Say Hello to the Curious Squirrel


Connect with the Curious Squirrel

  • Say Hello! in the comments at the bottom of the post
  • Contribute to my continuing education fund via the church
  • Subscribe to the Curious Squirrel Monthly Newsletter
  • Listen to the Curious Squirrel in Action
  • Recommend me to those you know searching a piano or organ teacher

Introduction

In late 2019, I received approval to start a new concert series at the church where I work, First Methodist of Bella Visa, called the Curious Squirrel.  My mascot is Samuel the Squirrel, a critter who attended and wouldn’t leave my recital at Central Methodist in Rogers. Although he was a nuisance during the recital, he was an inspiration towards my new marketing plan! How I got here is the rest of the story!

A Blessing

When I landed my part-time salaried job at First Methodist in 2012, I received the chance to participate in the professional Wesley Series as an added bonus.  I performed in concerts including singers, violinists, and woodwinds. It was really the type of opportunity I had wanted my whole life.

A New Focus

When funding for that series ended in early 2017, after 21 years, I no longer had the opportunity to participate in professional chamber music at the church. So, I decided to go solo on organ and piano. During the past two years, I offered 18 events. The few concerts that weren’t solo involved vocal recitals with Chancel Choir members, and even an Irish Sing-A-Long in March 2019 that I hope to make an annual event.

My goal for these recitals was two-fold: For me, it was an opportunity for me to build repertoire and experience in solo performing. There’s nothing like scheduling a recital to force discipline, even if that means spending 12 hours on the organ in one afternoon and evening to learn a piece to be ready for the next day! For the church, the concerts were presented as a gift for the both church members and the Bella Vista community. It’s so rare in our area to have classical events available. I feel an obligation to give them, to the extent that I have the time to do so.

Try Something Different

All the while giving these free events, I was trying to re-establish a professional concert series at the church, but there was no support for that. Zero. I decided to shift my focus to something that few could object to – continuing education.  The church has a small continuing education budget for music, which covers my membership in the American Guild of Organists with a little bit of money left over for things like lessons, certifications, and learning materials.

However, this fund makes just a squirrel-sized dent in the cost of an organ convention, whether it be a regional or national one. Nor, does it cover much towards a summer week-long sacred music class. Church musicians are very isolated in their work, and these opportunities are a wonderful shot-in-the-arm to revive and revitalize church musicians for the work we do in our church communities.

How You Can Help

Pre-Covid-19, I purchased a bright red, squirrel proof box, which accepts cash or checks for any gift concert attendees wish to make towards my continuing education. You can write your check to the church, with a memo line mention of the Curious Squirrel. When I need to make a claim against the fund, I’ll do so with the church administrator.

When I switched over to my bite-sized recital project called the Weekly Acorn in May 2020, I established a PayPal link that can be used for contributions. This link goes directly to First UMC of Bella Vista, but I only receive the proceeds into my fund if you put Curious Squirrel or Weekly Acorn in the Add a Note area.


You can learn about future Curious Squirrel concerts and Weekly Acorn events by subscribing to the Curious Squirrel Monthly Newsletter.


A Toast to Success

Here’s a toast to the future success of the Curious Squirrel! If you’d like to see a listing of concerts under the banner of the Curious Squirrel, just look for the icon on my Concerts page.

The Curious Squirrel saying a tentative hello!
Say Hello to Samuel, the Curious Squirrel!
Last Updated 2020-06-29 | Originally Posted 2019-12-22

Small Action Big Impact

What small action makes a big impact? A review or a testimonial! Let me explain…

I visited Pryde’s Old Westport, a famous kitchen store in Kansas City. You have to look, but tucked away in a corner of the basement is a pie shop, open only three days a week. I asked at the kitchen store checkout if the pie shop was open. Fortunately, yes. However, it’s been a while since I’ve been there, and now it’s run by a new tenant, Ashleigh.

I curiously proceeded to the counter to place my advance order. The posted sign said that I had to order a minimum of two of the small pies, which are basically the size of a large hamburger. Ashleigh explained that these pies are baked in groups of four, so taking single orders makes it difficult. But she said yes anyway. And I’m so glad she did; the pie was so delicious. I thought briefly about how I could repay her kindness. And then it hit me, write a Google review!

If you’re more of a Facebook person, do it there instead! I wasn’t asked to write a review, but I knew it could make a difference, especially to a new business that is trying to build a following. It took me all of maybe two minutes. Weeks later, over 200 people have read my glowing review. I have since taken the time to write reviews for several other businesses where I’ve received exceptional service. Please understand – I rarely respond to those annoying requests for reviews, like the ones you get every time you stay at a hotel, eat at a restaurant, or buy a third-party product on Amazon.com. However, if something sticks out as being exceptional, I try to do my part.

Here’s your call to action! Take one moment to review a great experience you’ve had on either Google or Facebook! And while you’re at it, if you would like to throw some praise my way, either for my teaching or performing, please add one that I can use on this Website. I will be so happy you did!

Posted 2018-09-10

Want to Be Rich?

