By Livia Peterson
Allison Schweitzer is a local musician and entrepreneur, recently founding Wisconsin Music Ventures and Music Biz and Banter providing audiences easy accessibility to brilliant music and allowing fellow musicians to network within the Milwaukee area, respectively. Allison and I discuss her passion and career.
Livia Peterson: When did you fall in love with music?
Allison Schweitzer: I remember being a child and visiting a great aunt and uncle's home, which had a piano in it (ours did not). I must've been in 1st or 2nd grade. I was just awe-struck with how much fun it was to play, to make harmonies with, to try to mimic melodies I knew. I grew up going to a school that had pianos in the classrooms, and a 3rd grade teacher saw that I loved hanging around her piano, and attempting to play songs and chords by ear. Ultimately my parents ended up getting a hold of a piano - I believe that same piano that I'd tried out early on.
LP: Why piano and horn?
AS: Piano was so tangible, and fun because of the harmonies. And at the time pianos were still fairly easy to find. I started lessons on that instrument. When it was time to start learning a band instrument, horn was my choice - mostly because it was less common to play, considered a bit of a challenge to play, and just sounded gorgeous. It fit my style perfectly!
LP: When did you commence instructing? What is your instructional approach?
AS: I really started instructing one summer when I was on summer break from college, as a way to earn additional income on top of my summer job. My parents let me take students out of their home that summer, while I was back from Indiana. They were families I or they knew from our church, where I'd grown up attending - generally looking for basic piano skills. I learned a lot about private teaching that summer! Also, as I was principal horn at my university, which was in a small town in Indiana, occasionally middle or high school students in the area would reach out to the Music School on campus and ask if I would teach them. I did have some students that way, as well.
LP: What inspired you to commence Wisconsin Music Ventures and Music Biz and Banter?
AS: Music Biz and Banter is a networking group designed to connect local musicians, from all genres of music, to each other - while educating them on various topics as well. After I'd been a part of a few online social networking groups that have been successful with similar topics, I got to thinking - "what if there was something more localized for my area?" The online communities are great, but if the people involved aren't from your city, they can't always understand your circumstances.
Wisconsin Music Ventures grew out of a desire to build off of my role as a private music instructor (which I've now been doing for well over a decade) by including master classes and music theory classes to participate it. There are also performance components, where I can schedule musicians to perform in fun places that might be less common. Places that might be well-known, but not for live music - so we may grab the attention of some passers-by (ideally!) by placing musicians in and around particular spots.
LP: You are a piano and horn instructor. How does this influence Wisconsin Music Ventures' mission and events planning?
AS: I'm programming a wide variety of music, on top of the educational aspects. But ideally, the locations are fun and/or unique. I've been starting off with Milwaukee County Parks, but I'm interested in finding additional spots that are indoors or out, and may be unique or under-used or, as I like to say, "unlikely." There will certainly be components for pianists and hornists along the way - but I also don't want to limit events to just the instruments that I work with in my studio. Musicians can learn a lot from listening to ANY type of other instrument - as long as they're listening intentionally.
LP: Describe how Wisconsin Music Ventures and Music Biz and Banter collide?
AS: I have certainly met some people through hosting Music Biz & Banter events who have become musicians that I've hired for Wisconsin Music Ventures. That may not always happen, but there is a real value in meeting someone in person as opposed to via e-mail. And now that WMV events have started up, I do hope that musicians who work with me in that role may also consider the MB&B meetups.
LP: Gender inequality exists within the arts. Do you believe the Milwaukee arts scene and nationally are ensuring and improving gender parity across all entertainment industries?
AS: I haven't come across a lot of situations where this has been an issue for me. I'm glad that in the orchestra world there are organizations that still hold blind auditions - that is important in keeping standards fair. If there are places that are behind the times and not willing to adapt to today's standards, move on. They will not survive if they are held accountable; they are held accountable by who is willing to put up with them.
LP: What advice would you give to aspiring professional musicians?
AS: Working in music takes hard work and extreme persistence, alongside a passion for the arts and willingness to put up with the hours. The jobs will not simply come to you. Get out there, get involved, get organized, stay active and always be willing to learn - no matter what place you're at in your career.
Thank you for the delightful discussion, Allison!