An interview with David Cutler appeared on Carla McElhaney blog on Saturday June 5th, 2010.
Pianist, Carla McElhaney is an innovative presence in the classical music field. and is highly regarded as a passionate and dynamic performing artist, teacher, and coach.Â She is co-founder, pianist, and Executive/Artistic Director for REVEL, an Austin-based â€œclassical band,â€Â currently serves on the piano faculty at Texas Lutheran University in Seguin, and maintains a coaching practice that integrates her interest in the field of personal development, her advocacy for Creatives and their work, and her roles as a performing artist, advisor and mentor.
An Interview with David Cutler
Composer, pianist, educator, arranger, conductor, collaborator, concert producer, author, blogger, consultant, speaker,Â advocate and entrepreneur David Cutler talks about shooting for maximum impact in his highly charged, highly creative life.
Saturday, June 5, 2010
As the author of The Savvy Musician: Building a Career, Earning a Living & Making a Difference, David Cutler is fast becoming known as a real catalyst in the creative lives of musicians, encouraging artists to push boundaries and flex their entrepreneurial muscles. This interview with David allows you to get a glimpse inside the kind of mindset — positive, courageous, committed and passionate — that goes hand in hand with optimal creativity.
CM: As a Creative, you are immersed in ongoing creative work. Do youÂ ever experience creative blocks, or lulls in your creative output? IfÂ so, what do you typically do to get back into the flow?
DC: Absolutely. Hereâ€™s how it works for meâ€¦It seems like thereâ€™s a light switch.Â Sometimes, creativity flows freely, and it takes all my energy just to keep up with the seemingly endless stream of ideas.Â Other times, the valve turns off and I feel stuck or paralyzed, futilely struggling to produce even a phrase of music, paragraph of prose, or other miniscule artistic contribution.Â Â And to add insult to injury, ideas generated during these painful down periods are almost always inferior to one that pop up magically in inspired moments.
During less productive periods, I find myself editing compulsively rather than creating basic premises and fixing them later.Â So to get over being stuck, I often challenge myself to generate as much new material as possible.Â Quality is not important here, just quantity.Â 25 themes. 3 minutes of music.Â 1000 words. No editing allowed.Â Often, the mere act of being forced to produce sheer amounts of (often bad) material ultimately leads back to the creative zone.
Another strategy is shifting focus.Â When no muse can be found doing one thing, move on to another project from the â€œto doâ€ list.
Of course, experiencing the arts firsthand is inspirational. Taking a break to hear a concert, peruse a museum, or watch a dance recital can rejuvenate the soul.
When nothing else pans out, I usually take a bath.Â Lots of bubbles.Â Wonder of wonders!
CM: Can you give a few examples of some of the things that are mostÂ meaningful to you today, both personally and professionally? In otherÂ words, what is most important to you? What do you do to invest energy in those areas while negotiating the challenges of everyday life?
DC: As a musician and community member, my top artistic priorities are helping solve real problems, connecting with real (and often new) audiences, and making a real difference. I shoot for maximum impact. This process typically involves:
1)Offering outstanding art.Â This goes without saying.Â But high quality art alone is not enough.
2)Winning trust.Â It is essential to engage, connect, and intrigue early on. Thoughtful and creative programming, humor, visual elements, empathy, good listening skills, passion, and truly caring are all ways to do this.Â If this step doesnâ€™t occur, neither will making a meaningful impact.
3)Providing entry points.Â A good place to start is identifying areas of interest held by the audience, either musically or extra musically. In other words, meet them on their turf, and engage with relevant experiences.
4)Challenging to think in new ways. I view myself as a tour guide, aiming to expand the perspective and world view of those around me.Â Challenging conventions and conventional wisdom are hallmarks. In each presentation, I aim to offer the uncommon and provocative as well as the comfortable and familiar. As long as trust has been established, audiences are usually open.
5)Surpassing expectations. My goal is to blast beyond a job well done and a pleasant encounter, offering unexpected surprises and extreme experiences.