Do you really want to be rich? What does that even mean?

To the author of this New York Times article, Jessica Knoll, it’s clear we are talking dollars, not cents! (h/t Kara Cutruzzula) It’s not often that a writer has this much self-confidence, coming out swinging about money as though she were an investment banker on Wall Street!

Though I don’t measure my artistic success purely in terms of dollars, I do like that she explains how she wants to attain her goals through a multi-stream income. Instead of just getting paid for writing a book, she wants to make royalties from selling her book. Plus, she is pursuing getting that book optioned to a television or movie studio, and even to get paid again for adapting it to a screenplay.

Success, for me, is synonymous with making money. I want to write books, but I really want to sell books. I want advances that make my husband gasp and fat royalty checks twice a year. I want movie studios to pay me for option rights.

I’m very intrigued by this author and will study her career. Though the article is deadly serious, there are twinklings of humor to be found. I like where she pokes fun at a male author who errantly thought he sold in the most foreign territories as a first-time novelist.

What are your thoughts about measuring artistic success solely on capitalism?

Posted on 2018-05-15

Gig Economy Advice

HBR Speaks Artist?

I didn’t expect to find gig economy advice for artists in this article from Harvard Business Review (HBR). It’s true that HBR focuses a lot more on the employed world, where most of the jobs still exist. However, with the increasing outsourcing of work to independent contractors, it’s up to the worker to structure her situation in the best way possible.

McKinsey found that knowledge-intensive industries and creative occupations are the largest and fastest-growing segments of the freelance economy.

Produce or Perish

The brutal reality of Produce or Perish makes sense. I very much agree with one of the main points of this section that “sustaining productivity is a constant struggle.” Even when I am productive, I don’t have the security that comes with a pre-determined paycheck. Freedom to do your job your own way comes with this very large downside. Even when you land a good contract, that’s no guarantee you’ll land the next one. “There’s no arriving. That’s a myth.”

Even the most successful, well-established people we interviewed still worry about money and reputation and sometimes feel that their identity is at stake.

The Four Connections

The thesis of the article is that all four of the following connections must be created and sustained by the independent worker to survive.

  • Place – Even for work that could be done anywhere, or any number of places, one place tends to work best. For me, when I need to practice the piano, the church sanctuary works perfectly. At home, the piano and the television are in the same room. When I’m tired, practicing isn’t the choice I make.
  • Routines – Even though work can be done at any time, it turns out that self-imposing a practical schedule works best. When it’s practicing the piano or organ, I always attach it to times I will already be at church. I don’t call it a day (or night) until the work gets done.
  • Purpose – This digs a bit more into interests and motivations. I try to accept work or pursue projects that connect deeply with my long-term goals, over just trying to make money.
  • People – This is one of the hardest for me. It’s really necessary to build a community with those in my profession, but it turns out that most of these folks are also extremely busy and self-focused.

In Conclusion

I highly recommend downloading this article, whether or not you have an annual subscription with HBR. You get a few articles free per month – make this one of your choices! I only scratched the surface of the article; I’m sure that you’ll find additional insights and inspiration.

Posted on 2018-05-14

Disinclined to Activity

Do you ever feel disinclined to activity? In what parts of your life? In case you haven’t caught on, I’m asking about where you are lazy! It’s really impossible to do everything, so it’s actually quite natural to focus intensely on the most important things. Then, you find a way to get the necessary things done. The rest, well, it gets done…or not!

I noticed a certain degree of laziness when it comes to pursuing the business side of music. I work hard to get my church work done, teach my students, and do well at whatever gigs I accept. However, I don’t have a good game plan when it comes to marketing myself.

I am participating in an artist development program called Artist INC. Our marketing instructor mentioned that we need to spend between 20% and 40% of our total work time in marketing ourselves. Based on this simple calculation, if I spend four hours on my art, I should spend at least one additional hour marketing it. Though that sounds excessive, I know it’s not based on everything else I’ve read.

Perhaps the most jolting aspect of the Artist INC experience is that most artists don’t have a true home base. Even the part-time church job I have gives me some stability that others don’t have. Granted, I don’t have the financial security of those few musicians who land full-time work in church music, orchestras, or university professorships. Even though some of these folks may not be doing their dream work full-time, they can always do their soul-nourishing work on the side!

Meanwhile, independent artists have to hustle for every opportunity. I recently noticed a vacant storefront where a photographer had placed several samples. This photographer probably worked hard to build a relationship with the property agent so that when the opportunity knocked, he got the call! Although it’s romantic to think of the artist sequestered in his studio, diligently painting all day, and having adoring fans, that’s not the reality for most of my friends. Sure, they spend lots of time in their work. However, they also carefully cultivate relationships outside of the studio in a myriad of marketing activities. It takes a lot of time, and some things work, and some things don’t.
You have to refine the process. What do you stop, start, continue? It’s exhausting just thinking about it!

So there is my call to action. I need to start with purpose cultivating relationships that can lead to recitals, teaching, and even one-time gigs. I will update this post or write a new one when I have some progress to report!

Posted 2018-04-23