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Hello, I am Prudence McDaniel, professional cellist, private teacher, and college instructor. This is how my professional description read until the last year and a half. I wanted to talk with you today and share what led to my becoming a coach, international speaker and best-selling author all in the last 2 years.
If you have visited my website, http://www.PrudenceMcDaniel.com, you have probably read the very long About Me page which shares that I had my first experience with the business side of music when I was a junior in high school. I had the unusual good fortune to participate in an internship program for high school students who found traditional schooling a really unpleasant way to learn, or school didn’t provide learning in the areas of the student’s interest. For example: one of the participants did his internship as a blacksmith. How many high schools teach that skill? Right. He went on to become a forest ranger. And yes, he used his blacksmith skills on the job.
For me, the timing was perfect because the theater where symphony concerts were held was old and needed renovations. Back in the 70’s (yes, I’m dating myself) older buildings were not valued as much as they are today. The theater was iconic to the city and it was a sad day when they blasted it, but the population voted with their words, vote, and dollars to build a new facility. It was in the final stages of opening the building that I had the opportunity to go to work every day and, not only shadow the executive director, but, be his assistant. This gave me the chance to see how the presenter side of the arts world worked. I experienced everything from budget creation and implementation, to contract negotiations, interviews and hiring of the usher staff, and writing the house rental contract as my final semester project and assignment. On the last day of the semester, my internship ended when I took my completed project to my principal in the morning, and began my new job as Assistant House Manager, becoming the youngest in the country at age 17. I learned: personnel scheduling and management while overseeing the 127 person usher staff for the 2,700 seat hall; fulfillment of the technical riders for food and beverages, and; completed concession accounts if the house manager was unavailable for a show.
One day is vivid in my memory. We had an all day Suzuki Workshop with 1,000 kids, parents and teachers, and the fabulous pianist/comedien Victor Borge in the evening. We had just opened the doors for the Suzuki Workshop when the house manager got a call that his mother had just died. That left me in charge. Here’s the hard and crazy part. My mother was in the hospital and I had just been informed that she was going into emergency surgery. She was ok and lived many, many more decades, but I was 17 in a job I’d just started. Talk about on the job training!
Throughout my life, even though I have always performed, the business side of the profession kept popping up. Somehow I always ended up being treasurer on the directing boards of artistic organizations including my Quartet. 13 years ago we started the Chamber Music Institute At one point, after my master’s degree, I joined forces with another wonderful artist who became my business partner, Nicholas T. Moore, who was getting his degree in music technology – emphasis in composition. We were both attending Duquesne University at the time. I had an idea to do a children’s CD in which the cello became the characters of three fairy tales. Nick did the acting and I had to figure out how to play the cello so it was non-pitch specific, meaning that it doesn’t have a specific tone or frequency like when you sing a note. What we were doing was following the inflections in the human voice when speaking. That. was. hard. So we recorded the vocal tracks and then I had to figure out how to play it. We blended the two together so it sounded like the cello was talking. Sounds like fun, huh? It was!
The hard part was not incorporating as an LLC and filing as an S-Corp, it was the marketing and publicity with no money. This was during a time when Yo-Yo Ma and Bobby McFerrin released their beautiful album where they sang/played together. Everyone thought that’s what we were doing and even though we shared samples so they could hear it, the concept and technology was so new they didn’t know how to position us in the market. And being musicians, we had no training in understanding how to do it either. It was a bust, but as I describe what we did, I am coming to understand that its day may have arrived. We’ll see.