Pushing Forward in a Time of Change
“The only way that we can live, is if we grow. The only way that we can grow is if we change. The only way that we can change is if we learn. The only way we can learn is if we are exposed. And the only way that we can become exposed is if we throw ourselves out into the open. Do it. Throw yourself.” ― C. JoyBell C.
Throwing yourself into a situation is something that applies to almost every aspect of life. Sometimes it is something that is planned, and other times we might just happen to be in the situation by chance. Either way, the world is constantly changing, and it is not waiting for anyone to keep up with it. Embracing and taking on change with full confidence and determination is something that I realized is extremely important, and it is a philosophy that I try to follow every day, even if it is uncomfortable at first.
Throughout my college experience, I have seen a lot of change and growth in myself, and in the Tell School of Music at Millersville University. Pushing and changing yourself comes with making the most of whatever opportunity comes your way, and sometimes, that may mean leaving your comfort zone and making the changes that you believe will benefit your future self. Attending the 2019 NAMM Show in Anaheim, CA was one of the best opportunities that I have been afforded as a student. This experience provided insight into the latest and most innovative music products from hundreds of major manufacturers and suppliers from across the globe. When I heard the Tell School of Music’s MBT program was sponsoring a trip to NAMM and one of my professors suggested that I apply for NAMM’s President’s Innovation Award, I couldn’t have been more excited. Applying and receiving this award opened a new path for me. Although the thought of engaging with the top brands in the industry seemed a bit intimidating at first, I embraced the opportunity following my “throw yourself” philosophy.
I designed and had printed a stack of business cards, packed my bags, and developed a strategy to talk with all the manufactures that have impacted my life to date and ones that I thought were industry leading organizations. As I made my way around the massive show floor, I talked to these industry leaders about change and innovation. Each representative had a unique take on what their company does to push forward to create differentiation within the market. The takeaways from these encounters are described throughout the rest of this article, and it is my goal to incorporate many of the concepts into my post-college career in the music industry.
D’Addario. What can I say – I am a personal fan (I use their strings), so they were one of my first stops. I had a chance to sit down with Steve Mucciolo, Global Business Development Manager, to discuss their history, present product offerings, and future ambitions. Steve described D’Addario’s strategy of always having complete control of their production process. D’Addario custom makes the machines used to create their products and updates them with the latest technology to ensure consistency and quality. He also outlined their avoidance of “me too” products and described their philosophy of product innovation in order to be unique in each product they bring to market. We also talked about the importance of manufacturing products of the highest quality and the battery of tests that their products must go through before being released. Steve, being on the team that developed highly success NYXL line of strings (the specific strings I play), is certainly a thought leader in terms of new product innovation and delivering a quality product to market, and it was a pleasure to spend time with him.
I believe that D’Addario’s theme of quality, consistency, and uniqueness is important and should be widely adopted in every aspect of life. In a time of change while leaving the comfortable confines of college and coming into the greater world, it is of paramount importance that the next generation try to adopt and perfect these traits in order to be successful in their career and in life. Their approach to uniqueness that has driven success in a highly competitive market is equally as important. I’ve been performing live since a very young age and now write and record my own music. I feel it’s very important in the creative process to avoid following the pack and to create something meaningful and unique. It is my plan to carry this forward into my work and all future endeavors.
Next stop was IK Multimedia. Dan Boatman, Sales Manager, filled me in on IK Multimedia’s philosophies that drive their success in the age of digital technology and transformation. Dan described one of their main goals was to develop technologies that make professional sound affordable to the common buyer. IK Multimedia was a company built on innovation of technology, and they remain focused on taking technology that is complicated and expensive and finding ways to put it in the palm of your hand. I think IK Multimedia’s philosophy of constantly providing a high-level of value at an affordable price seems to be analogous to young talent entering the music industry. Becoming a value asset to a team at an affordable, entry level is crucially important for my peers as we take the next steps forward. Quickly learning the ropes in order to drive value and learning to put yourself out there will mean only good things for those willing to try. I don’t think this is a lens that people in leadership positions currently view my in my generation, but I think we may surprise everyone! I certainly plan to lead the charge.
