Cincinnati’s Young Musical Entrepreneurs

Not all is perfect in our chosen professions in our troubled country in our very troubled times.

Young actors, directors, conductors, instrumentalists, arts administrators, designers and singers have tales to tell that are disturbingly real. But the good news is that instead of agonizing about dashed hopes and wondering why in the world they chose the arts as a career, young graduates from top conservatories, CCM among them are taking control of their fates and becoming grassroots entrepreneurs.

Like Candide and Cunegonde at the end of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, these fellow artist-administrators believe in the need for all of us who have chosen the performing arts as our careers to make our gardens grow.

For each behemoth arts organization that goes belly-up during these tough times, a lean and mean smaller artistic enterprise springs to life. Grassroots enterprises are being born in the oddest of places: bars, libraries, cafes, churches…

The function and value of these rising orchestras, chamber music groups, chamber opera companies, independent film makers, small dance companies and experimental theatres are beyond question. They supply opportunities for early career men and women in the arts to make the transition from conservatory graduates to full-fledged professionals.

Far from being a passing trend, these groups are becoming the future of the performing arts in our country, while many large institutions with their traditional structure and top-heavy administrations and recalcitrant boards are fast becoming a thing of the past.

The time is ripe for us all of us to act as entrepreneurs.

Instrumentalists get gigs in duos or trios or quartets, playing everything from weddings to Bar Mitzvahs to chamber concerts. Here in Cincinnati, Isaac Selya and Samuel Martin – both CCM alumni – to name but two success stories, have created both Queen City Opera and Cincinnati Song Initiative providing countless opportunities for young singers to practice their craft.

There are others, like Rachel Walker’s Soundbox…all about new music and local composers. There’s Jill Jantzen’s Salon 21, a series that focuses on pianists…There are opportunities awaiting those who take career matters in their own hands and run with them. Isaac and Sam and Rachel and Jill have done it.

With no invitations forthcoming to sit and dine at the big table, young artists are simply going ahead and cooking their own dinners. Let audiences know when dinner is ready and they’ll come dine with you. I hope to come too.

Rafael de Acha

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