Entrepreneurship and Career Development

Entrepreneurs of the Month

INGRID MATTHEWS AND BYRON SCHENKMAN

Entrepreneur of the Month

Ingrid Matthews and Byron Schenkman

Forward-thinking Baroque musicians, ensemble leaders, entrepreneurs, and Jacobs School of Music alumni!

For the past three decades, Ingrid Matthews and Byron Schenkman have blazed an extraordinary trail in the early music world by co-founding the internationally recognized Seattle Baroque Orchestra in 1994 and emerging as leading soloists, chamber musicians, music directors, and recording artists. They met while studying in the Jacobs School’s Historical Performance Institute in the early 1990s (then known as the Early Music Institute) and their creative partnership has provided much of the inspiration to their professional careers. Both have performed in the Bloomington Early Music Festival and have served as guest performers and lecturers at the Jacobs School of Music.

Project Jumpstart sat down with Matthews and Schenkman following their recent Bloomington guest recital to discuss their lives and career paths as early music entrepreneurs. Read on for their insights about the field and enjoy videos of performances with the Seattle Baroque Orchestra.


Project Jumpstart: What constitutes a typical workday when leading a chamber orchestra like the Seattle Baroque Orchestra?

 Ingrid Matthews: A typical work-day when I'm leading an orchestra (as I did for 19 years with SBO, and now do as a guest with other ensembles) involves first of all early rising: I like to start with meditation and yoga to get myself going. Typically there are two 3-hour rehearsals in a day, and it's important for me to be warmed up beforehand. I also think it's important to allow time at the beginning of a rehearsal to greet and talk with all of my colleagues, in order to build and maintain good morale. When rehearsal starts, I like to work within a pretty strict schedule. Often there's not as much rehearsal time as we might like, but I always make a detailed schedule specifying how much time we can spend on each piece or movement, and I find that there's real magic in that: if we have, say, 90 minutes for one piece, then 90 minutes is enough. It has to be, and it is. A schedule is an invaluable tool for getting things done.

All this has been about my "typical work day" with an orchestra, but the truth is that the rehearsal period is like the tip of the iceberg; most of my work is done beforehand. A truly typical day might involve a couple hours of practicing; time studying the score to learn everyone else's part, not just the first violin line; marking bowings; meeting or talking with Byron about future programs; answering email questions about concert dress, music stands, comp tickets, travel arrangements; perhaps having coffee with a donor. And again, I do believe strongly that my personal practices regarding health and mindfulness underlie everything that I do, so I always make time for those things.

Ingrid Matthews and Byron Schenkman, Entrepreneurs of the Month

Ingrid Matthews and Byron Schenkman (Will Austin Photography) 

Project Jumpstart: Were there key people who helped you along the way while you were building the SBO? How did your interactions with these supportive individuals influence you to improve the overall conduct of your professional life?

Byron Schenkman: My most important mentor was Maria Coldwell, who was Executive Director of the Early Music Guild of Seattle, the umbrella organization under which we got our start, and later went on to become ED of Early Music America. Maria taught me many of the nuts and bolts of arts management, including writing press releases, identifying and cultivating donors, creating budgets, etc. We also had a very strong board in the early years, led by Peggy Monroe. Our board taught us to believe in the work we were doing and gave us confidence to take chances and grow. When Joanna Mendelsohn became our Executive Director we had strong leadership on all three fronts: artistic, administrative, and board. I think it's really important to have strong leadership in all those areas.

Ingrid Matthews and Byron Schenkman, Schmelzer Sonata IV - enjoy this YouTube video!

Enjoy a performance of J. H. Schmelzer's Sonata IV by Ingrid Matthews and Byron Schenkman 

Project Jumpstart: How did you manage to balance your time between administrative commitments/deadlines, musical preparations/performances, and your continuing overall progress as a musician?

Ingrid Matthews: I love lists, and like well-conceived schedules, I consider them very powerful tools. A list of things to do clarifies my priorities for any given day, week, or month, and keeps my mind from feeling too cluttered.

Project Jumpstart: What are some of the differences between the modern musician and the 17th-18th century musicians who premiered the music you play, and do these differences inform your approach to the music?

Byron at the harpsichord
Byron Schenkman (Will Austin Photography)

Byron Schenkman: The biggest difference is that they had no such thing as "early music" or even "classical music!" Singers and players were also composers and vice versa. They weren't thinking of music as art for art's sake. Music always had a function: to help people worship at church, to make them dance, to entertain them in the theater, etc.

