Maria Finkelmeier

Percussionist, educator, composer, and entrepreneur Maria Finkelmeier

Maria Finkelmeier, who the Boston Globe has described as  a “one-woman dynamo,” came to Berklee to drop knowledge about the many successes–and failures–of her lifetime that made her a great entrepreneur. From percussion to public art exhibitions, Finkelmeier has been creative in her engagement with art and its diverse audiences around the world.

Her recent stage at Berklee was phenomenally engaging as she unabashedly detailed her failures (or as she painted them, “seeds”) in front of Berklee students. At one point, we were invited on stage for a semi-avant garde improv session, where I grabbed a conga from stage-left and yelled “The Frame!” several times in the spirit of an audience-given title for our impromptu showcase.

Finkelmeier went over topics such as:

  • How to make the best of a bad situation (a.k.a., rising from failure)
  • How to promote yourself
  • Her postgraduate journey into entrepreneurship
  • Her transition from percussionist to live multimedia artist
  • The necessity to find joy in the less fun tasks as an entrepreneur in order to succeed

Her many avenues of creativity and outlets for her entrepreneurial spirit might have seemed out of reach had she not explained her philosophies acquired throughout her epic journey of life. She engaged us on a level that seemed within reach.

“If you had asked me when I was your age: ‘So you think you’ll be climbing on the third tier of Fenway park to play contemporary art music for 30,000 people?’ I’d say, ‘That’s so funny, you’re so funny’. Most of us think that from school to career is a direct line. I’m here to tell you that as beautiful as that notion is, it’s not really like that. And I’m so happy it’s not like that, because I would have never been able to accomplish these kinds of public contemporary art music projects if I would have stayed on a direct path.”

What is a direct path? This world is cluttered with people following unquestioned standards when faced with issues of supposed “life-direction.” Maria found her path through the cracks in the workforce and blazed her own path. She started a nonprofit, Kadence Arts, whose mission is to “incubate artistic projects, curate performances, and engage local communities through music making.”

She encouraged us to connect to people outside of school to form projects that stretch us as people, not just musicians.

“There are a lot of a schools around here that aren’t Berklee, that aren’t Boston Conservatory [at Berklee],” she said. “Share your work with them! Strike up a conversation with someone at a coffee shop that doesn’t live in your world and see if you can explain what you do.” It’s challenging; has anyone tried?

Short answer: no, Maria! Thank you for coming to Berklee to share this necessary wisdom concerning our innately entrepreneurial careers!

Check out a video of Maria and her colleagues at MASARY Studios bringing “the Green Monster” at Fenway Park to life:

Salim ALi