Autumn Langston and the Creative Entrepreneurs

The following three interviews were conducted by Autumn Langston, SMU student of music therapy and arts entrepreneurship.

Kathleen Coleman

 Kathleen Coleman, MMT, MT-BC has been a music therapist for 36 years.  Over the course of her career, she transitioned from contracting with school districts to owning a private practice and a co-founding a business called Prelude Music Therapy with Betsey King, Ph.D., MT-BC.  When asked if she started with a business plan, she replied, “part of my career, I started in backward and dug myself out.  The other half of it, I started in the front with more of a plan.”  She started in 1981 when there weren’t as many opportunities for music therapists who wanted to work with the developmental population in schools.  Then she got, what she called, “a little bit of luck and some kindness” when she received a call from Arlington’s school district notifying her that their music therapist was retiring.  She says, “When I went in to talk to the director, she said, ‘This is not an employee position, this is going to be contract…So, I started learning from that standpoint because I fell into a job.”  As her career evolved, she began to take private clients because, as she states, “I needed the money to pay bills…so then I did much more of a starting from the front end and developing a plan and talking to people and saying, ‘How can I advertise?  How can I work on getting clients?’”.  In reference to Prelude, she said “…we had a lot of people asking and we realized there was a need to put together things that weren’t super-expensive. …Some things come about in your business because of the need”.  When asked if business plans are necessary for entrepreneurship, she replied, “Yes, because I think especially now today, if you aim at nothing, you’re not going to hit anything. …you need

She started in 1981 when there weren’t as many opportunities for music therapists who wanted to work with the developmental population in schools.  Then she got, what she called, “a little bit of luck and some kindness” when she received a call from Arlington’s school district notifying her that their music therapist was retiring.  She says, “When I went in to talk to the director, she said, ‘This is not an employee position, this is going to be contract…So, I started learning from that standpoint because I fell into a job.”  As her career evolved, she began to take private clients because, as she states, “I needed the money to pay bills…so then I did much more of a starting from the front end and developing a plan and talking to people and saying, ‘How can I advertise?  How can I work on getting clients?’”.  In reference to Prelude, she said “…we had a lot of people asking and we realized there was a need to put together things that weren’t super-expensive. …Some things come about in your business because of the need”.  When asked if business plans are necessary for entrepreneurship, she replied, “Yes, because I think especially now today, if you aim at nothing, you’re not going to hit anything. …you need

As her career evolved, she began to take private clients because, as she states, “I needed the money to pay bills…so then I did much more of a starting from the front end and developing a plan and talking to people and saying, ‘How can I advertise?  How can I work on getting clients?’”.  In reference to Prelude, she said “…we had a lot of people asking and we realized there was a need to put together things that weren’t super-expensive. …Some things come about in your business because of the need”.  When asked if business plans are necessary for entrepreneurship, she replied, “Yes, because I think especially now today, if you aim at nothing, you’re not going to hit anything. …you need

When asked if business plans are necessary for entrepreneurship, she replied, “Yes, because I think especially now today, if you aim at nothing, you’re not going to hit anything. …you need some kind of plan in order to be really successful.”  She offered multiple pieces of advice.  The first of which was “you need a plan”.  Secondly, she added “You need to work towards getting the best income possible that is reasonable for your profession. For music therapy to be successful on both sides – for the therapist and the client, we need sustainability for the music therapists. …one of the damaging things for the type of people we work with is to have non-stop turnover… Think about sustainability for yourself and continuity and good service for your clients.  Because if those things are in place, people do well”.  She also shared the advice that her uncle, who was a social worker, shared with her about working in human services.  “He said the three things you need are the best possible income…some variety in your work…where everybody isn’t the

For music therapy to be successful on both sides – for the therapist and the client, we need sustainability for the music therapists. …one of the damaging things for the type of people we work with is to have non-stop turnover… Think about sustainability for yourself and continuity and good service for your clients.  Because if those things are in place, people do well”.  She also shared the advice that her uncle, who was a social worker, shared with her about working in human services.  “He said the three things you need are the best possible income…some variety in your work…where everybody isn’t the

“He said the three things you need are the best possible income…some variety in your work…where everybody isn’t the neediest.  And he said, ‘you need a little bit of a break during the year and some other interests.”  And finally, I’ll close with the advice she gave to her younger self. “Slow down a little bit! It’s one thing to work hard, and it’s another to burn yourself out.  When you run a marathon, you don’t run the fastest speed you can.  So, when you think about building a business, it’s going to take time.”

