In Conversation with Alexandra Dariescu: Guildhall Creative Entrepreneur
18 August 2020 | By Naomi Chapman
Cause4 speaks to Alexandra Dariescu, pianist and entrepreneur, about how musical talent and business skills should go hand in hand.
In 2014, Cause4 launched the Guildhall Creative Entrepreneurs programme in partnership with the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. We’ve now seen seven cohorts go through the year-long incubator, with 46 new businesses launched in the cultural sector.
In this blog, we catch up with Alexandra Dariescu, musician, business-woman and member of the Guildhall Creative Entrepreneurs 2016/17 cohort.
Cause4: Why do you think it is important for creatives to develop business skills alongside their creative practice?
AD: Living in a constantly changing world, I truly believe that the music industry also needs to adapt and find innovative ways of keeping music alive and relevant in the 21st century. Classical music has traditionally been hesitant to adopt change and I find it hugely inspiring to see the Creative Entrepreneur Scheme lead the way in passing on knowledge through innovative ways of teaching.
I feel learning about entrepreneurial skills is as important as our musical skills in today’s world. We dedicate our lives to finding the meaning of music, improving our technique, learning the rep and performing to the best of our best abilities but once College is finished, we are thrown into the real world and barely a few can survive. We need to be entrepreneurial and find ways to innovate and create opportunities for ourselves. We are our own agents, accountants, publicists, fundraisers, and coffee makers, and although each of us builds a business company from scratch, not many people understand the true meaning of being an artist in the 21st century. We are not the bohemian type, living in huge houses, dreaming without a worry in the world. The truth is that most musicians barely make ends meet and the more aware we are of our entrepreneurial side and develop the skills to make a sustainable living, the better we can adapt and succeed.
Throughout my career I have learned that a life in music is no longer only the result of a single successful concert, review or CD release but about constantly looking for opportunities to triumph. I strongly believe there is a huge need for Creative Entrepreneurship courses, which will not only develop students’ skills as entrepreneurs but also inspire them to take risks and come up with a fresh perspective on building a career as an artist in the 21st century.
Cause4: Is there anything you learnt on the Creative Entrepreneur scheme that you regularly use or refer back to?
- Making a business plan: always revising it, adapting it and understanding that is the very foundation of my business.
- Risk assessment: not something I have done before, at least not in such great detail.
- Pitching: normally I speak to one or two people at the most “selling” my idea but pitching in front of a whole room full of entrepreneurs has challenged me a lot more than I thought and brought a different perspective in my development.
I have been recommending the CE course ever since I graduated, I think it has changed my thinking a lot and I cannot describe how much I learnt from it.
“I strongly believe there is a huge need for Creative Entrepreneurship courses, which will not only develop students’ skills as entrepreneurs but also inspire them to take risks and come up with a fresh perspective on building a career as an artist in the 21st century.”
Cause4: How have the challenges facing your business changed since you graduated from the programme?
AD: COVID-19 is the number one challenge now for the arts industry as a whole. Budgets are a lot tighter, performing opportunities scarce and promoters fearing planning because of the unknown. This will have made it even harder in general and we must face reality, what we called “normal” has changed a significant amount especially for young artists looking to start a career.
From my own business’ point of view, I need to keep creating my own niche- there is a greater need to make my business relevant, applying the creative entrepreneurial skills I have accumulated through the course and expanding my knowledge of the market to survive and thrive.
Cause4: What achievement are you proudest of since finishing the Creative Entrepreneur scheme?
The Nutcracker and I has achieved more than I could have ever hoped for. We toured this production on every continent and performed more than 75 shows in the last 2 years to sold out audiences in Australia, USA, China, Emirates and pretty much in every country in Europe. The audiobook accompanying the production was downloaded more than 50,000 times in the first week and the production was nominated for the Opus Klassik award. The most rewarding thing for me personally was seeing 3 or even 4 generations from the same family at the same concert; kids alongside adults daring to dream; promoters taking a risk (in their view) and seeing every show selling out like hot cakes; reaching out to audiences we never thought we would, bringing classical music in the 21st century.