Music VS Business

(Originally posted here: by Neil Bussey)

You’re a musician? And you decided to go into Business??? You must be good at math!

Music and Business have a lot more in common than you might think. And it’s not just about the numbers. Sure, the patterns are there, but there’s so much more that carries over.

I was 11 when I started playing saxophone, 17 when I decided to study it professionally, and 22 when I finished my music degree and started a business career. At 30, I can say with certainty that those 19 years of being a muisician have done so much for my career! There are 4 key areas that I’ve come to appreciate in the transition between the two worlds.

Performing = Presenting

Every time I get up to do a presentation or speak in front of my team, it’s like going on stage. I’ve been on stage 100’s upon 100’s of times and I treat every presentation the same as every performance.

Before a performance, you practice, learn the music, and then deliver it in a way that’s meaniful to your audience. A confident delivery comes from being well prepared.

Before a presentation, you prepare, learn your material, and then deliver it in a way that’s meaniful to your audience. A confident delivery comes from being well prepared.


This one is a little more straight forward. You can flourish in both business and music by developing your creative thinking. Whether it’s a creative approach to performing a piece or a creative approach to solving a problem, creative thinking can help you achieve success in both worlds.

Leadership & Teamwork

I love playing in Concert & Jazz bands. In each, you’ve got sections of similar instruments and ever section has a ‘section leader.’ I’ve had many opportunities to be the Saxophone Section leader. The skills I developed translated directly to leading in my business career. You’ve got to know how to analyze what’s going on, give meaningful feedback to your team, and coach them to delivering a stronger performance.

Out of context you’d never know if I was talking about music or business! That’s because the skills of being a leader apply to both worlds.

At the same time, mastering your own craft, so that you can lead by example is also critical. Personal dedication to improving can inspire your team members or your fellow musicians to better themselves.

Be the tenor player = Know when to lead and when to follow

This one may seem a little more abstract, but hear me out. I spend a lot of time playing tenor sax. Playing tenor I get opportunities to play lead parts, particularly in jazz bands. In those moments I get to shine individually in front of the audience. On the flip side, the tenor part often is filled with a lot of harmony lines. When playing those lines it’s not the feature, they don’t stand out as the star of the moment. But, they’re just as critical to a successful performance. Those parts are the supporting lines that helps the melody sound even better, without them the meldoy line would sound empty.

In business this translates to knowing when to lead and when to follow (or when to be supportive). You can’t have a room full of people all trying to take the lead. Stepping up into a leadership role is definitely important, but so is doing the underlying support work. The data analysis, slide deck building, or report writing, is just as important as the big presentation. Working as a team, everyone needs to pitch in to get the job done. You’ve got to have humility to be able to take a step back and support your colleagues when they’re in the spotlight.

There are so many things we do that translate between our hobbies and careers — all it takes is opening yourself up to what’s already there!

Playing for kids is always fun!

Another appearance of my violin in front of this lovely cheerful audience. This time we talked about fast/slow music, soft/loud, powerful/tender sound, high/low sounds. They even asked me what is this shiny little thing I was holding in my hand – it turned out to be a MUTE! Kids were super excited to waltz, stomp, clap, jump and march following the music lead. I had the best time of my life, thank you for you cheers and applause!

New oppotrunities for everyone!

Wel, as it turns out the AMEB Office have launched a new initiative, there is an exam which no longer includes all these scales, arpeggios, General Knowledge, Aurals and eeeeeevvvvrything else. It’s just playing now, how cool is that!

I guess it is a fantastic oppotrunity for everyone (for a big fan of scales or not a big fans) to sit a proper exam and show your best talents – and of course get your A for it! Bravo AMEB!

What Makes a Great Music Teacher?

(Originally posted here:   )

Greatness in teaching is just as rare as greatness in any other profession. Although it’s impossible to offer a prescription of qualities in order to cultivate great music teachers, understanding these qualities can give all would-be teachers a standard of excellence to strive for, and guide schools and parents toward what they should look for in current and prospective teachers.

Here are just a few characteristic traits that I believe all great music teachers have:

Great teachers connect to their students on an emotional level.  We all remember how teachers we really respected made us feel.  We remember the teachers who saw something special in us and identified with us on some level.  Before we teach, we must show that we care — and there are many ways to do this.  The best way is the one that comes natural, and for me that is humor — but it can be anything from eye contact, a strong sense of empathy, or something else that indicates that the teacher truly “sees” the needs of each individual student.

