This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity. For the complete interview, you can access here.
Kristine Dizon: Hello, my name is Kristine Dizon, and I'm the CEO and founder of The Modern Artist Project. Today, I'm with Serena Huang, a graduate of the Juilliard School's Pre-College Division as a student of Bart Feller and Temple University's Boyer College of Music and Dance as a student of Mimi Stillman. She has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kimmel Center, and other popular venues as both a soloist and an ensemble musician.
Serena is currently pursuing her artist diploma with Professor Kim. In addition to her musical studies, Serena is on a mission to revolutionize creativity through collaboration over competition. In 2020, Serena co-founded Creative Baggage, a podcast and community giving voice to the unspoken baggage of pursuing a career in the arts. Serena's initiatives have led the Creative Baggage team to present the University of Maryland's NexNOW Fest, as well as pitch an innovative project at enCORE Accelerando 2022 in Budapest, Hungary. Following their project pitch, the team won a grant to build a project, a database of opportunities For the Lost Creative. Thank you, Serena, for joining us today.
Serena Huang: Thank you for having me.
KD: So I know, I've talked about all the wonderful things that you're doing right now. I would love to learn more about the path that led you there.
SH: Sure, I think a lot of people like me started as a kid on piano. My neighbor, across the street growing up, was a piano teacher. So my parents put me in lessons at a pretty young age. I think I was like four or five when I started, but I never thought much about it. Honestly, they would put on this little kitchen timer and have me practice 30 minutes a day.
But sometimes, if they weren't looking, I would kind of move the timer back a little side enough to do the full 30 minutes but it was just kind of like, really casual, it was fun. I liked it, but I wasn't super into it and obviously, I still wanted my time to play computer games with my friends or go outside. So, yeah, I don't think anyone really thought that I was gonna go into music at that point.
It was really when we started a band at school. So every year in elementary school, we had a winter concert where the fourth and the fifth graders got to play a concert for everybody else. And I remember every year, like, looking forward to that winter concert and also, like really wanting to be at that point in school where I get to play.
One of my friends who happened to be like two years older than me growing up played the flute. So I was like, I just want to play the flute. I remember they had the day at school where every third grader got to try the different instruments so they could pick one. I don't think I tried anything else. I think I tried, I had the clarinet but I already knew I was gonna play the flute.
So I didn't even like, look at the other instruments. I kind of regret that now because I think it would have been fun for me to just see how they were. But I was so set on it and I went to a music camp to kind of get started before fourth grade in the summer. And then I think after a year or two at school, my dad was like, I'm gonna sign you up for flute lessons. So that's kind of where my flute journey began and still it wasn't that serious. I think it was only when I moved to another district that I met a really wonderful band director, his name is Miguel. I talked about him a lot actually on my podcast, but he really just encouraged me to try new things. He showed me that music could be a career. And to that, there were a lot of competitions where I could explore programs that I could explore beyond just playing in school and taking my lessons. And at that point, I kind of set my heart on pursuing a career in music.
KD: I think that's such a beautiful journey. When you think about something that just really catches your attention and it's like I'm going to do this right in. No worries, I play the clarinet so no harm done. In regards to clarinet, it's not too late, never too late to try.
SH: Actually, after I moved schools, I got more into music and I was like, I'm gonna try different instruments. So I played a little saxophone and I played a little clarinet as well. I was so bad at the clarinet. Like, thank goodness, I did not choose, I could not get a sound out of that thing. Like saxophone, easy fingering was the same. I did a little bit of jazz band and I picked it up right away, but something about the clarinet just did not work for me.
KD: No worries. No, but one of the things that you mentioned actually was, your teacher Miguel had shown you that it was possible to make a career in music. How was he able to demonstrate that to you and how were you able to have that carry with you throughout your career so far?
SH: Honestly, I think just the way that I was raised with, the way that my family structure is, I mean, my parents are both not musicians and the way that they kind of taught me about growing up and developing a career is that like, the arts are kind of out of bounds. And so in my head, as a small kid, I didn't think being an artist or being a musician could be a job.
They didn't tell me like, oh, it's a hard job. They told me it's not a job. So that's kind of like where I started. And I think honestly having a teacher that also performed, like, he's a saxophonist, which is why I was interested in learning saxophone. And I remember he would let me come into school early before any classes started and just like, learn a little bit from him like once a week or something like that because that was his main instrument.