I like to think of every concert as a theatrical experience. I learned a lot about this from Thomas Binkley, who was a master at it! The way I see it, if I expect audiences to pay money to sit still in their seats for an hour or more, I need to consider their entire experience, including the comfort of their seats, the content and presentation of the program books, the way the stage looks, the way the musicians look (including how they are dressed and how they move on stage), the way we relate to the audience (talking in a way that is engaging; never lecturing), and most importantly, the way the program is constructed so that there is a satisfying emotional arc to the music from the first note to the last note that the audience hears.

Project Jumpstart: How have attitudes about Baroque music and historically informed performance changed in the music community since the SBO's founding 20 years ago? What about attitudes in the community at large?

Ingrid Matthews: Early music is much better understood now than it was twenty years ago, but still, its more obscure corners (in fact a lot of the 17th century literature) are still considered obscure. I think that's ok though, because that way people can still be thrilled and surprised by it. There's still almost a "new music" energy to 17 th century music, even while symphony orchestras using baroque bows for Handel, for instance, is becoming commonplace.

Byron Schenkman: The biggest change I see is that now most of the best modern instrument players have some experience with and appreciation for historical performance practice, and many of the pest period instrument players also have high level experience working with modern instruments. I think audiences are less interested in the equipment we use and more interested in the effectiveness of the performance. The reason to use a baroque bow or historical fingerings is to make the music dance and come to life -- not merely to be "authentic." For Byron Schenkman & Friends, the chamber music series I currently direct at Benaroya Hall in Seattle, some of the concerts use period instruments and some use modern instruments. Most of the players I work with do both!

Ingrid Matthews and Byron Schenkman in performance.

Ingrid Matthews and Byron Schenkman collaborate in concert

Project Jumpstart: What are the most important skills a budding early music performer needs to focus on as a way of succeeding professionally?

Ingrid Matthews: One piece of advice I'd give to younger musicians (and I'm not saying I've mastered this!) is to get comfortable with the way the arts are funded in this country. We rely on donors. There are people out there who want to support the arts, but they have to be asked, and often it is we who have to ask them. This can be pretty uncomfortable, but it's nice to think of it as a shared endeavor-- one person brings talent and long years of practice, another brings some of the wealth they have amassed, and together, wonderful concerts can be produced!

Seattle Baroque Orchestra performs Handel Harpsichord Concerto Op. 4 No. 2 - enjoy this YouTube video!

Enjoy a performance of G. F. Handel's Harpsichord Concerto Op. 4 No. 2 by the Seattle Baroque Orchestra, led by Ingrid Matthews and Byron Schenkman.

Byron Schenkman: I think most important of all is to consider how the audience will experience what one does. I have two dear friends who I like to consider when I am planning a concert. Carol Salisbury came to her first SBO concert because she had never heard of Baroque music and didn't even know what it meant; she loved it and kept coming back. Naomi Shiff is an amateur recorder and keyboard player who has attended almost every early music event in Seattle, including lectures and masterclasses, for some thirty years. I always want what I do to be accessible enough for Carol and scholarly enough for Naomi!

Project Jumpstart: Finally, what's the one lesson you've learned since leaving school that you wish every Jacobs student knew?

Ingrid Matthews: Something I wish every Jacobs school of Music student knew-- I would say that for many if not most of us, we have to create the musical life that we want. Imagine what you want your life to be like, take stock of where you are now, gather musical "birds of a feather," and don't expect to follow in anyone else's footsteps.

Byron Schenkman: This is one that it took me years to learn! I always thought that if I worked hard enough and did exceptional enough work, eventually I would be able to rest on my laurels and people would hire me for all sorts of amazing work. My experience is that in fact one has to market one's work continually and keep finding new ways to survive (and hopefully even thrive) as an artist in our society. At first this was a shock and I felt discouraged and resentful. Now I accept the challenge and enjoy the adventure of it all!


VISIT THE ARTISTS' WEBSITES


THE HISTORICAL PERFORMANCE INSTITUTE

The Historical Performance Institute at the Jacobs School of Music is a resource for students interested in learning more about the performance practice of early music, from the 12th to the 19th centuries.

Please contact Wendy Gillespie (wendygil@indiana.edu) or Dana Marsh (dtmarsh@indiana.edu) for further information. 


Project Jumpstart partners with the Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the IU Kelley School of Business.