Ashley Danyew didn’t invent the term “musicpreneur,” but she is working hard to perfect it. Simply put, the mashup word refers to professional musicians adept at managing the business side of their careers.
Danyew AB ’07 is certainly qualified. She is a pianist and vocalist who earned her degree in piano and organ performance at UGA. She is also a writer, a business owner, and a highly skilled teacher. In addition to her UGA bachelor’s, she holds a master’s and a doctorate in music education from the prestigious Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester.
“A lot of musicians have multiple interests; they just don’t know how to tie them together,” Danyew says. “For a long time, I felt like I couldn’t be all those things. But I think more and more, we are seeing encouragement to embrace who you are—all the different facets of yourself. That’s what sets you apart in this field.”
Danyew’s first foray into musicpreneurship came with her first job following her master’s program. Make that “jobs.” Danyew and her husband, Steve, a composer, moved to rural Massachusetts, where she directed adult and children’s choirs, taught at a local college, ran a chamber music festival, and taught at two different piano studios. Danyew says that the variety of music work kept her fresh and engaged.
After living and working in Massachusetts for two years, she and Steve moved back to Rochester, where she continued her education. They decided to stay.
Danyew didn’t originally see herself as a teacher. She’d been a performer since she joined her church choir in Woodstock at age 11. But she credits her piano professor in the Hugh Hodgson School of Music, Evgeny Rivkin, for encouraging her to go in that direction.
“He said I would make a great teacher someday because I could break things down into small steps and explained things well,” Danyew recalls. “That really stuck with me. No one had given me that kind of affirmation before.”
Danyew has embraced a variety of modern tools to reach her audience. She’s blogged since 2010 and in recent years has reangled her content to focus on music teachers. She and her husband co-founded Musician & Co., which offers tips to fellow musicians on how to become entrepreneurs. In 2020, she expanded her “teach the teachers” reach into podcasting, with Field Notes on Music Teaching & Learning, which features a variety of pedagogical observations and insights.
By necessity, Danyew has taught much of the past year and a half remotely, and it has been a learning experience not just for her students but also for herself. She readily admits that listening to a student play over Zoom is not the same as sitting in the room with them, but online teaching has helped her students develop greater musical independence and allowed her to teach students from outside Rochester, and screen sharing can offer a fresh take on musician development. Still, she looks forward to the return of in-person teaching.
Until then, Danyew continues to produce engaging, thoughtful content for her online platforms and her email subscribers, who number more than 18,000. “When I started my blog, I didn’t think anyone would read it,” Danyew says. “It was just for me. Then I realized that maybe I could help others.”