Interviews: Edina Pastyik, Mark Landson, Brian White

In this post, you will find three interviews with three entrepreneurs. They were created to reflect on the possible parallel between entrepreneurship and the mythic structure of the journey of the hero, as articulated by Joseph Campbell. These interviews were conducted as part of the Arts Entrepreneurship program. 

Edina Pastyik, European Ensemble Edina smu arts entrepreneurship

  1. In your process of entrepreneurship, can you describe three significant obstacles you faced and how you overcame them?

The circumstances are not always optimal when you perform, so it could be too hot or too cold. I have experienced arriving to play a Bach double concerto where they forgot to turn on the heater. Even in Texas, the weather can change dramatically over the course of a day, which can be very taxing on instruments. Also, if the acoustics are bad, you have to adjust very quickly. That robust sound that you have at home could turn into mush in poor acoustics. Personal issues are also problems to overcome too, and I learned this when one day I was robbed. Chase Bank called me about fifteen minutes prior to a Las Colinas Symphony concert where I was leading the second violin section. Someone had broken into my house and stolen my credit card as well as all of my gold. I called my husband to tell him, but he said he already knew but didn’t want to tell me because I was about to go on stage. I heard the bell that told us to go on stage, and at that moment I learned that you have to “suck it up”. It’s too bad if you have a personal problem before a concert – it becomes secondary at that moment. The show must go on!

  1. Were there any moments of your entrepreneurial process when you considered giving up or were there moments when there “seemed to be no light?”

I was having a very difficult time with stage fright, like a lot of us do, and I faced the problem that I couldn’t do half of the stuff on stage that I could do in the practice room. The European Ensemble played in front of twenty-five hundred people for a Christmas event and when I saw all of those chairs, I started a piece in the wrong key. When you panic, you can’t solve the problem, so that’s why it’s an important skill to teach yourself and students how to calm yourself down fast. Sometimes you have about ten seconds to calm yourself down, and if not, then it’s too bad. It changed me because it taught me to just suck up everything and just finish the job. Whatever happens, you still have to make music and not forget why you are there. You are a musician full of emotions, yet your job is to lock out your emotions and play very emotionally – it’s very paradoxical.

  1. What role has change played in your process, if any? Have you changed?

Whenever I tell people, “oh I’m just a violinist,” I used to use that as an excuse because I’m not a marketing person. You can’t just have this, “oh I’m the artist” attitude because quickly you realize that people are not falling off of their chairs to hear you. When it comes to business, it’s business. When they’re finally sitting and listening to you, it could be all “oohs” and “ahs,” but real businessmen talk business, they know it’s serious. I learned how to separate business and my private life.

  1. What key takeaway or knowledge have you gained as a result of your experience?

For a long time, I used to put my head into the sand about things I was not good at instead of facing those problems. I realized that if you want to accomplish something, then the key is to just go for it.

Mark Landson, Open Classical Mark smu arts entrepreneurship

  1. In your process of entrepreneurship, can you describe three significant obstacles you faced and how you overcame them?

After graduating college, I won an audition in Spain and moved there. After playing in a professional orchestra for some time, I realized I wasn’t going to be happy doing that forever. I decided to start writing classical music, even though I never considered myself a composer. I got this idea to combine what was important to me in classical music, which was motivic-based music, with the pop music at the time. I was in a string quartet touring around Spain at that time and would have had that vehicle to do something, had I not fallen off a Vespa. I went over the handlebars and jammed my right shoulder and realized I couldn’t keep my job in the orchestra. I taught violin in Dallas while I recovered and luckily I was able to play after a year. While in Dallas, I helped form the Society of Non-Aleatoric Composers. I did an exhaustive search of all composers who were writing in melodic and harmonic styles, and what I found was depressing. The people who were writing in melodic styles were not very good, and the good composers were not writing in melodic or harmonic styles. I couldn’t program more than three concerts, so that was a failure. I gathered a group together consisting of excellent Dallas-based musicians and formed Neo Camerata. I found it too difficult to teach and plan for the project at the same time, so I quit my job teaching. I used a $30,000 inheritance to support myself, and eventually I only had $5,000 left. I spent $4,500 on a concert that we did at the Granada Theater where we had 250 people in the audience. Two weeks later when I was sure we would run out of money, I signed with an investor for $150,000.

