Getting a Running Start at MSU

Posted: Jun 01 2017

By: Alexea Hankin 

“What are we not teaching students in the music field?”
This was the question poised, and then answered, by Michigan State University’s Running Start program, which aims to teach entrepreneurial skills to College of Music students. 
“It is designed to help students go from their passions into a profession,” director of Career Services and Music Entrepreneurship Christine Beamer said. 
The program has ran for about five years, but was taken over by Beamer three years ago, and has since been revamped. Because 70% of musicians are self-employed at some point in their lives, Beamer says that it is essential to create an environment where students can think of themselves like a business and their music like a product when pursuing a career in the music field. 
There are now four tiers of services the program provides, and most of them are available to any student—not just students in the College of Music. 
The first tier is workshops. These workshops are available to students and often include guest artists or professionals speaking on either their career path and how entrepreneurship has shaped them, actual skill-building workshops (such as how one writes grants, which was the topic of a recent workshop). 
The second tier is individual advising. Students will come in and can say anything from: “I want to start a nonprofit” to “I am going to be a sole proprietor and I’m going to need to build some marketing materials for that” to “I want to start my own studio” and Running Start can help them with that. 
The third tier is engagement, and is specifically for music students.
“We run what we call “residency programs,” because a very common model for entrepreneurs in music is to build an educational product for original a company,” Beamer said. “So, for instance, a chamber group will say: “You can hire us to do educational concerts for K-12 students, or you can hire us to come in and talk to your corporation about creativity. We have two residency programs where students get to create their own residency but we establish the organizational relationships.”
The Running Start competition is the fourth tier. It is a business model pitch competition where students with business ideas can receive up to $2,500 in funding. 
Beamer says the goal of running start is to equip students with the ability to think in an entrepreneurial mindset. 
“Artists are constantly up against the question: ‘How do we display the value of our work? How do we communicate and pitch the essential nature of music to society?’” Beamer said. “We’re a very people-intensive, experiential industry. So regardless of where they end up in the industry, we try to teach students that entrepreneurial mindset that will help them regardless of what role they eventually take on.”