implement them."
Photos provided by Alain Barker
Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, located in Bloomington, Indiana, is one of the largest music schools in the United States, and one of the biggest classical music institutions historically. With more than 1600 students and about 21 different departments, it offers amazing facilities for musicians — to note, the school's opera house stage is almost identical to that of the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Known for its high levels of performance teaching, Jacobs offers a wide variety of programs, from its famous music education program, which involves a lot of interesting research, to the Entrepreneurship Certificate.

The Office of Entrepreneurship and Career Development (OECD) was established on July 1, 2014. Their mission? As written in their handbook, "we educate, inspire, and support Jacobs School of Music students as they prepare for innovative, sustainable, and successful lives in the arts."

"About 10 years ago, we consulted with Angela Beeching, a very respected [national career professional] who is involved in music career development," begins Alain Barker, the Director of the Office of Entrepreneurship at Jacobs. "We started Project Jumpstart, which is a student leadership program for innovations, career development, and entrepreneurship, embedded within this large school of music." At that time, Alain was the director of marketing and publicity at the institution and worked closely with Angela to help establish the program. He continued to mentor the students as they developed Project Jumpstart into a school-wide program.

With the project being a success, Jacobs School of Music decided to establish the Office of Entrepreneurship and Career Development to further support and help its students. Having an internationally-recognized business school, the office started working together with the Kelley School's entrepreneurship center, the Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. "Some of our programming is connected," the director explains. "We established an undergraduate certificate in music entrepreneurship for students who want to study [the subject] while they study at Jacobs."

The concept revolves around the changing world: what should the students do as they prepare for their professional careers? Alain says that now, more than ever, musicians need to be innovative, culturally aware, and technologically proficient. The success formula for a 19th century musician isn't applicable for an aspiring musician today. "The way music is performed, sustained, created, and supported in society [now] is fundamentally different," he states.
The entrepreneurship certificate is targeted towards undergraduates and consists of five courses — Alain teaches two of them. The first course is the introduction to music entrepreneurship, where students have discussions about what that is, what it means. The class also has guests, who share their own experience and talk about what they are doing in an innovative way. The very last course, on the other hand, is entirely dedicated to developing a big idea and presenting it: the students spend the whole semester building, putting their project together, and giving a pitch to the committee. The three courses in the middle, in turn, are taught in the business school, where you learn about entrepreneurship from a business standpoint.

Apart from the certificate, there is a single career course for both undergraduates and graduates, what the director calls the "nuts and bolts of how to get your act together". Any musician has to come up with a career plan, great resume, develop a website, and learn the basics of image manipulation. "[The course] is basically taking everybody through all the elements of what it is to prepare yourself for your professional life," he tells me. Towards the end, students give a presentation on who they are, what their personal mission is, and their plan for how they are going to identify themselves in the music industry.

While it is hard to predict the future, the office created a variety of initiatives to inspire students to think about what they would do once they graduate. "It has as much to do with the attitude and mindset as it has to do with delivering information," Barker believes. The key components are to raise awareness, educate, and model the future through projects.

Focusing a lot of attention on the third element, one of the main events that take place every year is the Innovation Competition, which has inspired and stimulated people to generate new ideas that blossomed into amazing projects later. "[Participants] go through a mentoring process, where they learn how to assemble their ideas, write a business proposal, and how to articulate thoughts," Alain recounts. The pitches are judged by a panel of "campus and community entrepreneurs", and all finalists receive mentorship. The two winners are supported through financial grants to implement their ideas. It's worth mentioning that the projects solve a wide range of problems — people have developed apps, organized music festivals, run music education programs, and battled social barriers.
At the same time, the office is busy broadening the already expansive opportunities for its musicians. Jacobs has several Career Days with departments. "My colleagues Joanie Spain, Nathan Fischer and I get together with an entire department, talk together, organize an expert panel of alumni, [and invite] a few people around the country," Barker elucidates. "It is like a mini conference." He also holds independent studies with students, and the office mentors projects that student organizations are involved in. "For the past two years, I've been very involved in a university-wide initiative — Center for Rural Engagement — giving students an opportunity to communicate with the region through projects," the director mentions.

Discussing what steps Jacobs School of Music will take next, Alain mentions what an interesting time this is for music. "In some ways, we've been anticipating this moment, but we never realized how transformative this moment would need to be for us to survive," he declares. The classical and jazz worlds have been trying to maintain the tradition of concerts and concert halls, choral, orchestral, and chamber music, and while they have been progressive, they haven't been transformative. "Classical music world needs to be more responsive to where our society really is rather than where we want it to be," Alain continues. "Only seven percent of the U.S. people actually believe in, understand, and support classical music. If we think that classical music is so important and we're unable to create in a way that connects with and engages a larger percent of the population, you have to ask yourself what's the future of our art form."

Musicians need to come up with ways of communicating more meaningfully to society, which would mean being willing to change who musicians are and what they do as much as expecting the world to understand what they do. "It is going to take a while to learn how to do that," the director concludes. "This is where entrepreneurship comes in — it is the glue that holds it all together … Musicians have to learn how to take responsibility for the future, and to be creative and valuable in a way that is different from the past."
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