Barbara Bastable 

Barbara Bastable, Mrs. B, has owned a private music therapy practice for 25 years.  She’s also taught at SMU for ten years as a lecturer in music therapy and clinical coordinator.  Because she started her music therapy career later in life, she was able to use prior knowledge from the basic business skills she garnered with other endeavors. I asked if she figured out her initial music therapy business plan as she went along and she replied “I did.  And I had the basis of the piano lessons.  So, I had the money stuff figured out…I was really lucky that I had that support.  I had mentors.  And when I was finishing up [my internship], there were a couple of kiddos in the schools that had approached Kathleen Coleman, [her then supervisor], about doing private music therapy.  And she said, well Barbara, would you like to do that?  And I thought, ‘Okay! I’ll give it a try.  So, I started with just a couple and made probably every mistake in the books.”  As her private practice grew, she began to take opportunities to expand her services and determine multiple streams of revenue by utilizing all of her creative talents and collaborating with other creatives.  “…private lessons, guitar, creative arts groups, summer music therapy camps, preschool music groups…I’ve done all of it.  During the summers, Shannon and I did [programs together].  We started off by wanting to just have something for our private clients to do because they weren’t getting much during the summer in school… We knew that they needed some social interaction so we said how about let’s get our kiddos together.  So we did those.  And then it grew to where other people were asking about it. And we did it for maybe 5, 6, 7 years”.  Mrs. B explained the necessity of business plans with a few anecdotes about the important boundaries plans set up.  “…we [music therapists] have a tendency to keep our kiddos for a long time.  Once they get established with us, if you don’t move and you stay here, sometimes they stay with you a long time.  It’s really hard to go

As her private practice grew, she began to take opportunities to expand her services and determine multiple streams of revenue by utilizing all of her creative talents and collaborating with other creatives.  “…private lessons, guitar, creative arts groups, summer music therapy camps, preschool music groups…I’ve done all of it.  During the summers, Shannon and I did [programs together].  We started off by wanting to just have something for our private clients to do because they weren’t getting much during the summer in school… We knew that they needed some social interaction so we said how about let’s get our kiddos together.  So we did those.  And then it grew to where other people were asking about it. And we did it for maybe 5, 6, 7 years”.  Mrs. B explained the necessity of business plans with a few anecdotes about the important boundaries plans set up.  “…we [music therapists] have a tendency to keep our kiddos for a long time.  Once they get established with us, if you don’t move and you stay here, sometimes they stay with you a long time.  It’s really hard to go

Mrs. B explained the necessity of business plans with a few anecdotes about the important boundaries plans set up.  “…we [music therapists] have a tendency to keep our kiddos for a long time.  Once they get established with us, if you don’t move and you stay here, sometimes they stay with you a long time.  It’s really hard to go backward and set those things up after the fact.  So, set them up at the beginning.  That’s where your business plan really comes into effect…setting up those policies”.

The three pieces of advice Mrs. B offered were all financially-based.  She encourages developing entrepreneurs to “keep good records of all of your expenses… Even set up ahead of time… your general categories of expenses.  Then just be diligent about keeping track of that”.  Her second piece of advice was to know what you need to exist as a new professional.  “Figure out what you need to live on and you don’t have to live in the most expensive apartment.  You don’t have to buy a new car.  You know all those things you don’t do the first year that you’re out”.  Lastly, she advises to developing entrepreneurs “Figure out ahead of time how much involvement parents are going to be.   Aim for total independence financially”.

Kamica King

Kamica King is an entrepreneur in both the music therapy profession and the music industry.  She founded her own music therapy and performing arts company, King Creative Arts Expressions.  As a young entrepreneur, she has made big waves in both arenas thus far.  As a singer/songwriter, she has performed throughout the country.  Her original music has been featured in film and her artistry has been recognized nationally as she is the subject of Which Wich’s “Perfect Your Craft” branding campaign.  And as a music therapist, she launched the music therapy program at the Bridge Homeless Recovery Center.

When asked if she had a business plan at the start, she replied, “When I was in an internship at MusicWorx, Inc. in California, we had to do a business plan project called ‘You’re the Boss’, created by music therapist Cathy Knoll.  We had to complete several modules from cost analysis, marketing plan, pricing, creating forms, etc. and researching prospects and even incorporation filing fees for the city of our choice.  I picked Dallas but thought that I was at least 5 years away from starting a private practice or company once I got out of school.  Little did I know, the opportunity would present itself as soon as I got out of school.  It was helpful to have had the ‘practice’ at that time and I later enrolled in a formal women’s business enterprise program through the YWCA which taught me a lot more about business and business planning.”  When asked about whether or not business plans are necessary for entrepreneurship, she responded, “They are definitely a helpful guiding tool when it comes to entrepreneurship.  If ever you want funding or backing of any kind, particularly as a startup, it’s important to have a flushed out plan to present to someone detailing the foundation, backbone, and A-Z of your business.  I also see it as a foundation piece because once you actually jump into business, things are ever-changing.  So, a plan is key to steer you properly.”  Kamica shared multiple pieces of advice for developing entrepreneurs.  Firstly, “Be passionate about what you do!  You will put in long hours and face challenging decisions that take risks.  You must love what you do to keep you going.  Have fun!”.  Her second piece of advice was in reference to fear.  “Don’t be afraid to go for it!  You won’t know the outcome if you don’t try and resilience is key”.

