Cultivating A Creative Community

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A major focus for me in the month of October, though I didn’t plan on it, was building community. This has been something I’d craved for a while, and after a difficult summer of anxiety, recovering from burnout, and turning inward, then adjusting to the beginning of the school year, I was finally ready to look outward and connect again with friends and peers.

The life of a pianist can be very insular, which can be good for an introvert like me, but only to a point. I enjoy working on projects on my own, and it’s one of the ways I work best, but after a while, I start to feel like, “Hello? Is anybody out there?”, craving feedback and social interaction. While I may get more than my fill of human interaction in the course of a teaching day, most of it is not with adults, and only a quick hello to my peers as we cross paths in the hallway. So, I have to work a little harder to cultivate community for myself.

I have felt a stronger need to make music with others and collaborate with peers over the last year, or maybe it’s that I felt the lack of that more strongly. In any case, it’s been a focus of mine lately.

I have several communities that I have various levels of connection with, and I feel more satisfied now that I’m taking a more active role in forming the kind of communities that I want to see.

For one, my friend Lauren Husting and I started a series of networking happy hours for women-identifying musicians over the summer. It’s been small but very rewarding so far, and there’s been lots of interest. If you’re in Minneapolis/St. Paul and you want to stay in the loop about it, sign up for our mailing list here!

I also attended the Giant Steps conference here in Minneapolis last Friday, which was awesome - so diverse, both culturally and in terms of various creative fields being represented (including musicians, who are often left out of conferences for creatives). A major theme of the conference was being yourself, and what that means in terms of business - all of the panelists went much deeper than I expected, especially about creating communities that work for artists. I connected with some really interesting people, in a setting that definitely didn’t feel like the “networking” I usually wrinkle my nose at. I highly recommend Giant Steps, and I’ll definitely be going next year!

I reflected on what makes a strong community back in March, and here are some ways that I wanted to work on creating more of that:

  1. Supporting peers through attending their gigs and events (although simultaneous gigs are often a problem)
  2. Helping peers by promoting their events on social media
  3. Expressing excitement about what other musicians are doing, online and in person - if you think someone is awesome, tell them!
  4. Having more coffee dates with fellow musician/teachers who tend to have the same availability
  5. Brainstorm new ways to share music with my larger community

I have to say that I haven’t done as much of these as I would like, but my reduced teaching schedule this fall is really helping me have leftover energy for these sorts of things, and I’d like to do a daily challenge with #3 sometime soon. I think that what it comes down to is committing to making it a priority in whatever way fits into your life (even if that's an online community rather than an in-person one).

Having a creative community is also super helpful in keeping up your own personal creative habits - even if you prefer working alone, it’s still nice to have encouragement, moral support, and a sounding board.

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You can do this, too! 

If you’re a musician who wants to compose more, and is also motivated by external accountability, you can join the Creative Musician Club to form some community around your habit! I’m taking a small group of people this fall to test out some prompts, starting Monday, November 6. (And don't worry if you have zero experience with composing - this is still for you!)

You’ll get 21 daily emails, each with a prompt to get you started writing a piece of music. These prompts aren't intended to make you finish each piece, but just to plant a seed, so, if you participate for a week, you'll already have 7 new ideas! You’ll also get an invite to join a Facebook group where we’ll share successes and struggles - a great place for encouragement and accountability. I'm going to be doing the prompts right alongside you, too, as part of my 100 More Days of Writing Music challenge - you can follow along on Instagram here.

EDIT: This 21-day challenge is over, but I'm formulating a free course that includes daily prompts and access to the Facebook group - to be notified when it opens, sign up below! 

How do you find your people (online and in real life)?

Rebecca Hass

Pianist and composer