Music is really all about the sound, and I couldn’t help but stop by the Fishman booth as I’m the proud owner of a Martin Performance Series acoustic electric which uses Fishman pickups. I have always been in awe at how well my guitar sounded plugged in and attributed much of that to the pickups. Thomas Ostrander, Vice President of Global Retail Sales, filled me in on some of the latest and greatest pick-ups and expansions they have been working on. One of particular note was the Fluence Multi-Voice Pickups, which takes the guitar signal and splits it into two complementary “voices.”. This is the first big innovation to the traditional pickups in over 80 years! We discussed how Fishman’s mission is to find the most true and natural sound of the acoustic instrument – the magic in the wood. I think this particular philosophy really resonates with me, because just like Fishman is striving towards the most natural sound of the instrument, I think that we all strive to find the most natural forms of ourselves, and presenting our true selves to the world is the most pure form of how we can really connect with people on a very human level. My college career has been a journey of self-awareness as much as it was about getting a degree. Although I tend to overextend myself in my school work and musical endeavors (graduating Cum Laude didn’t just happen!), it was important to me to find a balance between school work and life and be able to leave Millersville with some real-life experiences. I would encourage my peers to invest the time, as I believe this is where we all truly find our voice.
I’m a guitar player first and foremost, but playing the drums is a very close second. So, getting a chance to talk with Erik Upshaw, National Sales Manager, from Meinl was truly awesome. Our discussion was really an eye-opening experience in terms of uniqueness and differentiation. We talked about the Byzance Series, and how each cymbal they create is unique and hand-hammered in Turkey. Erik informed me that Meinl is the one of the only cymbal companies to have a factory completely independent from any other cymbal company, which I think provides them the autonomy needed to make the highest quality products. Other cymbal companies share a factory when their products are initially created, but Meinl is independent. Meinl’s philosophy behind the making of their cymbals is so on point. Just as every drummer is unique in style and sound, so are the Meinl cymbals. Erik also talked about the rigorous process their cymbals go through just to be “checked off” as quality enough for the consumer. It is this dedication to quality that makes Meinl one of the best and most unique cymbals in the market. Meinl’s amalgamation of uniqueness and quality is certainly one I’d like to emulate going forward in the real world. One of the most obvious and important parts to building up one’s brand is setting yourself apart. In my music and in my work, this is something I strive toward.
One company I had to check out while at NAMM was Reverb. I had the opportunity to get in touch with Heather Edwards, PR & Communications Manager, who I had previously seen speak at the Careers in Music Summit with Joe Lamond. Reverb to me is the definition of innovation, as they take advantage of every new technology to make it easy to buy and sell music gear. Reverb recognized a problem/opportunity in the industry and tackled it at full force, which is demonstrated in their amazing growth. Since launching in 2013, the company has evolved into the most popular music gear website in the world, with over half a billion dollars in annual sales on the platform. By utilizing its resources, Reverb continues to rank in being one the most affordable options in the industry. With technologies such as the Reverb app, Price Guide, Reverb Sites, and Shipping Assistance, they have it all covered. They are also continuously in contact with their customers to ensure that they accommodate their needs. Reverb has one of the most impressive philosophies when it comes to adaptation and innovation in my opinion. Their client-first approach and relentless pursuit of customer satisfaction directly relates to what I think people should focus on when building a career path. Look for what the industry or a company needs and deliver that skill/knowledge. Channeling my inner-JFK, don’t ever ask the question of what someone can do for you, but instead ask what you can do for them. I think that is an idea that is too often overlooked and couldn’t be more important when setting yourself apart from the crowd.
What a wonderful and fulfilling opportunity it was to engage with these thought leaders and global companies. It really helped me understand what it means to change with the industry and how to look forward into the future instead of being stuck in the past or following the pack in the present. They taught me the importance of having a futuristic and unique vision, whether it be for an individual person, or a big company, in order to drive success. That is what I aspire to be. Someone that goes out and sets themselves apart by not being just another college student with a degree. I want to be unique. I want to have the vision to see the potential changes in the world and apply my abilities and the skills that I’ve learned to impact that change. I can’t give enough thanks to Joe Lamond, his team, and all the company representatives that took the time to talk to me about their company and the industry. They have given me endless inspiration to be different and get started in my career.