  1. Were there any moments of your entrepreneurial process when you considered giving up or were there moments when there “seemed to be no light?”

In Neo Camerata, everything bad that could happen to someone in the music industry happened to us pretty much all at the same time. We should have been famous – everybody loved us when we played because it was different and exciting. I couldn’t get classical agents to book us because they didn’t know how to market us. When I came up with this idea to create classical music that people would react to, I thought that just playing this music would create enough flow to the process. It wasn’t enough. Every step became harder and harder, and it took up my entire life.

  1. What role has change played in your process, if any? Have you changed?

I was a dorky kid with glasses and was constantly bullied in school. When I was about fifteen years old, I snapped one day and threw this kid, who was picking on me, against the wall. I had always picked the safe things in life because I didn’t want to get in trouble, but this time was different. Suddenly I became a big hero in school, and that day changed the course of my life. From then, I gradually took on more and more risk. I had a risk-free job as an orchestral musician and gave that up to pursue my vision of reinventing classical music.

  1. What key takeaway or knowledge have you gained as a result of your experience?

Be extremely stubborn and never quit. Try to figure out a way to go forward, even when it becomes very difficult. I’ve taken on enormous financial risk to go on this journey, but it was worth it.

Brian White, Advantage Design Brian White smu arts entrepreneurship

  1. In your process of entrepreneurship, can you describe three significant obstacles you faced and how you overcame them?

The first one would be capital, or lack there of. So with a lack of capital, I had to take a circuitous route to get to where I wanted to go, and each time I did that, I wound up at the end not being able to accomplish the goal. Advantage Design started out as designing and developing hardware for aftermarket automotive use for guys who want to go racing with their cars, and I didn’t have enough capital to develop the concepts that I had come up with. For me it’s been not a lack of ideas or a lack of trying, it’s been a lack of capital. So at this point, Advantage Design is only working on some electronics projects. The three things are capital, capital, and capital.

  1. Were there any moments of your entrepreneurial process when you considered giving up or were there moments when there “seemed to be no light?”

Yeah, I’m pretty much there right now. I had to come work at Chrysler. I lost my job at Mercury MerCruiser, so I wasn’t able to get any of these tasks, or any of these products, on the market in sufficient quantity to support the family. I had to put all of that by and large aside, to be able to keep the family running. I haven’t given up yet.

  1. What role has change played in your process, if any? Have you changed?

I’m in Auburn Hills by myself unable to have family or even the people who were helping me work on these projects; so that’s changed me quite a bit. I’ve had to change quite a bit in terms of my life being up here as well as the goals because I’ve missed my time opportunity for the three-wheeled car because that’s kind of gone on the backburner as well. So, yeah, there’s quite a bit of change there.

  1. What key takeaway or knowledge have you gained as a result of your experience?

My thinking is I should have gone to school for business instead of engineering so I still would have had the skills of engineering but I would have had the knowledge to do venture capital. That’s a game all by itself that I read up on, but I’ve never been able to do. It’s just too far a field to go down that path and I never made connections to get into it. I did not have the full complement of skills. I needed the business side. For me, the key takeaway is that all of these projects are probably doomed without the right structure in place. While I can run a major project at Mercury, without the financial backing I had at Mercury to run those projects, I just don’t see how I can continue. My thinking was that as time goes on, I will eventually make those contacts, but I never have. Those aspects were not forthcoming. At this point, I don’t have an answer for it.

These interviews were conducted by student Elizabeth White. They were created for the class Entrepreneurship and the Hero Adventure and are part of a blog series called Heroes Among Us as part of the Arts Entrepreneurship program at Meadows School of the Arts, SMU

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