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Is Talent Enough? 

Is Talent Enough?

"Eric, you're talented. But, talent is not enough"

Those words have defined who I am and how I wanted to be portrayed for the last 8 years.

Nowadays it's important to know that playing the violin very well isn't enough to have a sustainable music career. 

Here are some of the things I think about as a violinist:

Building Relationships

For musicians, building relationships are something outside the practice room that we need to get comfortable knowing how to do. We practice countless hours perfecting our craft, and it would be a shame if we don't get to share the same passion as other musicians! Building relationships allow you to collaborate with people you may never expect. 

Understanding Your Audience

As co-artistic director of the Chicago Chamber Music Project, my colleagues and I are always trying to learn the needs of our audiences. People want different things and it's up to us as artists to understand what they want! Researching trends and talking to audience members are only a couple of simple ways for your audience to attend concerts. 

Making Mistakes

This point is the most important one of all. Classical musicians work hard every day and face rejection countless times in the course of their careers. What's important is that a musician needs to be comfortable with being rejected because rejection gives room for growth. A musician's goal is to grow every time they pick up their instrument.

I hope that these quick tips give you ideas to create a fearless musical entrepreneur mindset. 

Eric Mrugala, violinist







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Top 10 things You Need If You're A Freelance Musician 

When you gig so frequently, you learn and make mistakes on the job. It's perfectly normal, but you want to avoid making mistakes as much as possible. Even if it's a simple wedding, or you're asked to fill in for someone the day before, you need to always be ready.

Here are the top 10 things every freelance musician needs to have a successful gig:

Your Equipment is Ready To Go

Going to a gig or a rehearsal with your instrument sounding bad will not give people the best impression of you. Make it a daily habit to check if your equipment is in good shape so that you continue sounding awesome. 

Have A Sturdy Music Stand

During wedding season, you're most likely going to be playing outside and possibly a windy area. Make sure to find yourself a sturdy stand for outdoor gigs and events so that you don't run the risk of having your music fall off while the bride is walking down the aisle. That's a no-no.

Keep an Extra Set of Strings Handy

This one's a given, but always worth mentioning nonetheless.

Sheet Music/Know the music

Again, really obvious, but make sure you or someone else at your gig has the music. 


Knowing who the contractor and coordinators are for the event will help make your life easier. It's also not a bad idea to get their email or phone number just in case something happens. 


Know where you're going? Good, double check to make sure you arrive in plenty of time. 

On-time arrival

Don't be the last one showing up for the gig. The rule of thumb is that if you're on time, you're late. Always arrive a little before the call time. It gives a bad impression if you're late. Always communicate with the coordinator your ETA. Oh, and make sure you have enough gas in the car. 

Business Cards

You never know who you're going to meet so it's always a good idea to have business cards, make the investment to get high-quality cards, that will leave an impression. 


People never forget first impressions. Make sure people perceive you as a professional. In addition, It's also important to make friendly conversation so that people know you're human. 

Have a good time!

I can assure you that by achieving these 9 steps, then you'll have a smooth gig experience. 


Gratitude in the Freelance Community 

An important thing I've noticed in music recently is that it's important to treat your colleagues the way you treat yourself. Gratitude in a competitive gig/freelance economy comes a long way if you're trying to make it. 

When you're performing in a violin section, your stand partner is going to forgive you if you miss a note in a performance. We're only humans and it happens. Yes, you and your violin playing make an impression. But gratitude will help you continue getting work as a violinist.

There will be a moment where you'll have too many gigs and don't want to run the risk of double booking yourself. All of a sudden you're in a position where you have the opportunity to help contract gigs!

I recently handed over a violin gig to a colleague recently and I'm glad this person was able to take it.  A few years ago when I was trying to get my name out in the Boston freelance scene, there were people who believed in me and believed in my potential even when I was starting out.

It's all about giving gratitude to the people around you and believing in them

It's a reminder that we're all in this together. If we help instead of compete then we create an awesome musical culture that will help violinists continue getting work in a communal effort. In the end, we'll continue doing what we love and make our audiences happy. 

The music world is small and people are watching whether you like it or not. Pay the gigs forward and good will come your way! 

What kind of musician are you? 

When you walk around each corner of Massachusetts Avenue in Boston, you can't help but run into people with guitars, violins, cellos, and keyboards on their backs and under their arms. This is the exact thought that comes to my head while sitting at the Starbucks sitting across the street from the Berklee College of Music tower moments ago.There's a bit of nostalgia just sitting here where I used to do my music theory, and study my orchestra music with my earbuds in. Life as a student was good. 

