The Origins and Context of the 2010 CMS Summit on Music Entrepreneurship Education

November 5, 2023

On January 15–17, 2010 at Vanderbilt University’s Blair School of Music, the College Music Society’s (CMS) Committee on Music Entrepreneurship Education presented the organization’s first-ever summit, a new kind of short, topic-focused conference on entrepreneurship in music and higher education. The genesis of this event can be traced to the unique work of my colleague Gary Beckman, who was then Coordinator of Music Entrepreneurship at the University of South Carolina School of Music and Chair of the CMS Committee on Music Entrepreneurship Education. His vision, supported by other members of the Committee—including Nathaniel Zeisler, Douglas Owens, Diane Rosetti, and Kevin Woelfel—was to bring together music faculty and leaders to examine the current state of music entrepreneurship education in American colleges and universities and advance ideas for the future development of the field.

In the preceding few years, CMS had hosted several pre-conference workshops and scholarly panel sessions on music entrepreneurship at their annual meetings in Atlanta (2008), Salt Lake City (2007), San Antonio (2006), and Québec City (2005). There is no doubt that some of the CMS membership interested in the expansion of entrepreneurship education in music were gaining insights from the Society during those years. Beckman’s intention, though, was to provide a more intensive focus on model initiatives and institutions where entrepreneurship education in music had been developed and was expanding, all in an effort to build a primer for how other music schools could envision such endeavors in their curricula and cultures. Partnering with me in my roles as a former president of CMS and then-President of the CMS Fund (which would eventually help sponsor the event), we proposed the idea of a summit consisting of 50–100 attendees. We devised a model where the event could be held on a college campus to keep travel costs and registration fees low, and over a long weekend to make travel more feasible. We selected the January weekend preceding Martin Luther King Jr. Day, figuring the principle of service could be articulated by the Society during the event. Given the time of year, we sought a warm-weather city to host.

In March of 2009, Gary and I drove from Columbia, SC to Richmond, VA to pitch the idea of the Summit (the first of perhaps many on differing topics every year or two) to the CMS Executive Committee meeting there at the time. That body, led by CMS President Cynthia Crump Taggart, enthusiastically endorsed the idea. Then, with the able and determined assistance of CMS Executive Director Robby Gunstream and his office, we set out to find the best location and most appropriate presenters for the first Summit, by then entitled Music Entrepreneurship Education: Catching the Second Wave. Our desire for a location easy to fly to, with budget-friendly hotels near a campus in the southern United States, pointed to Nashville (which in 2009 WAS affordable!) as a good option. Mark Wait, then-Dean of the Blair School of Music at Vanderbilt University, was profoundly supportive of the initiative and helpful in acquiring a very important keynote speaker: Samuel Hope, Executive Director of the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM), whose remarks, as Gary put it, “…helped to forge a pathway for the field.”

Over sixty people gathered at the Summit in Nashville that January. Faculty and administrators shared ideas, presented evidence, and led discussions. Students, mentored skillfully by Nate Zeisler, thrilled all in attendance with their projects, insights, and future plans. Speakers and schools who had experience with entrepreneurship education in music interacted with those that did not, and a special community of scholars and musicians was forged that weekend that has propelled the myriad ways entrepreneurship is now valued and taught at collegiate music schools in 2023. Each of the CMS summits in the years since have endeavored to create that same community spirit among like-minded folks intent on changing our profession as our world requires.

Pursuant to this development of entrepreneurship in music schools, Gary Beckman’s objective to ensure the 2010 Summit manifested a useful outcome in the form of a tangible takeaway was one of the chief accomplishments of the event and has become a model for each subsequent summit. Shortly after its summer 2010 publication, the CMS Summit Handbook on Music Entrepreneurship Education became the go-to document for establishing the principles, culture, and instructional components of a meaningful and practical entrepreneurship education program at collegiate music schools. It remains a depository of instructional and philosophical excellence in the field to this day, and much of it, augmented with additional insights and evidence including the Summit’s keynote speeches by Douglas Dempster and myself, also appear in Gary’s 2011 book Disciplining the Arts: Teaching Entrepreneurship in Context.

It was my great pleasure to have played a role in the development of the first CMS Summit as well as to have served on the program committees for each of the seven subsequent summits, including the most recent two at the University of South Carolina on the design of 21st century music schools. It was also a genuine privilege to have been able to play a part in leveraging the great vision of Gary Beckman. His work to advance music and arts entrepreneurship education in the American music school has no equal, and his efforts to do so have inspired so many and launched numerous initiatives in this sphere of our discipline over the last 13 years. All of us in CMS and at music schools where we value the teaching of entrepreneurship owe Gary a big debt of gratitude for his seminal work and those amazing three days in Nashville at the Music Entrepreneurship Education: Catching the Second Wave Summit. 


Beckman, G. D. (Ed.). (2011). Disciplining the arts: Teaching entrepreneurship in context. Rowman & Littlefield.

CMS Summit Handbook on Music Entrepreneurship Education. (2010).

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