Faith in the Creative Endeavor – Mark Salzman

Marshall Ayers Artist Profiles, Books, Music, Performing Arts, Writing 0 Comments

No one word or label can characterize the many creative pursuits of Mark Salzman. Yes, he’s a musician, and a writer too, but he is also a teacher and a Kung Fu master along with many other descriptors. Artzray interviewed Mark as he was recently profiled in the new book, Advancing Confidently to learn more about what he believes are the essential ingredients for a creative life.

Where are you from and how did you get your start in music?

I was born and raised in Connecticut. My mother was a pianist and my father was an artist, so I grew up assuming that music and art were things that everybody did. I tried the violin for a year, then piano, but when I was seven I heard Aldo Parisot play the cello, asked my parents if I could switch to that instrument, and that one stuck.

Who are some of your major musical influences and what music are you listening to these days?

As far as music goes, my mother influenced me above all. She wasn’t someone who practiced in order to be able to give concerts; she practiced because she just flat-out loved practicing, interpreting, exploring without having to worry about being judged. That’s when she was happiest. Her favorite composer, both for listening and for playing, was J.S. Bach, and I guess the nut doesn’t fall far from the tree, because the same goes for me.

You’re a martial arts expert, majored in Chinese Studies, have performed with Yo-Yo Ma, and were a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize for your first book Iron & Silk. What do you think is “the glue” between all your many different creative pursuits?

Everything I do, I do for pretty much the same reason: to try to make peace with the fact that life is neither peaceful nor secure nor fully comprehensible. I like to joke that my goal in life has been to reach Kubler-Ross’s final stage of grief – acceptance – before I have anything specific to grieve about, and just stay there. Only I’m not really joking.


You were recently profiled in Advancing Confidently by Peter Bachmann, a book which speaks to the value of a liberal arts education, taking risks in life and pursuing your passions. Do you feel that confidence has driven your creative choices or a willingness to fail and experiment?

Honestly, I don’t think that confidence is the right word to describe what drove my choices or willingness to fail and experiment. It might look like confidence in hindsight, but at the time, it didn’t feel like confidence. I think it was a sense of need, of unease, of incompleteness, of longing – and a desire to understand or relieve those feelings — that drove my creative choices and willingness to fail and experiment. If failure, frustration, and setbacks were the price I had to pay in order to earn a sense of being at home in my own life, that seemed like a fair deal. Confidence came later, as a by-product of this endeavor – partly as a result of success, but even more than that, as a result of failure. Why would I say that? Because confidence, to me, doesn’t mean feeling certain that things will work out the way I want them to, and having a track record to prove it. Confidence, to me, means knowing, from experience, that no matter how things work out, I will — as a matter of course, of habit, of necessity — do what I can to make the most of it, I will keep moving forward, and that will be good enough. Each time I fail and keep moving forward and find that things do work out one way or another, I validate this perspective, and become less afraid of failure. Failure itself was never my problem; living in fear of failure was my problem.


Mark Salzman performs with Lineage Dance Company. Photo -Steve Hwan

What do you think is the best educational path to a career in the arts? Is there one?

If there is a proven, “best” educational path to a career in the arts, or even a way to measure that objectively, I’d love to hear about it. If you look at the variety of backgrounds artists come from, especially if you’re willing to look outside of our familiar demographic, I think you can reasonably conclude that artists seem to find ways to do what they do regardless of what paths they choose, or what paths seem to be imposed upon them by circumstance. Still, I agree with the point Peter Bachmann makes in his book, that getting a broad-based, liberal arts education is a terrific way to prepare for leading a full, conscious, engaged life. Many people seem to think that if you establish a career in a field you like, and refuse to settle for anything less than doing what you like, then the full, conscious, engaged life part will follow. I think it’s the other way around. I’ll give you an example: when Yo-Yo Ma was 17 or so, everybody – including his own father, who was a renowned musicologist — expected him to go to Juilliard, the famous music conservatory. Instead, against his father’s wishes, Yo-Yo went to Harvard to get a liberal arts degree. He studied anthropology, among other things, because he said he wanted to learn things about the world that would give him something to say through music. Look at what he’s done since then! His career has transcended musical genres; you might even argue that in some ways, it has transcended music itself. I think he made the right call.


Many young artists doubt themselves and their abilities, and parents and teachers sometimes discourage their creative pursuits as impractical. Do you think confidence is an essential ingredient for creative success?

The problem with saying that confidence is an essential ingredient for success is: it makes people who have doubts think that if they don’t become confident soon, they’re screwed. Or that they should learn how to feign confidence to get ahead or be taken seriously. As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t have much confidence when I was starting out, but that didn’t stop me from finding my way toward it eventually. I felt doubt, insecurity, and anxiety every day, but I kept going because – well, because the thought of giving up made me feel even more anxious!

“Confidence is great to have, but it’s optional; sincerity is essential.”

When you meet a creative student or young person how do you encourage and engage them? How do you get inside their brain and try and make a difference?

