School of Music students merge music and entrepreneurism
At one point in their student careers
in the Northern Arizona University School of Music, Liza Stegall, Drew Worden,
Owen Davis, and Jess Ryan realized that musical success doesn’t happen without a
lot of effort and time. They also realized they had good chemistry together and
wanted to help each other succeed.
“We share a passion
for the music we’re playing, and we’re all friends,” said Worden.
So they formed
Erasable Color, a contemporary music quartet and business venture.
Stegall (saxophone), Worden
(percussion), Davis (percussion), and Ryan (piano) are all seniors in the
School of Music at NAU. Most music students learn about theory, performance,
and composers in the classroom and onstage, and find that having a job outside
of practice hours is pretty difficult due to a lack of time.
But Erasable Color has bypassed big
record labels and created a real music business that takes care of press kits,
bookings, social media, website, and budget management, as well as performs
contemporary music of a most exciting caliber.
“Our business venture is actually a bit of a risk to us as
students because of the extra time commitment it requires, and the low money we
initially earn from it,” said Worden. “But we’ve bought into the DIY mindset of
the 21st century; with technology offering as many opportunities as it is, with
the right people and chemistry, starting a business has never been more accessible.”
A new musical model
Northern Arizona University’s School of
Music director, Todd Sullivan calls
them "an interesting model for new musical endeavors." He went
on to explain that entrepreneurship is a vibrant, growing trend in the world of
classical music, as well as how Erasable Color is breaking ground and establishing
a model for other student groups at NAU.
“The changing landscape of classical
music performance, specifically, the steady disappearance of traditional
full-time positions, has prompted performers to broaden their professional
skills to include education, community engagement, marketing, social media,
artist management, contracting, commissioning, and budgeting—functions formerly
handled by specialists in large organizations,” said Sullivan. “Erasable Color
models this full-range musical entrepreneurism.”
Davis and Worden conceived of the idea
for Erasable Color from the Sō Percussion Workshop they attended in New Jersey
during the summer of 2011. They were each funded $2,000 from ASNAU to attend the
“We were able to learn a lot about the entrepreneurial side
of our project from researching existing models from other professional
ensembles, exploring current literature, attending international conferences,
and perhaps most importantly, through discussion with our professors,” said
Davis. “In fact, the discussions we’ve had with Dr. Bergeron, Dr. Hemphill, Dr.
Reiprich, and Dr. Sullivan have helped us refine this dream into a practical
Playing music and starting a business
together has made Erasable Color into a tight-knit group.
"When we play music together, that
brings us closer. We can count on each other musically; we have each
other's back. We can also count on each other logistically," Ryan
The quartet members are classically-trained
musicians who share a passion for fresh, versatile music by 20th and 21st
Century composers—living, breathing music that's fresh on the page.
"Contemporary music can sometimes
be misunderstood," said Ryan. "As advocates for
contemporary music, we try to connect with our audience at every show through
our music. By providing some background information on the works, the
composers, who are still alive in most cases, and the unique instruments we
use, we try to create a really intimate setting for listeners to experience
With all their hard work, Erasable
Color is well on its way to becoming a thriving contemporary music business.
"As I prepare for the professional
world, working with Erasable Color has been something that I can invest in
right now for the future. As we all continue to invest in ourselves with the
all the aspects of being a music ensemble—like electronics, programs,
advertising costs, instruments, music, etc.—it makes every performance more
valuable to me,” said Stegall. “In time,
I plan to turn this investment into a very profitable business and lifetime
For more information about Erasable
Color, please visit www.erasablecolor.com. A clip of their music can be heard here.
- “An Evening of John Cage Music with Guest Performers,”
March 3, Performing and Fine Arts Bldg., Rm. 146, 7 p.m.
- “Five Brand New Works,” April 27, Performing and
Fine Arts Bldg., Rm. 146 at 7 p.m. Featuring work by composers Frank Rosaly
(Chicago-based drummer and improviser,) Ryan Springler (ASU composition
student,) Owen Davis (Erasable Color percussionist,) Kevin Austin (NAU
composition grad student,) and Bruce Reiprich (Professor of Music
Theory and Composition at NAU.)
- Flagstaff New Music Ensemble concert,
featuring Erasable Color on April 6, 7:30 p.m. at Ardrey Memorial