But he would like, often, to tell the class about the gigs that he's playing in the evenings or he was also um a composer. And I think at that time he was working towards or deciding to work toward his Ph.D. So, like, things were happening in his career as he was teaching us. So we were being exposed in our day to day to like, some of the stuff that he's written or the fact that he has to take a day off work on Thursday because he has like gigs or something like that, and just kind of seeing all the innovative projects that he was doing kind of second hand because his main job was still teaching us, made it seem like, oh, wow, like there's so many projects and possibilities and avenues for creativity, to being a musician and that you could make not just a career out of it but a very diverse career that includes both teaching and performing and composition. If that's what you're interested in or, combining all of your interests into something that works for you specifically.
KD: Oh, and this is great because it also discusses the variety that one could have in regards to being able to shape a career within the arts. I, similarly came from a background where I was told many similar things when I was a child, but I guess it's that stubbornness, I guess that has made it so that I still wanted to be able to pursue my passions and it sounds like you have been able to do that also for yourself.
SH: Yeah. I mean, even within, the world of classical music, there is a little bit of, state of one path mentality which, when I first started deciding that I wanted to do this for a career I was down for because going from this “not being a possible career path” to there being one path I was like, alright, going from 0 to 1 that's already way better.
So I think for a long time I was stuck on the road of being an orchestral flutist because I was like, at least that's a job, at least if I get into conservatory. When I got into pre-college, my parents kind of opened their minds a little bit because they were like, “Okay, she's working hard, she's doing it.” So maybe it is possible and of course, for them in their head, for me to have a stable job in an orchestra would have been ideal.
And so I was like, okay, well, that's the option, you know, I can play in an orchestra and, or I can teach. And it wasn't until after a few years of undergrad that I started to think about what I actually wanted to do within the realm of music. And I realized that, for my personality and the things that I care about, I actually would prefer to do a wider range of stuff and explore my own creative ideas, rather than going down a path that already existed.
So it's way less certain and it's way more trippy, I guess to think about because there is no set plan. But in a way, I think that mindset has freed me up to realize what things I really want for myself and what things I was kind of tricking myself into believing in or wanting because I saw it as the only way.
KD: I think I admire that too. I can relate just because you're passionate about music, right? It's not just about playing the instrument. I mean, they teach you how to do that in the conservatories in the university programs, they teach you how to become the best musician that you can be. However, if your passion is everything related, whether it's being able to connect with people, helping people through music, being able to teach music history or music theory and all of these subjects, with what you had mentioned with Miguel, it sounded like he had a variety of things and you were watching that in internalizing that and saying, “wow, this is something that's really cool because he's got the freedom to be creative.”
Yeah, like nowadays, for example, when we think about the value of having that freedom, do you feel like within those traditional paths, not saying anything bad about those paths but within those traditional paths, do you think it's possible or more limited?
SH: I mean, I've seen a lot of my friends and colleagues from school go in all different directions and it probably just depends on your personality. For some people, you want to have stability first and then that gives you the freedom to explore more without worrying about your income or worrying about what you're doing in your day-to-day.
But for me, I think it's the opposite. I want to know for sure that I'm gonna have that freedom and that creativity first and then I'm gonna find a way to fit a stable income into that if I can. But I think there's no right or wrong answer to how you want to set up your career. I think the problem is just that we're not taught that there are multiple answers.
KD: I agree. The thing is, I mean, we both studied with amazing people, very supportive and, really virtual instruments, right? But at the same time when we think about the digital age, when we think about the rate technology is moving, it's moving at such a high pace that, when you think about certain tools even 10 years ago, what we needed were so different from what they are today. So what are your thoughts about being able to adapt one's career, within the digital age that we live in?
SH: Actually, it's funny that you bring that up because I've been reading this book called Range. And it's all about how the world is changing and how we should change our education system. But we also like to equip ourselves and our own skill sets to match that. David Epstein, the author, talks a lot about kind learning environments versus wicked learning environments.
So kind environments are when the roles stay the same. And you can expect that one day will match the next. He uses like golf and chess as examples because the rules are the rules and in a way classical music fits in that too because you do have a lot of structures and a lot of rules that are set in place and hierarchies set in place in classical music.
