We recently connected with Marian Liebowitz and have shared our conversation below.
Marian, appreciate you joining us today. Are you able to earn a full-time living from your creative work? If so, can you walk us through your journey and how you made it happen?
I build bridges between performers, venues, and resources in order to provide maximum enrichment for communities worldwide. I have been earning a full-time living from my creative work for almost 40 years. I spent 35 years as a Professor of Music, during which time I also had an active career as a clarinetist. Initially I performed in various orchestras, then founded a chamber ensemble. Eventually, fueled by winning a competition, I became a soloist. Over the years I noticed how much I loved the business side of the arts and grew in my understanding of how to make a living from performance. I became passionate about teaching entrepreneurial skills to performers and mentoring those who create performance experiences for others. Winning the Artistic Ambassador Competition (sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and the Kennedy Center) was pivotal in so many ways. During successive trips to Latin America and Asia over a period of 12 years, I learned a lot about myself and others. My worldview expanded. This led to my passion for Latinx performers and their work which forms about 50% of my current endeavor as owner of Marian Liebowitz Artist Management.
As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your background and context?
I started playing the clarinet at age 9. I was a good student in all the subjects offered. But clearly music held the most curiosity for me, a curiosity that continues to propel me today. When it came time to pick a college, I had to make a choice. It was either attend the Eastman School of Music or go to Barnard College in Manhattan. I knew that I wanted to be fully focused on music, so Eastman was the choice. In those days, I was taught that music majors had two career choices: Perform in an orchestra or teach public school. My path led me to a brief tenure as Principal Clarinetist of an orchestra after which I realized that orchestral playing would never fully satisfy me. I made the leap into academia which had a lot more to offer me in those days and, at the same time, allowed me to perform with orchestras and chamber ensembles.
I quickly became concerned about how little collegiate music programs were doing to support performance majors. What were all these people going to do to earn a living? This led me to create curriculum specific to teaching performers how to earn a living, long before it became popular to do so. This and future courses I created became foundational when the university ultimately introduced a Music Entrepreneurship major.
I also started a program under the auspices of the university where I booked student, faculty, and alumni groups for local “gigs”. This program quickly grew to 400 events per year and extended beyond California. I got involved with attending Regional and then National booking conferences to procure engagements for myself and others. Being a booking agent became my favorite thing to do, which eventually led me to start my own agency outside the auspices of the university. Now retired as a clarinetist and professor, my agency is thriving, and I have found the greatest joy of my career. I also feel that I’m having the most impact on others, from those I represent, to the presenting organizations I serve. As a leader who brings a wide array of experiences to the table, the clients I serve get the benefit of my business savvy. I am always focused on how the greater artistic experience can be supported by the bottom line. I create win-win situations for my artists and the presenting organizations who hire them. We want creative and financial successes, not just occasionally, but every time. I’m also deeply passionate about helping presenters attract new audiences to the concert hall. In particular, with a 50% Latinx roster, I help presenters attract the Latinx audience, in many cases, for the first time to their venue.
Are there any books, videos or other content that you feel have meaningfully impacted your thinking?
After I retired as a clarinetist and professor, I had to redefine the word “retirement.” I had previously thought “retirement” meant you stopped working and took up golf! Now I know that I concluded a long-term position and CHANGED careers. I have utilized many of the books, videos, and essays written on these subjects. But it wasn’t until two years ago when I engaged the assistance of a career coach that I truly changed my thinking. At first, I hired her because I had applied for two Executive Director positions with non-profit music organizations and was in the final rounds for both. While she was assisting me with those interviews, I got a call from Ballet Folklorico de Los Angeles and Mariachi Garibaldi de Jaime Cuellar, both ensembles wanting to join my roster. I said to my coach: “What do I do? I love their work but is it ethical to add them to the roster if I am potentially going to start a full-time Executive Director position? How will I be able to give them enough of my time?” She told me that if I loved their work, go for it. As it turned out, I didn’t wind up in either of the NPO positions. And my business has more than doubled since. Having those two powerhouse ensembles on my roster only bolstered the other amazing groups I already represented. But beyond the financial rewards, I am truly happy each and every day doing the work I have always loved the most for and with people I hand-select. A little bit about the “hand-selection” process. I’m going to speak now about the artists I represent. Everyone I represent is based in San Diego, Los Angeles, or in one case, Phoenix. With the San Diego groups, we go way back to the days when I was a professor, and they were the student. These artists have grown and matured over a period of almost two decades, and the trust and success we have built is solid. The artists who I got to know long after they were established professionals, such as the Los Angeles-based members of my roster, came to me through referral. They each knew someone that I knew well. We had long conversations about what we each wanted out of the business relationship. And, I had to absolutely love their work, or we never even got to the conversation stage. These relationships have also grown and matured over a period of years. My roster is a “family.” Each member of the family is supported and nurtured by the rest of the family. It is rare that I add a new artist to the roster. And when I do, they must be a fit from several perspectives. I mention this because there is so little education about what a performer needs to do to be a successful member of an artist roster. This is a subject for a whole other article!
Is there a mission driving your creative journey?
I started by saying I build bridges between performers, venues, and resources in order to provide maximum enrichment for communities worldwide. I have always done this, whether I was the performer or whether I was booking another performer. I am a connector by nature. One of my previous bosses used to say that he’d “never seen anyone work a room the way Marian can.” He was joking with me, but at the same time, I do turn on in a social setting. I genuinely love meeting new people and finding areas of commonality. I even learned Spanish on the fly before my first tour to Latin America because I wanted to be able to connect in the language of the people I would meet. No barriers. This passion for connection, in part, led to my university employer selecting me to be pictured on their “Trolley Wrap” advertisement as the representative for the performing arts. I also want the performers I mentor or represent to be supported by best practices in business so that they can grow creatively. There is nothing inspirational about wondering how the money for next month’s rent is going to magically appear. I also know how important it is to help venues realize their financial and creative goals. If the buyer doesn’t win, none of us win. I’ve always understood both sides of the business, what happens onstage as well as backstage, if you will. Therefore I’m keenly interested in knowing how our presenting organizations are doing with selling tickets to our artists’ shows, and how many constituents we are reaching in the outreach process.
- Website: https://www.marianliebowitz.com/
- Instagram: marianliebowitzartistmgmt
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MarianLiebowitzArtistManagement/
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/mlam
- Youtube: Marian Liebowitz Artist Management
Image 1: Anastasya Photography