I don’t know how creativity works, I don’t know how to become successful at it, and I don’t know any secrets for unleashing the artist within. All I feel I can do is to share my own enthusiasm for this sort of work, along with my belief that it is worth doing, and hope that the feeling is contagious. We all have bad stretches — times when inspiration is weak, doubt grows strong, and confidence wears thin. What gets us through those times? It’s some sort of faith. My primary goal as a teacher is to stimulate faith in the creative endeavor. I can’t infuse faith in anyone else, but I like to think that if I model it for all I’m worth, I might help awaken or stimulate what’s already there.


Mark Salzman serenades students at Flintridge Preparatory School. Photo – Mel Malmberg

What was the moment when you knew that music and/or creativity would be at the center of your life?

I think I always assumed that the arts would be part of my life – it was the family business, after all. But even now, I don’t think of music and/or creativity as being at the center of my life. Creativity emanates from the center of my life, the way dreams emanate from my unconscious mind, but the center itself – the center of me? I have no idea what that is, and don’t expect to find out. I think of my conscious mind as the audience, not the author, of my own life.

What is your artistic super power?

It’s that I know I don’t have one, and that this no longer troubles me, and oh what a relief it is.

Tell us a secret.

I’m in bed every night by 8:30. Some people have trouble sleeping; I have trouble staying awake.

Learn more about Mark Salzman and other creative and inspirational scientists, entrepreneurs and scholars who are profiled in Advancing Confidently.

51dicgsfmol-_sx331_bo1204203200_Advancing Confidently – In his earlier book Standing on Shoulders, Peter Bachmann demonstrated the intellectual benefits of a liberal arts education, by weaving together the actual words of high school students in dialogues about classical texts. In Advancing Confidently, he demonstrates the liberal arts character benefits in a series of profiles of his former teachers and students who have demonstrated the courage and conviction to, in Thoreau’s words, “advance confidently in the direction of their dreams.” Each story is a celebration of independent thought and action, traits essential to twenty-first century success.

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5 Things to Know if You Want to Make Comic Books

Andrea Davis Career Advice, Drawing, Getting Started, How To, Illustration, Visual Arts, Writing

So you want to make comic books?

Writer Shea Fontana and artist and colorist Monica Kubina, two of the creative team behind the DC Superhero Girls Finals Crisis Graphic Novel, recently converged at Earth-2 Comics in Sherman Oaks for a meeting of S.C.R.A.W.L. (Secret Comic Readers and Writers League) to answer questions and sign copies of the comic book for their young fans. Monica and Shea shared some of their perspectives and career wisdom with the members of the audience, many of whom proved to be budding comic book artists and writers themselves.


Writer Shea Fontana and artist and colorist Monica Kubina

1.  Write or draw. Every. Single. Day.

If you’re an artist, if you’re a writer, do something to hone your skills every single day. Write a scene. Sketch. Design a character. Create a backstory. Every. Single. Day.

2. Watch a lot. Read a lot.

Become well versed in the medium you want to master. Study and analyze what you see. If your parents wonder why you’re reading so many comic books or watching so many animated shows, remind them that you’re preparing for your future career.

3. Have confidence in yourself.

When you’re young, you always think you lack experience. Don’t forget: there is beauty and creativity in you as a young artist. You may not see things as others do, and that’s okay.

4. The cliche is true.

Be yourself, follow your heart, don’t take criticism personally. There’s no one magic piece of advice that will lead to success. But the boring stuff about dedication, hard work and practice is what matters most.

5. Have your own opinions.

Think them through and articulate them well. Don’t try to change your voice to fit someone else’s ideas.

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The Art of Politics – Presidential Survey of Artists by Acceptd

Marshall Ayers Opportunities

Acceptd, an artist network of young artists, professionals, arts education programs and cultural organizations with nearly 200,000 members, has launched a nationwide survey of artists to help match their political ideology to a presidential candidate.

The 2016 presidential election is shaping up to be one of the wildest in history. With both major party candidates polling with low approval numbers, independent candidates making a bigger impact than ever and a new scandal seemingly popping up every day, it’s hard to make sense of it all.

ct4jobcxgaadnayAdvocating for artists is front and center at Acceptd. This survey will provide insight into what candidate views most closely aligns with those artists who participate. When artists vote at the end of the poll, they will be helping to send a message about the power artists hold in this and every election.

“The voices of young artists will be heard by the presidential candidates and hopefully the issues that are important to them will be brought to the forefront of public debate,” says Acceptd Co-Founder and President, Don Hunter.

Artzray is collaborating with Acceptd to engage artists through participation in the survey so their opinions on critical issues in the upcoming election will have collective impact. The survey results will be distributed to national media, the parties, the candidates and our 200,000 members. Hunter feels that “Our mission is to serve artists: dancers, actors, musicians, vocalists, cinematographers and visual artists. We recognize that public policy can have a great impact on the role of art in our society. We wanted to help give artists a voice on the issues most important to them during this turbulent election.”