But I think what's interesting reading the classical music section is that he brings up a lot of great musicians who didn't follow that structure or like who played around with a lot of instruments or were self-taught and then became wonderful, like jazz musicians or even like great jazz musicians who could play classical music as well as any classical music musician could because they had all this wide range of backgrounds and exploration within the music field.
So I'm thinking in my own reflections now that the world has opened up a new space for classical musicians that is a little bit more of a wicked learning environment because we don't really know what to expect. I mean, the pandemic instantly changed the entire industry and Now that we're coming out of it, it's not exactly changing back to how it was before, but it's changing again from how things were during the height of 2020.
So I think that having a wide range of skills, not just in music but experiences doing other creative things or even, having skills that are outside of what we think of as traditional, is super important. And even for me, like, I mean, I've been building this database project, I've had to enlist the help of coders and people who understand computer science and people who understand web development and people who understand marketing and kind of also pick up some of these skills for myself because in order to get this idea off the ground and also out there into people's minds, in order to help musicians find opportunities, we need to leverage other skills that are not music related at all basically.
KD: I think this is great in regards to your open-mindedness and willingness to continue to learn because a lot of the time, I don't know about you, you go through all of this intense training and you get to the point where alright guys, that's it. I'm done. Thanks right, close the shop but I think that's admirable because a lot of the time, we get so much of this type of tunnel vision when we have so much music to learn, we have so many things to do, related to just being able to learn the mechanisms of the instrument and being able to do it in such a way that it sounds beautiful that it's artistic, right? That takes a lot of thought and energy. So it's really amazing that you've been able to learn from others that you collaborate with.
And I really enjoy that. Now, when we think about the technology that we experience, right? So, could you talk a little bit more about the database and the inspiration for you to start it?
SH: Sure. So basically, I graduated from my undergrad in the middle of the pandemic. And at that point, I was like, well, I guess I'm not gonna try to get gigs because there aren't any. So, what am I gonna do musically? And I started to see some creative things somewhere music-related. Some not but still like creative, still piqued my interest popped up on like my Instagram feed and I ended up just applying for random opportunities, whether they were small contests or volunteer opportunities. I started to realize that there was actually a lot of stuff out there that was relevant to me that I hadn't explored because I was just studying music and I thought that everything else was kind of a waste of my time but I realized in doing these things that, I want a tiny grant, like a couple 100 bucks because I uploaded this, a video of me reading this.
I don't even know, it's not a poem but something that I wrote like a little philosophical music that I wrote. And I said it to my friend's music and I just entered this, like, random creative contest, and then I was, I don't know, like just the fact that they gave me something for doing that made me feel like, oh, well, you know, I have talents in other areas or like I have interests outside of music that I can explore and that are worth exploring because they bring value to someone.
And that kind of got me spinning on like, how many things can I just apply to and see what happens? And of course, some things have fees. So I kind of played around with that but through my own exploration and getting some pretty cool opportunities out of just trying random stuff that I had no experience with. I was like, how come they don't teach you that in school?
Like, why isn't there a place where you can go to look for opportunities and to apply for stuff? And that sat in my brain for a while and then I had my Creative Baggage project already, which was just a podcast then talking about our ideas and music, how we can move forward as artists and musicians and creatives. And I was like, okay, let's do something for the community here.
Let's just start gathering all the Instagram ads that I see. That could be interesting for somebody else, even if it doesn't align with me and, and share it with our small community. And then I had the opportunity after I moved to Paris to pitch for this program, Encore Tele Rondo. And so basically, I was like, I want to do this program. What can I apply with?
And I had a tiny database. So I was like, well, I guess I could apply for making it into a bigger thing where we move it onto a website because back then it was just a notion and it was a link that we shared with a very small group of people. And we pitched the idea, we won the grant. And we were like, oh my God, we have to build this.
Now, how are we gonna do that? Because we have no experience building databases I had a little bit of web design experience just from making my own website but had nothing to do with coding. It was just like click and drag. So when we won the grant, we had some funds to hire out and we ended up actually hiring my brother for a little bit because he's studying computer science.
He had just come out of his freshman year of college. So I was like, I have no idea what this kid can do, maybe he can help us. And it ended up being really cool because we got to work together and he didn't already know, he kind of got to figure it out through experience. So it was good for him to put on his resume. And we came out with a database that was on our website, where you could search just like on Google for opportunities.
