It was a question that inspired three Juilliard flute alums to band together and start a business. Viviana Guzmán (M.M. ’90) and Barbara Siesel (B.M. ’79, M.M. ’80) were longtime friends from the Aspen Music Festival when they met Andrea Fisher (B.M. ’02, M.M. ’04). All three were attending the 2011 National Flute Association convention, though Fisher’s experience there was less conventional than most—she was selling designer flute bags from her ice cream truck. The following year the convention was in Las Vegas, and as the three were talking again, they realized they were all hearing similar questions from younger students and recent graduates, most specifically: How does one make a career as a flutist without being in an orchestra or taking other traditional routes?
In May, the trio celebrated the first anniversary of The Flute View, a subscription-based online magazine that stems from the creators’ desire to have an accessible resource that’s relevant to today’s flutists in the rapidly changing music world. It covers an array of topics, from technology and self-promotion to health and wellness, all through the lens of artists who are carving nontraditional career paths. With exclusive video content, interviews, feature articles by guest writers, forums, and an active social media presence, The Flute View provides an inspirational platform for flutists of all ages to gain and exchange ideas.
In a joint email, the three each cited their Juilliard experience as having been integral to their success as entrepreneurs, noting that succeeding here takes discipline, “countless hours working really hard and striving for excellence,” and the ability to “ask for help and listen to those who knew more than we did.” They also noted the importance of the connections and friends they had made at school.
But their achievement isn’t just collective. Each has an entrepreneurial skill set gained from her own projects. In 2011, Fisher launched her designer flute bag line, Fluterscooter, and the bags are now available through 20 dealers (including the Juilliard Store)—and Fisher has become an Internet marketing expert along the way, knowledge she’s used to promote The Flute View. Guzmán founded the San Francisco Flute Society in 2010 while promoting her 123-country international solo performing career. She’s also a photographer, and her passion for visuals and videography have influenced The Flute View in its chic and contemporary design. Siesel has a penchant for literature, contemporary music, and interactive media. Her Green Golly Project, in-person and online storytelling that incorporates music, aims at inspiring creativity and innovation while restoring and sustaining classical music—and she feels The Flute View is a natural extension of that mission. “We each bring together our individual strengths and it all clicks,” Siesel told The Journal.
Inevitably there are challenges for them as there are for any aspiring artist. Struggling to balance artistic and entrepreneurial endeavors is something the curators of The Flute View say they have learned to embrace, emphasizing the fact that one cannot exist without the other, especially since the modern music world presents less traditional career opportunities. The 21st-century’s paradigm shift of Internet opportunities makes this possible, and is at the foundation of The Flute View’s success. “Now that we don’t have to rely on agents and managers, it’s liberating because we can be in charge of managing our own careers and using all the tools available today,” the trio wrote. “We each had strong ideas that we wanted to share with the music community, and the only way to do that was to become good at business. Since the advent of the Internet, it is possible to actually launch an idea and have it be successful without a lot of traditional gatekeepers.” Another advantage is that the trio can work together even though they’re frequently in opposite parts of the globe. Fisher is based in New York City and Tokyo; Guzmán in Santiago, Chile, and San Francisco; and Siesel in New York City.
So what advice would they offer to aspiring arts entrepreneurs? “Figure out what connects you most deeply to your art and use that to help spark your idea,” Siesel said. “Dream big. Write down all your heart’s desires on paper and create a plan with the necessary steps to achieve that dream,” Guzmán recommended. “Be a maverick,” Fisher said: “Turn the impossible into magic!”