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Performance and Pedagogy Blog

A blog about the performance and pedagogy of music.

Filtering by Tag: Savvy Musician

David Cutler: Monday YouTube Fix

Andrew Hitz

David Cutler is a dear friend and a creative genius.  I hope he doesn't read this because it will go to his head but he is one of those people who seems to always being thinking a couple of steps ahead on the creative front.

Here is his version of "Oh Christmas Tree" for prepared piano which he performed many times when he joined Boston Brass every year for the expanded Christmas lineup.  I always looked forward to his solo performances during every gig.  You never quite know what he is going to come up with.


Have Your Dreams Been Educated Out of You?

Andrew Hitz

"All kids dream big. They want to be super famous, super meaningful, super powerful superheroes...But as we mature, these grand fantasies are typically educated out of us."
-David Cutler, Author of The Savvy Musician

The above quote is from a really great blog post by my good friend David Cutler over at It is must read.

He points out that people's dreams either grow or shrink over time and that it's usually the latter. It is his contention that this is not good.

As David points out in his excellent post, you should never let the system educate your dreams out of you. Every single person in this business who you look up to started by dreaming big and never changed that fact.

Perfect Advice on Starting Any Arts Initiative in One Sentence

Andrew Hitz

"You need to know what you know and you don't know and how to partner with people with different strengths." -David Cutler (The Savvy Musician)

You will never read a sentence that sums up how to proceed on any new business venture better than that one above.  When starting any kind of an arts initiative, don't simply go for the most talented players, dancers, singers, or actors. Read the above sentence until you have it memorized and then go from there.

Trust me.  You'll thank Dr. Cutler later if you do.

(This quote was from the fabulous 2013 Savvy Musician In Action Retreat at the University of South Carolina.)


The Power of Doing

Andrew Hitz

"You don't learn something when you hear about it.  You learn something when you do it or teach it." - David Cutler (Author of "The Savvy Musician")

These wise words came from my good friend and colleague, Dr. David Cutler, at the beginning of The Savvy Musician In ACTION Retreat back in June.  As another school year begins, these are great words for all teachers to remember, from elementary school to college.  I know I can occasionally fall into the trap of telling my students all about something at great length rather than giving them simply a general idea and then making them try it themselves.

Students learn a little bit about a new concept by listening to an expert speak about it.  But they learn a lot more about it by actually doing it.  That includes succeeding and failing.  The power of our students doing the very skill we as teachers are trying to impart is simply priceless.

And the second half of the above  quote is why all students, no matter what level they are, should be teaching someone something about what they are trying to master.  It's amazing how well you have to know a subject in order to explain it to someone else in a succinct, understandable manner.  I started teaching private lessons when I was a senior in high school.  The experience I had teaching those three students (4th, 8th and 10th graders) was invaluable to my development as a musician.

The power of doing (and teaching) is simply priceless.

The Savvy Musician

Lessons Learned from The Savvy Musician in ACTION Retreat

Andrew Hitz

Last week at the University of South Carolina, David Cutler (author of The Savvy Musician) hosted a life changing retreat for everyone who attended.  It was titled "The Savvy Musician in ACTION Retreat" and featured 57 participants (or arts entrepreneurs as they were called) from 21 different states and Canada.  The participants ranged from undergrads to full-time professionals working in every aspect of the arts.  The faculty consisted of five Thought Leaders (of which I was one) from around the US as well as a number of amazing professors from USC. The retreat, as with so many great things in life, is hard to summarize.  In a nutshell, 57 people split up into 10 teams and had to come up with an arts based business model that would both provide impact and be sustainable.  They had basically two days to figure out everything including a name, a logo, where funding was coming from, their target customer base, a comprehensive marketing and social media strategy, and how to pitch this idea to three actual business leaders from Columbia, SC.

Some of the teams were working until 5:00 am the last night in order to finish their presentations which they began setting up at 8:00 in the hall! It was an intense atmosphere for both the teachers and the participants.  I left more energized about my future than I've been since I was a kindergartener dreaming of becoming an astronaut.

What an amazing experience! Thank you to all who were there.  I learned so much from all of you.  I had one student there from George Mason, Andrew Dougherty, who told me he will try to convince the entire studio to come down next year.  I sure hope they do.

I could do a dozen posts (and still might!) just on the things I learned from fellow thought leaders Justin Kantor (of Le Poisson Rouge), Jon Ostrow (of CyberPR), Lance LaDuke (of Boston Brass) and David Cutler.  But one of the coolest parts of the 4 days was when each of the arts entrepreneurs got up in front of everyone and said one thing they had learned over the course of the four days.  Here is a sampling of quotes from that decompression session.  There are so many nuggets of inspiration and motivation in here that I don't even know where to begin.


  • Make your goals bigger and the steps to get there smaller.
  • Find somebody that knows more than you and just ask them.
  • Be willing to pivot instead of hanging on with your claws until you die.
  • Doing things perfectly is not nearly as important as getting things done.
  • Don't be afraid to pivot and make a change.
  • Good leaders need to know what it's like to be a follower.
  • Trust your team. They can do great things.
  • Dream big and don't apologize for it.
  • Life begins outside your comfort zone.
  • Knowing and understanding are two different things.
  • Choose to go all in.
  • Don't let your idea for a project get in the way of letting something become what it needs to become.
  • I was reminded of the power of small.
  • It's OK to ask for help.
  • Having a sense of humor when things blow up in your face is a good thing.
  • There's no shame in passing something off to someone who can do it better.
  • There's an incredible amount of power in diversity.
  • Attempted humor is a great stress relief.
  • It is a value to be able to improvise well.
  • Focus.
  • The more energy you put into life, the more you get out of life.