And there weren't any fees on any of those opportunities because we were really careful to curate stuff that wouldn't be expensive if you wanted to explore. And then we also filtered out things that were expired because that was another pain point for me searching on Google was like stuff that expired in 2014. But you didn't realize that until after you read the whole requirements.
And we also wanted to make it scrollable. If you have no idea what you're doing, you have no idea what you're even looking for. You can kind of just get some inspiration by scrolling through relevant and active listings and we've just been growing it from there. So now we're developing a feature where you can log in and save your opportunities. We're trying to improve the search function. We're trying to get more and more opportunities on this site so that, it would be relevant, not just to classical musicians, but any kind of musician, any kind of artist, any kind of creative and also encourage that like interdisciplinary mindset where just because you're a musician doesn't mean you can't look at visual arts opportunities or internships at an arts organization in general. Yeah, so it's been an adventure. If you had asked me in school, if I wanted to study how databases worked, I would have been like hell no.
KD: I mean this is great, in regards to being able to see the journey and to schools, being able to have some sort of workshop is really emphasizing the importance, right? So for example, you mentioned that you create your own website, right?
I mean, I've done work with my earlier websites. Now I have someone that helps me, but at the same time, you know, being able to understand the significance of having a website, with what you mentioned with like computer, IT expertise, the importance of backlinks, SEO, in regards to like visibility because of the fact that, you can have a website and have it be there with like nice pictures, nice recordings and things like that. But unless it has that ability to be able to be seen right within the search engines. I mean, then it's just, that it kind of defeats its purpose. Right, but with what you've mentioned, I think that's great that you got your brother involved. I mean, that must have been quite a ride.
SH: Yeah, my parents were happy about it. You're so right. I'm still learning about SEO and all that kind of stuff. It's crazy because all of that is changing now with AI and ChatGPT. So it's really an interesting time to be learning about all this for the first time, how complicated, we thought that building the database and getting it out there would be the toughest part.
But honestly, it was after we had something usable, getting people to know about it and then remembering to come to it when they actually needed to, it was definitely the hardest part and we're still working on that now because we're continuing to make it relevant to more people. So we have to reach more people in order to have people returning and using it and making the most out of this resource.
KD: I think it's a valuable resource for sure. And I know, I've gone through the site myself and I looked at it and there was not one that had expired and there's some that had pending deadlines. Some of them were just like open enrollment. And so I really love the fact that you're taking so much care in making sure that, when people go to your site and when people are searching for opportunities of finding ways to collaborate, be creative that you're not wasting their time, which is often the case with a lot of, different blogs that sometimes outline these opportunities that either don't exist or the link is broken or you're like, wow, that sounds so cool. Oh and then you scroll towards the end and you're like, oh crap passed, right? You know, type of thing. And so I think that the attention to detail that you take is really phenomenal, Serena.
SH: Thank you. Yeah, I think that the problem a little bit with SEO-driven content is that you do have a lot of things that are only optimized for SEO. But once it's searchable, it's not useful. And we really started with the database because I started it as a tool that I would have wanted. I kind of knew what a user would benefit from. And I started with my own frustrations with how difficult it is to find opportunities.
And then we also did some beta testing and we talked to other musicians and users to see what worked for them and what didn't work for them. And so we started with the thing itself and then now we're working on the searchability and the marketability and all that kind of stuff. But, yeah, sometimes as much as, like, we need to be marketing our stuff. Sometimes if you start only with marketability, then you lack the substance, which is what happens with all the listicles that I clicked on, on Google when I first was looking for things to do internships, jobs, whatever was that they're like the whole first page were things that just had the right keywords, but they weren't that useful to me.
KD: Exactly. With what you mentioned earlier, some of the best projects or organizations or businesses stem from frustrations and that's something that I could definitely tell you. I know I'm preaching to the choir because I encountered a lot of the frustrations that you had encountered that took me 15 years to be able to really understand and to internalize and being able to, say, you know, how to create good art, we shouldn't have to struggle like this. And if we want to have a society that actually is, thriving and that actually sees the value in what we do, it's important for us to help each other, I think that's exactly what you've been doing and it's so hard but at the same time, if you love something so much if you're passionate about it and you care for it. I mean, you'd go the extra mile for it.
SH: Yeah. And that's why, I guess I spent the last year or so of my artistic life thinking about this database stuff and it doesn't seem at first glance to be that creative or artistic because it's a database. It just doesn't sound like something that is creative. But I think I found a lot of freedom in it because it's something that is going to help the community.