Great teachers don’t look to make everyone feel warm and fuzzy all the time.  There are a lot of school music teachers who strive to have all of their students “like” them.  They look to ensure that all of their students are happy and comfortable at all times, making sure that there is not too much effort involved with rehearsing and learning.  These teachers usually run entire pieces of music and cover a lot of material in a short period of time –they tend to not “dig in” to small sections and have a laissez-faire approach to developing young musicians.  Great teachers, however, command respect and are not afraid to stretch their students’ comfort zone in order to teach them how to strive toward achieving greatness.

Effective teachers are great communicators of knowledge.  You will rarely walk into a great teacher’s rehearsal and see them giving long speeches.  Highly effective music teachers keep the concepts at the highest level but the explanations short and incredibly clear.  A great teacher has a target they are aiming their students toward and do everything in their power to guide them toward it in the most efficient manner.  Often times, the most useful information is delivered in a few seconds between the  action (in our case, making sounds) that should be occurring throughout the majority of class time.

Great music teachers love fundamentals (and know how to “sell” them to their students).  Wise music teachers understand that technique is essential, and that proper technique can be taught during a school day, no matter how many students are in the class.  These teachers are not afraid to go back to the beginning of a method book and honor the foundations of playing a musical instrument.  Not only will a great teacher understand that building blocks such as posture, breathing, and hand position are critical to beginners, they also understand that these fundamentals must be constantly reinforced throughout their student’s schooling.  Great teachers do not abandon fundamentals in order to “teach to a concert” — they ensure that their concert repertoire is an extension of strong musical foundations.

Being “scared” of your teacher once in a while is not the worst thing in the world.  Of course I do not mean that students should fear their teacher, or that teachers should ever scare their students  intentionally.  But great teachers often evoke feelings that may be unfamiliar to our younger generation — students should feel true respect for a great music teacher;  they will also tend to admire them very much; and yes — they will be a little scared of them from time to time.

Even though it may often seem this way, students do not win when teachers seek to be their buddy, or even a parent figure.  They do need someone who they trust (and trust a lot) and someone who they will dedicate their time to being with for a long haul, but there needs to be a little distance present.  Students should be a little timid to show up unprepared to create music.  The words “that’s okay” should not come out of a great teacher’s mouth when students aren’t holding themselves to a high standard.  Great teachers are honest and tell students “how it is”, even if it is sometimes a little blunt.  Hearing the truth is rough, but when true constructive feedback is delivered with clear language that is not personalized, students will be thankful, and see that they can use that information to get better.

Great music teachers understand that every single child is capable of becoming proficient at their craft.  We have a long way to go to dispel the myth that talent and musical ability is inherent and inborn.  Great teachers understand that they must help build proficient young players, one day at a time.  While some students may have instant and early success, a great teacher communicates through their teaching that those who persist and practice in an intelligent and mindful way will grow, learn and reach their potential as well.

Great teachers render themselves useless.  The long-term goal of any teacher should be to help their students learn so much that they longer need the teacher.  They do not lead by personality alone, and needing to be the center of attention.  That’s why great music programs cannot be built on a personality — it isn’t sustainable. Successful music teachers create a culture where students want to continue to go beyond their comfort zones in order to get better on their own.  These teachers seek to create moments of independence, so that students can slowly begin to “teach themselves” moving forward beyond the classroom.

Self reflection is a requirement of great teaching.  Most great teachers do not think of themselves as being great.  They are constant students of their craft, and constantly look in the mirror and ask themselves, “How can I do this better?”.  We all learn by experiences and mistakes, but unless teachers question themselves about what their experiences mean and think actively about them, they won’t make any changes.  Self-reflection enables teachers to move from good to great by eating some “humble pie” once in a while and not being afraid to grow and make changes along their professional journey.

It’s impossible for me (or anyone) to produce a complete and definitive list of the characteristics of great music teaching, but I believe this is an important starting place. Knowing the qualities of greatness can help teachers strive for the highest standards and help students, parents, and school systems celebrate music as a core part of their curricula.  Observing a great music teacher at the top of his or her game is like watching a masterful performance; although infinitely difficult and painstakingly planned, great teaching appears effortless and seamless.

Many parents and administrators tend to believe that teaching music is the simplest thing in the world—until they actually see the work that goes into it.