There are SO many of us in this town. A few of you are going to graduate in the next week from universities and conservatories, and you're going to have NO IDEA what to do. 

Believe me, I was there. 

I wasn't really sure what my direction was for a couple years after I graduated.  All I knew was that if I relied on my network and connections, I'll get by. I had a full time music job working 40 hours close to minimum wage in addition to gigs. I learned a lot from this job and made friends that I still talk to, but it got to a point where I wasn't happy. 

I wasn't happy because I wasn't performing as much. If I wanted to, but my superiors wouldn't let me take the opportunities to do so.

So, I left the job. 

As a recent grad who had bills to pay, I had a car, a violin, and no full-time job. Great, right?

Thankfully, leaving the job allowed me to take some more performing opportunities and ACTUALLY enjoy what I do. 

With all that's going on in the media these days about the lack of funding for the National Endowment of the Arts, not enough full time orchestra jobs,  you would think that my argument of becoming of a musician would be torn to shreds by now. 

What if I told you that's not the case?

Being a violinist in a vibrant musical city as a student is one thing. Being a violinist in that setting as a professional is another. The struggle was real. 

I had to narrow down what my priorities in music were, what my professional goals are as a violinist, and try to envision a life in music that will make happy, and importantly, stay happy. That's when I realized that the only way to take control of my life was to create opportunities for myself and for my friends was to go all-in as a heavy freelance entrepreneur violinist. 

Becoming a musical entrepreneur gives you the opportunity to choose. It gives you freedom. Most importantly, you find purpose. You get to choose what kind of musician you want to be once you made it clear for yourself that you're not willing to accept the status quo, and create a path for yourself. The moment you become transparent about the type of musician you are and what you want to be, then congratulations! You've answered a very difficult question that musicians have trouble with. 

The life of a musician is already difficult as it is. Knowing who you are takes you one step closer to finding what your strengths are, and finding your niche. 

Like this article? Leave a comment below and share it with a friend! 

Biggest lessons from our violin/piano tour 





We did it!

We crowdfunded our Indiegogo campaign, and we organized the performance in a city that we had to fly to. 

While we found a lot of success from the tour, there are a few bumps along the way. Many of the things that happened to us were unexpected, unpredictable, and out of our control. Here is a list of things that my colleague and I learned that we hope you can keep in mind when you set up your tour:

When you're flying for your tour, make sure you have a Plan A, B, and C. 

Even we planned our flight schedule 3 months before our tour. What we didn't plan for was a Nor'easter flying out of Boston a week and a half before the first day of Spring. Thankfully, we got the last flight out of Boston, but we were trying to come up with other solutions to get to Chicago. Whatever the situation is, expect the unexpected!

You don't always have the luxury of rehearsing.

We're grateful to have friends in Chicago helping us borrow and volunteer their space to rehearse. But, what if there was no space to rehearse? As a violinist, you have to always be ready. Which leads me to my next point...

You don't have the luxury of changing the conditions of the venue.

If it's too hot, too cold, too bad!

Not enough time to get used to the space? Sorry...

Each venue has their own rules about using their space for dress rehearsal. They didn't make an exception for us and treated the duo as if any other performer was about to give a recital days before. We had to be flexible and adjust our ears to the acoustics quickly. Some parts of the performance were successful, and some weren't. But you have to move forward and make the most of the situation. 


Trying to overcome travel fatigue. 

This was a big one for us. With traveling back and forth from space to space, we spent a lot of time in the car in Chicago traffic. (The kennedy-edens merger will always continue to be the worst merger I know of in highway architecture). More in the time + less time practice room = lots of stress. 

We'll learn from this experience to make it an even better tour later 2018! 

I hope our experience will help you avoid a lot of the trouble's we faced. Liked what you read? Get the conversation going! 

When You Get The Call, Always Be Ready 

(3 min read)

I remember when I was in my youth and got offered to play a run of Thoroughly Modern Millie. It was one of the first times I got asked to do a paid opportunity, let alone a musical.  

Even thought it was my first paid opportunity, I was making excuses; "The cues aren't clear", or "the part is so marked up from the previous player and I can't read it" 

Back then, I didn't realize the importance of getting called the week prior to a piece you never played before. Sometimes, you don't have the luxury of learning your part weeks in advance. In the freelance circuit, you're given the music the day of the gig and you have to sightread it well.