But I truly believe that if we have more opportunities and more ways to collaborate and different frameworks of thinking for arts, then when I come back to and, and now I'm starting to think about my own artistic projects and what I want to experiment with on my instrument and in music, I want to be doing that in a landscape where, interdisciplinary tea is encouraged, where collaboration is more prevalent than competition where you have like a feeling of stability and comfort in exploring. And so for me, it was really important to dedicate this time to creating a resource like this because I feel like changing that framework, at least in my mind. But I think it has had an impact on our community as well that changing that framework first would create a better existence for me as an artist to pursue my independent stuff.
KD: I agree. 200%. Why? Because of the fact that it also has to deal with the mindset that we're in, if we continue to go forward with this antiquated idea of, I am going to play better than you, whatever. I play the most notes, the fastest notes. I mean maybe 20 years ago that was exciting at some point.
But like when we think about it today, it's about making meaningful art, that's like, you don't have to be a jerk to make great art. You can be a nice person and make great art. And sometimes, those stigmas, those stereotypes, those types of attitudes actually are damaging to the profession. I don't know about you, but I'm a firm believer in being kind in regards to whether it's professional dealings, whether it's within projects, whether it's in, all facets of the creative process. And I feel like by, with what you mentioned, by encouraging that with people by saying, I have the capacity to be able to do this for you, and encouraging others to be able to say, hey, let's help each other out. And I think that's a really beautiful thing.
SH: Yeah. And I mean, I think the problem is that, if you are just looking at existing opportunities, then it's true that there are way more people who want those specifically, existing 100% relevant opportunities. Of course, then you have to be competing with the people next to you if you want that job because if you don't if somebody else gets it, that means you don't.
Right. There's no like, oh, we both get it, win, win, whatever. If that's really what you want, then I think like mentally, psychologically, you kind of have to be prepared for that mindset and find a way to be nice to the people around you, whether you win or lose. But I think the way that the world is now is that in addition to those existing 100% relevant opportunities, there are adjacent opportunities that if you just dip your toe into a slightly different genre, into a slightly different field, open up to you that still are existing opportunities and there's the potential to create new ones. And that's where I think working together makes a lot more sense because you can collaborate with someone outside of your field and bridge that gap and build something new. And that creates space for more people to have existing opportunities. And you could also, you know, join somebody else who is creating a new opportunity to make the field bigger. And so I think on that front, collaboration is really the key because you can't be building a bunch of opportunities on your own because if you have those opportunities open and there's a demand for it, then you're gonna need to invite people to join you in order to make it sustainable and in order to make it work.
KD: Yes, I agree. I always find that collaborations are always so fun because you get to bounce ideas from one another. And even if you may think that they're silly ideas, at least you can like, walk through them or talk through them out, in such a way that people feel compelled, they've feel the fire, they feel the energy, being able to do something that is exciting, that's a little different, but still really related to being creative in so many ways. Now, when we think about what you've mentioned, this idea of collaboration, this idea of growth, we've also talked briefly about mindset when we think about careers today, when would you, I'm curious to hear your thoughts about this.
If you were to give advice to someone who's in the last year of their undergrad or just graduating grad school and things like that within the arts, not just within music. What would you tell them? What type of advice would you give them?
SH: I think you can try anything that's interesting to you because you don't know how they'll come back full circle. And you also don't know how they can lead you down a path that you didn't know existed. So, you know, for me, I dabbled a little bit with graphic design. I dabbled a little bit with web development or web design. Mostly I dabbled with some video editing with some visual art stuff with writing and none of that I took very seriously because, for me, flute was the one and only thing that I cared about for most of my life. But when I kind of gave myself the freedom to look at those things as equally valuable and important, they now play a huge role in what I do with my life. The other thing I would say, which is related to this, is to make and keep as many connections with your classmates, with colleagues, and with people on the internet as you possibly can. Because the same thing you don't know in what ways those people will inspire you.
You don't know in what ways you'll be introduced to new opportunities through other people. So I think it's just about keeping, you can have your main thing, your instrument could be like the love of your life. But around you, you still need a network of ideas, skills, and people to kind of pull in and out depending on what your exact project or goal is.
