Carrie Feiner on Pianist Sara Buechner & New Trends in Music Management

Meet Carrie Feiner, the exclusive artist manager to pianistic phenom, Sara Buechner.

Feiner is setting a new-wave trend in the music industry that channels the ghosts of great managers past, her work a throwback to an era when classical managers were more than booking agents; a time when they vowed to serve and protect the longevity of their artists’ careers.

"Convincing Sara to leave a top NYC management firm was not easy. I am sure she thought I was crazy to suggest it!!"

Carrie talks to Notes on the Road about what it’s like to work with a distinguished artist like Sara and gives commentary on the current state of the music management industry. She also imparts invaluable advice on how to handle rejection, and shares Secreto Numero Uno to becoming an outstanding artist manager.

Notes: How did you become involved with managing Sara Buechner?

I will never forget hearing Buechner back in 1981 when I was a student at Juilliard. I was taking a piano literature class with Joseph Bloch. Mr. Bloch was talking about a piano concerto and called Buechner to come to the class to sight-read the entire Concerto. I had never talked to Buechner but that incident left a lasting impression in my mind. Her playing touched me more then any other pianist I had ever heard. Many years later (about 6 years ago) I heard that Sara was going to be teaching at a local music school in Westchester, NY. I was so excited and quickly signed up my daughters to study with her. I got to know Sara well and was extremely surprised to find out that she actually was teaching in a local music school and not performing as often as she should have been. I tried to convince her to let me become her concert manager. Convincing Sara to leave a top NYC management firm was not easy. I am sure she thought I was crazy to suggest it! I gradually won Sara over when I booked her in her first Concerto performance with a wonderful Orchestra in Montreal. It was the first time she had performed with an Orchestra in years.

Notes: Is Sara currently your only artist? Do you anticipate expanding your roster in the future?

Right now Sara is my only artist. I want to make sure I book up her schedule each year and that she is happy with the performances she is getting. It's possible I might expand my roster in the future but I will only take on an artist if I feel that I can fully book their concert schedule. Its really hard to find performers who are talented as well as dynamic personalities. Sara is dazzling as an artist - but also very very interesting and extremely funny. It's going to be hard to find anyone that can match up to her. When Sara is not available for performances I will suggest other artists to Presenters/Orchestras - and from time to time work with other people.

Notes: What shaped your philosophy as a music manager? You seem to be extremely concerned with the health and longevity of Sara's career.

I am extremely enthusiastic about Sara as a pianist and person and am in this for the long term. My goal is to see her performing with all the major Orchestras and in all the top concerts series throughout the world. I know she deserves to be heard. I am not going to stop until she reaches the top. I truly feel she stands out from everyone I have ever heard I and will keep trying until I reach this goal.

Notes: What do you think the future holds in terms of how the role of artist manager is evolving?

I believe that the artist manager needs to take a more active role in managing artists. It's not enough to put artists9; names on a huge roster without actively making phone calls and trying to promote artists. There is tremendous amount of talent and competition and it is important to constantly be marketing and promoting your performers. Most of all, you have to believe in them.

Notes: What changes do you see happening or do you think should happen in terms of the artists role?

All artists must be very active in promoting themselves too. Unfortunately the music field is not only about performing and being the best as an artist - it's about marketing, promoting, reaching out and constantly networking.

It is very important for all artists to get involved in their careers. It's not enough to hire management companies and expect that they will do everything for an artist and fully book up their schedules. All musicians need to market themselves....it's not only about practicing. I believe that everyone should spend a few hours per week on promotion. Websites, emails, phone calls, networking etc....are all things that everyone needs to learn to do. I know too many talented performers that only practice -- unfortunately they do not network and nobody knows about them. Everyone needs a website and should learn to use Facebook YouTube, etc...Performers should always keep up with the latest technology and constantly learn new ways to reach out.

Notes: What advantages do you feel personal managers provide to their artists that the corporate managements cannot?

Its important to work directly with artists. The large corporate management firms seem very impersonal. I see firms with lots of artists and I see managers that really don't seem to believe in the people they represent. Personal managers seem to take more of an active role in a performer and they seem to believe in the people they represent.

Notes: Do you feel that the trend is moving towards smaller personal managers...or do you feel that their will always be a marketplace for the big corporate managements?

I believe that people are starting to move towards personal managers. Musicians are always calling me to say they are unhappy with the large corporate management companies. Too many artists are on rosters and are not enough are getting performances. Being represented by a top management firm means nothing if artists are not getting bookings.

Notes: What advice to you give to young people who are looking to begin a career in music management?

NEVER. GIVE. UP.

Many Presenters/Orchestras will ignore your calls and emails but you must be very persistent. It sometimes takes hundreds of calls to get one performance. Persistence pays off. Concert management is a labor of love. You must believe in the artist. What makes your artist special? Why do they stand out from other performers? When you talk to Presenters/Orchestras you need to feel confident that you have someone special and unique. You must be able to convince Presenters that your artist stands out from everyone.

Notes: Carrie closed out the interview with a short account, coming full circle back to when she first met Sara:

I will never forget the first piano lesson my kids had with her about 6 years ago at the Amadeus School in Chappaqua. Sara told me that she was performing infrequently. She also told me how difficult it was to get any faculty positions and for that reason she was teaching at the local music school. I was in total shock. She gradually started to get to know me better and started talking more and confiding in me. Many times she would teach my kids at my house and we would talk for hours after the lessons and order pizza for dinner. There were times when she would invite us to her apartment on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx for lessons and occasionally she would take us on walks in the Bronx and chat with us about the neighborhood. It was always lots of fun. I kept telling Sara that she must NEVER give up and that with her talent and dynamic personality she should be able to get lots of performances and jobs. I encouraged her to leave NY and to take the job at UBC in Vancouver. Moving to Canada was wonderful. It was a fresh start and within a very short time Sara was performing with many of the top Canadian Orchestras.

It's hard to believe that in such a short time Sara is performing so much and has a tenured faculty position at UBC in Vancouver. I still can't believe that just a few years ago she was a struggling musician living on the Grand Concourse. It's given me so much happiness to be able to have seen so many wonderful changes in her life and to see her so happy. I know we still have alot to accomplish and I am really excited to find new challenges for her.