Say Hello to the Curious Squirrel

Introduction

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 Wesley Series as an added bonus.  I performed several times with various fantastic artists. One of them was violinist Er-Gene Kahng, who is now full Professor of Music at the University of Arkansas.

A New Focus

When funding for that series ended in early 2017, I was no longer able to participate in professional chamber music. So, I decided to go solo on organ and piano. During the past two years, I have offered 18 events, mostly solo. However, there were a few concerts offering seasonal vocal selections with Chancel Choir members, and even an Irish Sing-A-Long that I hope to make an annual event.  

These recitals have allowed me to build repertoire and experience in solo performing. Most of my prior experience in performing happened before age 25 – when I graduated from The Juilliard School and decided to make music just a part-time endeavor.

Try Something Different

I tried to re-establish a professional concert series at the church, but there was no support for that. Over time, I decided to redirect my focus to something more palatable – my continuing education.  The church does have a small continuing education budget for music, which covers my membership in the American Guild of Organists. However, there is just a fraction of the amount of money needed to attend organ conventions or even week-long sacred music classes. Church musicians are very isolated in their work, and these opportunities are a wonderful shot-in-the-arm to revive and revitalize us for the work we do in our church communities.

How You Can Help

I’m not putting out offering plates, since I don’t want folks to feel yet another sense of obligation. Instead, I’ve purchased a bright red box, which will accept any optional gift you 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.

Artists appreciate support in a variety of ways. Subscribe to my Monthly Newsletter, which I’m re-branding to the Curious Squirrel in January 2020.  It details my upcoming performances, and provides access to some extra performances that I don’t release elsewhere. If you’re more of a small bites person, consider liking/following my professional social media on Facebook or Instagram. Search for me @brockeyspedals.  One more way to help: Be a good squirrel! Invite a friend to a future Curious Squirrel concert!

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!
Posted 2019-12-22

Looking Back at First Friday

My year-long project of preparing to host a booth at First Friday in Downtown Bentonville came to pass last night. It was geared to increase enrollment at Shepherd Music School, where I teach. I won’t lie, it was a tough process and I was near the breaking point a few times along the way. Our booth was very simple, yet coordinating all of the pieces and people consumed time and energy beyond any prediction.

This is actually the fourth time today I’ve written about the event today, including a post to the Shepherd Music School first, then to Facebook and Instagram, followed by an After-Action Review to the two parents and two instructors who supported me in this endeavor. I was ready to call it quits there, but decided I should put a tiny commemoration on my blog, too, for those who may read this later.

I’m glad to say I did this, and that I’m not sure how much better I could have done, given the circumstances. Whether this event was a success is really an open question. We didn’t get any enrollments for the school, but we talked to plenty of parents of young children who may think of us when it comes to taking lessons in the coming years. And I learned tons as well, including that you can really entertain young kids with inexpensive craft projects!

Posted 2018-08-04

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