KD: Yeah. I think this is really great advice, in regards to encouraging young professionals who may not have a clue. And that's okay, I mean, I didn't have a clue at one point. Um, and I'm sure with you, it sounds like the journey that it took, you were really refreshing. And the thing is, it's a matter of being able to say it's okay to not know things because the hard part about some of the climates that are created in different schools is tunnel vision, I have to practice six hours a day. Otherwise, I'm never going to get that dream job that I've been told is the only way for me to be able to make a sustainable living, which I believe is not true today because of the fact that with the internet, the possibilities with social media, especially social media being freeway free, right? We pay for everything, right, Serena, we pay for houses, we pay for apartments, we pay for rent, we pay for all of these things, right? But when we think about the internet and being able to market oneself, not in a shameless way, but in a way that it's like you're able to connect with people. I mean, these are, these are things that will help people also in regards to connecting, creating new audiences, and finding strengths and weaknesses.
SH: Yeah. No, I think bringing up tunnel vision is huge because that really is how we're trained to be and it is very useful in very specific cases. Right? Like if there's something in your life that's non-negotiable, then yes, tunnel vision is going to help you out a lot because you're going to be able to focus on what you're preparing for. But I'm such an advocate for the total opposite.
Like, look at what's in front of you. I feel like we miss so much an opportunity that is almost handed to us just because we literally don't see it as an opportunity or we don't think that it's gonna be valuable in our life. And the biggest thing that I'm learning from building this database is that there are a lot of opportunities out there. They're just not the ones that we would think to look at because every day I'm getting, I'm clicking through opportunities and adding stuff to the site and I'm like, oh, I could be doing this or I could have done that, or um maybe I will apply to this thing even though, it's part of my, not my job, but like it's part of my work and my project to be adding stuff to the database. But as I'm adding stuff to the database, I'm also benefiting another aspect of my career because I see the potential to apply for artistic and musical opportunities for my playing and for any other project that I want to build.
KD: I think that's amazing and it's kind of like shopping. It's like, oh, look at that. I found that, oh, that, that's, I really like that type of thing and being able to not only share those things with people but also see the value of what comes across your desk.
And I think that's really amazing. So in regards to the different suggestions I'm not one to say, this is really tough, but I feel like in a sense when we talk about the systems that we live in, right? In regards to education, adding value to what we do.
Do you have any suggestions for our audience in regards to really emphasizing that I am an artist and I love my art, but I value my art and this is why I deserve to be paid for this service because I know a lot of people struggle with that value aspect of what we do.
SH: Oh man, I mean, I struggle with it too. I mean, now I'm at the point where I think the transition between student and professional is particularly tough because as a student, it's like, totally acceptable to do things for free. And then at some point when you graduate, you're like, oh, maybe I should be charging money for this. But like, I think I'm at the point where I know that I will charge money for my services.
But the question is how much and like, it's such an uncertain thing, especially when you want to take something on. You are so afraid of overcharging that they take the opportunity away. And so for me, I think good practice is to just go in and figure out what's worth your time. I know that at some point in your professional career, it's advisable, especially for freelancers not to charge based on time because your value becomes more than just the value of your time. But I think in the beginning that's always a good place to start like, figure out what a livable wage is for you and then charge based on that. And then once you get an idea of how long it takes you to do things or how much work, especially for gigs, how much work it takes you at home, practicing for the gig, not just how much time it takes to get to the gig, play the gig and then come home like you've got to incorporate the amount of effort and time that you're putting in the background. So I think that's a good place to start but, it depends on the situation. I think if something is a little bit underpaid, but you think that it's genuinely gonna lead you down a path that you want to go down or it's for a good cause or, it's something that you don't have that much experience in.
So you want to dip your toes. I think it makes sense to take it anyway. But if you're doing something and it's not necessarily artistically fulfilling for you or gonna lead you somewhere, then you better be getting paid well for it.
KD: I know, right? It's always one of those things that, a lot of times people say, well, I'm like, well, right. I've done XYZ and this is what it's going to be, the right type of thing. I think people can respect that too with what you've mentioned being able to say, okay, it's gonna take me this amount of time to be able to learn it because we're always learning as artists, as musicians, as creatives as, it's a never-ending process, it never ends. I thought it would, I thought at some point it would. But the thing is because we have such a wide variety of repertoire and we have so many types of music coming about, different projects that are interdisciplinary. It's like, whoa, it is 2023.