6)Inspiring and motivating.Â If Iâ€™ve done my job well, everyone around will have grown and be filled with pro-active energy.
These priorities are valued in just about every artistic statement I make, be it writing a book or blog on music careers, composing a piece, programming a new music concert, teaching a college theory class, improvising with third graders, or directing an ensemble. They influence the kinds of projects favored, as well as the ways they are realized.
In my personal life, I strive to balance an ambitious professional schedule with being a good father (my son is just about 2, and he looks forward to becoming a big brother next month!), husband, friend, and colleague.
CM: What current or upcoming projects are you most excited about and why?
DC: There are quite a few exciting projects in the pipeline.Â Here are a few highlights, in no particular order.
â€¢Book. After 5+ years in development, my book The Savvy Musician: Building a Career, Earning a Living, & Making a Difference was released last November.Â Â Itâ€™s thrilling to see a huge project like this finally come to fruition.
â€¢Presenting.Â Writing a book that people care about changes your life.Â Since publishing The Savvy Musician, Iâ€™ve been invited to travel the country as a presenter/consultant on music careers and entrepreneurship. Through this process, Iâ€™ve met many beautiful people, and hopefully made a small impact on the way musicians approach their art and life.
â€¢Composing.Â Iâ€™m finishing up a cycle of pieces commissioned by the New Century Saxophone Quartet entitled Songs for the Weekend Traveler.Â Each member identified a genre of music theyâ€™d like to explore, and then I composed a movement featured their instrument using that style as points of departure: New Orleans second line, Cuban salsa, Scottish ballade, Bulgarian wedding dance.Â Great fun!
â€¢Performance.Â As a pianist and composer, my collaborations with modern/Indian kathak dancer Cynthia Lee have led to a residency and couple of shows this Fall in Taiwan.
â€¢Teaching.Â At Duquesne University, Iâ€™ll be team teaching a new course called Entrepreneurial Arts Project.Â This class, open to business and arts students, will examine the intersection of 1) entrepreneurship, 2) the arts, and 3) collaboration.Â For the final project, teams of students will develop â€œopportunity plansâ€ for arts-related ventures with the potential to generate revenue.
â€¢New Institute. Iâ€™m working closely with a team of arts leaders to open The Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship (IAE).Â This two year program will serve as a â€œfinishing schoolâ€ for accomplished artists from all disciplines, helping them transform talents into sustainable careers and businesses. Our motto: No Starving Artists!
About David Cutler
David Cutler balances a varied career as a jazz and classical composer, pianist, educator, arranger, conductor, collaborator, concert producer, author, blogger, consultant, speaker, advocate, and entrepreneur. In all these pursuits, he works to push boundaries while connecting with new audiences. His book The Savvy Musician (www.savvymusician.com) helps musicians 1) build a career, 2) earn a living, & 3) make a difference.
A multi-dimensional composer who listens to a colossal range of styles, Cutlerâ€™s eclectic output reflects this musical world. With a vocabulary ranging from beautiful lyricism to rhythmic sophistication and bizarre juxtapositions, his music has been commissioned and performed by artists such as the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Alabama Symphony Orchestra, Classical Orchestra of Milan, LAVIE Singers, Korean Chamber Ensemble, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Boston Brass, Airmen of Note Air Force Big Band, singers Bobby McFerrin and Nancy Wilson, trumpeter Sean Jones, clarinetist David Krakauer, harpist Jung, and saxophonist Benny Golson.
Cutlerâ€™s playing is as wide-ranging as his composing, stretching what it means to be a pianist. Jazz and classical performances regularly incorporate improvisation, humor, audience interaction, choreography, technology, costuming, unique collaborations, and secondary instruments. The concerts he produces often defy expectations, interfacing music with dance, film, actors, costumes, stage design, and visual artists.
Dr. Cutler studied at the University of Miami, Hochschule fÃ¼r Musik (Vienna, Austria), Eastman School of Music, and Indiana University. He teaches at Duquesne University, where he also serves as Coordinator of Music Entrepreneurship Studies. Visit David Cutler online at: www.trunkmusic.org.