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I recently started a brass quintet at my university. I've been managing it more or less myself, and while I'm trying hard to do it right, I'm sure there are things that I'm missing.

We are all students in other fields (no music majors). That said, we play well enough (a grad student in the group did his undergrad in music performance) to get paid for gigs. However, the main aim of the group is to play music and enjoy doing so; we're not looking to make lots of money or start a world tour. Which brings me to my question.

Essentially, what are the most important practices for managing a small ensemble? This boils down to two main questions:

  • Mentorship: Should I seek out an experienced musician to give the group guidance (musical and otherwise)? How many mentors is best? How/where can I find such mentors?
  • Networking: How/where should I get word out about my group?

Additionally, if there is something I left out I'd love to hear about it. Thanks.

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Mentorship: If you want to be a performing musician, then your teachers should be other performing musicians--your current and future peers. Teachers in an academic setting don't always know how to perform. I've had a stable regularly performing band for about twenty years now. Everything I learned about being a performing musician I learned from other performing musicians. How do you find them? They're playing all around you. Go to local gigs of bands playing the music you want to play. Chat with them on their breaks, maybe buy them a beer and ask them questions. Most musicians are happy to share info if they like you and they trust you. If you're thinking about touring, buy Hal Galper's book "The Touring Musician."

Networking: You start with people who like you and your band members. You start with your friends. Every time you play a bar gig, you invite all of your friends--in person works better than social media, but I've had some success with Facebook and MailChimp. Get your friends to invite their friends. Make it a party, make it a scene. Successful performing musicians these days--unless they have musical superpowers--make a splash by making a community. Bookers notice communities, bookers want butts in seats.

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Particularly in a University setting, you should contact the director of the school's band or orchestra. There are likely many, many small events in the school calendar where a music ensemble would be very welcome. Any sort of small reception or lunch can be made more inviting with a musical group. I was in my school's Jazz Combo which was one of a few "ensemble classes" that were set up primarily to provide groups to play at school functions. The Afro-Cuban Ensemble was also very much in demand. If the dean calls the head of the music department and the head calls the band director, he'll have your group in the rolodex.

Depending on the details of the school bureaucracy, the music department's Office Admin might be the person to talk to.

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