So in regards to one of the things that you mentioned earlier, we've already talked about so much stuff, I'm really loving it now when it took you to actually say I'm going to do it. I mean, you are an entrepreneur, Serena, you're just like, I'm just going to do it because there is a problem, this is a problem, not only that you had, but everyone has, I could definitely tell you like without, the problems that I experience also, I wouldn't have created The Modern Artist Project. When was the turning point for you?
SH: Oh man, I think for the database specifically, it was the moment that we won that grant because before that we had the idea for the project, but I think it would have been a slow burn. It would have been like, oh maybe this is useful for the community. I'll update it whenever I want. But I think getting the feedback, that this project was worth investing in and that a jury of classical musicians and people established in the industry felt that our team and our project idea was worth investing in. But also seeing, the audience really resonated with the pain points that we had, it really clicked in me that like, this was a resource that was very much needed in the industry and that was the perfect opportunity to get going. I remember just working tirelessly on it all summer after that and really taking it as if it were a full-time job.
Obviously, it wasn't a full-time job because I wasn't getting paid beyond the grant that was for the project. But that feeling of this is important and it can be done both elements together was really what changed it for me because if it's important, but you're not sure if it can be done, then you don't have that drive and if you know, you can do it, but it's not, you don't know if it's important, then also you're missing a piece of the motivation.
But if you know that it can be done and that it needs to be done, then there's no reason not to. And for me, a lot of my ideas and my projects that I want to pursue kind of hover on one side, like either it's important or I know it can be done. And then the moment that I get the other piece of validation that it can be done or that it is important is when I can switch my brain into a full drive if that makes sense.
KD: It's perfect sense. I think it's just that motivation and drive in being able to address a problem, not only in just, here's the problem I'm going to solve it, but in a thoughtful and methodical way that is actually very pragmatic for people to use. And also coming from the lens of someone who's actually experienced it firsthand because a lot of things, you see some things, you know, on the market, whether outside, you know, when you're purchasing something, you're like, okay, a woman definitely didn't create that or like, you know what I'm saying? I say this, for example, because this is so uncomfortable, like when you buy clothes or things like that, you get into the mindset of like, okay, how can I be better in my own skin in regards to the career that I want, in regards to the career I want to pursue in the arts.
I think that's great. You know, that's something a lot of people fear. Now, my question for you is how would you encourage people who are a little apprehensive? I'm not sure this is my thing. I mean, I don't want to get into so much debt because I'm already in debt from going, spending thousands of dollars at school to be able to take the leap.
SH: I mean, I don't think there's anything wrong with dipping your toes. That's how I fell into it. Yeah, there was a moment when I decided that the project was for sure going to happen. But I had been sitting on the project idea for at least six months or even a year if you count, like the first inkling of that idea before I really went for it.
And there were moments of validation in there that made me feel more and more comfortable including having a grant. So I wasn't investing my own money into it. That made me feel more and more comfortable doing it. I think there is room to not dive in headfirst and, and they're also if you sit on something for long enough, you can find opportunities to get funding and to network with the right people who are willing to help you and build a good team.
I think having a good team is one of the most important things when you have the right vibe and the right balance within a group of people, it's way easier to stay accountable, stay motivated, and get the right type of feedback for if something is gonna work or not. So I don't think that's to be underestimated. It's cool if you're super confident in something to dive right in.
But for the most part, I think most people fall into things after having dipped their toes, gotten some reinforcement, gotten some feedback, and gotten some more positive reinforcement even more after that before they feel ready. And I think that's totally reasonable to do.
KD: I think that's really excellent advice, to just be like, okay, let's see if it works, and then you gradually warm up to it and it's like, okay, this ain't bad. All right, okay, we can keep going with it. All right. This is actually becoming a really weirdly cool, right type of thing. And I think that's a really great piece of advice to leave with our audience.
Now, I think we're going to leave on that note, Serena. I want to thank you for joining us today and for sharing your experience and thoughts with us. We look forward to seeing the amazing things that you continue to do for our community.
SH: Thank you. It was so nice to connect.
Kristine Dizon is a multi-faceted performer, teacher, writer, author, linguist, and entrepreneur. She is Founder & CEO of the Music & Language Learning Center, The Modern Artist Project and co-founder of the Gran Canaria International Clarinet Festival and American Single Reed Summit. She is an artist for Uebel Clarinets and Silverstein Works. Learn more at www.kristinedizon.com.