In Real Time

By Brendon Massei ’15 (Business of Art and Design M.P.S.)

For me, music has always been a path for survival, in the strictest terms. Inspired by the music of Nirvana and the underground music scenes,

I began writing, recording and performing songs in 1993. I was 14 years old and living in Las Vegas as its population was erupting from 100,000 residents to the nearly 3 million of today. In the early ’90s, public schools there were overcrowded and dangerous. Being a minor in most public places, day or night, was virtually prohibited. I found peace and optimism in music.

I found a like-minded community through an independent record store where, for the first time, I was encouraged to pursue my art fully. I eventually moved to Columbia, Missouri, where I had to hustle with my art and learn quickly to make ends meet.

When I heard about MICA’s Business of Art & Design (MBAD) program, for the first time, I began to look at formal education differently. 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 more than 20 years. Yet I realized: the program’s courses aligned perfectly with things I was doing, things I wanted to improve, things I was interested in and things that moved me!

I also didn’t want to transition my art into a business. I wanted to get a broader understanding of what a business entails and how I could apply this understanding more specifically to sustain the activities to which I’ve devoted my life.

From day one, the skills I sharpened at MBAD helped my professional life, whilst my professional life nurtured my coursework and thesis in real time and in a completely symbiotic way. Although balancing my work and pursuing a master’s degree was challenging, I was able to participate in the program remotely through its online platform, most of the time from the road with my band Viking Moses, or tour-managing other musicians via my artist development firm, Epifo.

Here’s what an “ordinary” day would look like: 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. just as class lets out, wake up at 10 a.m., get on a train, write assignments on the train, arrive at next town, load in, play the concert, rush to the next hotel, etc. — day in, day out.

And all of a sudden, in real time, I was looking at 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 — not just for myself, but for all involved — looking at the numbers and I was approaching all of this with the same creative enthusiasm as I would my songs.

My gears were turning at a whole new capacity and I was actually even writing more and 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 began taking shape as a business model.

MBAD is unique in that it’s a journey. You’re either on board or you’re not and if you are and if you endure and contribute, you will forge a path that is uniquely yours, with the full perspective and support of your cohort and faculty. My cohort in the program became invested in each other’s ideas and success — a great and welcome surprise, particularly considering each of our different backgrounds, ideas and locations.

MBAD is less about one’s specific idea than it is about one’s overall outlook and ambition. 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 oneself to being deconstructed, reconstructed, refined over and over again and is able to find inspiration in it all, I’d say MBAD is the perfect fit! Honestly, this outlook perfectly describes most creatives I know, who live for meaningful challenges, transformation and growth.