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From Greg Sandow’s ArtsJournal blog – 10/29/13

From Jeffrey Nytch: The entrepreneurial symphony

From Greg

I’ve been in email touch with Jeff Nytch for a few years. We have a mutual close friend, and of course a shared interest in teaching entrepreneurship at music schools. Last spring, Jeff invited me to speak at the University of Colorado-Boulder, where he runs the music school’s entrepreneurship program.

But what Jeff writes about here goes beyond any friend-of-friendship, or any speaking engagement. Jeff is not just an entrepreneurship teacher. He’s an entrepreneur, and tells us here how he used entrepreneurship — defined much more deeply than it usually is — to succeed with a new symphony he’s written.

There’s a lot to learn from what Jeff writes, both about what entrepreneurship really is, and how powerfully artists can use it.

“I’ve got a crazy idea but I think you’re gonna love it.”

I had called up my friend Kevin Shuck, Executive Director of the Boulder Philharmonic (one of the two fully professional orchestras in the greater Denver area) and asked him to lunch. It was September, 2012, and just a day after I’d been to a presentation by the Geological Society of America on the geology of Colorado.

My mind hadn’t stopped racing since.

We met at the Cuban sandwich place near us, and after sitting down and exchanging some preparatory chit-chat my friend asked me what was on my mind.

“Last night I went to one of the community seminars at the credit union. It was on the geology of Colorado – did you know I have a degree in geology as well as music?” He didn’t. I went on. “The Geological Society is based here in Boulder, you know – in fact their office is right around the corner from where I live. So of course I had to go to this thing, geek out with the geologists and get answers to some of the geological questions I’ve had since moving out here. And during their introduction they mentioned that 2013 will be their 125th anniversary and they’re doing all sorts of things to celebrate, culminating in their annual meeting in Denver.”

I paused for a moment, and then delivered my punch-line: “So here’s what we’re going to do. The Boulder Phil is going to commission a symphony from me, inspired by the geology of the Rocky Mountains, and we’re going to get the Geological Society to underwrite it to celebrate their anniversary.”

I held my breath, wondering if he would love the idea or think I’d lost my mind.

“Yeah, that’s pretty crazy,” he began. “But you’re right: I love it.”

Fast forward 12 months, nearly to the day, to the point where the final triumphant chord of the symphony rang through the hall and the audience leapt to its feet. It had been quite an intense year. Never before had a commission of mine fallen into place so easily. Never before had I tackled a project of this scope. And never before had I so publicly shared the journey of creating a piece of music, start to finish. And yet here we were: three curtain calls worth of cheers, and a near-record opening night attendance for the Phil despite a change of date mere weeks before the performance. How did we do it?

Read full post here

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