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School of Music

The Retreat at Spark-Carolina's Music Leadership	 Laboratory

A Spark Summer Workshop

The Savvy Musician in ACTION is an intensive, experiential 4-day workshop designed to help attendees increase income and impact. Think “Shark Tank” meets higher education.

2015 Dates

June 3–7, 2015

Read about the inaugural 2013 Savvy Musician in ACTION here.

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The challenge

In a world changing at an ever-increasing rate, many musicians do not have the skills, knowledge or imagination to create sustainable career models. Entire sectors of the music industry seem to have lost their footing and are in dire need of fresh vision, direction and strategy.

The solution is more complicated than writing a resume, mastering social media or learning about taxes (though these things are certainly helpful). The most successful individuals today are innovative entrepreneurs and leaders who out-think, out-design and out-perform the rest. They are savvy musicians with the courage to take action.

The workshop

The Savvy Musician in ACTION is an intensive, experiential four-day workshop designed to help musicians generate more income and impact. Participants pitch arts-based business ideas, vote on favorites, form teams, design a business from the ground up, and compete for awards.

Along the way, attendees experience a variety of learning opportunities including games, mini-lectures, training sessions, peer-teaching, mentorship, an “expert expo,” field research, prototyping, reflection sessions, a competition and more. Whether or not businesses continue beyond the retreat, attendees learn valuable transferrable lessons directly applicable to their own careers and environments.

Led by pianist, composer, and “The Savvy Musician”author David Cutler, this workshop takes place on the beautiful campus of the University of South Carolina in Columbia, S.C. from June 5-8, 2014.

The action

Among a variety of uncommon and hands-on activities, attendees:

  • Participate in exercises that cultivate collaboration, creativity and imagination
  • Develop tools for innovation
  • Offer “elevator pitches” for arts-based businesses that generate revenue and impact
  • Work in teams to architect these ventures
  • Learn about business models, prototype design, customer research, financial considerations, marketing and social media
  • Design an exhibit with assistance from visual artists
  • Present to judges for feedback and awards
  • Network, experiment, have fun, and become transformed

The participants

The Savvy Musician in ACTION is geared towards:

  • Professional musicians in search of solutions that further advance their professional and financial level of success while expanding impact.
  • College music students from all disciplines, both undergraduate and graduate, who want to develop entrepreneurial and leadership skills that lead to greater professional success.
  • College music faculty and administrators interested in experiential education and/or the pedagogy of music entrepreneurship and leadership. Please note this is not just geared to teachers of career classes or music business. Lessons explored are relevant and applicable to all faculty and administrators interested in creating a greater culture of entrepreneurship throughout their institution. 
  • Full chamber ensembles are encouraged to attend. Check out our Chamber Ensemble Competition.

In our inaugural season (2013), 57 participants from 21 states and Canada were in attendance, aged 20-65.

The faculty

The 2014 "Thought Leaders" (primary faculty) are:

David Cutler, pianist/composer/author, “The Savvy Musician”
Michael Harley, bassoonist, Alarm Will Sound
Howard Herring, president and CEO, New World Symphony
Ariel Hyatt, founder, CyberPR
Kimball Gallagher, world travelling pianist and entrepreneur
Ranaan Meyer, bassist, Time for Three

Your background

What if I don’t have business background?
Wonderful! The Savvy Musician in ACTION is designed for musicians, not MBAs. We speak your language, and present concepts in a user-friendly manner. If you have no or little prior business background, be forewarned – you will learn!

What if I have substantial business background?
Outstanding! Because The Savvy Musician in ACTION requires teams to build a new business, any and all experiences you bring to the table are invaluable assets.



Download the poster