For Brendon Massei '15 (Business of Art & Design M.P.S.), music has always been a personal path of survival. Growing up in Las Vegas when the city's population erupted from 100,000 to nearly three million residents - creating turbulence in neighborhoods and causing massive overcrowding in schools - Massei found peace and optimism in music. He skipped class to made music at home, found a like-minded community in an independent record store, and, after moving to Missouri, learned to "hustle with my art and learn quickly to make ends meet."
Years later, after hearing about MICA's Business of Art and Design master's program, his thoughts about his livelihood took a slight turn.
"For the first time in my life, I began to look at formal education differently," he said. "In fact, I began to look at business differently - ‘formal education' and ‘business' being two ideas that stood in direct opposition to my understanding of ‘art' and ‘integrity' for over twenty years. Yet, I realized the program's advertised courses aligned perfectly with things I was doing, things I wanted to improve, things I am interested in, things that move me."
He successfully applied to the program, saying he wanted to get a broader understanding of what a business is and entails and how he could apply that understanding more specifically to the music activities sustaining his life.
From day one, he said, the skills he gained helped his professional life. At the same time, his ongoing work in music nurtured his coursework and thesis in a symbiotic way - Massei was touring with his band, Viking Moses, and tour-managing other musicians through his artist development firm, Epifo, throughout the program.
"Here's what an "ordinary" day would look like," Massei explained. "I might be performing a concert in Italy, get off stage at 2 a.m., rush to my hotel, pray for WiFi, get online for my class, go to sleep at 5 a.m., wake up at 10 a.m., get on a train, write assignments on the train, arrive at the next town, load in, play a concert, rush to the hotel, etc., etc. Day in, day out."
"And all of a sudden, in real time," he added, "I'm looking at my relationships differently - my conduct, that of my clients and partners, revisiting expectations, renegotiating terms, collecting data, using that data to leverage a higher value offering for all involved, looking at the numbers, approaching all of this with the same creative enthusiasm as I would my songs. My gears are turning at a whole new capacity. I'm actually even writing more songs, better songs. What had always been aspects of survival almost immediately transformed into deeper dimensions of creative expression. All these hitherto conflicting ideas and actions at once became harmonious in a universal structure that started to make sense, and begin taking shape as a business model."
Today, Massei continues his work with both Viking Moses and Epifo. And as he looks back on his time with the Business of Art and Design program, he said, "There's a high likelihood in this program that a fully thought-out idea or even an existing business will be transformed. If one is open to subjecting themselves to being deconstructed, reconstructed, refined and the process repeated throughout and beyond the program, and to find inspiration in it all, I'd say Business of Art and Design is the perfect fit! Honestly, this outlook perfectly describes most creatives I know who live for meaningful challenges, transformation and growth."