The Entrepreneurial Mindset for Musicians: Personal and Professional Development - Nottelmann Music Company
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The Entrepreneurial Mindset for Musicians: Personal and Professional Development

The Entrepreneurial Mindset for Musicians: Personal and Professional Development

By Nottelmann Music and Clinician and Professional XO Brass Artist Mike Parkinson –

As someone who was drawn to pursue a career in music while in high school and managed to have a long and successful career, I know firsthand the challenges facing individuals today who are seriously considering music for their vocation.  Many students are not aware of the multiplicity of options that are available in music, whether it is in performance (various types of large ensembles, chamber music, jazz, rock/pop, classical, a solo career, and so forth), church music, teaching (pre K-university levels, school or studio based), conducting (school, community, or professional levels), stage craft for musical theater or opera, arranging/composition, music therapy, music history/musicology, music theory, music librarianship, recording engineer, publishing, sales via physical locations or the internet, manufacturing, management, marketing, promotion, licensing, administration, entertainment law, or careers through the armed forces.  Career options continue to evolve and grow due to the impact of the delivery of all forms of music through the internet.

This document was originally a lecture designed for college students preparing for careers in music. It provides thoughtful and common-sense approaches to personal and professional development that you may have overlooked.  Everyone’s path in music has some commonalities such as continual devotion to an instrument in personal practice and performance, as well as huge amounts of time for listening to, reading about, and studying music. All serious musicians can point to a person, an event or a moment which inspired them to pursue their dreams.  I am one of those people, and I am thankful for the life I have had in music as I cannot imagine it being any other way.   If you see yourself in that light, this document may help you add focus to your journey, which is my hope!


  1. The Road Less Traveled…..the life of a musician…..crescendo poco a poco ma non troppo ————–>
  1. Definitive inspiration: What caused you to decide to seriously pursue music and make it your life’s vocation?
  • Who were your inspirations and who are your heroes now and why?
  • If you can pin-point it, what moment or event triggered your hope of becoming a professional musician?
  • To learn about my personal story and my career evolution, please review the attached biographical sketch
  1. The Pareto Principle: consistent daily planning and accounting of the essential tasks to be completed. For example, have you practiced, listened to, or read about music today?  If not, why not? What are you waiting for?
  1. The Learning process and all of the steps that are repeated in some way every day. [: Information is presented to you or you discover it, you have to decide what to do with it and if it is important for you now or in the future. You repeatedly work with it, apply it and assess your progress, keep at it and master it in time, and then share it! :]
  1. Goal orientation (short, medium and long range): what is it that needs attention, improvement, elimination or reinforcement, and how long will it take for effective changes to take place?
    1. Short term: dealing consistently, efficiently and effectively with the daily dance of life.
    2. Medium term: thinking in terms of three, six, nine months to a year.
    3. Long term: keeping an eye on the ever moving and perhaps ever-changing prize.
  1. Elements of success: consistency, curiosity, self-awareness, acceptance and forgiveness, goal orientation, hard work, balance, flexibility, dogged dedication, discipline and determination to daily do the right thing, a giving attitude, knowing when to stay and when to go, a love of what you do, and the value of loved ones in your life.
  1. The Investment Clause: When will you begin to invest in others as others have invested in you?  What do you have to share with others or give to those in need through community, civic or church organizations, to younger professionals in your field, your friends, and your family?  Value Added Living = Thanks-Living and Thanks-Giving!
  1. “Floating your boats:” All boats do not float equally for long and never forever. In decision-making, planning and and forward thinking sooner or later you will have to sink some of your boats, launch new ones, or change course. This is to be expected and unexpected, gradual or quick. “Be careful what you pray for, you might get it.”
  1. “Effortless Mastery” by Kenny Werner: All musicians will profit deeply from reading Mr. Werner’s text. It provides ways to pursue healthy self-assessment, forgiveness, and goal orientation by getting rid of guilt and feelings of inadequacy, accepting who you are and going forward from there – over and over and over….
  1. Help wanted! Three essential books to help you discover who you are and as well as different paths to success
  • “Beyond Talent: Creating a Successful Career in Music” (3rd edition) by Angela Myles Beeching,
  • “The Savvy Musician, Building a Career, Earning a Living & Making a Difference” by David Cutler
  • “Music Business Handbook and Career Guide (13th edition) by David Baskerville and Timothy Baskerville

I also urge you to read autobiographies/biographies on major figures in and out of your areas of interest.  How did those individuals who inspire you become and then maintain their success?

