Guest writer: Sophie Delphis
The program I’m doing this year, , is presenting a summer line up for pre-professional singers – including a series of master classes, five nights of selected opera scenes and three full operas – for the first time. This is a new venture, with a relatively small group and limited funding: this is a bootstrapped startup, but this is precisely what makes taking part in this project so exhilarating.
Discovering entrepreneurship… Because the group is relatively small, our six weeks are plenty packed. More is required of us as students, both on and off the stage. All of us are singing numerous roles, in multiple scenes and operas, so we have to be organized and pace ourselves. There is not an extensive staff infrastructure, so we help to organize some of the logistics and are more responsible for extra-musical aspects of the productions. We can’t simply show up and rely on a large construct to take care of our needs. But this is a tremendous opportunity for us to invest much more of ourselves than simply our voices and stage presence. We are learning something critical: entrepreneurship. Especially in this economy and with the current state of arts funding, many of the projects we will undertake as young musicians will be held together by two strings, a prayer and a lot of hard work. Many people are telling us to be more entrepreneurial: this is it. We are forced to think beyond our individual musical lines and scenes. We are far more directly responsible for the outcome of the program as a whole than if we had opted for a larger, well-established structure.
… And empowerment: The experience is empowering. Assuming we do invest psychologically and understand how much of an impact we can have in the shaping the success of OAC’s Summer Program (and by extension its usefulness on our resumés), this is a terrific opportunity to learn and create as part of a team. This requires a good deal of dedication on our parts, as well as flexibility and evangelism – in fact, the qualities needed for any start-up venture. Without an overabundance of people, we have to take on more responsibility. Without returning spectators, we have to build our own audience base, through Facebook, Twitter, etc… Without built-in cost coverage and donor lists, we have to bootstrap funds (I organized a fundraiser at the end of May in Palo Alto, and another one is in the works). If you’ve ever seen somebody start a company, this is probably sounding rather familiar… This program is new, and most problems have to be addressed as they arrive, but when a startup is set in motion by a professional, as is Yefim Maizel, you realize that being “lean,” as they say it in startup jargon, does not mean creating a cheap result. Elegance is not always expensive when you have a reserve of imagination and an eye for the right thing. I remember reading in one of Guy Kawasaki’s books “A players attract A players.” OAC has launched its first summer season with an impressive and diverse group of contributors – both in terms of faculty and students who will be instrumental in its success.
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