Grammy-award winning Bienen alumnus talks entrepreneurship and artists


Reba Cafarelli

Third Coast Percussion. David Skidmore (Bienen ’05), an Ensemble Member and Executive Director at Third Coast Percussion, spoke Wednesday about entrepreneurship as an artist.

Vivian Xia, Reporter

Grammy-award winning alumnus David Skidmore (Bienen ’05) spoke Wednesday about why entrepreneurship is an important skill for everyone, especially artists.

The Garage hosted the Virtual Founder Talk, an event where founders and entrepreneurs speak to students about their endeavors, over Zoom. Skidmore graduated from Bienen in 2005 with a Bachelor of Music and is an ensemble member and executive director of Third Coast Percussion, a Grammy Award-winning American percussion ensemble based in Chicago.

Born and raised in Texas, Skidmore was involved in band-related activities during middle and high school. He became serious about percussion and applied to what was then called the Northwestern School of Music. In 2005, he co-founded Third Coast Percussion, with no examples of other groups making music as a full-time career to follow.

“You either are able to surround yourself with people who know how to run a business or you have to learn how to do it yourself if you’re an artist,” Skidmore said. “We started really grassroots, putting on concerts and venues that would’ve had us play for free.”

The group worked very hard to prepare for their first concert, Skidmore said, but they forgot to tell people they were playing and nobody showed up. As a result, he said they learned a valuable lesson about the importance of marketing early on.

People he met through Northwestern have been a very important part of Third Coast Percussion from the very beginning, he said. He met the future first chair of the Board of Directors for Third Coast Percussion when the two were both part of the Northwestern University Drumline. Another Northwestern alumnus has been on the Board of Directors since the beginning, and their professor who brought them together is still a “close ally,” Skidmore said.

Skidmore said the support he’s received from Northwestern has been extremely valuable throughout his career.

“This vibe of sort of positivity and a willingness to sort of see what to many would seem like a crazy idea, like making your full-time living playing drums with three other drummers,” Skidmore said.

Caleb Carpenter (Bienen ‘19), an administrative assistant in The Garage, said he attended the event to support The Garage’s programming and because he has a personal interest in the subject matter, as he holds a master’s degree in saxophone performance from Bienen.

Carpenter resonated with Skidmore’s talk about community building. The more artists can connect with friends and potential concert-goers, the more he said they can build that community Skidmore discussed.

“I’m hoping that [helping each other out] will come out of this with maybe a stronger community of artists and performers,” Carpenter said.

Melissa Kaufman, the executive director of The Garage and a co-host of the talk, said The Garage doesn’t get as many artists and musicians as it would like to speak at events.

“We really do try to show a diversity of different types of entrepreneurs ― everything from a typical startup company to people who have founded non-profits, artists and musicians,” Kaufman said. “Whether it’s social entrepreneurship or for-profit entrepreneurship, we try to bring as many different people as we can.”

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