When asked about whether or not business plans are necessary for entrepreneurship, she responded, “They are definitely a helpful guiding tool when it comes to entrepreneurship.  If ever you want funding or backing of any kind, particularly as a startup, it’s important to have a flushed out plan to present to someone detailing the foundation, backbone, and A-Z of your business.  I also see it as a foundation piece because once you actually jump into business, things are ever-changing.  So, a plan is key to steer you properly.”  Kamica shared multiple pieces of advice for developing entrepreneurs.  Firstly, “Be passionate about what you do!  You will put in long hours and face challenging decisions that take risks.  You must love what you do to keep you going.  Have fun!”.  Her second piece of advice was in reference to fear.  “Don’t be afraid to go for it!  You won’t know the outcome if you don’t try and resilience is key”.

Kamica shared multiple pieces of advice for developing entrepreneurs.  Firstly, “Be passionate about what you do!  You will put in long hours and face challenging decisions that take risks.  You must love what you do to keep you going.  Have fun!”.  Her second piece of advice was in reference to fear.  “Don’t be afraid to go for it!  You won’t know the outcome if you don’t try and resilience is key”.  Next, she offered, “Get a plan!  It’s cool to go with the flow when you get an opportunity…However, it’s imperative to have a solid foundation, a plan for how you will run your operation and checkpoints as well.  You must take your own business seriously for others to do the same”.  Lastly, she shared two bonus pieces of advice that are key for young entrepreneurs to start applying immediately.  She said, “Always be professional!  From communication to marketing materials and your online presence.  Those things are key to establishing yourself. …Build your network with genuine connections.  Your classmates now are your future colleagues.  Keep in touch with professors, former supervisors…you never know when an opportunity will come about and they refer you – that’s how business works a lot of times.”  So far, I’ve found that her advice is consistent with what we’ve learned this semester in our course, Developing an Arts Venture Plan.

Interview Analysis by Autumn Langston

I interviewed three creative entrepreneurs in the field of music therapy.  Each person has practiced in the Southwestern Region of the American Music Therapy Association for a combined total of 66 years.  None of them mentioned intentionally starting their business with a plan from the very beginning.  It seemed that all of their first opportunities came as a slight surprise.  From there, they each began the process of figuring it out as they went.  Because their starts were all somewhat unexpected, they each have learned a great deal about the principles of entrepreneurship and the importance of a plan.  Each creative entrepreneur shared their thoughts about the necessity of a business plan.  Another similarity amongst the interviews was the emphasis on financial security and independence.  They each recognized funding as a major part of the puzzle and cautioned new entrepreneurs to pay special attention to finances for their business endeavors.  One of the ways each of them was able to increase their revenue streams is by expanding their practice.  For Kamica King, this manifested in her pursuing paths in music performance, ministry, and music therapy.  For Barbara Bastable, adding private lessons and collaborating with other entrepreneurial music therapists provided multiple streams of revenue.  And for Kathleen Coleman, her collaboration with Dr. Betsey King created Prelude Music Therapy, a business that sells inexpensive music therapy resources to music therapists around the country.  As Kathleen pointed out during her interview, expanding the practice is not only beneficial for financial reasons, but also for self-care and avoiding burn-out.

Each creative entrepreneur has started in the field of music therapy at different points.  However, they still found it necessary to create the jobs they truly desired.  Music therapy is still an expanding profession.  So, many new music therapists will need to have an entrepreneurial spirit to create opportunities for themselves and the next generation.  Furthermore, although Kamica probably had the most articulated plan of the three at the start of her career, she still had to overcome the learning curve and learn from the mistakes they all made as developing entrepreneurs.  None of their paths were without failure.  Moreover, none of them got their opportunities without saying yes to the doors that were opened.  They had to rely on the connections and networks they prepared for their opportunities, but they also had to accept the challenge.  The final piece of advice that all three creative entrepreneurs mentioned was the importance of networking, asking for help, and seeking out mentors.  I noticed that I unintentionally chose a trend with the creative entrepreneurs I interviewed.  Kathleen Coleman supervised Mrs. B as a music therapy intern.  Then, Mrs. B supervised Kamica King as a student.  Now, Kamica has supervised me in the medical practicum setting as a student. This illustrates the importance of networking and giving back as a developing entrepreneur and as a music therapist.  In closing, Kathleen Coleman’s father, former Dean of the Cox School of Business, gave her great advice about networking and investing in others when he said: “You’d better be repaying this [for] the rest of your life”.  I think that holds true for each of the creative entrepreneurs I had the opportunity to interview for this assignment.

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