Acceptd is a Columbus, Ohio based platform connecting artists with thousands of colleges, festivals, scholarships, and professional opportunities.  Acceptd is used by some of the most prestigious universities across the nation including NYU and Juilliard.

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The Heart of a Curator Irene Tsatsos – Armory Center for the Arts

Christine Griswold Uncategorized

557476_10151870329242206_1573511328_nGreat Galleries are part community, part collaboration, part curiosity, and full of heart – An interview with Irene Tsatsos, Chief Curator and Director of Exhibition Programs at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, CA.

The gallery is closed to the public, but it is a busy day at the Armory Center for the Arts, as the crew is beginning the painstaking work of taking down and properly cataloguing and storing one exhibition while mounting another.  Irene Tsatsos and I climb the stairs of this community jewel to settle in and talk in comfy chairs above the bustle of activity occurring within this open, high-ceilinged, artistic space.

This is not your average gallery, as self-described in press releases…at the Armory’s core is a conviction that making, teaching, and presenting art can transform individuals and communities, and that artists, through their practice, can serve as educators and advocates in this process.

Fittingly, its chief curator is brimming with intelligence and passion for art, its integral place in society, and its potential for encouraging curiosity, collaboration, community, and balance in our lives.

“…you need to love what you do.  Think about that.  And feel that.”

–Irene Tsatsos

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5 Quotes for Surviving a Fulfilling Lifetime of Creativity by Marco Menendez

Marshall Ayers Artist Profiles, Beyond, Career Advice, Visual Arts

Along The Way - Artzray

Marco Menendez for “Along The Way” a series about working artists.

1. “Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.” –Mark Twain
Let’s get this one out of the way. Discouraging individuals spend a lot of time standing still in their own toxic atmosphere when they could very well be investing that precious time moving forward. Unfortunately, they can also be contagious. Chances are you will encounter them throughout every stage of your life. Look at them as you would a hurdle in a race…why waste your time being frustrated by an inanimate object when you have places to go and trophies to win?

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3 Tips Arts Intern Applicants Need To Know

Rebecca Tuynman Career Advice, Getting Started, Internships, Opportunities, Student Resources, Tips

You’re an artist and you want to get some work experience in your field, so you’re going to apply for an arts intern position. That’s great, you’re on the right track! An internship is a perfect testing ground for your potential arts career. You’ve done your research, contacted your school’s career center, and now you have some applications in front of you.

How are you supposed to know what will make your application strong and successful?

08bb94eSince 2000, I’ve hired and supervised over 20 interns, in my role a Education Manager at Ryman Arts. I’ve read hundreds of applications, and given dozens of interviews. Furthermore, I work with alumni from Ryman Arts to help them to apply for internships at other organizations. I see some wonderful, glowing examples of promising youth out there! I also see some of the same mistakes over and over again. Let me start by assuring you that you are fabulous and someone would be lucky to have you as an intern, but let me give you three tips that all arts organizations really want arts intern applicants to know:Read More


Armory Teaching Artist: Michelle Wiener

Marshall Ayers Art, Artist Profiles, Drawing & Painting, Sponsors, Visual Arts

1382055_10102697931211057_791232145_nMichelle Wiener, received her BA in painting at the College of Creative Studies, UC Santa Barbara and her MFA in Fine Arts from Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, CA. She is also an alumna of the Ryman Arts program.  Her work ranges from paintings and drawings to altered books, and ceramic sculpture. Michelle has been a Teaching Artist with the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, CA since 2009 and participated in their Armory Teaching Artist Fellowship Program. The program involves learning to teach children and teens through gallery touring techniques and hands-on art making experiences in a contemporary art context.

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By: Elmira College

3 Tips to Finding Your Best College Environment

Elaine Pelz Getting Into College, High School, Student Resources

Back to school always brings a rush of adrenaline. New classes and new teachers, new after school activities and new routines fill the calendar. While you’re focused on the newness immediately in front of you, I hope the prospect of college is whispering in your ear. In reality, it probably feels more like a roar. The endless questions mashing together are daunting and overwhelming.

Which school do I want to attend? Which one will accept me? Will I make new friends easily? What will the dorms be like? Will I enjoy living away from home?

To calm the confusion and muffle the roar I advise students to start by identifying needs and wants at a very basic level.

Begin by considering which college environment suits your learning style best.

Is it art colleges, liberal arts colleges, or universities? When you understand the differences the three offer, many of your early questions will begin to answer themselves. Here’s what I mean.Read More


6 Tips for Writing Poetry

Connie Martinez Poetry, Tips, Writing

Ever wanted to try your hand at writing poetry but didn’t know where to start? Some people like to think that when it comes to writing, you either have it or you don’t. But I believe otherwise! Everyone is capable of writing a poem, short story, or any other type of writing. Here are a few tips what worked for me and hopefully they will help you get started.Read More