It happened to me this past weekend, actually. 

I got a call from a contractor to play a cycle of Elgar's Enigma Variations and Amy Beach's 2nd Piano Concerto.

These aren't pieces I played before and I was up for the challenge on such short notice. When you get a call last minute, and the dates of a performance work for you, you're now in a position where you get to cram music in and force yourself to perform at a high level. 

Sometimes the best experiences come to you as a surpriseYou need to be ready, always.

If you show up to a gig prepared on short notice, the contractor will notice and you'll get called again. If you don't, then everyone around you sees your lack of preparation and will not want to work with you. 


The Beauty Is In The Details 

Think about the last time you went to a concert.

Did you have a good time? 

If so, why was it a good time?

What was it about the venue, the musicians on stage, the people around you that made the experience memorable?

As a performer, I'm in the practice room and in rehearsals every day working on little things so that when you, the listener, drives out to see a show, I will do my very best to make the performance special

In music and in business, paying attention to the small things is important.

Because the beauty is in the details. 

Taking a step back and regrouping from the bigger picture helps you take note of the subtle nuances of your performance as an instrumentalist and as businessman. Noticing the nuances helps you stand out from the crowd. (For reference, check out my blog Standing Out in a Crowded Performance Scene)

I bet you that the performer you went to go see took the time to think about the concertgoer's experience from beginning to end. Why? So that you come back wanting more of their music! They invested the time and energy to make sure that you leave the venue saying, "Wow, that was amazing". For a performer, that's exactly what they want to hear. The details are what will get you noticed, remembered, and invited to play again.

The idea is similar in a business setting. For instance, the company you're interested in working may not want to hire you because you may not see the subtleties of the market, and what your competitors are doing. You'll achieve a greater level of success by seeing what others can't see. 

Being the person who pays attention will get you that next important gig of your career.  It will help you earn the connection you've been wanting for a while. 

There's always room for improvement in every aspect of a business, and every part of your playing. See the details, and you'll put yourself in your very own category where people want more of your knowledge, your intellect, your skill set. 

The Beauty Is In The Details!

Standing Out In A Crowded Performance Scene 

(5-6 min. read)

There's a lot of noise out there and there are good players everywhere with opportunities out there for the taking. I'm here to tell you that there are ways to get even more interest towards your playing, and your personal brand. 

How do you stand out in an increasingly crowded performance scene?

Here are three things that come to mind in order to stand out and help you get paid gigs. So many, in fact, that you may have some to offer to somebody! 

Be Busy, Organized, and On time

My colleagues who have careers in classical music are the busiest people I know. Keeping busy in a fast-paced music scene helps you get your name out there. The more your name gets thrown around by word of mouth, the more opportunities you'll get to perform.

Also, I may be preaching to the choir, but being organized with your schedule is key. A contractor doesn't hire you because of your reputation of being late! 

Granted, there will be situations that are just out of your control. But you make the most of them because the people who contracted you for this gig may be facing similar circumstances if they're playing with you. They're human too. If you have a history of good on-time performance, then they'll give you a pass because you've built good rapport as a good coworker. 

There are two other points I want to make that will help you get calls for performances on a regular basis that are unrelated to the logistical part of standing out. 

It's about Genuineness  

What do I mean by this?

It means that the people you perform with and your target audience can see right through you. 

Part of the job as a performer is interacting with musicians (aka your coworkers) and your fans. You're most likely going to be getting performance opportunities from other musicians. It's always in your best interest to be real upfront than to have someone find out later you're not as authentic as you said you were.

Authenticity goes a long way in the music industry. But that shouldn't be just associated in the way you interact with your colleagues. Genuineness can be translated in your playing too.

This leads me to my last point..

The Spark

That special playing quality will make you stand out as a player. 

Getting fans and keeping them are two separate things. You need to have that special something for your brand or your playing for fans to engage with your music.

Personally,  when I explore new repertoire, I do what the composer asks me to do. But, I also try to make the performance my own and play the way I fee

Having the spark allows audiences to connect with you. They'll leave your concert inspired, and wanting more. If you have something amazing to offer, people will respond! Guaranteed.

There are so many things that make a good musician, a great musician. You're closest friends,  you're colleagues, and your audience will respond to your actions either way. I encourage you to keep these three things in mind the next time you play your gig, orchestra performance, house concert, etc. You never know who's watching that has the power to change the course of your music career.