11.  Establishing your personal and professional skill sets and addressing weaknesses:

a.  Who are you? Are you: average, good, above average, excellent, outstanding, superior, or are you the ESSENTIAL individual who excels above all others for a particular position? If not, how will you get there?  “Well tell me, Mr. Parkinson, why should I hire you anyway?” which was asked during my first interview. Yes, I got the job!

b.  Define your skill sets (not just musical), from #1 through #4 in decreasing levels of ability.

    1. ____________________________________________________
    2. ____________________________________________________
    3. ____________________________________________________
    4. ____________________________________________________

c.  Define your weaknesses (not just musical) in order of significance, how and when you will address them.

    1. ____________________________________________________
    2. ____________________________________________________
    3. ____________________________________________________
    4. ____________________________________________________

d.  Essential points to remember:

    • You can always get better – someone else already is.
    • You can always market or promote yourself better – someone else already has.
    • You can always succeed and fail – someone else is doing so right now.
  1. What is of vital important to you? Take several minutes to put these items in order, 1-9, or double number.
    • __ Spiritual values and your faith journey
    • __ Career success – for yourself or to make a difference in others’ lives.
    • __ Fame, fortune, and wide recognition.
    • __ Family life.
    • __ Personal well-being: physical, mental, positive thinking, overcoming depression and doubt.
    • __ Giving back to society – community involvement and beyond – as a musician or in other ways.
    • __ Practicing healthy ethics in all aspects of your life.
    • __ Being secure in who you are and what you do, without “banging the bass drum” too loudly.
    • __ Being a leader and/or being a follower: _______________________________________________
  1. “We’ve never done it that way before.” = the last seven words of an organization or individual in serious trouble.
    1. Thinking outside the box, what is your game plan to achieve your personal and professional goals, to keep growing, and to keep your heart and mind OPEN despite failures?
    2. Who, what and where do you want to be in one, three, five, ten, or twenty years? Write down some thoughts on a separate piece of paper, or on your computer or phone, and keep these handy for periodic review.
  1. Mentoring: Identify someone who will honestly encourage, inspire and forgive you, and tell you the truth when you need it most without stomping on your dreams – consistent accountability. Someday YOU will become the mentor!
  1. Leadership: books by John Maxwell, such as “Be All You Can Be,” “Developing the Leader Within You,” “Thinking for a Change,” and “Today Matters.” Goals are not met by accident; dreams are not achieved by casual energy.
  1. Teamwork: We spend a huge amount of time alone as musicians, but we are also part of a team that succeeds or fails in accordance with what we devote to it. Who are the most reliable members of your team?
  1. Aspiration, Inspiration and Perspiration: Who is the best at what you want to do or who you want to become, how did they become the best, and how did they maintain high levels of quality and achievement?
  1. Entrepreneurship in action: Explore all of the professional means available to help you grow, including:
  • Civic, business, religious, educational, and fine arts organizations for internships or part time jobs.
  • Regularly seek the news to discover what is taking place in artistic circles in your region.
  • Explore professional organizations and internet groups related your areas of interest.
  • Seek out publications, blogs, journals, conferences, and so forth to learn what the current trends and best practices are in the arts.
  • Join “LinkedIn” ®as there is so much there for you, it’s free, and networking is highly encouraged!
  • Develop your web and social media presence with a full review every thirty to sixty days.
  • Remember that “things take time” and “progress: it’s a scary thing!”
  1. The danger of stasis: Is your life and your investment in a career in music going forward, backwards, sideways or has it stopped? Stasis cannot be maintained for a lengthy period as positive or negative momentum will force things into motion for better or worse.
  1. The five effective teaching moments: yes, no and maybe, the fourth is regret, and the fifth is WOW! Learning how to deal effectively with all five is a life-long key to happiness, acceptance, vision, and success.

It is my hope that this document has provided you with encouragement and inspiration to actively pursue a career in music.  You are needed – never doubt it – and the difference that you make will inspire others to follow their dreams!



© 2022 by Mike Parkinson – all rights reserved


For permission to print, share, post or distribute this document, please formally contact Dr. Parkinson

  • Email: Mike Parkinson,
  • Cell phone: 1.740.274.2334
  • Mailing address: 13942 W. 126th Street, Overland Park, Kansas 66213

To learn more about Mike Parkinson:

For permission to reproduce, share, post or distribute this document, contact Mike Parkinson:

Mike Parkinson, 13492 W. 126th Terrace, Overland Park, KS 66213


Phone: 1.740.274.2334

To learn more about Mike Parkinson: